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Interview with Julie A. Fleming

How long have you coached lawyers, and how did you begin?


I wanted to be a lawyer as far back as I can remember. My father is a lawyer, and I grew up attending ABA meetings and talking with lawyers. By the time I was in high school, I developed a genuine interest in law, especially what I then thought of as “high tech litigation.” I headed straight from college to law school to a federal clerkship, then back to college to get the science hours to allow me to take the patent bar while I did contract work later with a small firm. Finally, in 1999, I started practicing in the Atlanta office of Jones Day where I matured as a lawyer and worked long hours with terrific colleagues. When my husband accepted a new job in Orlando in 2005, I moved to a boutique firm there. (Please click here to see my full CV.)

All through my legal career, I had moments of completing something really challenging and then feeling the “I love my job” high. But I noticed that some colleagues didn’t seem to enjoy the work, others disliked the pace, others didn’t care for the people (other lawyers and/or clients), and others didn’t feel a “fit” with the culture — and some unhappy colleagues fell into all of those categories! I also began to dread interactions with some of the more abrasive opposing counsel I faced. I noticed that lawyers would both celebrate and resent it when another lawyer left the practice, as if the departing lawyer was free and the unhappy ones left behind were genuinely trapped. I also saw some really good attorneys sidetracked when they failed to manage time well enough, failed to grow strong collegial relationships, or failed to develop the “right” professional skills on the “right” timetable. Meanwhile, I began to see more and more statistics about the pervasive unhappiness in the profession.

People have always talked to me. I found myself often unofficially mentoring more junior lawyers and helping my peers (and even more senior lawyers) figure out how to get what they wanted out of practice, whether the goal was partnership or a new career entirely unrelated to the law. I loved supporting lawyers, and they discovered benefits from talking with someone who gets it.  

 

 

In 2005, I needed to divide my time between Orlando, southern Maryland, and Atlanta for personal reasons. I quickly realized that I couldn’t maintain a patent litigation practice. I hired a coach for lawyers to help me think through my options, and after laying out all kinds of possibilities, a light bulb went on one day as I realized that I wanted to coach lawyers too!

Since then, I’ve received a Leadership Coaching certificate from Georgetown University , and I’ve completed several other coaching-related programs. I also hold the A.C.C. (Associate Certified Coach) credential from the International Coach Federation. (Currently, only about one in four coaches worldwide holds an ICF certification.) I’ve coached dozens of lawyers, and I’ve developed my proprietary Practice Acceleration System
to help pinpoint how a lawyer may create a career that is successful, sustainable, and satisfying. In addition to coaching individuals, I speak to groups and write extensively on what’s going right (and what’s going wrong) in our profession.
Who are your clients exactly?

Most of my clients are lawyers working in law firms. About 60% are associates and 40% are partners, shareholders, or Of Counsel. About 50% of my clients practice in a large firm. I’ve also coached in-house lawyers, law students, and lawyers who’ve been out of the profession for a time and seeking to return to practice. Most of my clients hire me themselves, and others arrange for their firms to cover the cost of the coaching.I do my best work with lawyers who basically like what they do and seek to develop the skills and habits that will make them even more effective and satisfied in practice. Although I’m happy to work with lawyers in the process of deciding whether to stay in practice or to leave the law, I prefer to refer clients who’ve already made that decision and are moving into the implementation phase to other coaches who specialize in that work.
I’ve coached lawyers from large law firms including:  

 

  • Dorsey & Whitney

  • Hogan & Hartson

  • McDermott Will & Emery

  • Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough

  • Skadden Arps

  • Venable LLP

To protect client confidentiality, I do not list the mid-sized or small firms or any of the corporations where my clients have been employed.The lawyers whom I’ve coached have practices in a wide variety of areas, including both litigation (such as complex business, mass tort, intellectual property, personal injury, family law, and employment) and transactional (such as M&A, energy, trusts and estates, insurance, patent/trademark prosecution, and general corporate) practices.

