Coaches Help You Perform An Internal Audit Of Your Law Practice,
Acquire New Levels Of Success:
By Suzi Pomerantz, MT., MCC.
and Stewart Hirsch, Esq.
have been hearing a lot of hype about Executive Coaching in the last five
years, but did you know that coaching is not just for executives?Attorneys all
over the world are also taking advantage of coaching to:
networking and marketing efforts
Take a leadership role
in their firm,
Advance or even change
Coaches guide attorneys through the process of improving certain
skill sets and the overall quality of their professional lives. Senior
attorneys used to take the time and energy to provide guidance to younger
associates, as mentors, and some still do, either formally or informally.
However, there is no assurance of confidentiality, and the quality and
consistency of mentoring varies greatly.An experienced professional coach
adheres to ethical standards including confidentiality, and masters listening
and guidance skills, just as a lawyer masters the artistry of the legal
Coaches, like lawyers, are trained to ask the right
follow-up questions to glean valuable information for their coaching clients.
Think of coaching as a support system to allow you to perform an audit or
assessment of your law practice or legal career; it focuses on strategic
actions and results that are aligned with your vision and goals for your
When is coaching right for a lawyer like you or someone you
The time to engage a coach is when its time for a change
or a breakthrough in the status quo of your professional life. You could be
transitioning into a new position or out of the law, needing to improve
rainmaking or leadership skills, or have that nagging feeling that there are
places where you are holding yourself back.
Take our guided
self-inquiry below or work through it with a colleague. Coaches often
use the methodology of guided inquiry to help focus their clients, explore
areas to improve or change, and discover solutions. If you choose to perform
our version of an internal audit below with a colleague or by yourself,
dont be satisfied with the first answer to any of the questions - -
listen like you would listen to a client that doesnt understand the legal
impact of the facts, and ask the next questions to uncover deeper layers in the
The guided inquiry questions below cover three areas:rainmaking,
career advancement, and career transition.Weve included a short
explanation of the rationale behind each question to help with this coaching
exercise.The coaching tip at the end gives a hint of how you might approach
each inquiry with a professional coach.
What are you doing to develop more business?
our experience, many lawyers simply dont know what to do to consistently
and systematically develop new business, or are procrastinating for a variety
They often claim they dont have time; they have too
much billable work to do, and they are directing their energy to short term
goals at the expense of long-term investments. Take a look at the actions you
currently take in order to specifically generate business. Networking,
speaking, writing articles, and sending greeting cards are great and necessary
marketing activities but do not, by themselves, specifically generate business.
Coaches often work with attorneys at all stages of their law practice
to enhance their marketing and networking skills to produce increased revenue
results. Ask yourself whether your actions are aligned with your goals, and
whether they are effectively producing sustainable results.
tip: Engage in a dialogue with your coach that opens the door to discover
whats getting in the way of your rainmaking results
Do you follow a specific plan or process for business
A lot of lawyers
dont have specific goals or a plan, and approach business development in
a haphazard way. Plans do not have to be complicated or lengthy, but you do
have to think through a strategic, targeted approach to achieving your
This will allow you to avoid having meaningless
meetings and lunches in the name of marketing what a time saver!
Creating a realistic timetable will help you, too - - many lawyers give up too
Coaching tip: Your coach is an objective observer who can
help you to identify and generate your business development goals and plan how
to achieve them.
Do you find it hard to
Some lawyers dont
know how to network effectively. Others dont really understand what
networking is all about. Many would rather focus on doing good legal work and
hope that more business will come of it.
Networking properly is about
relationship building, matching people with opportunities based on their needs
and interests, and building referral sources that want to help
Coaching tip: Explore what it would take to make you a
stronger networker.How are you sabotaging your own efforts?Are you strategic in
your networking activities?
Is your network helping you develop the amount and type of
business you want?
Ask yourself whether you have built
relationships with people who understand what you do, and are willing to help
you. If you have generated these relationships, are they sending you
Coaching tip: If the quantity and quality of business
you want is not coming in, have your coach work
with you to evaluate your current relationships with referral sources.A
coach can also assist you to expand and leverage your other business
What are your goals?
As with rainmaking,
career advancement hinges on a solid plan that starts with clear goals. Do you
want to make partner, be a practice group leader or managing partner? Know your
intentions. Identify your challenges and issues. Determine where others are
interfering with your success. Honestly assess where you might be getting in
your own way. Design alternative, proactive behaviors to address obstacles and
replace inefficient habits or actions.
Coaching tip: Engage your
coach as a trusted advisor to serve as your sounding board as you design clear
objectives to help you face these issues head on.
Are you happy in your job and career?
speaking, if you are happy with your work and your environment, you can grow in
the direction you want, with some focus and effort. If not, changes are needed.
