Bob Kohn: Building a Community of Allies

In this episode, Steve Fretzin and Bob Kohn discuss:

  • How Zoom and online connection has changed networking and opened more doors.
  • Challenges lawyers are facing while growing a law practice.
  • The power of a community of allies.
  • Moving from planning to doing and really learning.

Key Takeaways:

  • Things do change and will change with little to no notice. By being in control of your own book of business you will have more control over your career.
  • Things will change – people who learn marketing skills will do better both when times are good as well as when times are bad.
  • Being “busy” is an excuse. Understand the obstacles that are stopping you from business development (and it’s not time).
  • Just get started – do something productive that will take you in a positive direction.

“Business development should be fun, it should be fulfilling. Business development is really a process of building your community. It’s a community of allies, and it’s a game changer.” —  Bob Kohn

Connect with Bob Kohn:  




Phone: 831-643-9939



Connect with Steve Fretzin:

LinkedIn: Steve Fretzin

Twitter: @stevefretzin

Facebook: Fretzin, Inc.



Book: The Ambitious Attorney: Your Guide to Doubling or Even Tripling Your Book of Business and more!

YouTube: Steve Fretzin

Call Steve directly at 847-602-6911

Show notes by Podcastologist Chelsea Taylor-Sturkie

Audio production by Turnkey Podcast Productions. You’re the expert. Your podcast will prove it.




lawyers, business, people, development, coaching, coach, chicago, steve, bob, meet, recession, clients, rainmaker, partners, law firm, finance, individuals, conference, world, third generation


Narrator, Steve Fretzin, Bob Kohn


Bob Kohn  [00:00]

The business development is really a process of building your community. It’s like a community of allies. And as a game changer, this thought that you could meet people and have good people and have interactions with those people and many of them become friends and and you’re in the process of business development brings in business, yes, but it does much more than that.


Narrator  [00:28]

You’re listening to be that lawyer, life changing strategies and resources for growing a successful law practice. Each episode, your host, author and lawyer, coach, Steve Fretzin, will take a deeper dive, helping you grow your law practice in less time with greater results. Now, here’s your host, Steve Fretzin.


Steve Fretzin  [00:51]

Hey, everybody is Steve Fretzin. With be that lawyer. I hope you’re having a great day today. Oh, man, it is beautiful. Here in Chicago, we are taping this in near the end of July. You know, we’ve got fires out west, and we’ve got, you know, big rain out east. But, you know, look, at the end of the day, if you’re healthy and happy and doing a good job with your law practice, then that’s all good. Listen, I’ve got a treat for you today. This is the co founder of cone communications. He’s the co author of selling in your comfort zone. And his name is Bob cone. And he’s just a terrific guy. How’s it going, Bob?


Bob Kohn  [01:24]

Great, Steve. Thanks very much. Thanks for inviting me to be on your program.


Steve Fretzin  [01:28]

Yeah, you’re welcome. And I just want to recognize that and I don’t want to I don’t want to date you too much. But I want to just say like, you’re sort of like the godfather of legal coaching, like you got into legal coaching, Business Development coaching for lawyers, way before anyone knew that it was a thing. And now I’m, I know, at least 10 or 15 coaches that do this thing with lawyers that I do. And I just love to hear how you got started in it. You know, years ago,


Bob Kohn  [01:54]

it wasn’t something that we had planned to get into. We had been doing many different things. I was originally in the finance business, which was a third generation business that that I actually inherited with my brother from our grandfather, who was one of the first automobile finance years in the city of Chicago. Okay, back in 1980. Wow. And that was a third generation business. And it had grown well beyond auto finance. It was it was in they did, they did asset based lending and actually motion picture for Nancy. My father’s company financed a lot of movies that you will have known well known pictures of the graduate is a good example, cabaret.


Steve Fretzin  [02:41]

Wait a second, I’m going to timeout here for a second. Bob, I asked you before we got started, is there something interesting about your background that no one knows about you? And then you drop a bomb? Like your family was in the motion? Motion Picture business financing? I mean, that’s pretty cool.


