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Understanding the benefits of coaching for lawyers


Founder of Hielema Coaching


Coaching in the Balkans is not a new term. However, when it comes to applying, it is not very used among legal professionals. Could you tell us a little bit more about coaching and what it is?

Coaching is a relatively young profession. In terms of definitions, there are many different ones. I like to call it straightforwardly as a process of unlocking a person’s potential to maximize his/her performance — it is about helping them to learn rather than teaching them. Coaching is a process of a dynamic exchange whereby a coach and a coachee interact and engage areas of concern for the lawyer.  What is also great about coaching is the fact that a coach holds you accountable for accomplishing your goals, and as a result the level of your results depends on the input, effort, engagement and dedication you show to the entire process in achieving your goals and objectives.


Lawyers often associate their practices with hard skills and strictly attached to their daily performances. While coaching is a much softer area, why and how would a legal practitioner benefit from it?

Coaching is a dialogue in which a coach facilitates a coachee, to learn, release their potential and increase performance by focusing on concrete goals, leading to success. Lawyers, like any other professionals also deal with challenges and stressful situations, deadlines they need to meet, communication problems and other issues. Research shows that no matter what profession you represent it involves a human element which wants to grow, achieve and overall success. A lawyer also needs a coach to help clarify professional goals and create an action plan for reaching them. And out of experience I know that even the most successful professional needs a little push in the right direction.


If the coaching contributes to professionals, does it mean it also adds to the entire legal profession in the long term? What do you think about this?

As mentioned above, occupation is not the defining element in reaching quality and fulfilling your potential. What matters is the ability to apply a tailored formula that will help you get to the objectives you have. Because success is about both personal and professional development which is a life-long journey. In the current economy, it is crucial to learn, improve and be innovative and under the todays’ society pressure it not easy to do so. Lawyers, as well face new challenges where the ability to generate work and do things better, faster, and cheaper has become even more essential. A coach is a crucial element in the growth process because in order to be able to fulfil modern economy requirements, lawyers need to learn to be a better communicator, public speaker, leader, selling person and just more confident professional.


Could you describe how a coaching session goes and what does it entail as a process?

A structured approach to coaching is critical to the learning process and running active coaching sessions will lead to increased productivity, morale and performance. The most important aspects of running coaching sessions that make a difference are: exploring development needs, feedback and set realistic goals. They are characterized by purposefulness, emotion, learning, and direction. They are high-stakes interactions in which the coach and the person engage in a frank conversation that can evoke a vast range of feelings. Coaching often requires the person to confront sensitive issues related to their performance and aspirations and challenges profoundly held beliefs and established practices. A great coaching session is when your client faces a breakthrough.


For the sceptical lawyer who still doesn’t believe that we all need help to get through the obstacles personally and professionally – what is your advice to them?

Per definition we are not perfect. And we are a system which consists of different parts, and if one piece doesn’t work efficiently, the other will be affected in a way. So, in my opinion even while planning a career progression it is worth checking on your life and work values if they are in symbiosis to guarantee maximum performance.


Do you think a Coaching Academy for lawyers across the region would be helpful to their professional journey and if so, what will it bring to them?

I believe a coaching academy is a must in the region, not just for lawyers but also their businesses, as it will assist them manage and market more effectively. As far as the research shows those lawyers who work for small firms or practice as solo professionals are predominantly on their own, with no idea where to get advice when issues arise. I think it would be a great idea to launch such initiative to help lawyers boost their confidence and effectiveness in their profession, get the best out of themselves, increase their skills to ask the most useful questions and make the most effective interventions where necessary, motivate themselves and enhance their leadership qualities. Coaching is a way to bridge this gap and helps them through the various stages of a career.

Many lawyers do not take the time to reflect on what they really want. Some do not know what steps to take to achieve their goals, some of them don’t even know their goals, they just follow the “regular profession path”. Others know the steps but cannot get themselves to act which is crucial to succeed. A coach can help provide solutions to these burning issues.


Alena Hielema is the Founder of Hielema Coaching, a certified coach, trainer, and speaker. After working successfully for a large training company in Poland, she moved to the Netherlands and continued to expand her professional career in the fields of Marketing Management, Sociology, and Human Resources Management.

After more than fifteen years in different industries, she completed her education in coaching and training and has conducted tens of trainings on communication, assertiveness, goal setting, self-confidence, both for individuals and non-profit organizations in the Netherlands. Today, she is dedicated to her Coaching Business to support people in their personal and professional development.