Consider your original expectations and how theyve changed. Assess your
satisfaction. Think about whether you are excited about getting up in the
morning and going to work, or dreading each day determine where you are
on the continuum of job and career satisfaction. Think about what youre
complaining about and to whom. Have you been thinking of leaving the firm to go
in-house? Have you been thinking of leaving an in-house position to go to a
firm? Are you thinking of leaving the law but wondering if there is life after
Coaching tip: Evaluate those areas where you are and are not
happy with your career, your work, your colleagues or your firm, and determine
what changes you can influence that will support your job and career
satisfaction. Work with your coach to explore where past patterns of behavior
have contributed to your current state and how to remove these obstacles from
the path of your advancement.
Are you committed to what you are doing?
you ever stopped to think about this? What are you committed to? What do
you want? This is a tough one
take a few minutes to check in with yourself
about what you really want from your career. Are you handling cases that
interest you? Are you a specialist in transactional work when your heart is
really in IP? Did you make partner yet? If so, do you think you should be an
equity partner? Does the firm continue to offer you opportunities for growth
and professional development? Do you dream of being the master of your own
destiny, yet dread doing the marketing it takes to get clients?
Coaching tip: First, explore with your coach what it would take
to confront the reality of your current business/ career situation.Second,
align your deepest commitments and interests with profitable
Have you ever thought of leaving the law?
the actual practice of law doesnt match what you expected when you became
an attorney. We often meet attorneys who entertain the notion of leaving the
law, but after ten or fifteen (or more) years, dont believe there is life
after law. They dont know what else they would do, but they know they are
no longer happy with their careers.
Coaching tip: If youve
thought about leaving law, acknowledge the thought, decide whether to explore
your options.Brainstorm with your coach what you would most love to do if you
were not a practicing attorney.Do not rule out any options as not viable
simply generate possibilities for alternative careers.There is life
Have you ever thought of leaving your firm/corporation, going
in-house, or moving back out?
Lawyers also entertain thoughts of
moving within the profession. Sometimes it is precipitated by basic survival;
they feel trapped. Sometimes there are situational circumstances that cause the
desire to move. Think about whether its really true for you for your
long-term benefit or just a passing thought. If its not just a passing
thought, see if you can isolate where you might be getting in your own way and
your reasons and excuses for holding back from exploring options. The hardest
part is knowing what you really want.
Coaching tip: A coach can
help you to uncover, clarify, and determine what you want.Focus with your coach
to list the benefits and costs of not pursuing what you want.Then create and
implement an action agenda to realistically reach for your
Are you a senior partner facing
This is a challenging
transition. You may have identified yourself as a practicing attorney your
entire professional life, and now you wonder how to think of
recovering attorney? Retiree? Former partner? You may have a hard
time letting go, yet you are keenly aware of wanting to leave a legacy at the
Coaching tip: With your coach as your sounding board,
create a plan that will allow you to re-frame retirement as a transition to
your next avocation, rather than an end to your current
Some Additional Thoughts:
Leverage the power of these questions by finding a masterful,
objective listener (a coach) who will take the time to guide you through them
in an unattached and expansive way. Regardless of how you choose to use the
guided inquiry weve presented here, take a few minutes to step back and
assess yourself, your situation and your future. Perform a thorough self-audit
of your practice. Focus on areas where you are stuck and getting in your own
way. Once you recognize whats holding you back, you can do something
about it, and ultimate success - - however you define it - - can be
When Your Firm Should Consider Hiring a Coach
law firms hire coaches to provide individual and group training for business
development or presentation skills. Often, coaches are engaged to work with a
managing partner or the board of a law firm in handling leadership issues
within the firm. Mostly, though, coaches work with senior partners to support
and enhance their overall effectiveness and job satisfaction, dealing with many
of the issues raised above. Many firms want their associates to be more efficient and
productive, and their junior partners to improve in the areas of generating
revenue, building and sustaining lasting client relationships, and mentoring
Coaches work with associates and junior partners to grow in
those areas as well as others. Coaching for managing partners and management
teams often focuses on the improvement of management skills, development of
succession planning, instruction for improved mentoring and coaching skills,
and leadership problem solving.
Coaches work with retiring partners
ready to transition out of the practice of law, particularly addressing their
issues associated with letting go and leaving behind a positive legacy. In
addition, a team of coaches can work with the entire firm at once to design and
implement a firm culture which values all members of the firm, honors
diversity, and focuses on interpersonal and interdepartmental communication
Just as the top performing athletes work with coaches to
further fine-tune and adjust their skills, accomplished attorneys and
productive law firms work with executive coaches to further enhance their
success and effectiveness. Coaching provides a competitive edge in the