Host Sean Harris talks with Stephanie Hanna, an attorney and a networking and professional development coach. Stephanie runs her own business, The Other 85, where she coaches law students and attorneys to help them navigate their professions, build their reputation and develop their careers. During this podcast, Stephanie discusses the other 85, the soft skills that can help build and further your career.
Sean: Hello, I’m your host Sean Harris and this is episode 48 of Civilly Speaking brought to you by the Ohio Association for Justice. Today is June 26th and I’m here with our guest Stephanie Hanna. Stephanie has her own business called The Other 85. She coaches law students and attorneys, helping them navigate their profession, build their reputation and develop their career. Stephanie thanks very much for joining us here on Civilly Speaking.
Stephanie: Thank you for having me.
Sean: When we talk about lawyers, which we do on this podcast, why is it lots of times that lawyers look good on paper but that doesn’t kind of flush itself out?
Stephanie: There is definitely a gap in our profession. So I practiced law for 10 years and came across a lot of really good lawyers a lot of technically sound lawyers and there were still there was still something that separated the lawyers from great lawyers and that’s what I’ve coined the term as the other eighty five. And the idea is that 15 percent of your job success comes from hard technical skills, the substantive parts, the brief the depositions, and the other 85, that’s what will make or break your career. And that’s what I focus on. The networking, the relationship building, how to say things, who should be in your network, how to leverage your network, how to not sound awkward when you’re doing it and those are the things that I found in my years of practice that really separate good lawyers from great lawyers.
Sean: So you’re saying some lawyers sound awkward?
Stephanie: Yes I am.
Sean: And so you say it’s a 15/85 rule. I mean 85, that’s a lot.
Stephanie: That is a lot and there are statistics that back that up. So that comes from science. That was a study which we could link in your show notes I’ll give you the link and that’s actually a study that found that soft skills account for 85 percent of your success and I think it’s accurate if you think of people that are great around you they the first thing that comes to mind usually isn’t there so so so so smart. It’s usually that I like to be around them. I like to spend time with them. They’re easy to talk to and I think that’s what clients look for in attorneys just like what we look for in our colleagues.
Sean: And is that something this other 85 these if I call them soft skills is that a right terminology?
Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. That’s OK.
Sean: Is that something that you can learn or you’re just some people are awkward and you can’t do anything about it.
Stephanie: Luckily it is something that is teachable and learnable. I like to say that everything is figureoutable and if you have an interest in getting better there are absolutely exercises and coaching and workshops and things that we can do that will improve these skills and that’s what my business focuses on and luckily I’ve taken a handful of people through three and six month coaching projects and they come out so much stronger more confident and better than they were when they started so it is absolutely something you can learn and get better at.
Sean: And what are the, what are the biggest faux pas or the biggest areas that need attention for lawyers that you see?
Stephanie: I would say finding the time, how to fit it in your schedule. That’s probably one of the biggest complaints that I get is yes this is important, I need to develop business, I need to bring clients in, but I actually have real work to do and if you’re in a law firm with a billing model networking is non billable and it is not something that has a direct reward the same way that billing hours does and so finding the time to do it is probably the biggest kind of hurdle that I help clients get over.
Sean: So how do you do that? I mean I’m not an hourly lawyer and I feel the strain, right? I mean I still have work to do.
Sean: How do I, I got to go home, I got a family, I got a practice, how do I find time to develop business?
Stephanie: So the first thing I tell people is it can’t be a separate task. It can’t be something that’s additional on your To Do list. We have to find ways to integrate it into our calendar and integrate it into things that we’re already doing. And so I tell people to start small. Do you go to the gym? Do you drop your kids off at daycare? Do you order lunch? All of these are opportunities for you to have interactions with other people in very safe low-pressure environments and the biggest obstacle after finding the time to do it is practice. And so if we can build the practice in to our days already, we’re already going to be ahead of the curve. Some other ideas sitting next to a different person at a staff meeting. Striking up a conversation with someone that you typically don’t at the office. Spending a few minutes to send a follow up email to someone you’ve been meaning to follow up with. There’s much more structured ways to get to it, but those are some really easy ways that you can incorporate into your day that take you know two to five minutes and once you start making it a habit it becomes much easier to really start focusing in a strategic way.