Bob Kohn  [02:57]

Well, that was my father’s still interesting. You would ask how I got into this. I was in that business. I was in the finance business. And it was we moved from Chicago, I was living out in California at the time in Los Angeles. And we just, you know, like so many third generation individuals, we decided we didn’t like the finance business. We didn’t like the family business and and look for something new and and we tried different things. For a long time. We were in the entrepreneurial business of what do you need? The What do you need business. And, and over time, we began to do more and more coaching of professionals. We we coached our CPA firm, we coached our law firm, we coached anybody that needed, we could find that needed help. And and this this concept of business development coaching for lawyers was was new, it was unique at the time, nobody had been doing it. Lawyers had just dipped their toe into the, into the business development waters, because for so many years, it was inappropriate for lawyers to do business development. And then it had just become acceptable, but nobody was doing it. And we started coaching them. And our approach our technique of was a low key sales approach to business development was very appealing to them. And we got speaking engagements, got introductions from one form to another and before you knew it, that was the business that we were in. So it did not come as a result of our sitting down and saying what business should we be in? But rather it evolved as a result of just trying many different things


Steve Fretzin  [04:39]

right? It almost it almost like called you like it was then I think that’s what happened to me too is I I was focused on entrepreneurs primarily and when the recession hit, that’s when the need arose. And that’s when I started getting pulled into working with lawyers but you kind of created a niche out of the necessity that you found lawyers you know, really, you know, could could do well if they had Got a little soft selling magic, you know, kind of in their, in their, you know, in their corner.


Bob Kohn  [05:05]

So it was a business that doing many different things. This was the the one that stuck. This is the one that the individuals that we were working with seem to really value. And and it grew. And it started just coaching lawyers in the area, the geographic area that we were in, which was Century City, which century city, it has perhaps one of the highest ratios of lawyers to any any other city in the world. It’s just it’s a very small compact area. So it was a very easy market to identify. But then over time, we began meeting lawyers and other cities and the concept of telephone coaching developed a coaching over the phone. Initially, in the early days, we were doing all of our coaching in person groups, small groups of lawyers. And then we learned that we could do this just as easily, actually better, but one on one over the telephone. And then once we learned that we could do it that way, then the world opened up.


Steve Fretzin  [06:06]

Yeah. So then then it’s anybody, right? I mean, it’s anybody around the world that that is a lawyer need that. And now we have zoom. So it’s like a whole nother


Bob Kohn  [06:14]

now we have zoom. Yeah. Which is even far superior to anything I could have imagined.


Steve Fretzin  [06:21]

Yeah, it’s really, it’s really been great. And, you know, it makes you, it makes me not want to go out. Although I know, that’s not a good thing that I need to keep, like the muscles sharp of being in front of people and having a cocktail later today with the insurance friend of mine. But that I hope that muscle doesn’t atrophy. But I definitely am spending a lot of time looking at a green dot and talking to people all day, you know, but Zoom is so it’s so phenomenal for groups and for individual meetings and stuff. So it’s sharing your screen and recording things. And right.


Bob Kohn  [06:54]

I think it’s ironic that when when the pandemic came, and, and everybody was so worried about the inability to meet people, so many of our clients have convinced him typically gone out to conferences as their primary networking technique. And, and then when all of that went away, there was a great fear that they wouldn’t be able to network, they wouldn’t be able to meet people. But then zoom open the door. And, and I think something remarkable happened with Zoom, that not only did you still have the ability to reach out to people and have conversations, there was this whole demographic of prospects of lawyers that historically would not have gone to a conference, but they were willing to go to a virtual meeting. So it actually opened up an entirely new demographic of really interesting people.


Steve Fretzin  [07:53]

Yeah, now when they go back to live is that going to be like, like, like I just said, like, I’m, like, I’m so time conscious now. And like, somebody wants to meet me in the city, I’ll do it. But it’s like, Oh, my God, you know, I could give up three or four meetings in a day to drive into the city of Chicago. And so going to a conference for two or three days seems like I’d be missing two or three times the amount of coaching I could do or prospecting, I could do a work that I could do by going to a conference. I wonder if lawyers are seeing that too. Or if they’re totally excited to get back and kill three days at a conference.


