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‘Confidence is a massive thing that lawyers want’

Imposter syndrome, confidence issues, and moving back into more meaningful areas of law are common traits this pair have observed within the legal profession post-pandemic.

user iconLauren Croft 31 March 2022 Big Law
‘Confidence is a massive thing that lawyers want’
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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 state of the profession post-pandemic and explored some of the similarities their legal clients possess.

Coaching is, simply put, an investment in yourself on a day-to-day level, Ms Wentworth explained.

“It is really working on you. Working out what is working for you and what is not working for you, and building on the things and the strengths that you already have to move forward and maybe getting rid of some of the habits, some of the emotions, some of the behaviours that don’t work so well. See, us lawyers, we can be very much creatures of habit. And like I said, we like certainty. We like to know what’s coming up next. We don’t like to be surprised. We can very much stick to what we know, even though it may not be good for us. We’re also very analytical,” she said.


“So, we can very much live in our heads, and we think that the world is only solved and resolved on the conscious cerebral level. We very rarely look beneath the surface and work out, well, why are we behaving the way we’re behaving? What’s driving our behaviour, our motivation? What is it that we actually want? And we can be really stuck. And we work with a lot of lawyers who feel stuck. And coaching is a great way to look outside yourself, see things from a different perspective, explore options that you’ve not given yourself permission to see or explore before, because it’s a little bit outside of what you know.”

Coaching also offers up an opportunity to ask yourself questions you wouldn’t usually, added Ms Bibby.

“You’d like to think to a certain degree that you could go home to your partner, if you have a partner, or you could speak to people that you work with, or the partner that you are reporting to, or your co-partners or your colleagues, but that’s not always possible, especially if you’re in a dog-eat-dog environment and you may seek counsel from other people.

“But how independent is that counsel that they’re going to give you. The study that Lara and I have both done has equipped us with tools and techniques that enable us to get people to look at things from a different perspective. And Lara is a master of what’s called neuro-linguistic programming. So, she uses some really cool tools. I am not a master. I’m nowhere near being a master, but I do know how to do a few things from the NLP space. And we use them, and they’re very gentle. They don’t hurt,” she said.  

“But our clients don’t know why we’re asking questions a particular way and why we’re gently taking them through a process to get them to a specific end result. And you see clients all of a sudden have a light-bulb moment. Using a coach can open up different ways of thinking, whereas the people that we love and respect probably also don’t have the time to take us through that journey.”

When taking on new clients, Ms Bibby will ask about their short-, medium- and long-term goals – and has found that with lawyers, in particular, a number of them have similar goals and aspirations.

“I’m often really heart-warmed that there are so many of us that want to go back to probably the main reason why we came into law in the first place, and that was to help people. And there’s a lot of people with some really altruistic bones in their body, if I can say that. And I love when people come to me and they say: I’m making millions of dollars or billions of dollars like I used to in my previous job, but I now really want to do something where I can actually see that I’m helping the environment or I’m helping people,” she explained.

“And they want to get into roles where they can do that. And sometimes, you can do that through law, but law opens the door to so many different types, and you’re actually one of the examples that I actually use when I’m talking to clients. And I say to them, have you ever thought of going into journalism? Have you ever thought of going into politics? I think law can open so many doors for us, and it’s a great grounding to start with. But the other thing you asked me about goals, I often find that a lot of my clients come to me saying that they want to gain confidence.”

In addition to confidence, many lawyers come seeking balance, as well as an ingrained idea that they have to be consistently high performers, added Ms Wentworth.

“Our idea of what success is can sometimes be fed to us rather than us actually exploring what is our version or what is our true story around success. So, a lot of I think the pain that lawyers suffer is this idea that I’ve got to be a high performer, I’ve got to follow this model of success.

“And if I don’t fit within that model, then there’s something wrong with me. I’m not good enough. I’m not cut out. And we see lots of this imposter syndrome then seeping in, and you’d be surprised how many lawyers, ones that you would never think actually suffer from this idea that ‘I’m a fraud and someone’s going to one day find me out’,” she said.  

“Confidence is a massive thing that lawyers want, but think every other lawyer has that and they don’t. So really, really interesting, but everybody’s different, and it’s really about what area of your life do you need to master right now in order to feel what you want to feel and achieve what you want to achieve.”

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: