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Coaching helps lawyers ‘redefine success’

As the legal profession settles into post-pandemic ways of working, more lawyers are embracing change than ever, according to these executive legal coaches.

user iconLauren Croft 25 March 2022 Big Law
Claire Bibby and Lara Wentworth
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Former general counsel Claire Bibby and former law firm partner Lara Wentworth both left legal practice in 2020 and helped co-found global lawyer coaching outfit Coaching Advocates. Speaking on an episode of The Lawyers Weekly Show, in partnership with Coaching Advocates, the pair spoke about the positives of professional coaching and the state of the profession post-pandemic.

This kind of personal and professional development has been particularly important during the pandemic, as lawyers have faced a number of issues and challenges throughout this time.

Post-pandemic, as the Great Resignation has caused professionals in a number of industries to “reassess and re-evaluate what it means for them to work, what a career can give them, their values, their purpose and their meaning,” according to Ms Wentworth.


“A lot of the things that we see in the coaching world when we’re coaching lawyers with this, whatever the new normal might be, are things around what’s really now important to them. We’ve seen people working from home for a long time now, working virtually, which was something that back in the day was seen as impossible for lawyers or very difficult for lawyers,” she said.

“Well, guess what? It’s not. It’s actually quite possible and doable. But with people who have had to do that with children, the added pressure of having to homeschool as well as do their work. We’ve seen lawyers become even busier throughout lockdown. The legal profession’s been one that’s actually had an increase in work as a result of the pandemic rather than the other way around, especially some areas of practice like family law, for example. So, we’re seeing burnout levels even higher than we have before.

“And so, we’re seeing a lot of lawyers make decisions that involve them either leaving the profession or together, starting their own firm and working from home anyway, because that’s what they’ve been doing, but doing it on their own terms and choosing how much work and what areas of law that they’d like to do. And lawyers that are deciding to do other things like starting an online business from their holiday home, because now they can do that.”

Therefore, over the last two years, lawyers have had more opportunities than ever to reflect on what’s important to them, added Ms Bibby.

“[Burnout] is nothing new in the legal profession, but I think what’s come with COVID and with most, if not all of us, spending a large degree of time working from home is a blurring of the lines between work and home, unless we’ve got really strong boundaries and a really strong discipline as to what is our work time and what is our home time,” she said.

“And that’s redefining what success is, I think, for some people. And that’s led a lot of people to come towards coaching, which is great for people like Lara and myself who are coaches, but people are now looking for different ways of working and different ways of living because of those blurred lines.”

In addition, legal professionals may have trouble with having lots of different options post-pandemic.

“The legal profession in itself, we’re quite resistant to change. If you look at the court environment and how much the courts haven’t changed over the last hundred years or so, except of course for the introduction of online dispute resolution tech, which is a whole other discussion,” Ms Bibby explained.

“But as a profession, yes, we can be very reluctant to change things. And that’s where something like coaching can come in really great because we’re facing just a scary new world now that can be scary in a good way and scary in a bad way. And I’ve worked with a number of professionals who have decided, well, if not now, when? And they’ve taken the plunge and opened their own law firm because they’ve seen that you can actually run a law firm from home.”

Although the profession has been quick to reject changes and the unknown in the past, Ms Wentworth said that the pandemic had caused a different reaction entirely.

“What the pandemic has done is forced us into the unknown, whether we like it or not. And some firms have moved in kicking and screaming, and others have adapted and have become flexible and have really embraced change. But I think what it’s shown us is that as a profession, as people, as professionals, we are capable of change. We are capable of being adaptable and flexible,” she added.

“I think a lot of lawyers are thinking, well, where can we take this now? If we can work from home, what else can we do? And so, we’re seeing different models. So, I think a lot of lawyers are exploring that further and pushing it more, especially some of the younger generation, which is great.”

Because of these shifts within the profession, executive coaching may be more critical for lawyers in 2022 than ever before.

“I think 2022 with the pandemic starting to maybe come to either an end or us being finally used to it and used to the way that it’s now changed our lives, there is going to be new emotions that might come up. There’s going to be some triggers that might come up. We can’t pretend that the last two years didn’t happen and go back to being and living and working the way that we did before. We just can’t pretend that that didn’t happen,” Ms Wentworth explained.

“And so, the changes that the last two years have triggered have invited us to think about, you would benefit from getting some coaching around that so that you can set yourself up for success in whatever 2022 looks like externally. But make sure that your internal world is what you want it to be, because what we’ve learned over the last two years is that we can’t control what happens around us. Anything can happen. The only thing that we can control is how we respond.”

Ms Bibby said that this applies to not only individuals, but to law firms and businesses as well.  

“There are certainly tangible and intangible benefits of coaching, going forward for the next year, the re-evaluation, the recalibration, the great resignation, whatever you want to call it. The law firms that will hold on to their clients, so it’s just, I’m going to change my response from rather than talking about individual coaching now, to talk about team coaching or law firm coaching. The law firms that embrace, I think, coaching for their staff are the law firms that are going to hold on to their staff,” she added.

“You don’t have to commit an awful lot of time. You can do that if you want to, if you’ve got some really deep issues or you’ve got some really specific long or medium, or even short-term goals that you want to work for, but it doesn’t have to be a huge investment of time and money. But it’s an investment in yourself.”

The transcript of this podcast episode was slightly edited for publishing purposes. To listen to the full conversation with Claire Bibby and Lara Wentworth, click below: