A Young Lawyer’s Guide to Coaching

Vol. 17 No. 3

By

Dr. Artika R. Tyner is a law professor and the director of diversity at the University of St. Thomas School of Law as well as a leadership development consultant in Minneapolis, MN.

Are you in a phase of transition? Would you like to take your career to the next level? Do you desire to obtain both personal and job satisfaction? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then coaching is for you. Coaching is an invaluable tool for enabling young lawyers to reach their personal and professional goals. The key focus of coaching is to learn and grow from your experiences. It provides a framework for engaging in critical reflection, identifying your strengths, and working on future areas of professional development. Each experience becomes an important moment for you to reflect upon lessons learned and monitor your progress in the journey of career success.

Overview of Coaching

Coaching is a process of working with a skilled professional to discover your full potential and implement your professional development plan. In the early years of coaching, it was characterized as a remedial measure to improve poor performance. Over the years, the characterization of coaching has evolved, and coaching is now viewed as a key professional development tool. Today, coaching can be used to help young lawyers improve their productivity and enhance their skills. Hence, coaching is an indispensable tool for promoting career success.

You may be thinking: “Coaching sounds great, but I have a mentor. Isn’t that enough?” Coaching is not meant to replace mentoring but instead serves as a complementary process. Coaching is distinguishable from mentoring and other professional training opportunities because the focus is on aiding you in identifying, reaching, and assessing your individual goals. Coaching is “about performing at your best through the individual and private assistance of someone who will challenge, stimulate, and guide you to keep growing.” (Gerard O’Donovan).

In comparison, mentoring focuses on the process of understanding your organizational culture or professional identity. Your mentor may be the rainmaker at your law firm, president of your local bar association, or a seasoned attorney in your network. This individual can provide practical guidance regarding the mechanics of the practice of law and developing technical competency. Coaching is a goal-oriented process that focuses on taking action toward your professional goals. For instance, your goal may be to improve your interpersonal skills, which in turn will help you to increase your emotional intelligence, improve your client interviewing/counseling skills, and aid in more effective listening. Your coach can support you in reaching this goal through strategic action steps.

Studies have shown that coaching provides the boost needed to advance one’s career to the next level and move his or her respective organization further. On a personal level, coaching can provide young lawyers with increased self-esteem, better interpersonal skills, greater freedom to be creative, and improved tools for team building. In a study that followed managers who received one-on-one executive coaching, the coaching increased productivity by 88 percent. (Olivero & Kopelman, 1997). Organizations that have invested in coaching have reaped a tremendous yield. According to the research from MetrixGlobal on coaching, Fortune 500 companies that use coaching processes have seen a 529 percent return on investment (ROI). Overall, coaching provides tremendous ROI as your career excels and you develop core leadership competencies. This investment in coaching is a win-win for both you and your organization.

From my personal experience as a young lawyer working with a career coach, I can attest to the meaningful impact of this experience. The coaches with whom I worked helped me to reach my goal of skills development by strengthening my communication skills and leadership skills. They provided me with individualized attention by conducting leadership assessments such as Emotional Intelligence tests and the Kolb Learning Cycle assessment, and assisted with finding my purpose. Others who have participated in coaching share similar accounts of discovering new perspectives, developing new skills, and becoming more creative and imaginative.

Types of Coaching

There are many different types of coaching opportunities that are available for you to choose. For example, executive coaching focuses on improving your effectiveness as a leader where transformational coaching focuses on transforming your way of thinking and behaving.

Career coaching can aid you in reaching your career objectives and preparing you for a job transition or career change. Your career coach can assist you with discovering the full potential of your future career plan, developing technical skills mastery, and providing direction in achieving your goals. According to Hazen and Steckler (2010), career coaches can support you when choosing your desired work, advancing your career, developing a career transitioning plan, and creating job search strategies. Each of these aspects of career coaching provides vocational guidance today that will bear fruit for years to come in your professional career. For instance, if you would like to become a judge or elected official, your career coach can provide the guidance needed in making this dream become a reality. In the end, you will have a clearer vision of the trajectory of your career and be able to plan the pivotal steps to reach your career milestones.

Conclusion

Working with a coach will yield endless benefits as you develop new skills, strengthen your soft skills, discover your niche, and develop leadership skills. Coaching is a fundamental part of promoting career success because the focus of coaching is improving your skills and establishing your expertise through reflection in action.

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