Making a career move can be intimidating, and many lawyers who want a change really aren’t sure how to go about it. Jared Correia talks with attorney coach Stephen Seckler about his experience helping lawyers take meaningful steps toward their goals. Stephen explains how coaching can help lawyers at any stage of life identify what they want, overcome obstacles, and find greater satisfaction in their work.
Stephen Seckler is president of Seckler Legal Recruiting and Coaching.
Special thanks to our sponsors Scorpion, TimeSolv, Abby Connect and Alert Communications.
Mentioned in This Episode
The Benefits of Lawyer Coaching Making the Most of Career Transitions.
Intro: Welcome to Legal Toolkit. Bringing you the latest legal trends and business initiatives to help you manage your law firm with your host, Jared Correia. You’re listening to Legal Talk Network.
Jared Correia: Hey, welcome back everybody. We got another episode of the award-winning Legal Toolkit podcast coming straight at you only on the Legal Talk Network. If you are looking for my sanity, just let me know if you can locate it. If you’re a returning listener, welcome back. If you’re a first-time listener, welcome home. And if you’re an alien hovering above the Earth right now, you’re probably thrown your spaceship into hard reverse.
As always, I’m your show host, Jared Correia. And in addition to casting this pod, I’m am the CEO of Red Cave Law Firm Consulting, which offers subscription-based law practice management consulting services for law firms, bar associations and legal vendors. Check us out at redcavelegal.com. I’m also the COO of Gideon Software Inc., which offers chat bot software built specifically for law firms. Find out more at www.gideon.legal. But here on the Legal Toolkit, we provide you with a new tool each episode to add your own legal toolkit, so that your practices will become more and more like best practices.
In this episode, we’re going to talk about how coaching can help lawyers build a law practice and find more career satisfaction. But before I introduce today’s guest, let’s take a moment to thank our sponsors.
We would like to thank Alert Communications for sponsoring this podcast. If any law firm is looking for call intake or retainer services available 24/7, 365, just call (866) 827-5568. Scorpion is the leading provider of marketing solutions for the legal industry. With nearly 20 years of experience serving attorneys, Scorpion can help grow your practice. Learn more at scorpionlegal.com. Abby Connect has delivered premium live receptionist and answering services to lawyers since 2006. You can try them out for free at abbyconnect.com. TimeSolv is the number one web-based time and billing software for lawyers. Providing solutions since 1999, TimeSolv provides the most comprehensive billing features for law firms, big and small, www.timesolv.com.
Okay, our sponsors have been appropriately thanked. We’ve done the intro. Now, let me introduce my guest for today, who is Stephen Seckler. He is the principal of Seckler Legal Recruiting and Coaching, which offers coaching and placement services for attorneys. Steve, that was a short bio, anything you want to add?
Stephen Seckler: Well, I’ve dedicated my entire legal career to helping lawyers find more career satisfaction, and I’ve done that by coaching lawyers on how to grow a practice and by helping partners, associates and in-house counsel to make lateral moves. I’ve also spent a lot of my time formally and informally coaching lawyers on how to get more from their current jobs clothes
Jared Correia: Cool. We can talk about all that stuff. Steve, welcome to the big show. Glad to have you back, this is your second appearance, which we’ll talk about in a little bit.
Stephen Seckler: Thanks Jared. Thanks for having me. I’m really, really honored to be your guest again. As you know, I’ve been hounding you for about six years. I don’t know what I did
Jared Correia: It only took six years. Don’t worry, other people have longer waits than that.
Stephen Seckler: Well, I’ve only been bugging you for six years, but it’s been eight. Anyway, you’re a pioneer in legal podcasting and I’ve taken great inspiration from you. As you know, I launched my own podcast, Counsel to Counsel three years ago, and it was largely on the backs of the great work that you’ve done.
