After practicing as a litigator for sixteen years, I transitioned to coaching and training attorneys as a professional development director in an AmLaw 200 firm. During my ten years in this role, I created training and mentoring programs, managed the associate evaluation and promotion processes, and developed career development programs for senior associates and new partners.
Building on my in-house coaching experience, I attended an intensive coach training program and became a Certified Hudson Institute Coach in 2016. In 2017, I started my own coaching and consulting practice and earned my credential as an Associate Certified Coach with the International Coach Federation. I’m certified in the Social and Emotional Intelligence Profile, Everything DiSC, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.
Approximately 70% of my clients are lawyers and 30% hold leadership positions in a variety of industries including tech, real estate, health care, and non-profit organizations.
Although I’ve worked with lawyers at all levels of experience, I particularly enjoy working with senior associates, of counsel, and newer partners.
The first phase of coaching involves identifying the client’s current situation, their desired future state and the gap in between. We set preliminary goals and discuss the shifts that need to take place in order for the goals to be reached, as well as any potential obstacles. Each session ends with the client identifying specific action items that will move them forward. We build an alliance that supports the client in gaining a greater awareness of his or her strengths, the limiting beliefs that may be holding them back, and new possibilities that are open to them.
To maintain momentum, I typically meet with clients every two weeks, often by videoconference. While we begin with a minimum engagement of six months, my clients often elect to continue beyond that period on a month-to-month basis. A typical engagement lasts for six months to eighteen months.
Depending on the client’s particular needs and objectives, I use the MBTI, StrengthsFinder, Everything DiSC, and/or the Social and Emotional Intelligence Leadership Profile to help uncover the client’s personality preferences, strengths, and areas for development. In the career transition coaching process, I also use a set of self-created tools for helping clients to identify their values, priorities, and the factors that energize and deplete them at work.
Coaching requires of clients a desire to change, a willingness to consider new perspectives, and a commitment to carrying out the action plan they create. Our work includes both inner work (examining assumptions and limiting beliefs, reframing perspectives, brainstorming, and positive focus) and outer work (e.g., goal-setting, development plans, behavioral shifts, and other action items.)
In a leadership or career advancement coaching scenario, it’s often beneficial to gather feedback from a variety of stakeholders. This helps the client to better understand their impact on others, their effectiveness as a leader, and where the gaps exist between how they see themselves and how others see them. The client is involved in this process, identifying the stakeholders who will participate and letting them know what to expect. The number and relationships of the stakeholders depends on the subject of the coaching. Typically, the stakeholder group for an attorney would include associates and staff who work for them, peers who interact with them, and senior lawyers with whom they have worked. Once the feedback is gathered, I prepare a report that highlights recurring themes for the client while maintaining confidentiality of specific sources. I review the report with the client in session. The client then reflects on the feedback and factors it into their coaching goals.
One scenario I’ve worked with extensively is a leader who feels uncomfortable delegating. This discomfort is often accompanied by a tendency to withhold information from team members and to not give them access to higher-level contacts.
In a recent case, my client had received negative stakeholder feedback that she needed to involve others in more of her decisions, empower them, and let go of control in many areas. We explored the ways in which these behaviors were not serving the client, namely, increasing her work level, stress, and anxiety. It also caused some resentment among her team members.
Over time, she realized that the “I can do it all” behaviors that won her praise as an individual contributor when her organization was smaller were no longer served her, once she had several functional leaders reporting to her. She began to communicate more clearly her expectations of her team members, listen to their goals, and allow them to determine the means by which they would meet the organization’s expectations.
After a year of coaching, she reported feeling much less stress, more able to “let go” when she was out of the office, and more supported and respected by her team. Her working relationships improved, as she was communicating with more transparency and demonstrating confidence in her team members. She received a much improved stakeholder evaluation at the conclusion of the coaching.
Another scenario I frequently address is a lawyer’s desire to make a career transition. We use several tools to help the client identify their strengths, personality preferences, and the factors that matter most in their next work situation. As the client identifies options, I support them in exploring and evaluating them. Once the target option is identified, we develop a plan for attaining that situation, whether it’s a move to solo practice, another firm, a different sector (e.g. government), or out of law altogether.
At the beginning of the engagement, my clients often feel stuck, hopeless, and unsatisfied.During the process, they begin to feel hopeful and to shift to a more positive, open-minded perspective. As they uncover new possibilities and eventually attain a new situation, they gain energy and excitement. Each journey is different. Some clients ultimately make drastic career changes, while others find that changing only a few factors is sufficient to increase their career fulfillment and re-energize them. Whatever the degree of change they ultimately make, they come away from coaching with a new set of skills to help them navigate future transitions.
I would cite two factors. First, coaching readiness is extremely important to success. The client must want to change and be willing to proactively engage in the sessions, complete action items between sessions, step out of his or her comfort zone, and explore new territory.
The second factor is the coaching alliance. A strong relationship between client and coach can fuel the client’s success at a much faster rate. This type of relationship involves trust and safety, so that the client feels comfortable sharing openly, admitting mistakes, celebrating victories, floating new ideas, and practicing new behaviors.
My fee structure varies depending on the type of coaching, the assessments used, and the length of the engagement.