Coaching and Counseling Approaches
Lawyers have a long tradition of being "counselors at law" and some of the emerging models focus on counseling or coaching.
The word “coaching” is being used by many professionals and practitioners in these various groups, although their practices may not necessarily fit within the definition of coaching according to one of the coaching field’s main organizations, the International Coach Federation (www.coachfederation.org).
THE COACH APPROACH TO THE PRACTICE OF LAW
California lawyer Phil Daunt has created an approach that he calls the Coach Approach to the Practice of Law, in which the lawyer works collaboratively with clients to help them transform their legal problems into opportunities for personal growth and positive change. While the development of the approach is Daunt’s, there are many lawyers who have been trained as coaches and use their coaching skills in their law practices. The lawyer-coach engages the client in conversations about choice; the client’s own interpretations of events; the significance to the client of those events; and their legal problems in the
context of their lives, goals, aspirations, and dreams.
According to Daunt’s website, http://www.coachapproachlawyers.com,
there are distinctions that are in the lawyer-coach’s toolbox:
• Perception and reality, story and fact, and the consequences of confusing the one for the other.
• Emotions and feelings and the consequences of confusing the one for the other.
• The “truth” and “beliefs,” the difference between disempowering
beliefs and empowering beliefs, and the consequences that arise from choosing one over the other.
• Affixing blame and accepting responsibility for a legal problem and the impact that choosing one response over the other has on a client’s ability to move forward toward a workable solution to his or her legal problem.
• Sin and mistake (generating either guilt or reasoned regret) and the consequences of believing that a past act was one or the other.
• Thoughts that generate adrenaline/cortisol and those that generate endorphins and the impact on the client’s health of the presence of one or the other substance in the client’s body.
• Motivation and inspiration and the pressure or the vacuum that results from choosing one over the other.
• Illusionary force and true power of unattached intention and the consequences of choosing thoughts and actions that create one or the other.
• Acting from a domination paradigm and a partnership paradigm and
the consequences of operating from one or the other.
• What cannot be changed and what can be changed and the implications of focusing on one or the other.
Learning to distinguish blame from responsibility, then to embrace responsibility, may enable clients to explore creative solutions to legal problems and focus their energy on what can be changed, not on what is beyond their control, eventually helping them to shift their lives to new levels of productivity
Attorney, former social worker, coach, and mediator Cinnie Nobel of Cinergy Coaching (cinergycoaching.com) is a conflict coach. According to her site:
Conflict coaching is a one-on-one process for helping individuals improve their conflict understanding and skills, to manage conflict and disputes more effectively. This definition, and variations of it, are used to describe a technique with the fundamental objective of coaching people to better engage in their interpersonal conflicts in both their personal and professional lives. Assisting individuals with their interpersonal conflicts is not a new concept. Indeed, one of the many roles of organizational ombudsmen is to assist staff members on a one-on-one basis. In various ways others, such as union representatives, counselors from employee assistance programs, managers, supervisors, and HR professionals, routinely assist individuals with conflict situations in the workplace. Similarly, therapists, psychologists and other human services professionals
assist people with conflict in their personal and professional lives.
Applications of Conflict Coaching
Currently, conflict coaching as a distinct technique appears to be growing mostly in workplaces as an additional option for employees and tool for mediators, whether or not there is an Integrated (Informal) Conflict Management System. This technique may be used instead of, or in tandem with, mediation and other ADR processes. In addition to helping individuals improve their
conflict management skills in any context, some other applications of conflict coaching include:
• as a pre-mediation or pre-other ADR process to help individuals anticipate and prepare for any challenges and to effectively participate in the process;
• to prepare clients to actively and effectively participate in collaborative law meetings;
• as a post-mediation or post-other ADR process to help individuals with the aftermath of any unresolved matters and ways to manage ongoing interactions;
• to help managers, supervisors and others focus on aspects of their conflict conduct requiring improvement;
• to help people enhance their negotiation skills;
• as an integral part of conflict management training, to provide individualized ongoing assistance with participants’ specific challenges; and,
• to facilitate self-reflective practice of conflict management professionals and others who work in any capacity with people in conflict.
Conflict coaching has gained attention and respect in workplace settings. For example, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, initiated the development of an Integrated Conflict Management System in 2003, A Conflict Management Coaching Program was an integral component of the system.
SPIRITUAL LEGAL COUNSELING
In the course of a recent month, I came across several lawyers who talked to me about combining their legal expertise with spiritual counseling. This isn’t a vector with an organization or collective website. I include it here because of the synchronicity of having met lawyers in Washington, California, North Carolina, and Massachusetts who all told me that they had the idea the same week, and then meeting several others since then. I think this is going to grow.
This new breed of spiritual legal counselor engages in deep spiritual work that informs their counseling of clients who are interested in more than a legal approach. The lawyer combines knowledge of the legal system with spiritual guidance. Andrew Weiss is one such example. From his website, http://www
Andrew combines his years of experience as a practicing lawyer with his knowledge and understanding as a mindfulness practitioner and teacher to provide spiritual and emotional counseling to those going through legally-oriented problems. Too often the human side of events gets lost or even exacerbated when legal institutions get involved. Andrew takes up that human end of the equation, providing insight, direction, empowerment, and support.
Legal Rebel Cheryl Conner (http://newprospectscollaborative.com/) also serves as a legal spiritual coach. A former federal prosecutor, economist, integrative educator and consultant, her work is deeply rooted in a fifteen-year apprenticeship with a Tibetan teacher. When her teacher was alive, he encouraged
her to share insights gained from extensive retreat and practice in her professional life. As a clinical law professor, she cultivated reflective, humanistic and holistic perspectives, inspiring lawyers, law students, and judges to undertake personal transformation and explore alternative forms of law practice. She founded and ran Lawyers with a Holistic Perspective and was the first Contemplative Fellow in Law Teaching of the American Council of Learned Societies. Recently she hosted an inquiry with law students, envisioning a new legal system. Since Cheryl lived in the wilderness in Lincoln, Vermont, for three years, she has been informed by earth energies and Native American sensibilities.
She has traveled around the country, speaking and leading workshops and retreats, and now combines perspectives about individual transformation with a call for cross-sectoral systemic transformation arising from the collective consciousness.