Are lawyers “coachable” ? – benefits of coaching and mentoring for service professionals

Article by : Inga Bielińska

Working in services is getting harder and harder since the legal and financial marketplaces have become increasingly competitive. Clients are demanding more predictable legal costs, alternative fee arrangements, greater transparency, and more accountability.  Moreover, each service provider wants to pass the test of client’s satisfaction and at the same time to increase company profitability.

How do you improve you project management in the face of such a difficulty? Similar question was asked by Atul Gawande, a surgeon and public health professor, who was looking for ways to advance work of medical staff. His recipe for success is having a good coach. Why? *

What coaching is and what coaching isn’t

Coaching in legal and financial services provides a coachee with a more accurate picture of this business reality by introducing proactive ways of thinking and by taking typical PM actions and behaviors apart to build them back up again in a more effective manner. The coach during a short-term relation (the maximum of one year, typically 6 months) uses various skills to achieve all these. For example,

  • goal formation,
  • active listening,
  • reflection,
  • feedback,
  • asking courageous questions.

The coach may also use tools such as multisource feedback and personality inventories, such as the DiSC or FRIS assessments for an individual or a whole team. Every aspect of a coaching process is created to help the coachee change.

The biggest misconception is the idea that the coach will tell you what to do. The coach is not a consultant or a mentor. If you expect pieces of advice, coaching might not be the best fit for you.

But overall it sounds great, isn’t it? Who would not like to think in new ways, to see alternative perspectives, and to identify and overcome barriers to change and become more profitable at the same time?

Are you coachable?

There are plenty of sources for everybody to find instruction to select a good coach. Just check at or search in Forbes magazine for the most informative articles. But from my over 10 years’ experience, the biggest obstacle is the level of coachability of a client. And since coaching process is usually high-priced, I would recommend checking where you are here, before investing in it.

There are three main requirements for change:

  • willingness
  • desire
  • courage.

The best option to evaluate their levels is to reflect on these questions:

  • Am I willing to look at my services another way?
  • Am I willing to try a new way of running my projects?
  • What makes this change important for me?
  • Am I closer to ‘I might’ or ‘I want’?
  • Who will I be when I have achieved my goal?
  • How do I feel about being asked difficult and uncomfortable questions?
  • What makes me think I will be able to follow up on the feedback I might receive?

High coachability

Generally, a coachee who is highly engaged in a process schedules and keep at least two appointments a month. So, if your calendar is packed and there is no way you might find the spot for a coach, even if a session might take place over the phone or a video phone call, you are not coachable at the moment.

A coachable client is prepared for every session because they are aware how important is to maximize each conversation with a coach. If you are snowed under with project requirements and have virtually no time to prepare or no idea what to address during a session, you are not coachable at the moment.

A highly engaged coachee completes fieldwork and commitments because sessions are for breakthrough moments and time between them is to act and implement new ways of behavior. If you are under a lot of pressure now and are simply afraid to act on your homework because it might put everything upside down, you are not coachable at the moment.

However, one of the biggest obstacles on the way to being coachable is mindset, namely expert mindset. As an expert, you might feel that you have all the answers, the abilities and resources to cope with everything by yourself. Such a conviction is not only damaging to a coaching process, but as well to development in general, because it relates to a limiting belief that there is no more to be learned. That’s why those with expert mindset might discount the ideas of others. Shunryu Suzuki (1904–1971), a Zen monk and the author of Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind, wrote “In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert’s there are few.”From that standpoint, the expert mindset is a sabotage towards learning new things and seeing new possibilities.

Why mentoring might be a better fit for you?

For all of you who have just started worrying that you are not able to use coaching at all, but you still need help, there is a solution. The simplest step would be to go to a coachsultant. That is a professional who provides a hybrid of part coaching and part consulting to their clients. It will still require from you a shot-term and focused engagement.

However, I believe mentoring is much better. First, by choosing a mentor you believe that this person knows more than you, hence no expert mindset. It is usually a long-term relationship, opposite to coaching process. Good mentors could be found within a company, but they just might be well-respected professionals from your field of expertise.  Mentors are always willing to share their skills and knowledge with their students. Since they were tested by the same challenges as their mentees, they seem to be empathetic towards their needs. To build trust and inspire, mentors have an upbeat and can-do manner. These qualities make it easier for mentees to discuss their professional goals and concerns with them.

Whatever support you will use – a coach, a coachsultant or a mentor – you may be sure it will help you advanced you project management processes and it will improve your client’s satisfaction.


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