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IBA: Coaching To Help Meet Professional Goals

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By Mark Hershman, Hershman Associates

You’re an expert in the legal arena. You live and breathe assisting individuals in this litigious society … or so you thought. It doesn’t take long in your field to realize all those various law classes back in law school failed to cover the basics of managing a successful practice.

Time management is only the beginning, but it’s an essential beginning. Client development is another professional practice component that can make or break any law firm. Both are topics, among many others, that can be addressed by a professional coach.

Coaching is not a new concept. Mentors, networking groups and senior colleagues have long been offering sage advice to newcomers in the various legal fields. Within the last 10 years, however, coaching has evolved into a growing industry and risen to a new, higher level of professionalism and expertise. A credentialed coach is a trained professional who must pass a rigorous set of standards established by the International Coach Federation, the recognized authority in the industry.

Working with an established executive coach offers several benefits to professionals, like lawyers, who are faced with an abundant set of challenges. Providing services to clients, managing the firm’s daily operation, developing new business, staying abreast of changing regulations/laws and attempting to maintain a home life are roles lawyers regularly attempt to juggle. This can be daunting.

Of course, it can be done. Profitable firms abound, but that success is often the result of trial and error and a huge commitment of resources. The price can include deteriorating health, relationships and happiness. A professional coach helps the client get unstuck, turn around, break the cycle, manage the chaos, set priorities, identify goals and make changes. Often, new systems are suggested. Techniques are taught. Together with the client, strategies are discussed, developed, implemented and measured.

Professional executive coaching isn’t a feel good, quick fix for anxieties. It’s far more serious and firmly rooted in sound business administration, motivation, performance, training and organizational behavior concepts. A good coach combines many disciplines and understands the interdependent relationship of these diverse principles.

Fact-finding is always the beginning. Hearing the details of what’s working and what’s not is essential. Statistics aren’t enough. The coach wants to hear the underlying passions and problems. Honest, open discussion between coach and client work are essential.

Introspection, creative problem solving and communication can be intimidating topics to many professionals. Perhaps lawyers comfortable in the technical world are particularly ill-at-ease in this foreign arena. And, that is exactly why a professional executive coach can help!

Mark Hershman, MCC is an executive coach based in Indianapolis. Hershman possesses a broad-based business background along with strong assignments among many law firms. He is one of only three coaches in Indiana attaining the Master Certified Credential from the International Coach Federation.•

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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