Some answers on how coaching works for barristers, solicitors and legal executives
As a former barrister, I have lots of barrister and solicitor friends who are showing various stages of bafflement about my new career as a professional coach, some are even, I would venture to suggest, a little bit suspicious. The implicit question seems to be, “Isn’t it just some sort of new-age quackery?” tied in with a little bit of “Wouldn’t it be a sign of weakness to employ help in this way?” Although I don’t work exclusively with lawyers, I do understand their world, and I understand that many other people will have similar thoughts, so I thought I’d write some more focused questions, and then answer them.
If I haven’t invented a question that suits you, please get in touch and let me know: firstname.lastname@example.org
Who would benefit from coaching for lawyers?
Anyone who has an area of life they’d like to improve. If your life is perfect it’s probably not for you. But, if you’re not quite there, it might be. If you would like to achieve the goals you’ve always talked about but never quite got around to starting, or you’ve been putting off seeking promotion or asking for a pay rise, coaching could help you.
It is common for a company to sponsor the coaching for those heading for promotion, or partnership, or to improve productivity and performance within the team or the firm.
For the self-employed – including barristers – improving time management is a common theme, as well as practice management and moving towards Silk or the bench.
And, sadly, given the current challenges of practising at the bar, it is becoming more common for barristers to use coaching to consider the possibility of a career change or perhaps to work out what changes they could make to make it more acceptable to stay. (There was a time when that might have worked for me, perhaps)
Assignments could be focused on a particular goal – improving presentation skills, for example, or simply to provide support during a transitional period. We often see people become unstuck and achieve what they’ve wanted for a long time – coaching gets them there.
What happens in a session when a lawyer is being coached?
A lot will depend on the coach and the coachee, but if you were to find yourself in a session as a fly on the wall, all you would see and hear would be two people in conversation.
If you paid more attention, you might notice that there was probably a bit more silence than in a normal conversation – often the most valuable gift a coach can give you is space and time as this is when your own solutions come to the surface. You would also probably notice that the coachee is doing a lot more talking than the coach but, occasionally, the coach will provide honest feedback about what it is they’ve been hearing and seeing.
I called my company Skilful Conversation because all that happens is that two people have a conversation but it’s a type of conversation that is probably missing from your everyday life – when did you last have a focused conversation with the attention entirely on you, when the questions are asked and feedback is given entirely for your benefit, and when you are forced to confront your own responsibility for creating the life you want?
Finally, it is probably worth saying that the benefits of the coaching session don’t just happen when the two (or more) people are present in the room. You will probably be asked to do some thinking and preparation before the session and you may find that in the weeks between sessions, thoughts start to click into place and become actions.
And some slightly more straightforward questions:
How long is a coaching session for lawyers?
Traditionally coaching sessions have lasted from 1 hour to 2 hours, 90 minutes. However, it can be more productive to just purchase a block of time, and use that time as circumstances dictate, for example, some weeks a 30-minute telephone call might be all you need to overcome an obstacle, on another occasion, you might need two hours face to face to really make progress.
How long would a barrister, solicitor or legal executive work with a coach?
Again, the short answer is “it depends”. A good coach should discourage you from being dependant on them, but top-ups might be useful. A lot of progress can be made in a 6-month coaching assignment with sessions roughly once a month.
Is coaching for lawyers confidential?
Yes – confidential and non-judgmental, save for any exceptions which must be agreed and explicit, for example where confidentiality must be breached to prevent the commission of a crime, or to protect the coachee’s health. A good coach will regularly access supervision to ensure that they are operating ethically and effectively, and they may need to discuss something which has arisen in your session within supervision, but if this happens, all parties will take care to ensure that you cannot be identified.
When can I start?
What an excellent question! When would suit you?
I’d be happy to speak to you about what you want to achieve and to recommend a coaching programme to meet your needs or those of your team. You can book a free introductory call with me or email me on email@example.com