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Coaching for Leaders in Law

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Coaching helps build engagement, improves performance and leads to higher retention. TPC Leadership Founder, Charles Brook has partnered with Joanna Corr from PSFI to deliver an Open Programme specifically designed for lawyers. Below Joanna Corr outlines how there is a clear case for coaching to be embedded in leadership culture in the legal sector.

Why every leader needs coaching in their skillset

We know that coaching is a valuable leadership skill, yet in law firms it’s not at the top of the agenda to create a leadership culture that empowers a coaching style. Understood as a nice idea, an optional extra perhaps, in some firms the power of coaching as a leadership style is yet to be fully appreciated and utilised. 

“Organisations with senior leaders who coach effectively and frequently, improve their business results by 21% as compared to those who never coach.” – Bersin by Deloitte.

The skill of a successful leader is in knowing how and when to utilise different leadership styles – coaching should not eclipse the others. But there is growing evidence that it should be at the forefront of business ethos and in the skillset of every purpose-driven leader. 

Why coaching is different from other leadership styles

A Harvard Business Review report defined coaching as “a style of management primarily characterised by asking employees questions that help them fulfil their immediate responsibilities more effectively and advance their development as professionals over time.” So as a leader in the legal sector do you feel you have the skills to support your employees and your clients in this way?

The coaching style of leadership focuses on investing in people in the long-term. Coaching as a leadership style works with both talented, skilled and willing employees, as well as those who may be lacking motivation or skills. The leader can tailor their coaching style to suit the needs of the individual and help them grow to meet the goals of the wider organisation.

While coaching as a leadership style typically requires a greater investment of time, its holistic, developmental approach leads to consistent results across an organisation and loyal, focused, harmonious and productive teams. However having a coaching mindset means that the style can also be deployed quickly and efficiently. For example at the end of a pitch, following a client meeting, when giving feedback, when a  problem is identified, coaching leaders ask before they tell. They recognise the benefits of increasing self awareness, flexibility and choice through pulling ideas and suggestions from the “coachee” rather than pushing answers onto them.

And what of ROI? According to one study, 86% of companies rate their ROI favourably for their investment in coaching, stating that the investment at least paid for itself. Coaching leadership is also proven to improve rates of retention and absenteeism. Covid led to a fundamental shift in how employees viewed their work, their careers and how they lived their lives. Working from home, many employees lost their sense of belonging and inclusion, cultures became diluted and it became easy to “leave a laptop”. Investing in the individual, in their careers and their development can help to slow the “great attrition” and enhance loyalty.

So why then, is coaching underestimated by the legal sector?

For achievement orientated, impatient professionals, who are measured on short term results – fees and chargeable hours – a coaching style is too often neglected for seemingly quick-fix alternatives. However this means that some professional services firms are missing a trick.

Well trained leaders who use a coaching style can bridge the gap between the harsher, results driven pace setting style – prevalent in law firms – and the nurturing, long-term style of visionary leadership, required today to get real results. It encourages leaders to build relationships, encourage problem solving by asking questions, lead with purpose and bring about long term growth and change.

Few understand the leadership challenges of law firms more than Richard Macklin. Former Global Vice Chair and Global Client Partner at Dentons, the world’s largest law firm, he is a leading authority on law firm strategy and market positioning. 

When we sat down with him to get his perspective on the future of law firm leadership, he explained that: “Lawyers have difficulty believing that technical excellence is not a differentiator. Granted you do have the magic circle, the silver circle, and so on. But within each peer group, technical excellence is actually a commodity because every firm has it.”

So if technical excellence is not your product, what is? “It’s your delivery,” Richard says. “The way you respond to what a client wants and needs. They’ll assume you have a great product because if you don’t, you’ll get sued for it anyway. What they care about is how you’re going to partner with them.”

Coaching accelerates the development of employees to enable them to better service their clients and respond to their needs.  The quality of associates, and the quality of the client experience,  are the only true differentiators, if technical excellence is taken as a given. Developing your associates faster than your competitors will deliver firms a competitive advantage, which in today’s market all law firms are chasing.  

Since investment in coaching leadership style can have such a lasting and sizeable human and business impact, every law firm should offer coaching in their skillset. 

TPC Leadership are aiming to partner with lawyers to share the value of leadership. Leading Clients, Leading People is the upcoming course that is specifically aimed at training junior partners and senior associates in the legal sector. 

This programme is being co-delivered with PSFI, one of the largest and most experienced teams of specialist practitioners in the professional service firms market. You can find out more information about the course and how to sign up here.

For more information on training leaders in your organisation to adopt and instil a coaching culture, contact TPC’s experts.

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