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How coaching unleashed a Legal ®Evolution

It wants to be no more and no less than Europe's groundbreaking congress fair for the entire legal departments, compliance departments and law firms - the “Legal ®evolution”. The two-day international congress and trade fair took place for the third time: beginning of December 2019 in Frankfurt. The young, committed and ambitious team around attorney Dr. Jochen Brandhoff has a clear vision about where they want to go and is open to new ideas at the same time.

When we at CLP - Consulting for Legal Professionals 2018 offered them the completely new concept of a Coaching Lounge as a counterpoint to the classic congress and trade fair format, we immediately achieved enthusiasm. Despite the conservative target group, we were convinced that the classic "experts explain the world to you" approach had to be abandoned in order to make a difference. Instead of “frontal sound reinforcement” and “power point battles”, we opted for modern formats that allowed joint interaction, immediate individual experimentation and nothing less than innovation, creativity and networking.

In addition to the Coaching Lounge, diverse workshops on Legal Design Thinking and Legal Project Management, the Legal-World-Cafe, as well as the matchmaking tool EvPitch.

More than 1.200 visitors expected 70 exhibitors, 50 lectures and panels, 15 workshops and 100 individual and group coaching sessions. The proportion of visitors from outside Germany has doubled compared to the previous year. The most strongly represented countries were Great Britain, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, the USA, Russia, Sweden, Brazil and Israel.

And last but not least: In addition to the claim to climate neutrality, the entire ticket revenue of the largest event in the legal sector was donated to the construction of a village school in Myanmar, Africa.

Thematically, the entire value chain of modern legal services was covered:

  • Legal Tech and Compliance Tech

  • Legal innovation and digitisation of law

  • Legal issues of the digital economy

  • Business and change management in the legal market

In view of the increasing number of alternative legal service providers, Dr. Jochen Brandhoff opened the LEGAL ®EVOLUTION 2019 with the words: "Law no longer belongs to lawyers alone. It is up to the lawyers themselves to decide what role they play in the legal market of the future". It is not the task of the legislator and the courts to hold back technical and economic progress in the legal market and to reserve legal services to lawyers.

My presentation on "Fuck Legal Tech and IA - Emotional Intelligence and Lawyers" deliberately emphasized that despite all the hype about legal tech, the focus should not be lost on the human being. It was a wonderful addition to the keynote speech by Trevor Faure, former Legal Director at Dell, Senior European counsel at Apple and General Counsel at tyco on emotional intelligence through SMARTER Law.

To involve a much larger audience I worked with the participants in my workshop on site interactively and simultaneously online via the social and professional networks LinkedIn, Xing, Twitter, facebook and Instagram to determine whether and to what extent soft skills for lawyers - and here in particular emotional intelligence - will become more relevant with the increasing digitalization of all areas and thus the key competences of future lawyers.

For the participants on site, it was particularly exciting to see directly on the screen how the results from so many opinions around the world combine to form an atmospheric picture. Overall, an international reach in the five-figure range in the legal sector was achieved just in one workshop.

The Coaching Lounge was conducted by us with 6 CLP specialists, experienced lawyers with special knowledge in legal project management, mindfulness, acquisition, mindful leadership, legal tech innovation, team building and so on. The high priced premium ticket to the congress included a visit to the Coaching Lounge on topics such as "Top Performance on Demand", "Leadership for Lawyers", "Legal Project Management in the Legal Department", "Business Development" and "Hiring the right employees and keep them".

The experience of the opening year had shown that the legal audience accepted the Coaching Lounge with enthusiasm: within 24 hours all 50 Speed Coaching appointments of the Coaching Lounge where fully booked and the server nearly crashed. And the feedback afterwards was overwhelming.

Last year although after this experience the visit of the Coaching Lounge was only possible with a high prized Premium Ticket. The Coaching appointments were extended to 45 minutes and the number of coaches and topics doubled. And this year again all 100 appointments were allocated within a few days. The feedback of all participants was consistently positive. The format of the CoachingLounge therefore also celebrated a great success in 2019.

