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The Benefits of Coaching for Young Women in Law | Gina Alexandris

05 Jan 2022 9:00 AM | Nathalie Siah (Administrator)

Those in sports never think twice about working with a coach; in fact, it usually is considered a given for athletes in order to grow, develop and move forward in their athletic journey.  So…why is it not equally a given for young women in law?  I remember in my 4th year of practice when I felt lost, it seemed unheard of to seek out a coach. Yet, I did, and there was no looking back.  Now, through YWL, you too can engage a coach.  Although there are many more, here are seven benefits you will find in doing so

1.       Reflecting on some much needed self-discovery

One of the most exciting “aha” moments in coaching is when you determine that what you do (or might do) aligns so well with who you are and what you believe.  When did you last spend any amount of time thinking about what you really value, what matters most to you?  Having spent many years in pursuit of becoming a lawyer (often undergrad, law school, licensing exams, articling or LPP placements, call to the bar), and then finding and making it in that first role… you likely became disconnected with the “why” of what you are doing.  A coach works with you as you re-discover, or sometimes discover for the first time, what makes you thrive.  When you are more closely aligned with your values, you feel a balance, an ease that is not present when there’s a misalignment, and this helps your choices of workplace, employers, clients and even the type of work in law you might pursue.

2.       Getting unstuck and moving forward

At various times in your career (and personal life), you feel absolutely stuck – as if there is a huge boulder in front of you and you simply cannot get past it.  Through conversations with a coach, a couple of things happen. First – you define that boulder: what is it? how is it getting in your way? Second – you explore ways that are right for you to deal with the boulder:  go around it; under it; over it; smash right through it; or…realize there actually is no boulder standing in your way!  This internal work often allows you to better deal, for example, with that new senior partner or make that pitch to a new client or navigate a new workplace.

3.       Recognizing patterns that are holding us back

Sometimes it may not be huge boulders in your way, but behavioural or other patterns that you have been engaging in that either never served you well…or have stopped serving you now.  Through conversations with a coach, you begin to recognize these patterns, from how you choose to spend your time (anyone else out there scrolling too much through social media these days?!) or ask for work or respond to feedback from a supervisor or engage in professional outreach or networking. Once these patterns are identified, you work with your coach to bring about new responses that better serve your goals.

4.       Keeping your goals in sight

As life moves on and various decisions, big or small, are made, individually you may lose sight of your bigger goals.  Daily messiness can cause you to forget or not focus on navigating to where you want to go.  During coaching sessions, your coach will regularly shinea light and remind you of your stated goals or purpose, bringing you back on track if you have deviated (or forgotten) that ultimate purpose.

5.       Offering an Accountability Partner

Most of us are disciplined in our legal practices, but when it comes to other elements of personal and professional goals, we often let things go unless we are held accountable to someone else.  Part of the job of your coach is to check in with you about the status of mini goals you have set or tasks you wish to accomplish.  And they will ask you why you may not have completed them and support you getting on track. Remember, your coaching relationship is a two-person journey, and your coach is there alongside as you move towards your desired goal.  

6.       Asking powerful questions to motivate and inspire

Coaches are neither therapists nor advisors.  They listen a lot and then, based on what you have shared, will often ask truly powerful questions that you may not have considered.  These questions will help you think through some of the challenging obstacles you are facing and think through some of the tremendous opportunities available for you to explore.  The look on a client’s faces when a powerful question lands well is incredible for a coach; that sense of “oh wow, I never have considered this!” And remember that your growth does not happen only during your conversations with your coach. Your coach having laid some groundwork for you and asked some significant questions, much of the work you will do happens between your coaching sessions, as you reflect on the conversation while you go about your daily activities.

7.       Championing and empowering you

Let’s return to the sports coach/athlete analogy from the start of this article.  You know you are bright, capable, curious and creative.  But sometimes you forget, doubt yourself, question your actions or decisions.  Working with a coach offers you someone who is there for you, with you.  While going through the work of identifying your values, smashing through your obstacles, recognizing unhelpful patterns, reminding you of your goals, holding you accountable and asking you powerful questions…your coach also stands as your champion, encouraging, motivating, empowering and inspiring you to keep being the amazing individual you are.  And let’s face it, we can all benefit from a supportive champion in our corner these days!

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 Author: Gina Alexandris

For over 20 years, Gina has been inspiring and supporting individuals and organizations to strategically define their hopes and achieve their goals. As the Senior Program Director of Ryerson’s Law Practice Program, Gina is responsible for the development, implementation and general management of the new innovative transition year training program for licensing Candidates in Ontario. In this role, she is responsible for ensuring academic excellence and the quality of service and program delivery for participants, and outreach to hundreds of contributing members of the legal profession. Gina was also actively involved with the development and launch of Ryerson’s new innovative law school. With a passion for adult education, leadership and diversity, she completed her Masters of Education in 2012 and received her Coaching Certification in 2017. Gina developed and directed the award-winning Internationally Trained Lawyers Program at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law and spent more than 12 years with Osgoode Hall Law School of York University, first as Director of Career Services, followed by nine years as the Assistant Dean of Student Services. Between 2013 and 2014, Gina was the Director, Strategic Planning and Knowledge Management for the Legal Services Division of the Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario. Following her graduation from Osgoode Hall Law School, Gina began her legal career practicing family law and civil litigation in Toronto, Canada.

Young Women in Law (YWL) is a not for profit organization for women lawyers in their early stages of practice.

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