Bob Kohn  [08:25]

And imagine I mean, there are people who love that interaction. Yeah, love the one on one to heat off of that energy. But when you consider how much time it takes to go to just to go get your car and drive someplace and park and have have lunch or have dinner? How much time does it take to go to another city to make those airplane reservations, and then all of the energy it takes to get there. And now I think that a lot of it will depend on on the preference of their particular targets. If their prospects if their referral sources want to meet in person, then then we’ve heard that we’ve heard prospects say we really want to meet you in person, well, then that means you’re gonna have to get on an airplane and go meet him in person. But I just can’t manage that lawyers are gonna want to go back to doing business that way. Not for everybody not not of people are willing to meet like this.


Steve Fretzin  [09:27]

Yeah, that’s gonna be an interesting sort of case study to sort of watch the next six months to a year and see how that evolves in the travel industry and in particular conferences and what their attendance is like, comparatively speaking. But let’s move on to the main subject at hand here. And this is, you know, lawyers, you know, whether it’s zoom or not zoom, you know, there’s challenges that they’re facing as a relates to growing a law practice today. And there’s either you could tell me, I’m off on my numbers, but I’m because I’m ballparking. But it seems that there’s about you know, 80% of lawyers are are pretty, you know, lost and confused as it relates to business development, maybe 20% Get it in are working it actively. And then maybe 80% or 80%. I was being generous, maybe. But 80% aren’t doing much. They’re just taking in hours from their partners. Yeah, they’re their solos, there’s that the phone rings great. The phone doesn’t ring, I guess I can spend more time with my kids or whatever. But I’m not really building a business. And then there’s maybe 15 to 20% that are, you know, talking to guys like you and I. They’re ambitious, interested, coachable, etc. And so what are the challenges that you’re seeing lawyers having that are coming to today,


Bob Kohn  [10:37]

lawyers don’t like to mark, they didn’t become lawyers, because they wanted to go to Sales. They don’t like it, they many resent the fact that they have to do it. It’s not easy. Earning a living as a lawyer is not easy. And then throw on top of that the challenge of having to generate business, particularly for lawyers, who are many of many who are introverts by nature, and, and are uncomfortable with the concept of the one on one, or the personal outreach that’s required. This development is very much an effort of meeting people and building relationships. And if you’re introvert, by nature, it’s not something that comes naturally, it’s not something that you want to do. So let’s start with the problem, that lawyers just don’t want to do it. They just don’t like doing it. And they’re busy, and many of them are very successful, and they don’t have to do much marketing they can be if they’re in a large firm, and they’re a good lawyer, well, all they have to do is just do good work and their partners give them the work. So


Steve Fretzin  [11:41]

and as long as the world doesn’t change radically, they’re going to be okay, because they’ve got people feeding them work for, you know, 2030 plus years of their career.


Bob Kohn  [11:49]

Right, right. And I think that that is one of the myths that the world is not going to change that that things are going to be okay. But we know from the number of recessions that we’ve we’ve lived through for the past 40 years, things do change. And often they change with very little ability to predict them who could have predicted a worldwide pandemic, who could have predicted the that some of the major banks and investment firms in the country would have just folded who who could have predicted that an elite foreign force would have attacked our country 911 You can’t predict how things are going to change. And when things change, often what will happen is as work written was retracts a partner in a law firm who’s been feeding you will want to keep that business for themselves. Or a particular entire industry might go out of business. And there is no question that the people who are good at business development, and you don’t have to be a superstar. You don’t have to be a super Rainmaker, but the individuals who have embraced business development, who have thought about business development, who care about it, and develop the habits, and some of the skills they need, these individuals fare so far, so we’re superior to those who don’t care about and don’t do anything.


Steve Fretzin  [13:13]

Now. So that’s that’s what I’m seeing, you know, exactly. And although things it’s interesting, there’s like a recession that happened with this pandemic, but then lawyers have never been busier. I mean, not every lawyer, but the majority of lawyers that I’m talking to, they’ve never been busier. So they do care about business development. But I don’t think this recession really did what it was supposed to do, which is to scare the bejesus out of lawyers. So they get serious about their their business development in their in their legal careers. And I don’t know that I don’t know that it did it. So I don’t know what it’s going to take. I mean, 2008, obviously was a big bump. People lost their jobs and people lost hours and a lot of people went solo. I think more now, it’s like people are seeing out maybe it’s that small firms and mid markets are gonna get gobbled up by the big firms or that eventually they’ll change the laws and allow corporations to own, you know, to run law firms as opposed to lawyers. That might be something. But I was just surprised, I don’t know. And I wasn’t hoping for anything horrible to you know, befall anybody. I was just shocked that what seemed like not the end of the world, but a pretty significant, you know, tragedy on so many levels that ended up really actually helping many in the legal community.