How are you different from other coaches and consultants who work with attorneys?

The key difference flows from my Practice Acceleration System
. When clients begin to work with me, we spend some time getting an overview of what is and isn’t working well, and then we work through the system, step by step. Sometimes, of course, a pressing need will come up that pulls us out of this step-by-step approach, and that’s fine; we address what requires attention and then return to the system. The result of this approach is that you know what we’ll be working on throughout the coaching engagement, and every meeting will move you forward toward the outcomes you’ve set as your goal.

Everything that I do is focused on helping attorneys to achieve successful, sustainable, and satisfying practices according to each lawyer’s definition. So, even though we work through a pre-set system, every aspect of the system is customized to get the results you want, whether your goal is to make partner at a large law firm, to find a way to balance the practice you love with the family you love, to become a firm leader, or to hone your rainmaking skills so you can make a lateral move.

What kind of personality do you work best with, and what is expected of your clients?

 

I work best with high-achieving lawyers who are eager to grow a strong and sustainable practice, who are willing to try new experiments and to take on activities outside their comfort zone, and who are committed to the process. I especially enjoy action-oriented, outspoken lawyers who have a sense of humor. Venting is encouraged, but I don’t do well when venting turns to whining; at that point, I turn to action, and my ideal clients pick up and move forward. My ideal clients take a “no excuses” approach to their professional and personal lives.I expect clients to be fully engaged in the coaching. That means keeping appointments, holding to action plans, and moving relentlessly toward the ultimate goal that fits the lawyer’s desires.

 

Now, of course, I do understand that crises happen, and I know the value of taking some time to unwind and reflect. But coaching isn’t designed for aimless bobbing along, and coaching isn’t something I “do to” my clients. Ideal clients take full responsibility for the changes they want to make, whether those changes are in behavior, attitude, or both. Failure is often a part of growth, but excuses are not.

 

 

Is there a type of lawyer for whom coaching with you doesn’t work?


Yes. I’m selective about the clients I work with, because I’ve learned that some clients won’t get the results they’re seeking and I don’t want to take those clients’ money or to spend our time without getting meaningful results. Coaching isn’t effective for those who are more interested in examining why a difficult or unpleasant situation exists rather than changing it. Coaching is action-oriented (whether that means a changing behavior or attitude) and those who are interested in analysis rather than action won’t get great results.

It’s also important that you are comfortable with the monthly coaching fee. I offer three packages for one-on-one work, and it’s critical that making that financial commitment doesn’t create additional pressure. If your income doesn’t support one-on-one coaching at this time, that’s perfectly ok! I’ve been there too. Until the time is right for working with me one-on-one, please take these steps:

  • Sign up for my free weekly email newsletter, Leadership Matters for Lawyers.

  • Watch for the free teleseminars I offer on a regular basis and join in. (These are always announced in Leadership Matters for Lawyers.)

  • Consider teaming up with 4 or 5 colleagues and investing in group coaching. This approach is especially beneficial for business development coaching, because group support and accountability tend to dial into the competitive spirit in a healthy way, and group coaching clients can move forward very quickly as a result. (Please contact me directly if that option interests you.)

Having engaged in this preparatory work will help you to move farther and faster when we do begin working together one-on-one.

Finally, those who are “too busy” to commit to a regular coaching schedule won’t realize substantial benefit from working with me. All lawyers are busy, and sometimes genuine emergencies happen and disrupt plans. But lawyers who aren’t able to follow through on their commitments, whether it’s keeping appointments with me or doing the work between coaching sessions, won’t get terrific results. If you aren’t ready to commit to showing up and doing all of the work, then I respectfully request you not call – it’ll just frustrate us both.

What exactly is the Practice Acceleration System and what does it include?

The Practice Acceleration Systemis a four-phase approach based on the four stages of attorney development. Sometimes we move back and forth among these phases, and usually there’s one area of primary focus.