Sean: Well and you made a good point that resonates with me I know that if I see you know on my to do list for today you know call this client, draft this motion, marketing, if it’s just a to do item it’s very easy to ignore.
Sean: Right? It’s very easy say ah I’ll do that tomorrow.
Sean: As opposed to it just being part of the routine.
Stephanie: Yes and when you kind of change your mindset and recognize that you’re always marketing yourself and your practice even if you work for somebody else it makes it a lot easier I think to come up with ways to integrate it into your day. It can’t be another item. It has to be something that you’re always doing.
Sean: And that’s a mindset.
Sean: Right? That’s something that you should do ideally without thinking about it.
Stephanie: Yes because you’re marketing yourself all the time whether you acknowledge it or not. So you may as well get your mind to catch up to what’s really happening so you can take advantage of it and come out ahead.
Sean: You know you made another good point to that I I’m guilty of that I find myself doing and that is when I walk in and there’s a dinner or a lunch meeting I go and sit with my friends.
Sean: And I know I should be sitting with new people.
Sean: And that’s a hard habit to break.
Stephanie: It is and you know the first step is really being aware of it and being cognizant of it and…
Sean: Then feeling guilty about it.
Stephanie: Yes. And then once we work off work past the guilt recognizing that you know these are going to be wasted opportunities there’s absolutely a time and place to cultivate existing relationships, but if you’re in a space where you’re trying to meet new people and expand your own network there definitely has to be some time dedicated to meeting new people and making new connections.
Sean: Now I gather that in addition to you know individual lawyers benefiting from the increased contacts and increased you know intake case intake from a firm perspective there’s benefits to having people focusing on the other 85 percent.
Stephanie: Yeah absolutely. One main area is retention. There are statistics that say that 80 percent of associates will leave their law firm within five years and others stats that say that every time a lawyer leaves it costs your organization anywhere from 200 to 400 thousand dollars to replace them. And if you think about the time that it takes to review resumes, interview people, take them to lunch, if you’ve got three attorneys from your firm taking someone to lunch and they’re each billing a two hundred fifty dollars an hour minimum there’s so much expense involved with hiring and retaining good talent.
Sean: Not to mention training or onboarding.
Stephanie: Yes absolutely. So the costs are astronomical. So from an organization or a firm perspective retention is a huge, huge benefit and as associates are leaving there they’re not saying I didn’t get the work I wanted to do or nobody taught me how to write a brief they’re saying nobody gave me accountability based training on my professional development skills and I know that in five, seven, eight years there’s an expectation on me to bring in business and I don’t feel like I have the tools or that I’m equipped to do so and so that’s why I’m leaving.
Sean: Yeah that’s a good point. I know especially in small or mid-sized firms there’s not necessarily an organized program. It’s hey I’ve figured it out, you got to figure it out.
Stephanie: Yeah and even I mean even in large firms those are a lot of my clients now are large firms and they have the internal structure and they have protocols and they have internal staff but sometimes you still need additional coaching to really understand the nitty gritty. Just saying that it’s important and here’s a couple courses on it is not enough. Someone needs to get into your calendar with you help you draft a few notes, get you a few templates, help you identify speaking opportunities and article writing opportunities so that you can really leverage your profile.
Sean: I know part of your program and what you work with people on is not just the mindset of creating these opportunities but then once the opportunities arrive how do you leverage it in a in a one on one situation.
Sean: And I would imagine that comes down to knowing who you are. Knowing your own story and being able to convey that.
Sean: Tell us about that.
