Home Concepts Strategy Coaching in Legal Institutions The Good, the Bad and the Non-Billable: The Reality of Coaching Lawyers

The Good, the Bad and the Non-Billable: The Reality of Coaching Lawyers

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Here is an example of how I use partnership coaching.  When Josh and Andreas* approached me, they had not been speaking to each other for nearly four months, except in partner meetings.  The anger, frustration, confusion and distrust was making them both miserable, and yet they were each unwilling to leave their ten-partner firm.  Thus, although neither thought the situation was salvageable, as a last ditch effort they decided to try partnership coaching.  After speaking with each of them for about an hour, it was clear to me that the problem could be resolved fairly easily because it centered on a misunderstanding rather than malevolent intent or a fundamental conflict of interest.  Ultimately, they were both well intentioned, just unskilled in communication.

Given the nature of the conflict, I elected to use a facilitated dialogue format commonly used in couples counseling.  Sometimes lawyers will resist something that seems “touchy feely,” but in this case, they were sufficiently desperate for help that they were willing to talk about their feelings.  Andres had recently joined the firm, bringing with him the billable hour obsession of his former firm.  From that context, Josh’s attempts at friendly conversation seemed deliberately manipulative and like attempts to “pull rank”.  Once they both understood the other’s perspective, we were able to develop some strategies and practices for working together going forward.  Last I heard, they were still partners and friends.  The amazing thing is that this only took two hours of one-on-one conversations, and two ninety-minute joint sessions.  Of course, not all problems can be worked out so quickly, but the thing I love about partnership coaching is how quickly it can improve the clients’ quality of life.

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