So why did Coaching unleash a Legal Revolution?

Coaching is present everywhere today and the market is flooded with offers that advertise “coaching”: The Business Coach competes with the online coach’s AI, the homework coach with the Chef Coach, the Cat Coach with the Garden Coach, the Style Coach with the Vocal Coach… The list goes on. Coaching is a buzzword, which apparently “sells” itself.

But who is actually allowed to coach or call them selves a coach? And why is it so powerful?

In fact, the profession and the concept of coaching are not (yet) protected: The legislator only becomes active when there is a justified interest or “danger to life and limb “. This makes sense: The profession of a lawyer or physician has at some point become a state - recognised and regulated profession in contrast to the general consulting profession. The training and the conclusion of the nationally recognized training and education in Universities, the national certification and the permission, as well as the conclusion of a professional liability insurance, aim to protect the consumer against the damage.

Coaching vs Consulting

But coaching has developed as a special method over 50 years ago from the still quite recent psychology: with special communication tools such as W-questions, mirroring and feedback, as well as goal setting. The coach should support the coachee, the client and help he or she with their personal development.

It is important to separate coaching from other formats and methods, such as training, mentoring or consulting. If it seems to not work efficiently, the question would be if the alleged coach received a proper training and is qualified. The relationship between the coach and coachee is a matter of trust:

  • the coachee supposedly goes into expert hand

  • the coachee confides in the coach

  • the coachee provides personal data

Coaching Principles

Reality shows us, that many “wannabe coaches” are not aware of this sensitivity. There are three principles that are essential:

  • the coachee has to be mentally healthy and under no medical influence

  • there is no processing of the past

  • no advice or objectives are given by the coach.

For more than 20 years professional associations, such as the International Coaching Federation (ICF), the largest and most relevant professional association for Coaches worldwide, have been working for coaches worldwide to ensure that coaching is linked to certain quality requirements and is based on consistent ethical guidelines.

What is Quality Coaching

Quality coaching must:

  • Be performed/conducted/carried out by a coach who is trained in coaching

  • Have an accredited curriculum of the training by a professional association

  • Have a coach, who is committed to the ethical guidelines of his or her association or make his or her own basis of the contract

  • Have a coach, who should strive for a certification, which should be renewed regularly, e.g. the ACC, PCC, MCC of the ICF (which additionally requires a practical examination as well as some practical experience)

  • Have a coach, who should provide evidence of his annual further training

  • Have a coach, who should have field expertise in the professional field of the coachee, as well as have completed his own personality development (recommended age: over 35 years old)

  • Have a coach, who should pay attention and point out the transparent and strict separation of coaching and other methods such as therapy, workshop, counseling, mentoring

But it is not only important to maintain these quality standards. It is just as important to check them regularly, evaluate the results and adjust the program if necessary. The extent to which measurable criteria in coaching can actually determine the so-called ROI here is shown in particular in the HR manual "Quality Management in Individual Coaching" of the ICF.

The excellent programs in organizations around the world have been consistently based on these quality standards for years and have achieved great successes, such as Adidas AG, with almost 100% satisfaction feedback guarantee. Coaching is therefore seen as an important economic factor in this field. ICF Germany has just awarded the Prism Award for HR Excellence in building extraordinary Coaching Programs to Adidas and Vodafone. A special prize also went to Volkswagen for offering various coaching programs throughout the company for almost a quarter of a century. But the very first Prism Award winner for its so-called “Partner Peak Performance Program” got CMS Tax Legal in 2018 – the pioneers of coaching in the legal industry.

What all the applicants had in common, was that they were personally committed to the power of coaching, especially in change processes and the implementation of crucial strategic goals in the company, but also to the programs and their sustainability and quality.

Why is coaching in the legal industry so successful today?

