Coaching for Lawyers
Coaching is a broad category and approach. Lawyers can be coaches in their practices and they can combine their legal skills with life and career coaching. Lawyers can benefit from working with a coach as well. For coach approach law practice, see the New Models menu and go to Coaching and Counseling. This section focuses mostly on lawyers being coached.
The International Coaching Federation (ICF) defines coaching as partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential.
Coaches help people improve their performances and enhance the quality of their lives. They are trained to listen, to observe and share their observations with clients. Coaches honor the clients as the experts in their lives and work and believe that every client is capable, creative, resourceful, and whole. Standing on this foundation, the coach's responsibility is to:
1. Align with and clarify what the client wants to accomplish.
2. Encourage client self-awareness and discovery.
3. Empower the client to generate solutions and strategies.
4. Hold the client responsible and accountable.
Professional coaches provide an ongoing partnership designed to help clients produce results in their personal and professional lives.
When I was in the swirl of transforming my practice, I was lucky enough to find a coach who helped me set manageable goals and prioritize my to-do lists. With the help of Coach Brad Swift, I created my life purpose and organized my life and my practice around this purpose and my values. I found ways of earning money doing what I love. I chose clients whose work I enjoyed. Later, I trained and became a coach for others, and I've seen these lawyers blossom and prosper. If you take only one piece of advice in this book, choose to get a coach.
Choosing a Coach
Each coach has a different set of experiences and a different toolbox. Most coaches have the tools to get you where you want to go if you accept the coaching. With lawyers, that "if" is a big contingency.
Choose a coach whose intelligence you respect. Typically, we lawyers are smarter than the average bear, and you should make sure you find a coach who is just as smart as you are. I often recommend that lawyers choose coaches who are also lawyers. You will be challenged by your coach. If you are serious about creating results, you don't want someone who buys your excuses instead of gently confronting them. Among coaches, there are many tales of working with lawyers who attempted to run circles around their coaches.
Choose a coach you can trust. As you develop your plans, you'll be talking about the most intimate details of your life—exploring what has stopped you in the past and creating breakthroughs for the future. You want to be able to share those vulnerable parts of yourself and try out ideas in a safe place before you take them outside the coaching relationship.
Choose a coach you like. You're going to be spending some quality time with your coach. Why not make sure it is someone you enjoy being with?
Finding a Coach
There are many ways to find the right coach. There are enough coaches who are also lawyers that there are special sections of the major coaching organizations. A special interest group of lawyer-coaches meets by telephone on a monthly basis. Before trying a Google search, ask around to see if anyone you know already has a relationship with a coach. A call to your bar’s Lawyer Assistance program is likely to result in some local referrals. The International Coach Federation (www.coachfederation.org) is a credentialing organization with a referral program.
Coach or Therapist?
For lawyers who are under tremendous stress, there is often the question of whether to seek a coach or a therapist. Coaching emphasizes action, accountability, and follow-through. It provides a structure for doing what you may already know how to do, but haven't been able to do on your own. Often, a natural outcome of good coaching is to help you feel better, but it is different than therapy.
Therapy focuses on resolving psychological and emotional difficulties from the past, which hamper emotional functioning in the present. Therapy helps you deal with present circumstances in more emotionally healthy ways; it treats dysfunctional behavior. However, therapy and coaching are not mutually exclusive—some of my coaching clients also work with therapists. It is a good idea for the coach and therapist to be in synch and not working at cross-purposes. Some coaches are also trained in therapy and, if you think you might require both coaching and therapy, you could seek someone with both skill sets and training.
You should find a therapist if:
• You have suicidal thoughts or thoughts about harming others.
• You have been diagnosed or believe you may have phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), eating disorders, addictions, or bipolar disorder.
• You are depressed or chronically feel hopeless. Symptoms of depression include sleep problems, appetite problems, concentration problems, self-esteem problems, and low mood.
• You are extraordinarily angry, confused, anxious, or desperate. Signs of anxiety include sweaty palms, racing heart, tightness in the chest, difficulty concentrating, etc.
• You are primarily focused on exploring and making sense of your past emotional experiences and are less willing, or ready, to look to the future.
• You don't feel you can cope with daily living.
Mentor or Coach?
Coaches sometimes do what mentors do, but more so. A coach may not even be in the same industry as the person being coached. He or she offers structure and accountability. Acting as a partner, a coach helps the coachee create goals and the detailed plans for how to reach those goals. The coach holds the coachee accountable for taking the steps they have co-created. Coaches are on the hook with you, sharing the commitment to the goal. With a coach, you can risk looking bad while you work through what stops you from succeeding. Coaches generally charge for their time, and you schedule time together on a regular basis. Therefore, there is more structure and often more results than with other kinds of helpers.
Mentors have already gotten somewhere you want to go or have reached a goal to which you aspire. They share their experience and advice, which the mentee can take or leave. Often, it is very good advice and experience. Mentors also offer contacts and may even introduce you to someone else who can help. You usually want to impress your mentor, and sharing your fears and mistakes may or may not be a good idea, depending on the mentor. Mentors are usually volunteers, and you work around their schedules.
Do you know what to do but still procrastinate? Consider consulting a coach to get yourself moving. Is money a concern? The more you pay that coach, the more motivated you will be to do what you say you will do. Are you disciplined and self-motivated but need to meet the right people? A mentor will provide that kind of guidance. Do you need someone who understands the ins and outs of your particular industry? If so, make sure you choose a mentor or a coach with mentoring ability and experience in that industry. For example, most lawyers find that they prefer to work with a coach or mentor who can understand the nuances of how ethical rules shape marketing choices.