Jared Correia: That’s really thoughtful of you. Everybody, listen to Counsel to Counsel too. Hey, that would be good, right, with that intro. Steve, like you do coaching and sometimes consulting in your practice, you’ve been doing that for a while, so have I. I think I told you about this the other day. My son was in like a class, like a virtual class and his teacher was like, “What does your dad do?” And he’s like, “My dad tells uncle jokes to other old people all day.” Which I took a lot of offense to, frankly. I’m not that old. So how do you feel about your business? And somebody was like, “What do you do?” Like, do you have a story that’s like that or some kind of interesting anecdote about your coaching practice.
Stephen Seckler: Well, I guess I would say that I don’t tell bad uncle jokes. I tell bad dad jokes.
Jared Correia: I was going to say, you tell good uncle jokes, right?
Stephen Seckler: I’m really glad that I have you here because now I get to try out my material, which my family is very sick of hearing. But I would say that my coaching style is a combination of bad jokes and also good stories, which helped lawyers think more critically about their careers. I bring a lot of my own life and my own mistakes and successes into my coaching.
Jared Correia: Don’t we all, because stories are the best. All right. Let’s dive into coaching and lawyers. There are really two types of coaching when we talked that you’ve identified to me and that’s like business development coaching and career coaching.
Why don’t we break each of those down and then why don’t you tell me starting out a little bit about what business development coaching means to you.
Stephen Seckler: Many lawyers graduate from law school; they don’t really know how to sell legal services. Most people don’t go to law school because they want to sell. In fact, that’s why they didn’t get their MBA. But the reality is today and it’s been true for a long time now, but it’s particularly true now that if you want to advance in private practice, you really need to master these skills. So I help lawyers learn these skills, learn how to build a book of business, create a plan and then I work with them to stick with that plan because honestly, that’s the hardest part working at it over and over again.
Jared Correia: Well, that’s helpful. How about career coaching? You’ve done a lot of stuff in your career. yourself. You’ve also done legal recruiting, so I think this will probably give you something of a good perspective as far as this is concerned. So career coaching, what does that mean to you and how does it get employed for lawyers?
Stephen Seckler: I’ve been working with lawyers at all stages of their careers for the last 30 plus years and I’ve pretty much seen everything. A lot of my career coaching centers around whether the lawyers are working at the right firm or in the right job. Sometimes that just turns into to really a recruiting assignment. I end up helping them make a lateral move because they’re not at a firm where they really feel that they can develop the skills that they want or work with the clients that they want to work with or maybe they’re a partner and they don’t have the right platform. Sometimes it’s lawyers who want to make a move in-house and I help them sometimes in the capacity as a recruiter, but I also sometimes coach lawyers through the process of moving to an in-house assignment.
If they’re working at the right place because not every lawyer is working in the wrong job. If they’re working in the right place, I coach them on how to get more out of that job. So right now, I’m working with a managing partner who is really getting frustrated with how she’s working with some members of her team. They keep coming to her, interrupting her and she’s having a lot of trouble getting work done. She really likes doing the work. She doesn’t want to just be a manager. So we’re working on how she can communicate more effectively with the associates, with the paralegals with the support staff. Sometimes I work with lawyers to figure out how to leverage the resources that they have that are available to them.
One of my coaching clients is at a large law firm or a couple of them are at large law firms and they have marketing departments. A big problem working at a large law firm is that your hours are very demanding. While marketing is important for your career development, it’s hard to work that in. But if you’re at a large law firm, you have this department of professionals who could help leverage your time. Those are some of the things that I do with my coaching clients.
Jared Correia: Got you. We’re still in the middle of this ongoing pandemic, right? Has that changed the direction of how you coach people or the people you’re working with in significant ways yet or have you not felt that to this point?