The business model of legal consulting is in a dilemma: hardly anyone comes to the law firm today for the pure transfer of knowledge and consulting. Thanks to globalization and the Internet, information on every topic and every legal question can be prepared and accessed at any time, anywhere, free of charge and in an understandable way. Pure advice, which used to be the core competence of the lawyers, is receding into the background and instead, competencies in crisis management, conflict resolution, empathy, communication and negotiation skills, strategic and systemic understanding are now playing an increasingly important role.

"The future of the legal profession will be female" was the title of the Prognos Research Study of the German Lawyers' Association (DAV) as early as 2013 and meant that the classical competences for the legal profession such as assertiveness, analytical thinking, pragmatic solutions were rather "typically male"; in future, however, the industry would demand rather "typically female" qualities. That is nothing new. Other classic consulting professions have also developed in this direction in recent years. The consulting industry is becoming increasingly approachable, more human. This distinguishes the consultant of tomorrow from algorithms and technical solutions. But also from other consultants.

The lawyer of tomorrow will not be interchangeable.

However, the digitalization of the legal industry is not only accompanied by innovations in the legal tech sector, which suddenly dissolve entire business areas of the legal profession, but also by the necessity to revise and redefine structures and processes in law firms. The way lawyers work has changed fundamentally. Gone are the days of desks filled with paperwork, the Chinese Wall at the entrance desk, impressive law firm libraries and prestigious meeting rooms – well not everywhere, but still. Today, the lawyer is at least by e-mail directly and always available to everyone, finally reaching the eye level of the client. This is good for business and stressful anyway.

The three challenges of the legal industry:

  1. digitalization, legal tech and disruptive innovation

  2. competitive pressure, loss of income from colleagues and from outside the industry

  3. gender and generation shift

The new generations, on the other hand, live this quite naturally - as it also brings more flexibility and mobility and thus a better work-life balance. And there is something else: law firm teams are becoming more diverse. Whereas only a few years ago, secretariats were staffed exclusively by women and lawyers' offices by men, they are now mixed.

Already today, almost 40% of the professionals are female, and more women than men study law at universities. Lawyers from abroad, lawyers with a migration background, professed gays and lesbians and also committed mothers and fathers can also be found in the law firms today. This is radically new for the industry. It is obvious that this is not without influence on the professional self-image.

The change in the professional image of the legal profession is in full swing: the dismantling of the silverback in the fine twine has long since begun.

What is moving in the legal industry:

  • cultural and structural change (for digitalization and disruptive innovation)

  • cooperation (for competition)

  • diversity (for the gender and generation shift)

Law firms are now busily trying to keep up.

Innovation hubs are launched to create legal tech applications with ambitious young lawyers or acquired IT nerds and to discover new business areas. Talent Development is intended to pick up Generation Y with hip formats and flexible working-time accounts, which can no longer be stimulated and guided by money and status alone. Women's advancement programs should finally not only develop the future partners from our own ranks, but above all keep them. The battle for the so-called high potentials and future managers has long since flared up, as well as for excellent and reliable employees. Strategic partnerships have mutated into mayflies and the high performance race horses of the industry must now perform all kinds of circus tricks on the podium stages of the congress industry to earn their living.

Has the legal profession arrived in the future? Yes and no.

She's on her way, no question. Sometimes more like one step forward and two steps back. And here we are: Somewhere between status- and hierarchy-based autocracies, profit-oriented solitaires and competition-seeking high-performance racehorses on the one hand and cooperative networks, social, ecological and political responsibility and the search for personal self-realization beyond status and wealth on the other.

And the number of students and admissions continues to rise: areas such as sports law, association law, expatriation law and asylum law are only just developing, as is the business model around data security, Bitcoin and Blockchain. And lawyers are also increasingly in demand in diplomatic, political and social bodies.

Time to ask new questions:

How can my legal advice help my client and his family/clients?

What benefit does my legal advice have for my client?