Bob Kohn  [14:26]

I’m glad that it has helped the legal community, they are our clients after a sirloin. And they’re doing well then they have the ability to hire professionals like us. So I’m glad that they’re doing well. But I think it’s really important for for lawyers to recognize that that things change. And the people who learn marketing skills do better and they do better when times are good. They do better when when times are bad. And I think what happens, Steve, is that people reach us certain points in their life, a certain they come to a certain realization, that, that if they want to really do well in their careers, then they need to pay attention to business development, business development is perhaps the single most important thing that a lawyer can do to improve their their career. I mean, you could become a better lawyer. But there are there are lots of great lawyers out there who do a great job, they could maybe negotiate their fees, there are a variety of things you can do to practice and improve your practice. But your ability to generate your own book of business, now, that’s significant. Because if you generate your own clients, well, that means you’re going to be, you’re going to make more money, and you’re going to be able to delegate more work to other people, keeping the very best, most interesting client matters for yourself. So it improves your ability to earn a living, it improves the quality of your life. It’s more fulfilling, and business development in and of itself. It can be fun, in fact, business development, should be fun. It should be fulfilling, I came to a realization several years ago, that the business development is really a process of building your community. It’s like a community of allies. And as a game changer, this thought that you can meet people and have good people and have interactions with those people. And many of them become friends. And and you’re the process of business development brings in business, yes. But it does much more than that. You get involved in interesting organizations meet people look at how you and I met you and I had it not been for my desire and your desire to meet people and develop business. You and I would not have met. You’re in Chicago vicinity. I’m in I’m in California, and we met through this wonderful organization. And that in of itself, is a reason to do business development. Because you meet great people.


Steve Fretzin  [17:10]

Yeah. So so and you know, you never and you never know Bob, like how those relationships are going to play out. I mean, I’ve become friends with what I thought were my competitors. And it turns out, we’re not competing at all. We’re actually on the same side, combating apathy, right loyal lawyer apathy or disinterest, so I’m not losing business to you, or Gary Johnson or Jay Harrington. Aw, David Acker, all these great, great coaches out there, we’re all trying to do the same thing, which is the noble coaching and teaching of lawyers in how to grow their business. And to your point earlier, you know, being independent and having control over their destiny, so, but I love your point about community. And that’s even if you know, business development is scary, or you’re hate the word sales. If you think about it, as you’re building a community of allies. That’s the whole game right there. I love that.


Bob Kohn  [18:00]

It takes it away from this image of being a salesperson. Nobody wants to be a salesperson, unless you’re a professional sales. Lawyers are not salespeople, and you don’t have to be that’s the main that’s the main point here. Yeah, you can do this can be fun. It can be, you can be enthusiastic about it. And it becomes a way of thinking a way of life. And again, we get back to this issue, if you can learn how to embrace business development, if you can learn how to find things about it that are enjoyable, if you can install systems that that gives you the ability to continue to think about business development on a regular basis. You can generate your own clients. And that is going to be the most important thing that that you do in your career.


Steve Fretzin  [18:53]

And you just teed me up for how I want to spend the next 10 minutes, which is really talking about what are the main kind of tips and ideas and concepts that you’re sharing with your clients every day. That’s helping them to become a business developer or a better business developer. So give me three to five tips that we can record here and share with my audience that’s going to be really helpful to them.


Bob Kohn  [19:17]

All right, so I just jotted some things down before our conversation. So I don’t know in their no particular order. But one thing is to understand the reasons the thing, the actual reasons why you’re not doing business development, and a lot of lawyers are busy, and they will tell you that they don’t do it because they’re busy. But in my opinion, that is mostly an excuse, because Because rainmakers were also very busy find ways of doing business development. There are things you can do, you can delegate, you can learn how to how to market minutes, there are lots of things. I’m going to teach my book. Now Steve


Steve Fretzin  [19:54]

Spencer pressured me to this


Bob Kohn  [19:57]

little booklet it’s free. It’s called Why Employers don’t sell and what to do about it beautiful. It’s, it’s on our It’s on our website


Steve Fretzin  [20:06]

that’s on Amazon too or no, no. What’s your what’s your website?


