Success as a lawyer requires you to master skills you didn't learn in law school. Law school taught you to think like a lawyer but it didn't teach you how to manage clients and other professionals.
If you are in private practice, your ability to generate business and be a leader in your firm are critical. If you are in an in-house role, learning to manage multiple relationships and get alignment within your team is essential. If you want to have control over your own destiny in a law firm, having your own stable of clients is key. Being able to effectively manage your clients and the people you work with is also key to your success in a corporate environment.
At the same time, career satisfaction is something that requires attention throughout your work life. When you graduate from law school, your goal may be to work as an associate at the most prestigious firm that will hire you. But as you get trained and advance in seniority, maybe you aren't getting the work you want with the clients you like. Perhaps you are interested in shifting to another practice area or moving to a smaller firm that will enable you to build a practice (and experience better work/life balance). Maybe you are thinking about going in-house (or leaving the practice of law altogether). Perhaps you are a senior lawyer thinking about your Next Stage and need help figuring out "What Comes Next".
In short, law school also didn't teach you much about building a practice, being a leader, or managing your career. That's where coaching comes in.
I grew up in a household where a lot of value was placed on education. My father was a math professor who called business people operators and my mother was school psychologist whose brothers never had the chance to go to college. Neither of them understood business or marketing and neither of them considered selling a virtue. They taught me that being good at what you do and working hard was the way to succeed.
After law school, I came to appreciate that being good at your craft is important to your success. But it is insufficient.
As a Program Attorney at Massachusetts Continuing Legal Education (MCLE), I learned that lawyers who are successful in private practice are also great at generating work and at managing the work and their careers. During my time at MCLE, I organized dozens of programs on marketing and practice management. I learned from some of the pioneers in legal marketing what it takes to build a successful practice. Meeting leaders of the bar and speaking to hundreds of leading attorneys, I learned that some lawyers actually find satisfaction in their careers by setting goals while others are merely going through the motions wishing they had a different life.
When it was time to leave MCLE and start Seckler Legal Recruiting and Coaching, I hired two different coaches and came to appreciate the value of coaching. Working with business coaches provided me with the sounding board I needed to be successful. It helped me recognize the gaps in my knowledge of how to run a professional services business. It helped me to understand that while practicing law was not in the cards for me, I really wanted to dedicate myself to helping lawyers advance their careers! You can hear more of my story by listening to my interview on Kevin Hallinan's Winning Business Radio Show.
To best understand what coaching is, it is useful to review some examples of how coaching works. Click here for some representative samples. For a lengthier article on coaching that I co-authored for the American Bar Association, click here. For a podcast on coaching, click here.
Since that time, I have worked with hundreds of lawyers who are looking for more career satisfaction. Some need help develop a marketing plan that fits with their personality and interests. Some are looking for ways to increase their effectiveness in running their practice. Some are looking to find a new career path in or out of the law. Some are at the Next Stage in their lives and trying to figure out "What Comes Next".
As a coach, I work with clients over time to come up with a plan and make sure that the plan is executed and ultimately, successful. While I hold myself out as a coach, I really act as both a consultant and coach leveraging my deep knowledge of the legal industry and career paths in the law. As a coach, I help you define your goals and work towards them. As a consultant, I help you build specific skills that will help you build your practice and advance your career.
Coaching is a service that helps executives and professionals achieve higher levels of performance. The theory behind coaching is simple. While a personal trainer might help an individual develop and follow a fitness plan, a professional coach can help an attorney clarify professional goals and create an action plan for reaching these goals. A professional coach then works with the professional to ensure that these goals are reached.
A coach is a sounding board, a reality check and a mentor. A coach provides support, validation and resources. A coach holds you accountable and helps you move past roadblocks. An effective coach provides a highly customized service which takes into account your specific goals and your particular strengths and weaknesses.
Coaching has become a popular way to help professionals achieve top performance. According to the Wall Street Journal, there is an increasing trend in top corporations towards hiring external coaches to work with senior level executives. Law firms are also beginning to recognize the value of hiring coaches to work with attorneys who have great legal skills but need to develop their marketing and practice management skills. Similarly, individual attorneys who want to work more effectively, develop more business or find better work/life balance are turning to coaches as well.
Click here to read more about how coaching works.