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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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