Coaching For Solicitors and Law Firms – Continuing Competence
The legal profession has for some time been moving away from pure legal knowledge training and looking at wider business and leadership skills. The requirement for the two stage Management Course was a classic example of this, and now continuing competence.
Continuing competence recognises that each individual solicitor will have different training needs based on where they are in their career, their role, and the work they do. The SRA includes the following learning and development areas:
- A – Ethics, professionalism and judgment
- B – Technical legal practice
- C – Working with other people
- D – Managing themselves and their own work
They have also made it clear that training programmes require active decision making. This includes:
- Reflection to identify any learning needs
- Planning to identify suitable learning activities and how they will be carried out.
- Following completion, evaluating how the learning activity has met the learning need identified and how the new knowledge and skills can be incorporated into their practice.
How can coaching help?
Coaching helps at different stages. Coaching and mentoring is also included as an activity in itself.
Reflection and action
The SRA recommendation includes an analysis of strengths and weaknesses, to ensure knowledge and skills are kept up-to-date.
Coaching sessions are used to fully explore, in a confidential setting, what a fee earner feels their weaknesses are. A bespoke training and development programme follows, allowing the fee earner to focus on key learning which they will be motivated to undertake.
A series of coaching sessions is also used as standalone training and development. It quickly improves key leadership areas, including managing people, confidence, efficiency and improving billing.
A fixed coaching review every six or twelve months ensures action is proactively taken, rather than reaching the end of the development year and suddenly finding nothing has happened to progress the individual, or courses are being booked on for the sake of it. Time passes quickly!
You can find a short case study on the usefulness of coaching here.
Planning and decision making
Whilst a firm may have an idea of what they feel the individual needs to work on (following an appraisal or other discussion) if the individual has not grasped why, or has not been engaged with in the planning, then there may be little motivation to take action.
Any courses planned are either unlikely to be attended, or will be of little benefit as they won’t take real learning from it.
A structured plan developed from coaching, consists of decisions made by the fee-earner following a real understanding of what the benefits are (to them and the firm) and what their hesitation might be.
It can be honestly explored away from the partners or human resources.
In addition coaching increases retention of fee-earners who in the past may have felt they were not being developed, or getting any attention from management, or those whose performance might be dipping.
Evaluating (and putting it into practice)
Coaching is a development and training activity in its own right. A great example of this is time-management. A top-level ‘reflection’ might be that a fee-earner needs to improve their time-management. They read articles on ‘top tips on time-management’ (which of course are also beneficial) and perhaps listen to webinars.
However, a deeper level of reflection, which arises from a skilled coaching session, might include a new awareness on why they can’t manage their time.
The why is key. For example. It could be that they have significant fears about delegating (loss of control, or concerned that they may be replaced, or the client might complain). Perhaps they are perfectionist, so completing any work in a timely manner is a challenge?
Whatever the reason causing someone to struggle with a skill (often they even know it will benefit them) a series of coaching sessions gets to the core issues quickly.
Have you ever had the same conversation over and over again, and they agree they will improve yet seemingly can’t? Coaching finds out why and then gives practical tools and techniques to create new mental and practical habits for life.
Coaching also supports existing training. When attending a great training events (in-house or external) only a few key points are usually taken away each time.
Sometimes, we have great intentions of things we will do differently, yet quickly resort to our usual ways.
Coaching increases the value of any training by ensuring the investment is worthwhile in two different ways:
- A coaching session allows the individual gives proper time to evaluate what they have learned, helps cement the new knowledge and creates a plan to put it into practice.
- A series of coaching sessions allows feedback, reflection and developing those skills as they try them in the real world. This means if something doesn’t work quite as they had hoped, or it is hard, they don’t just stop. This can be crucial where it involves improving leadership or skills in managing people. It can make a huge difference if it something that might seriously lead to them being placed under a performance management process.
Coaching and Return on Investment (ROI)
There are numerous reports on how coaching increases profitability in businesses, reduces staff turnover, and more. For those new to coaching, the real understanding of the benefit is from trying it. When I work with a firm we discuss how the ROI for your business will be measured.
Simona is a professional coach, mentor, speaker, and solicitor.
She takes her professional coach and law firm expertise, into other firms, to drive profitability, communication and performance, to the next level.
Motivated individuals work with Simona on mindset and strategy to become more successful as a partner or fee earner, whilst leading a balanced life.
For more information about coaching for you, or in your firm to grow profitability, develop leaders, or upgrade people management skills, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact her here.
For more information on Continuing Competence itself, take a look at the SRA toolkit here.
I also provide training for the CLT here.