Coaching for BARRIsTERS
Why would a barrister consider coaching?
A barrister friend of mine often talks about the need to “paddle her own canoe” – she means being single-minded in her pursuit of career success and achieving results for her clients and sometimes sacrificing other aspects of life that would benefit both her and her family.
But the model of moving relentlessly forward doesn’t leave much room for strategy, for pausing to think so that you can maybe work a bit smarter, have more time and still have the same results. (Are they even the results you really want? Or, have you fallen into following somebody else’s career path?).
You will have colleagues to bounce things off in the collegiate atmosphere of Chambers or in house. But when did you last have somebody to listen to you, uninterrupted? When did you last vocalise concerns out loud? Or stop to plan?
(To put it another way, when did you last race into a holiday, working until 4am the night before and putting the washing off until you get to your destination? And how many times have you said to yourself that that’s just an occupational hazard?).
What might you be able to improve if you chose to do so consciously and deliberately (with the same enthusiasm you normally save for your clients)?
I am a barrister and a coach. And, yes, I still use the present tense for the bar even though I no longer practise (and like to abide by all BSB rules).
Being a barrister is something that stays with you.
The pressure, unpredictable hours and unique business model is not something that those outside the bar can readily get to grips with. I understand that.
But since leaving the bar, I have also come to understand that it doesn’t have to be like that. It is possible to work with greater ease, to achieve the appointment/s you are aiming for, and have a life as well. I didn’t achieve that but I have helped others to do so.
There is much that the bar can learn from the wider commercial world (as well as much it could teach others), a world where the benefits of coaching and mentoring are embraced pro-actively (perhaps mostly because there are HR and L&D departments to recognise it for them).
How does it work?
Coaching works by offering an alternative to all of the above. You consciously, and pro-actively, take time out with a specialist. Not a specialist in “solutions”, or a guru who claims to have all the answers, but a specialist coach who can ask the right questions and give you the time and space to develop your own strategies, plans and solutions.
The coach and coachee work together through conversation. The coach will ask the questions, listen to the answers and be alert to patterns and themes that they might raise as feedback.
Isn’t it just wishy-washy wellbeing?
That would be a firm no.
I’m not qualified to help you with meditation, diet or anything very zen (although a big fan).
An online yoga session doesn’t cancel out an 80-hour week (although it might be said to have its place). But if you can make 80 hour weeks a rarity, or even just make them more focused, life can improve in a whole variety of ways.
Maybe you’re thinking I just have to get to 55/60/the bench and then it’ll be alright (or that your daughter really needs that pony – that quote will definitely remain anonymous). You’re bright enough to know this but I’ll say it anyway – that time is not promised, this isn’t the dress-rehearsal. And, like me, you won’t have to think for too long to find evidence of the plan to catch up on quality of life in retirement, having a very sad end for many stellar barristers and judges.
Would it work for you?
If there is anything about your professional life, or the impact it has on your home life then, chances are, it will work for you.
Whether it’s improving relationships with clerks, clients or colleagues, managing work-life balance or working on your confidence, coaching can help.
Coaching with me - how it worksBefore we start to work together, we will have a conversation to check that we are a good fit (and so that I can be confident I can help you before any money changes hands).
We will also agree on the number of sessions and I will send you a Welcome Pack to complete which will give me some helpful information and allow you to start reflecting and working out what you want to achieve.
If we have agreed to work together we can then focus on the how, when and where:
At its heart, coaching is a conversation.
So it can happen:
- In an office
- By phone
- By video conferencing
- By email
- Whilst walking (on a hill, in a park, or around the city).
We agree a time and place/forum then we meet up to have the conversation(s). The time is yours and you can use it how you wish. But I will provide reflective space, skilled questioning, feedback and supportive or robust challenge (as agreed).
You can book one session or a series of sessions and if (as sometimes happened) you get the results you were looking for after only half the sessions booked we pause and re-group – you can use the extra sessions to work on something else or bank them for future accountability sessions to check you’re on track.
Similarly if you want more sessions, they can be added at any time. I don’t put people on fixed, pre-written programmes or insist they work to my agenda.
My coaching philosophy is informed by my belief in the power and responsibility of the individual to bring about change in their professional and personal lives – your solutions will be better than mine for you, and you will be more likely to implement them.
When do barristers benefit from coaching?
I don’t think there is a fixed time – I tend to work with people who are going through a transition, perhaps returning to work after maternity leave, or stepping up to more serious work (or building their practice in silk). But I have also worked with senior juniors who are at, or nearly at, breaking point. Or those who can see that looming in their future.
Perhaps you are wondering why everything seems so easy for that peer? Or how they have been able to afford that car.
If you're wondering whether life could be better, or what the others know that you don't, then coaching might help.
I am unable to offer legal privilege when wearing this hat. But, nothing you discuss with me will reach the outside world unless
- You choose to share it (either with friends or maybe in a testimonial);
- I have concerns for your safety or the safety of others, or
- You are having sponsored coaching (but even then parameters will be agreed).
Isn’t it very expensive?
Obviously, I would prefer that you saw it as an investment. Can it keep you in a career that you love? Allow you more time with your loved ones? Or, frankly, more time on your own? What would you pay for that?
Also, some people see results very quickly? What if you could spend under £1,000.00 and see life-changing results?
I am passionate about bringing the benefits of coaching to as many people as possible. Although I have a portfolio career, it is coaching that lights me up and it’s how I love to spend my time so if you are under 5 years’ call, doing publicly funded work, or not currently earning, please get in touch for preferential rates and/or occasional free group coaching sessions.