Stephen Seckler: Well, I’m still doing recruiting and I’m still doing coaching. I think for me, what the pandemic has really done is, its underscored for me what I really want for my own career and what’s authentic about Steve Seckler. What’s really authentic about me is that I really enjoy helping lawyers with their careers, which means that, working more on the coaching side is really where I feel the most comfortable. I’m still happy to do recruiting and it’s a great success when I help a partner take their practice and leave a firm where they don’t really feel like they can grow. They don’t really think that they can trust their partners and move them. But what’s really satisfying to me is working on the coaching side. One of the things that I’ve just recently developed is a program called the next stage and it did grow out of the pandemic and it grow out of the pandemic in a number of ways. One, it made me start thinking about some of the existential issues that are facing my own life, my own career and it made me realize there are a lot of lawyers out there who have been practicing for a long time and maybe looking to make some kind of a transition. The next stage is a program that combines group workshops and individual coaching and it goes over the course of six months. That’s something new that I’m doing since the pandemic began.
Jared Correia: Hold that thought because we’re going to talk more about that moving forward. The pandemic from has increased my Oreo intake. So on that note, let’s take a break. We are going to take our first break of the show since we’ve reached the end of part one. So let me draw your attention to some words from our sponsors and we’ll come back.
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Jared Correia: Thanks for coming back. I’ve returned from eating some Rolos from the gigantic stash of Rolos that Legal Talk Network owner, Adam Camras just sent me. Thanks, Adam if you’re listening. I know you are. So now that I’m satiated, let’s get back to our conversation with Stephen Seckler of Seckler Legal Recruiting a coaching. We are talking about lawyer coaching and next steps for attorneys in their practices.
As I mentioned before Steve, you’ve done a lot of relatively interesting things in your life, right? How is your work in legal recruiting inform your career coaching and vice versa? Because I think that’s a really interesting setup that you have. I don’t know that many other people have been really successful in combining those two things.
Stephen Seckler: Well, let me first say that it is challenging to combine those two things because I’m compensated very differently being a recruiter and being a coach. As a recruiter, I am compensated when a deal happens. And so, honestly, while I try to be an honest broker, my most important duty is actually to the employer that’s trying to do the hiring. When I’m doing coaching, my client is the is the lawyer who I’m coaching. I think what makes me different as a recruiter is that I’m really a candidate-focused recruiter. Because I believe that if somebody ends up in a new firm or in a corporate counsel role, if they’re happy in that role, that’s a win-win for everybody. If they’re not happy, that’s not a good thing. I really work very hard to try to make a good match and I don’t get to decide what the match is, but I really work with my candidates to try to vet the opportunity to make sure it’s consistent with what they want from their careers so that it will be a move in a positive direction.
I think the way the two interact is that just by having done recruiting for so many years and worked with so many different types of law firms, in-house law departments, I’ve really seen the full gamut of what people’s careers look like and through that, I have a lot of tools in my tool bag to help me help lawyers with their careers.
Jared Correia: Yeah, absolutely, like the more resources you can bring to bear the better. As we talked about in the first half of the show, we had you on the podcast like eight years ago, which is crazy. I remember 2012 like it was yesterday. We actually had an Olympics that year. It was a good time.
Stephen Seckler: Wow! What are the Olympics?
Jared Correia: Right. And last time and you can listen back in the archives for this. We talked about selling and how it’s hard for lawyers, and I think that’s true. Like lawyers don’t like to be sales people. They don’t like to be called sales people, it’s like a dirty word in legal. So we’re eight years out now, it’s 2020. Is selling still hard for lawyers? Has it gotten easier? What market factors are in play to make it harder or easier in your opinion?