Stephanie: So that’s another big component is being able to introduce yourself and your practice area and what you do and what you do for fun and what you’re good at. And that’s a very common struggle. So yes, we go out there we’ve had the dinner we sat next to the stranger. Now we have the card or they ask us a question right then and there and we fumble through it and immediately we are off their list of options because why am I going to try and use you as my lawyer if you’re having a hard time introducing yourself to me. And so, one thing that I help clients with a lot is really trying to understand the types of the type of law that you practice and the areas and explain it as if you would explain it to a sixth grader because a lot of times we are so caught up in the work that we’re doing that we take for granted how much we know and we’re not doing a great job explaining the service that we offer or the problem that we solve or the way we can help somebody. And even if I don’t have that problem, I have a lot of friends and they may have that problem, but I need to understand what you fix or what problem you solve and so part of telling your story and telling it confidently is really getting comfortable with who you help and how you help them and being able to say that in a way that a fifth or sixth grader would understand so that you can take advantage of the time that you’re spending networking and the time that you’re spending out there so that people can walk away understanding who you are and what you do.
Sean: And so how do you talking about the nitty gritty, how do you, how does someone discover their own story in that regard?
Stephanie: A lot of it starts with recognizing that you kind of need to have one and starting to tell it to people and you can work with a coach individually you can work with someone in your firm. You can work with a friend. Just tell your story. Just how would you normally introduce yourself and ask for feedback and say what did you get out of that. Another great idea is in a low stakes situation after you’ve introduced yourself to someone just say hey what were your takeaways? What was the vibe you just got from that interaction? And those are all low stakes easy ways to practice and then when you’re driving in the car after you finish listening to this episode spend a few minutes telling your story out loud and the more we say things the easier it becomes to say them again and the more comfortable we are speaking and just hearing our own voice the easier it becomes to do it again.
Sean: One of the things I found because I’ve frankly always struggled with the idea of marketing it’s never been something that’s been natural to me. One of things I’ve figured out though at least is that whatever it is whatever method you choose or whatever story you’re telling that it has to be authentic right?
Sean: What works for one person if you’re not doing it and being true to yourself it’s going to come off that way.
Sean: And I have partners and they do it one way and I couldn’t do it that way but I might do it differently and because that’s what feels right to me.
Sean: I think a lot of times young lawyers feel like there’s one right way to do it and if I don’t do it that way then I’m a failure.
Stephanie: Yes, that’s a great point. I mean you do have to be very authentic to yourself and people will see right through it. I mean it’s the same way when you’re standing in front of a jury. You have to be authentic to yourself and hope that the message in the story gets conveyed. The second you start trying to be the loud boisterous lawyer if that’s not really you it’s going to look fake and you’re gonna lose people. You know the second that you try and use hand motions or scream or do things that are not really within your personality. That’s when you lose people and so that authenticity is really, really important.
Sean: And so you talk about externally pushing your brand.
Sean: Tell us about that.
Stephanie: Once you recognize that you are a walking brand whether you believe the hype or not you absolutely are and you have to externally push it because you have to stay top of mind. I can’t tell you how many times I get friends or colleagues saying hey I need a lawyer that does X Y and Z. And in essentially every category two or three people tend to come to the top of my mind. They may not be the best practitioners in that area but I know them, they’re nice, they maintain our relationship and they’re externally pushing their brand to the point that they’re staying in the top two or three in my mind. And it’s not from cheesy commercials right. It’s from making an introduction, always being pleasant, always sharing information, adding value, providing free content. And so those are the people that I am referring work to and the people that I am recommending to friends and clients. So externally pushing your brand means recognizing that you’re always on and recognizing that people are always looking and thinking and grasping for what’s at the top of their mind. So how are you going to put yourself at the top of their mind?
Sean: Now Stephanie here this, grabbed my attention here. Avoiding the top mistake, killing your productivity, being weird.
Sean: So you’re not allowed to be weird?
