Attorney Career Coach
June 27, 2007 7:55 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for a career coach geared toward the legal profession. I am a litigation attorney practicing primarily in the area of insurance defense. I also have a background as a criminal prosecutor. I am interested in an unbiased assessment of my carreer (e.g., where I am vs. where I should be), business development advice, etc.
posted by gm2007 to Work & Money (5 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
The current (?) ABA Journal has an article on coaches for lawyers, detailing the work of three coaches with three lawyers. Here's the article. There are links for all three coaches in it.
posted by missouri_lawyer at 8:46 PM on June 27, 2007

IANAL myself, but my father is/was, and his background was yours to a T. (He actually went from policework to criminal prosecution, from there to organized crime and arson prosecution, and from there to insurance defense. I don't think any of it was really planned.)

He once remarked to me that the best thing he ever did was developing a high degree of specialization; although on the surface it would seem to have detracted from his overall job prospects, his specialty allowed him to survive in an increasingly crowded market, through buyouts and Stalinist purges "rightsizings" where young attorneys (and even some not-so-young ones) were treated like disposable, interchangable parts, and outside counsel and litigation support was shopped for like a commodity.

Not sure whether you have some further specialty within insurance defense law, but if you do, I can almost certainly assure you that his advice would be to develop that. Anything to keep you from having to compete directly with the thousands of new grads that are being churned out.

Anyway, when he got tired of the day-to-day litigation he became in-house counsel for a very specialized insurance company. Better work/life balance, somewhat less stressful, but still interesting work within his field. The insurance industry, I understand, has changed a lot since then, but that might be something to consider in the long term; although my understanding is that in-house counsel positions don't pay as well as you might make in an independent firm, the tradeoff can be worth it if you can find the right company.
posted by Kadin2048 at 9:15 PM on June 27, 2007

You must have many colleagues working in some larger firms. But you want an unbiased assessment. So here's what you do.

Call up a buddy at a larger firm and ask him to sit you down with that firm's HR person, as a favour to him. Part of the responsibilities of HR at larger firms is career development -- building skills, reputations, image, the whole works. The HR person won't know you, and can give you a frank appraisal based on your years since call, what kind of work you've done, and what you want to do. Full service firms are generally better for this kind of thing.
posted by dreamsign at 8:12 AM on June 28, 2007

I disagree with dreamsign. I have yet to meet a law firm HR person who had a clue about the issues the OP is asking about. One might exist, but they're generally out of the loop on these questions, or they'd have a better job than Law Firm HR. Career development is handled by other lawyers, and the most HR does is execute on the desire to produce training sessions.

But, really, your best bet is a mentor at your own law firm. There is some bias and self-interest there, but that's more than made up for by you ingratiating yourself with someone who will have power over the future of your career. Phrase it like you did here: you want to ensure that you are developing appropriately, you want to be a better lawyer, you want to be better with business development. Separate yourself from the cannon fodder and make them think of you as a future partner rather than a billable-hour-unit.

If the worry is that you can do better for yourself at a different firm than where you are, then you should be talking to a good headhunter, keeping in mind that their incentive is to churn you regardless of whether it's good for your career or happiness. (I also have yet to meet an honest headhunter who didn't turn out to be counterproductive to my goals, but perhaps you can retain one for an hourly fee who will have their incentives structured properly.)

Another option: figure out what you want to be doing in ten years, find someone who is doing that now, and befriend them over a lunch or other networking occasion, and figure out how to get from where you are now to where you want to be. You should be doing that anyway, because you never know when those contacts are going to stand you in good stead later.
posted by commander_cool at 8:40 AM on June 28, 2007

May have just been my firm, if that's the case. Ex-litigator HR. Razor sharp. Simply got tired of the biz.
posted by dreamsign at 9:20 AM on June 28, 2007

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