Stephen Seckler: Well, first of all, when I was preparing for this, I did go back and looked at the transcript from that interview. I was actually pretty surprised that a lot of the things that that we talked about in 2012 actually are still true in terms of whether selling is easier or harder. It’s definitely not easier. It’s probably a little bit harder. But what’s really different right now, now that we’re living through this pandemic is that a lot of the tools that lawyers need to use in order to sell their services is relationship building. And relationship building in a virtual environment is a lot more challenging. Now, I actually end up spending a fair amount of time going on networking walks in my neighborhood. I happen to have a lot of lawyers living in my neighborhood, so I’m lucky that in that way and those are the people that I want to do business with. But in a virtual environment, you have to be much more assertive in trying to connect with people and cultivate relationships. So I belong to a great networking group called Provisors, which as you know, Jared, I’ve been talking your ear off about —
Jared Correia: I’ve heard a lot about Provisors.
Stephen Seckler: — for about a year now. It’s really a fantastic group. One of the things that’s been great about it, it’s lawyers accountants, bankers, financial planners, professional service providers, trusted advisors who’ve been doing things for at least 10 years.
A year ago, it was all in-person, and so there was a limit to how many of these kinds of meetings I could get to. Now, I can guess all over the place, including other states, in San Francisco, Chicago. I’m really getting to know a lot of people through Provisors, but what I’ve really learned in using the Zoom format through Provisors is that you really have to make an extra effort to connect with people. You see people in the little hollywood squares, you chat with them. You say, “Hey, Jim. Great to see you. I’d love to catch up. Why don’t we schedule a time to talk?” That’s true if you’re in a meeting where you know people and it’s — I’ve done that actually in meetings where I don’t know people and I might send a chat to one of the speakers and say, “Hey, I’m very interested in cultivating more relationships in the Life Sciences. I’d love to talk to you. Denise, do you have a couple of minutes?” So really, I think what’s different now compared to even just a year ago is that in a virtual environment relationship building is harder and relationship building is the underpinning of business development.
Jared Correia: Yeah. I think like lawyers have had a lot of trouble going from like what was largely analog processes to digital processes, including for a referral marketing. Like I think it’s really tough. But it seems like you’ve pretty much sailed right through that, like that idea of marketing walks is really clever. I like that. Or networking walks. So 2020 now where we continue to be in this pandemic. It sounds like everything you said before is still accurate, of course because you’re so pression(ph), right? We’re so pression. But then, do you have any new selling tips given the new digital environment? Do you think lawyer should be hanging their hat on today that are more viable than they were eight years ago?
Stephen Seckler: Yeah. I think actually, that’s a good point, Jared. I think social media is even more important than it was eight years. It’s a medium that really helps us to broadcast to the world, who we are, what we do. It helps us also connect with people that we already know and we should all be making much better use of social media, LinkedIn in particular for lawyers in order to remind people in our networks that were there, in order to reinforce relationships by sharing other people’s content. That was something that was just beginning I would say. I can’t remember when LinkedIn came online, but that was before 2000 — it was before we last met, but it wasn’t like it is today.
Jared Correia: Yeah. LinkedIn is a great platform for sure. Like the secret sauce to my Whopper for referral marketing has always been — like I’ve always done that on social media largely, even before the pandemic. Like I was a hermit before this started, so this is right in my wheelhouse. We talked about selling. We’re going to take a break, listen to more words from our sponsors and come back for the next and final segment with our guest, Steve Seckler.
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Jared Correia: All right. Thanks again for sticking with us. We appreciate it. I never left. Steve never left. We are now in part three of the podcast, so let’s continue. We have today Stephen Seckler of Seckler Legal Recruiting and Coaching, who’s been walking us through what it’s like to work with a career on marketing coach. Now, for something completely different. Let’s talk about lawyers in retirement. So lawyers in retirement is an interesting thing. They don’t play well together, right? Like you hear stories of lawyers dying at their desk, right? And everybody’s like, “He did what he loved.”
Stephen Seckler: Right. Well, in the first episode of LA Law, the lawyers walk into the office and somebody smells something awful and they walk into one of the senior partner’s offices and he’s died. He’s like sitting there at his desk and his hand is on the internal revenue code.