Stephanie: If it’s authentic to you it’s okay, but the weird I’m talking about is the off putting weird that makes it hard for you to get clients and makes it hard for you to get referrals.
Sean: And so how do you know if you’re weird or if you’re being weird?
Stephanie: Well, see that’s part of the problem. So when I work with clients I have the beauty I’m an outsider to the organization, I can tell you that certain things come off in a way that is not well received and a lot of time so organizations are not great at giving that feedback and also people are not great at soliciting that feedback. So that’s definitely a two-way street. If you are not soliciting that feedback you should start right away and you don’t have to say hey am I being weird? That’s not a bad approach though. You can also say hey what are the top two or three things that you feel after you leave an interaction with me and see what the responses are. Even ask that to a group of three or four friends who are not even in the legal space and just say hey after we talk or when you think of me what are two or three words that come to mind. And you’ll probably be surprised with the answers.
Sean: I bet.
Sean: Whether you want to be or not. So I’m thinking about from an employer’s perspective if you’re working with folks, is there a right way to give feedback if you think somebody is quote being weird or you know, how do you do that without offending them?
Stephanie: One thing to touch on so you know I say I use the phrase being weird and it’s a little funny but really the essence is, are you like-able? Are you a good fit? Do you communicate appropriately? Are you engaging and pleasant to work with and those are all the things that fall under being weird. So from an employer’s perspective you have a vested interest in making sure that an associate or an employee has all of those skills because that’s a crucial part of team cohesiveness and you’re trying to build a good strong team. So, if you’re trying to give feedback I think you can pinpoint it to a specific area that’s impacting the team so it doesn’t have to be hey you’re being weird, stop doing that. It can say hey I’ve noticed that you have a hard time letting people finish or I notice that sometimes you’re too eager to share your answer. Let’s try and wait till everyone has a chance to answer before you say something and it can be finessed but the idea is that you just have to share or say hey I know sometimes for me it’s hard I want to jump right in but I’ve been told that that comes off as rude or as being evasive or makes it hard for the person to finish their thoughts. And so that’s something that I really try and work on and just sharing it from an honest standpoint I think is really all that a person needs. I will work with, if a law firm brings me in, the person in the leadership of the firm will tell me I want you to work with person X on these three things. Then I’ll go to person X and I’ll say hey so what’s your take we’re gonna work on these three things and they will say oh I never knew that nobody ever told me I was doing that or nobody ever told me that was an issue. And so that tells me one that I’ll probably be in business for a really long time, but two that people are not great at giving feedback. So, I think my advice to younger attorneys too is you have to solicit it and you have to recognize that your employer is likely inherently not going to be great at it and an annual review is not what I’m talking about that’s not the answer. It’s got to be consistent and ongoing. And if you don’t feel like you’re getting it you have to advocate for yourself and you have to ask for it.
Sean: And I like that approach because the commentary is on the behavior not the personality.
Sean: That’s always kind of been my concern is you can’t change someone’s personality and you certainly don’t want to judge someone’s personality but you can say here’s the behavior that I’ve witnessed.
Stephanie: Yes, and always trying to personalize it or talk about a fault of your own or a skill of your own that you’re trying to work on and just keeping it light. You have to create an environment where it’s okay to talk about these things and recognize that it’s not personal. We’re trying to drive the organization forward and we’re all part of that process and so we need to be having these conversations in an ongoing basis.
Sean: Stephanie talk about the idea of accountability when it comes to marketing and business development and how important that is.
Stephanie: Yes. So, it’s crucial. We’ve all been to great presentations, great CLE, great you know workshops and then we get to our office and we put it on the shelf and we don’t see it again. And so, I vow always to never have a put it on the shelf program. So there has to be some sort of accountability and when you work with a coach you get that it’s built in. That’s probably one of the biggest benefits to working together is that I’m showing up every month, I’m giving you homework, I’m making sure you did it, and it’s just forcing you to get in the habit to put this at the top of your mind. And when you don’t have that accountability it falls by the wayside. It just does because in the structure of our industry you don’t make money for doing this directly. It’s indirect and you have to have confidence that it will pay off, but there is nothing motivating you other than your own self and recognizing that this is a long game. And so, without that direct motivation there has to be some sort of accountability to keep it in check so that it can grow and that it will pay off.
