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Coaches can help lawyers execute a mid-life professional makeover

By Staff

Completing a mid-life professional makeover is easier for lawyers than it sounds as long as they have the right professional guidance, Toronto lawyer and certified executive coach Michael Bury tells

Bury, principal of Blue Pond Coaching, says lawyers often need a change after many years in practice for a variety of reasons, including burnout and joblessness.

Coming to that conclusion is often the most difficult part of a transition, he says.

“It can be tough to look yourself in the mirror and say, ‘I don’t like what I’m doing,’ especially if you’ve been doing the same thing, day in and day out, for several years,” Bury says. “Lawyers pigeonhole themselves into thinking they can only do one thing, forgetting that they possess an incredible range of skills from their legal training that can be transferred to other roles.”

But making the switch is a different matter altogether, he adds.

“I see this all too often in my coaching engagements. They just don't know what other options are available or how to make a career or job transition. Many also don't know how to manage the potential financial issues involved in such a transition, leaving them feeling powerless and confused,” Bury says. “Instead, they get stuck in a rut, which often involves debt and sometimes substance abuse.”

He says a coach can help by breaking the process down into an incremental plan.

“Small, manageable steps are the key to big success and change,” Bury explains.

By taking stock of a lawyer’s strengths and weaknesses, he says a coach can guide them towards new professional goals.

“A coach spends a lot of time listening to what is and isn't being said,” Bury says. “A good coach can quickly identify what is lacking and what needs to change in order to pivot a legal career effectively in a new direction.”

With the assistance of his strategic partners, such as John Kelly of LLM Professional Career Launcher, his clients are able to back up their new specializations with recognized credentials.

Kelly’s program enables lawyers to unleash their passion into a preferred practice niche by enrolling in a custom designed online LL.M. program at a top tier U.K. law school. Lawyers can develop expertise and obtain a credential that will equip them with a specialist designation to stand out in an increasingly “crowded” general practice law marketplace. Candidates can continue to earn while they learn.

“A part-time LLM in a niche area can be a great way to relaunch yourself in a new high-demand area and become a subject matter specialist,” Bury says. “And even then, you do not have to practice law. You can, for example, work as a consultant in the area.”

Despite the potential benefits of coaching, Bury says his profession still carries the stigma of admitting to weakness for some in the legal world.

“Nothing could be further from the truth. The greatest athletes, for example, all rely on the wisdom and experience of their coaches to help them excel,” he says. “Lawyers are no different. Everyone can benefit from having someone in their corner to assess and improve their performance.”

In addition, he says a coach can offer a source of personal accountability and objective assessment that friends or family are simply not in a position to provide.

“With a coach’s help, you can break through the pattern of negative self-talk and find the path to what you really want to do,” Bury says. “There is always a way to find solutions once you admit that the status quo of your professional life is no longer an option.

“The key to all of this is to accept the benefits of changing your direction, acknowledging that your current state is no longer acceptable and then reaching out to professionals who can make it happen,” he adds.

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