Jared Correia: Well, there you go. That’s like the lawyer’s dream, right? Ripped from the headlines. Personally, I’d rather die on a beach in Hawaii somewhere, but to each his own, right? If that’s the attitude that lawyers have, like, why should senior lawyers be thinking of retirement when I think a lot of them just say like, “I’m just going to work until I can’t anymore.”
Stephen Seckler: I think retirement may be a word that’s becoming less popular. Maybe it’s career transition. So there’s a couple of things. First of all, before the pandemic even came a long succession planning was a huge issue for law firms as a lot. There’s a lot of bloomer lawyers who are getting older. They’re still in leadership roles in law firms.
Jared Correia: Hey, bloomer. That has entered the cultural landscape.
Stephen Seckler: I’ll take that as a compliment.
Jared Correia: I wasn’t referring directly to you.
Stephen Seckler: I am a bloomer. Law firms need to figure out what to do with their senior partners. If senior partners can’t figure out what they want to do next and they just keep doing what they’re doing, some of the younger partners that are coming up or are going to lose patience and they’re going to move on to other firms. Plus, there’s the apocryphal story of Dick Testa of the storied law firm, Testa, Hurwitz & Thibeault in Boston. Dick Testa was really a very influential and central figure in that firm, and he died very suddenly and the firm really didn’t have a succession plan. The firm was a great firm, it was very profitable, but it didn’t last. Getting senior lawyers to start thinking before they’re at that stage — well, I guess before they’re dead of course.
Jared Correia: That’s a good caveat.
Stephen Seckler: Yeah, good caveat. It’s a transition, you don’t wake up and decide, “Okay. Well, I’m practicing today and I’m not practicing tomorrow.” I mean, there are steps that you want to take along the way. Now, for some lawyers, it might just mean moving into a less of a leadership role. For others, it might actually mean transitioning clients. I mean, lawyers want to take care of their clients. And I think one of the things that keeps lawyers from retiring is their concern that their clients are not going to be taken care of. There’s also a strong identity issue, senior lawyers, lawyers who have a very strong professional identity. And I heard the term “PIP”, previously important person. Lawyers don’t want to have to go to cocktail parties and say — when asked the question, “What do you do?” They don’t want to have to say, “I used to be blah blah blah blah blah.”
Like I mentioned earlier in this interview, I’ve set up this program the next stage to help these lawyers think about what they’ve really enjoyed in their careers, what they might want to transition out, what kinds of interest they haven’t been pursuing, what are some of the practical barriers to making change both in terms of the way they think about their own lives, people in their lives like their spouses. It’s a big issue for the legal profession all over the country, there’s a lot of aging lawyers. I’m really excited about this. The pandemic has really had me thinking a lot more about these issues for myself. I’m nowhere near retirement, but I’m really excited to be working with lawyers on these issues.
Jared Correia: Yeah, that’s cool. Give me a little teaser, right? I think a lot of lawyers are like, “That sounds great, but I’m not going to retire right now.” Lawyers like to prep, they like to build things out, they like to plan. How should attorneys start planning for retirement while they’re still in practice. Like are there a couple things they can start looking at now?
Stephen Seckler: Absolutely. Part of it is just getting out and speaking with people that have already done this, gone through these transitions and see what they’ve done. Some of it might be exploring pro bono opportunities, nonprofit work. For me, like three years ago, I joined a group on aging with my wife, and like we didn’t get the memo. So like, we were just becoming empty nesters and everybody else in the group was like 10 to 15 years older than us, but it was good. It was great actually. What I realized from participating in that is that it’s never too soon to start thinking about the transitions. One of the things that I did when I was much younger as I played a lot of guitar, and I haven’t been doing that for a long time. So this past summer, I bought myself a Martin guitar.
Jared Correia: Nice, good choice. So one thing you can do if your retire is play guitar. How about lawyers, like the general lawyer out there who’s been practicing hard for their life, very tied to this identity of being a lawyer — you’re totally right about that, who is going to have to make a big shift from working all the time to not working as much. What can they look forward to, like what does retiring well mean for a lawyer who’s willing to commit to that?