Sean: And are there ways that we as lawyers can be, can hold ourselves accountable?
Stephanie: Yeah. So a great way is using your calendar as a tool. Getting an accountability buddy. Scheduling dates in your calendar, scheduling reminders to work on practice development business development, work on telling your story. Schedule time to send thank you notes send, send congratulations notes, finding ways to make it routine will help with the personal accountability. And then if you need external accountability you can try to have some sort of a drawing or offer some sort of a monetary reward for associates that do five networking things in a month. You can also come up with ways for people to swap ideas and share ideas and use that as a lunch and learn things like that to just keep it top of mind are helpful in trying to generate some sort of accountability when you aren’t going all the way to bringing someone in externally.
Sean: And so, Stephanie do you, tell us about them, I understand as you do some small group type workshops. What kind of work gets done there?
Stephanie: Two of the main ways that I work with people are the first one is workshops and those can be for groups anywhere from 15 to 50 and we get in the weeds. We do not sit in our chairs the entire time and we do not look at our phones the entire time. We actually get in the weeds and we figure out where the barriers are. We come up with a plan to get over those barriers, ways to hold ourselves accountable and then we practice. It’s really unique the feedback so far has been great and it’s a way for you to do something that’s a little bit uncomfortable but still in a safe space and with the mindset that you know unless we get uncomfortable we’re probably not going to make a ton of progress and then the second way is coaching and that can either be individual or small group coaching and that is when we really focus on a particular area that is turning into a struggle long term. Whether it’s feeling really shy it’s not having a plan for developing business it’s trying to advance in your career and running up against these roadblocks and you’re not really sure how to get over them. You’re having a hard time authentically connecting with others you don’t know how to follow up you don’t know what to say you don’t know how to say it we will really dig down and come up with individualized tailored plans to get you through it.
Sean: And I was just as I’m listening to you say that, I know that feeling of feeling awkward or embarrassed or shy and why is that? I mean especially for lawyers and or trial lawyers who make their living talking to people, that’s what we do is talk to people.
Sean: Why is it that we find ourselves holding back or uncomfortable in these situations?
Stephanie: You know I think a lot of it is confidence and that’s a theme that’s come up a lot in my work lately is that we just aren’t super confident for whatever reason. Whether we have the internal voice in our head that saying that everyone else is doing it differently and doing it better or whether we perceive that we’re not up to up to snuff or we’re not at the level that we want to be at. You know I think confidence is kind of the killer of getting to this level and or lack of confidence I should say and once we kind of work on that which it’s really embed in a lot of the programming is you have to find a way to get that voice to turn off. And there’s techniques and exercises and I can give you all these tools and they’re very helpful. But at the end of the day you have to recognize that that’s what it’s going to take and be willing to put yourself out there starting in very small safe ways and then growing and recognizing that competence is keeping promises we make to our self. So, if you say that you’re going to dedicate 15 minutes a day to networking, start keeping that promise and watch your confidence slowly grow.
Sean: Stephanie Hanna thanks very much for being with us here on Civilly Speaking today.
Stephanie: Yes. Thank you for having me it was great to be here.
Sean: Where can folks learn more information?
Stephanie: My website is http://www.theother85.net and I am also on LinkedIn at Stephanie Hanna and also Instagram and Twitter at stephanietheother85.
Sean: And I hope this wasn’t, I hope I wasn’t weird
Stephanie: No this was great.
Sean: Okay, good. Thank you, Stephanie, and thanks to all our listeners out there if you like our show and want to learn more check out civillyspeaking.com or leave us a review on iTunes and we’ll see you on the next episode of Civilly Speaking.