Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What Does a Coach Do?
A: When I was a newly-minted coach, I attended a legal conference. At the first break, I was approached by a lawyer who had overheard that I was a coach. He stabbed his finger in my chest, and asked, “So what does a coach do?” Well, I was provoked that this guy was in my face, his finger pressing into my flesh. I instantly replied, “A coach rides shotgun.” At that, he withdrew his finger, stepped back and asked me, “What does that mean?” I said simply that the client has a place to go and is crossing through a new territory, a place of transition. For the client, the questions become, “How can I avoid ambush and make my way through this new, uncharted territory? Who might be a guide for me?” I can be that guide, for I know a lot about passing through transition and getting to where one wants to go. I am a second pair of eyes on the road ahead. On the journey, the clients continues to hold the reins—the destination is their choice, not mine. I can be a resource, and I am, for those people.
Q: What’s important to consider when hiring a coach?
A: It’s important to know whether the coach has been successful in an earlier career. Has he or she been successful as a lawyer? After all, if you hire a coach to improve your tennis game, you want to know that the coach can return a volley and clear the net. Is the coach certified by a respected coaching program? Certification does not guarantee competence, but the lack of certification should be questioned. What has the coach written and where has the coach spoken? Can the coach provide references? Can you trust the coach? A talented coach will ask questions that provoke you. You’ll either answer the question, or step back and simply say you don’t have an answer. If you decide to wrestle with “big” questions, you’re apt to learn a lot.
Q: Why do you work with lawyers?
A: I coach and consult with lawyers and judges, and I am a lawyer. Born and raised in Minneapolis, I went to college here and earned an undergraduate degree in psychology, then became a lawyer. It was the Kennedy Era and I wanted to make a difference. Following law school, I joined the Peace Corps, went into legal services, and then worked in government for many years. Because I thought the grass was greener, I went into private practice. I later transitioned into coaching.
“The reason I work with lawyers and the judiciary is really twofold. First, I am a lawyer, and I am very proud to be a lawyer— not pride-filled, but I really love the profession. Second, as a lawyer I want to make a contribution to the profession. That is why my focus is on the law.”
Q: How did you transition from law to coaching?
A: I was Chair of the Environmental Law Department at a major law firm. Over the years, legislative reform incentivized people to volunteer to clean-up contaminated sites. Government reimbursed these volunteers for the expenses they incurred in cleaning up these sites. Such was the case for the cleanup of gas station sites, landfills, and drycleaner sites. Becoming a volunteer was a good choice for these “responsible parties”. They were no longer litigants and had little need for a lawyer. Therefore, the practice of environmental law began to dwindle, and my law firm said, “You need a coach to figure out your way forward.” So I hired a coach. She eventually told me, “Ahhh, maybe you want to become a coach. You can combine your training in psychology with your love of the profession. You could knit those two together and be a resource for people.”
Q: Are you an exit coach?
A: For lawyers looking for a coach, I think it’s important to learn if the coach loves the profession. Or, is he/she an exit coach, simply ushering people out of the profession? The clients I work with typically stay in the profession. Even those who decide to no longer earn an income through the practice of law typically do pro-bono work. Very seldom has a client left the profession. I am impartial and it’s certainly not my intention or expectation that a client leaves the profession.