Coaching in the Legal Profession

Guest Blogger: Jeff Schneider, JD, M.Ed, PCC – www.PartnersInThought.com

More than 1.3 million lawyers practice in the U.S., and over 2 million lawyers practice in other countries. Each of these lawyers likely would benefit from a coach. Are you prepared to help them?

Professional service providers and their firms, particularly lawyers and law firms, are much different clients than traditional for-profit and non-profit organizations.  Some of the important characteristics of typical law firms include:

  • Law firms are owned by their workers and typically are managed horizontally rather than hierarchically. Few lawyers at any firm consider themselves leaders or have any interest in becoming a better leader.  Exacerbating the dearth of leadership and management by lawyers, laws in most parts of the U.S. prohibit compensating non-lawyers based on the revenues or profits of the firm, which limits opportunities to retain highly experienced and trained executives.
  • Law firm compensation systems are complex. They drive behaviors that can result in unintended consequences and often instigate tensions among lawyers.  Almost never does a lawyer’s compensation reward him or her for leadership, mentoring, or teamwork.
  • Emotional intelligence is rarely rewarded, except in the occasional client development work of lawyers. Consequently, many lawyers fail to further develop their emotional intelligence during their careers.
  • Lawyers are trained and groomed to be detail-oriented and perfectionistic. Although these qualities may be important, they interfere with development of other traits that coaches generally strive to help facilitate, such as vision, delegation, teamwork, and employee development. (Perfectionism also commonly leads to psychopathologies.)
  • The law profession lags behind other industries in adapting to the new economy. What could have been a gradual adaptation likely will arrive as a magnitude 10 earthquake, leaving behind an unrecognizable industry.  Those rare lawyers and law firms that are intentionally addressing technology and the changing economy, however, will remain standing above the rubble.
  • Lawyers do not see themselves as business people, but rather as professionals and trusted advisors. And within the universe of professions, lawyers are unique in that they are ethically and legally obligated to place their clients’ interests ahead of their own.

While this brief list paints lawyers and the law profession with an overly broad brush, understanding common characteristics of lawyers and the law profession is necessary for coaches interested in serving lawyers and their firms.  The combination of these characteristics leads to high rates of staff and professional turnover, burnout, and substance abuse, as well as low rates of morale and retention, especially among women and other underrepresented members of the legal community.  The good news, however, is that many of the liabilities can be directly and positively impacted by a strong internal or external coaching culture.

What about lawyers becoming coaches?  As trusted advisors to their clients, successful lawyers often are driven by the desire to serve others.  Some lawyers find that they want to serve their clients beyond the legal domain in a more personal and developmental way, particularly those who have undergone their own personal developmental process.  Coaching may be their calling, as it is for the following three experienced lawyers-turned-coaches presenting the:

EBC Professional Series Webinar Coaching in the Legal Profession

Wednesday, November 20, 4pm – 5pm Pacific

During this informative EBC Professional Series Webinar hear from coach-scholar practitioners who are also attorneys.  Explore how coaching can support attorneys in leadership, business development, and organizational development.  Panelists will discuss how they have incorporated coaching into their own work as attorneys and how they also help other attorneys reach their business and professional goals.  Learn why every attorney and legal professional needs to hire a coach.

Host:  Terry H. Hildebrandt, PhD, MCC, MCECDirector of Evidence Based Coaching, Fielding Graduate University

Panelists:

Banks (Staples) Pecht, JD, PCC, https://www.bankscoaching.com

Dennis K. White, JD, MA, SHRM-SCP, PCC, https://expertfile.com/experts/dennisk.whitephd

Jeff Schneider, JD, EdM, PCC, https://www.partnersinthought.com/about-us


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For more on Fielding’s EBC Coach Training Program, see http://coach.fielding.edu

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