Tomorrow's lawyer should be able to grasp the client's crisis not only from a legal but also from a human point of view, determine its stage and select the appropriate methods to lead the client out of the crisis.

These are not primarily legal steps, but communication that addresses the client's need for security. The client feels understood and the lawyer can better classify and understand the client's information, but also adjust strategy and tactics as well as the client management to it. This leads to a trustful and sustainable client relationship, but also to the right legal solution for the client. The business is revitalized. The lawyer can really help on a human level and feels fulfilled and meaningful in his work.

The focus will therefore be on the human being with his fears and needs, his charisma and personality, his talents and abilities, his empathy and ability to and his need for community, communication and relationship. Simple with all that makes him unique. What makes him different from any reproducing, effective machine.

So that yesterday's firm is tomorrow's firm? The shirt-sleeved lone fighter with charisma and typewriter and unconventional methods as the winner? What makes him an artist of survival is his flexibility and openness to change. What he lacks is professionalization and sustainability.

As things stand at present, neither studies and traineeship nor further training will be able to reflect this in the future. Post-graduate training courses that do not provide "points of reference" for specialist further training will increasingly be in demand here.

Not to become interchangeable - neither with competing colleagues nor with legal tech providers - can therefore be achieved through a unique combination of different professional competencies and professional and life experience.

So-called cross-competencies can also be acquired in other areas: for example, by completing two academic courses of study, such as medicine, business studies or MINT subjects.

A sensible alternative that conserves resources can be the implementation of so-called agile teams.

These are teams from mixed professional

groups that combine the various competencies in short hierarchical levels in fast, comprehensive decision-making processes. First steps were taken in the mergers of different professional groups (such as lawyers with medical doctors in medical liability law; lawyers with experts or architects in traffic accident law/building liability law; lawyers with tax consultants) - more or less unsuccessful yet. But this development will continue.

The legal sector will move to:

  • cross competencies: understanding cultural languages / MINT/ soft skills / business development / entrepreneurship

  • agile cooperation teams / networks / participation in politics and society

  • personal development/ change in values/ holistic approach

To be able to do this as a lawyer, a coach can help.

He or she develops strengths and weaknesses, analyses potential and drives development. The Coaching Lounge has shown that this has now also reached the legal sector and this support is gratefully accepted. However, development can only take place within the lawyer himself and only internally.

Coach training and coach classes like the Legal Coaching Training Program, on the other hand, can give the lawyer an understanding of human relationship systems, needs, communication patterns and paradigms. He is put in a position to better understand his client, but above all himself. To become a good coach, one must first and foremost work on oneself.

Self-reflection, ego management, mindfulness, change of perspective, setting and achieving goals distinguish him. In his coaching training he has therefore dealt with his own strengths and weaknesses, fears, triggers and beliefs. This is intensive and not easy and usually leads to a different self-image and relationship to oneself. The Legal Coaching Training Program was already featured in the LBW in spring 2019.

The next CLP-Coaching Lounge will take place at LEGAL ®EVOLUTION 2020 on 30 November and 1 December in Cape Europe at Messe Frankfurt a.M.: even bigger, even more intense. But the best part is that one of the first fully trained Legal Coaches team, alumni of the CLP-Academy, will be there to show you how they work.


About the Author

Dr. Geertje Tutschka, PCC. Managing Partner: CLP-Consulting for Legal Professionals. Attorney at Law Germany / European Attorney Austria . (

Author of many publications and books, such as “Law Firm Development”, hard-cover, DeGruyter 2018 How to establish a successfull Law Firm“, e-book, MKG Special 2018 „The Law Firm as a successfull company“, e-book, MKG Special 2019

Certified Business Coach (International Coaching Federation – ICF), President ICF Germany 2016-2019 (Prism Award Project Lead since 2018)

Trainer/Lecturer oft he Legal Coaching Training Program (

Specialist for Leadership, Strategic Law Firm Development and Personal Branding for Lawyers

#GeertjeTutschka #NeedtoRead #AllUpdates

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