Stephen Seckler: I think it really depends upon what the person’s interests are. For some people, it could be actually moving to another part of the country to be closer to their adult children and see their grandchildren more often.
For others, it could be getting involved in pro bono work in a way that they never really have before. For some, it could be civic involvement, getting involved in organizations in their home community. For others, it could be just taking up personal interests like joining a choir. When you don’t have to work 80 hours a week, there’s a lot more time to pursue lots of other interests.
Jared Correia: Yes, the dream. So you talked about your guitar playing. You get the sweet Martin guitar now. As many people who listen to the podcast now, I’m a big James Taylor fan. He’s probably my favorite singer songwriter ever. Probably my favorite musician ever. And you’re a James Taylor guy also, which is great. For those uninitiated, what are like five non-hit James Taylor songs that people could listen to, to get a feel for the man, the myth, the legend?
Stephen Seckler: I want to thank you for giving me this question before
Jared Correia: I didn’t want to stomp you on this one.
Stephen Seckler: I don’t know that you would have stomped me, but I had a few minutes as we were getting ready to start talking.
Jared Correia: Now you’re raising the bar. Now they got to be good.
Stephen Seckler: Well, it’s hard to pick actually. I mean, I love James Taylor.
Jared Correia: I celebrate the man’s entire catalog, right?
Stephen Seckler: Yeah. The first album I ever bought was Sweet Baby James. I don’t mean the first James Taylor. I mean the first album I ever bought. These are in no particular order. Only a Dream in Rio.
Jared Correia: Great song.
Stephen Seckler: Shower the People. Carolina in My Mind, Country Road and Mexico.
Jared Correia: Those are all great songs. I said no hits, but I’ll forgive you for that. A lot of hits on there, but they’re all great socks. How can you go wrong? I bet a lot of people don’t know Only a Dream in Rio, but that’s a really cool song. And then I think he does a really nice live version of that in his ‘90s era concerts because he’s got like two drummers at those shows. That’s good. Good list.
Stephen Seckler: Thank you. Yeah.
Jared Correia: I think that’s an appropriate note to end on as well. So, as stat as it is, we’ve reached the end of yet another episode of the one and only Legal Toolkit podcast. This is the one where we talked about law firm coaching, lawyer retirement, everything in between, career transitions. And we’ve been chatting with Stephen Seckler of Seckler Legal Recruiting and Coaching
Now, I’ll be back on future shows with further insights into my soul, the soul of America or what’s left of it and the Legal Market. If you’re feeling nostalgic for my dulcet tones however you can check out our entire show archive anytime you want at legaltalknetwork.com at your leisure.
Thanks again to Stephen Seckler of Seckler Legal Recruiting and Coaching for making an appearance as my guest today. So Steve, can you tell everybody how they can find out more about you, and your practice and also like the program you’ve got coming up for a career transition.
Stephen Seckler: Everything is on my website, counseltocounsel.com. That’s my website, that’s my blog, that’s my podcast. I also make this offer, which is that I will talk to any lawyer about their careers, it doesn’t have to be formal. It could be informal. I love getting phone calls and I talk to lawyers all the time, every day. Spoke to one just this morning. I will talk to anybody for 45 minutes. After that, you have to pay me.
Jared Correia: All right. Talk to the man. The first is free. So thanks again. It’s always a pleasure to talk to Stephen Seckler of Seckler Legal Recruiting and Coaching. Thanks, Steve for coming on as guest today.
Stephen Seckler: Thank you so much for having me, Jared. You just, really I’m so inspired by the work that you’ve done over the years. It’s just really of great value to the legal profession.
Jared Correia: You’re so kind, and thanks to all of you out there for listening. You’re kind to be listening to the show as well. This has been the Legal Toolkit Podcast where the walking man walks on by.
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