Helping Lawyers Find a Career Coach

choiceI asked Marcie Schorr Hirsch, a principal with Hirsch/Hills Consulting, what lawyers who are thinking of leaving law should look for in a career coach.  Here’s her excellent advice:

“I believe that attorneys looking for a professional career expert to assist them have to seek out someone with three fairly disparate skill sets. They need someone who:

1.       is an ‘informationaholic’, who is continually gathering new information from disparate sources to maintain  a broad awareness about what is going on in the world.

2.       has the ability to rapidly see patterns and be able to find trends in large, complex sets of data.

3.       possesses a kind of creativity that I call “projective.” By this I mean that they need to be able to take their analysis of the data, sift out the priority elements (those that are strongest and most relevant to the issue of satisfying, successful work,) and envision how this  pattern of talents, values and focus translates into positions that exist currently and possible jobs that could be created for them.

There is also one last component to finding a coach with whom the attorney will find success: there must be “chemistry” which, in this case translates to the coach’s ability to get on the client’s wavelength and to engender trust. If the client also enjoys the coach’s style and company, that’s a bonus. I like to make the process more fun, less chore.( I actually think the outcomes are better when that’s the case.)

Unfortunately, while there are formal certifications for career counselors, coaches, etc., I have yet to find any that identify the elements above which, for me, are foundational. Anyone can get certified—it is simply a matter of going through the process. But the coach that will be truly, consistently successful will possess the elements above.

For that reason, referral is absolutely the best way to go. There are a number of sources who can serve in this capacity: therapists, psychologists and psychiatrists often refer people to coaches who have helped their past clients. Sometimes friends or colleagues have knowledge of someone who they or someone they know has found to be a great help. You may have encountered someone in your workplace who is consulting to your organization in a related area, such as talent management or organizational development, and they may actually do this kind of work privately or know of someone who does. Human resources professionals can be good leads as can college and university career center staff.

I like to google folks to see what they’ve published —it gives me a good idea of how they think, how original and creative they are and whether or not others hold them in high regard. Beware of folks who aren’t “out there”  providing thought leadership on career and workplace issues: they are often old-style career counselors who are heavy on the counseling part but have rather limited or dated knowledge of today’s work world.

Lastly, don’t feel limited to someone you can visit locally. While that’s a nice bonus, it’s far better to work remotely (phone/skype, etc.)with someone who is super than have “face time” with someone whose biggest asset is geographical!”

Some of the ex-lawyers profiled in Life After Law had terrific experiences with career consultants.  Having some kind of accountability and external structure for your career search can be invaluable.  As with therapists, however, the right chemistry makes all the difference.

Have you ever thought about working with a coach?  If not, why not?

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4 responses to “Helping Lawyers Find a Career Coach

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