Bob Kohn  [20:12]

It’s cone que OHN communications with an And it’s a PDF to download it. And it’s an easy read. And it tells you all the reasons why lawyers don’t like to sell and how to fix those problems.


Steve Fretzin  [20:29]

And the books 1000 pages, it’s about lawyers problems, I figured that was a long the longest part of the book. Come on, we have to goof around with the lawyers, they’ve got good sense of humor. Anyway, but what is it for so it is your first point, Bob, just to reiterate that


Bob Kohn  [20:52]

understand the obstacles, okay, how to how to fix them and know, specifically that it’s not time, it’s not the main reason. But there are these other things,


Steve Fretzin  [21:01]

okay, so identification that it’s not time you can everybody can make time, if it’s important.


Bob Kohn  [21:06]

If it’s important to go and find out what is happening, usually what’s stopping you is the fear of being judged harshly. That’s the, that’s the main reason either judging yourself harshly, or the fear of others judging you harshly. That’s what stops people from doing anything. But you can overcome those those obstacles. Another tip I’d like to share with with your listeners is to stop planning so much and start doing lawyers love to plan. They get to they scheduled planning meetings, and then they have meetings to plan their next planning meetings. And those meetings, they plan more, eventually they get tired planning, but nothing gets done. There is value in knowing what you need to do. But at some point in time, you’ve got to stop planning. And you’ve got to start doing because it’s through doing that you really learn. It’s where you make mistakes, you find what works, what doesn’t work, what you can do better. And doing is what makes the difference, the differences in the doing. So stop planning start doing. Another tip I’d like to share is learn good systems, develop some good systems for meeting people, and then systems for staying in touch with people over time. So what are some systems? Well, well, everybody knows that you’ve got to meet more people, and you’ve got to stay in touch. But but in order to get the job done, you need to have strategies, you have need to have ways of actually making that happen. So So plan that identify the organizations that you want to, you know, pursue for speaking or for leadership, or whatever it is, get a CRM, everybody knows you got to have a way of staying in touch with people. But a large number of the lawyers that we speak to do not have a Contact Relationship Management Program, nothing, nothing like that. They they may not even write down the names of the people who they want to stay in touch with. So So you got to have systems so that you can execute the business development. Another tip, I alluded to this earlier, find things that are fun. If this is not enjoyable, you won’t do it. So find the things that you do enjoy there, there are so many ways that you can do business development, we have clients who have pursued their hobbies, auto car racing and and find why sin, and whatever it is, whatever you enjoy doing, try to incorporate that into your business development effort. Because when you do things that are fun, you’re more likely to be enthusiastic about it. And lastly, hire a coach. You’re a coach, I’m a coach. And I know it seems self serving to say this, but the reality is that having someone who helps motivate you, and who you are accountable to, it makes all the difference in the world. Lawyers who in law firms typically do not have somebody who they can talk to about this, they don’t have somebody who they can share their their concerns and their desires when they don’t have somebody who can fall who cares enough about them to follow up with them and make sure that they they do the things that they want to do. Having a coach will make all the difference in the world for any of the any of you who have have hired a personal trainer to help you with your with your physical health, you know that that having somebody you report to on a regular basis makes a significant difference in your ability to do this. So when you hire somebody in your business development effort, it’s the same principle and they will help you think through ideas more clearly. They will help you come up with better ideas and ultimately, you will do more things.


Steve Fretzin  [24:54]

Yeah, and I think it’s not self serving. It’s it’s the reality of people do better when they have helped people do better when they have an advocate in their corner, I don’t care if it’s your father, your mother, a coach, a friend and advocate and advisor, it’s what we need to get ahead and anything that we want to be become better at. So that’s just, that’s just a reality of the way life works. You can look at coaching as an option. Again, there could be a mentor at your firm, there could be an advisor, that could be a rainmaker at your firm that you want to, you know, partner with, but I don’t think they’re going to be able to spend the kind of quality time that we do, but anything is better than nothing.


Bob Kohn  [25:30]

Well, anything is better than nothing. And keep in mind that somebody who’s not trained as a coach may be very good at business development, but may not be very good at teaching a business developer, I can tell you a number of people who will say things like, well just do what I do. And then their colleagues or their partners look at them. And they say, Sure, okay, I’ll do what you do. But they’re thinking deep down. I don’t want to this. Guy,


Steve Fretzin  [25:57]

yeah. Right, that or I interviewed a ton of managing partners. I was mentioning this to earlier years ago. And I wanted to publish them as articles and publish them as audio blog. And there were some that were so awful, where I was trying to get, you know, information out of these managing partners on what they advise their lawyers to do to grow business. And I just tell them to get out there, they just need to get out there. You need to join networking you need. Okay, yeah. And a they don’t want to and be, you know, lawyers are looking to your point, they’re looking for systems, they’re looking for methods, so that it becomes more predictable, right? They’re looking for step one, do this, say this step two, do this say that, and that way, they’ve got a roadmap of how to go where they need to go not get out their kid, right? That’s not any advice that’s going to, well, I heard someone say, get out there. And I’ve been outside, you know, for years now, you know, wandering around the streets of Chicago. Not getting out


Bob Kohn  [26:53]

there doesn’t mean anything, no. And remember, everybody is at a different point in their lives, too. And some people have tried a lot of things or frustrated, other people have not tried anything. So you have to be able to to meet somebody where they’re at, in their personality in their level of experience. And just get out there doesn’t mean anything.


Steve Fretzin  [27:18]

Yeah. So listen, Bob in wrapping things up. And this has been terrific. And I just appreciate you and appreciate what you brought to the legal community into my audience today. Is there one other kind of over overarching tip that you’d like to give her or I love some of the philosophies that you’ve put out there so far, but anything else you want to share? Before we kind of wrap up?


Bob Kohn  [27:38]

I think the best thing to do is to just get started to have a conversation with somebody, call me call you call somebody have have a conversation. If you haven’t been doing business development, get started. It really you got to get started, you can think about this, you can read about it, you can plan it, but you really got to get started and try it. If you’ve been doing this for a very long time, and you’re frustrated that things you’ve been doing have not been as you’re not getting the return on the investment. And then again, talk to somebody who can help you come up with a new idea, a different way of thinking about things. The tip is get started. And don’t wait, don’t wait, because what’s going to happen. So don’t think that one day, suddenly you’re busy today, but you’re gonna have time, three, four months from now, I’m gonna get started three, four months from now, because maybe I won’t be busy, then. Well, you know what, you’ll always be busy. So to put this off, just get started.


Steve Fretzin  [28:43]

That could be the most important thing that’s been said on the show is just get started. Just do something, something that’s moving you in a positive direction. You don’t have to make a million dollars day one. You don’t have to have a million meetings, but do something productive. That’s going to take you in a positive direction. I think that’s fantastic. Bob, people want to get in touch with you for your book. They want to get in touch with you for coaching. They want to, you know, get some advice. You mentioned that your website and your website is calm Koh n Right. Okay, any other ways to for them to get in touch with you email.


Bob Kohn  [29:16]

They can send me an email Bob at home Or they can call me our numbers on the website. But it’s 831-643-9939 and smoke signals. I


Steve Fretzin  [29:32]

of course want to fire talkies,


Bob Kohn  [29:34]

the fires that we’re having here. smoke in the air. Sometimes I can’t read the signals.


Steve Fretzin  [29:39]

You know, we’re getting that smoke all the way here in Chicago in New York and all that I’m looking at some really cool sunsets and I know it’s not naturally supposed to look that cool. But anyway, listen, thank you so much for being my guest for being my friend and for taking the time to speak to my audience. I really appreciate it. I appreciate you,


Bob Kohn  [29:56]

Steve. It’s been a pleasure. Thank you so much for inviting me to do this. It was all A lot of fun and I look forward to continuing this relationship.


Steve Fretzin  [30:03]

Awesome awesome. Me too. And hey everybody, thank you for spending some time with us today. You hopefully took some notes hopefully you’re you’re giving this some thought and trying to really work out how to be that lawyer someone that is confident organized in a skilled Rainmaker. Take care, be safe, and be well everybody. Bye bye.


Narrator  [30:23]

Thanks for listening to be that lawyer. Life changing strategies and resources for grilling a successful law practice. Visit Steve’s website For additional information, and to stay up to date on the latest legal business development and marketing trends. For more information and important links about today’s episode, check out today’s show notes