1. Strengthen your professional and personal foundation. In this phase, we look at how you manage yourself. Topics that we address include:

  •  
    • Time management
    • Energy management (how effectively are you able to use your time, and how can you create more energy to fuel your practice?)
    • Professional relationships
    • Communications skills (how well do you communicate with clients, colleagues, and staff?)
    • Professional confidence and concerns
    • Work/Life integration (what do you say matters most to you, and does the way you spend your time reflect your stated priorities?)

2. Strategize your individual achievement. A successful career requires achievement of individual professional goals. To maximize your success, we focus on professional areas such as:

  •  
    • Career strategy and planning
    • Can I see myself doing this for 20, 30, 40 maybe even 50 more years?
    • Dealing with a toxic work environment
    • Professional development
    • Professional involvement and connections
    • Networking
    • Delegation skills

The work we do in each of these areas in the course of a coaching engagement builds a successful practice that meets your goals.

3. Develop your client service and acquisition skills. Your ability to provide exceptional client service and to bring in new clients and new matters will have a significant impact on the success of your practice and the satisfaction you experience. The goal of this module of the Practice Acceleration System is to ensure that you have a healthy pipeline of satisfied clients. To accomplish this goal, we will:

  •  
    • Identify your most important clients
    • Determine how to provide exceptional client service
    • Check with your clients to find out how satisfied they are with your service and how you can exceed their expectations
    • Set your client development goals
    • Create (or revise) a business development plan that you execute on a consistent basis
    • Use time mastery principles to create time for rainmaking

4. Enhance your leadership skills. Whether your aim is to be managing partner of your law firm, to be elected to public office, or to be a well-regarded practitioner who effectively leads a practice group or a team of lawyers and support staff (or any one of a myriad of other roles), your leadership skills will have a significant impact on your success and the satisfaction that you experience in practice. We’ll address topics including:

  •  
    • Emotional intelligence
    • Leadership presence
    • Authenticity as leader
    • Servant leadership
    • How to evoke high performance from those you lead
    • Discernment
    • Vision

This stage of the Practice Acceleration System will grow your leadership skills within your firm (remember, even a second-year attorney who is responsible for a document review project staffed by paralegals or contract attorneys is a leader and must function accordingly), in your client work, and in the community – all of which will contribute to your satisfaction in practice.

In our initial conversation, we’ll determine which module of the Practice Acceleration System is most pressing for you (perhaps starting with rainmaking skills, for example) and you’ll learn dozens of things to make your practice run more smoothly, with less stress, so that you attain the professional goals you set for yourself and enjoy your practice.

Does this really work?

Yes! Of course, you have to put in the time and energy into our coaching sessions and into the between-meeting activities that we agree on. As you do that, and as we progress through the Practice Acceleration System
, you’ll clarify your goals, eliminate the obstacles standing in your way, master your mindset, develop systems to make your practice run smoothly and profitably so you develop a successful, sustainable, and satisfying practice.

What results can I expect?

The short answer is, it depends on what you put into it. That means, if you consistently engage in the coaching calls and the between-call actions that you and I identify as likely to propel you in the direction you want to go, you will succeed. Sometimes goals change (I’ve had more than a few clients who contacted me to leave their current positions only to decide after some re-evaluation that, with some tweaks, they were quite happy where they were), and sometimes goals are simply impossible because of professional or business realities. However, with consistent effort and full engagement, clients always reach new levels of success.

You can expect to:

  • Use your time more effectively so you spend more time doing what matters and less time putting out fires.

  • Learn tactics to handle the email, voicemail, telephone calls, Blackberry messages, and paper that can overwhelm any law office.

  • Develop strategies and boundaries that will create maximum energy to fuel your peak performance, whether you’re in the office or enjoying your personal time.

  • Discard the mindsets that can sabotage your professional advancement.

  • Build a Work/Life integration that supports you in leading the professional and personal life you desire.

  • Connect regularly with what you want from your legal practice and make sure you’re living purposefully.

  • Ensure that you’re building a practice that will support you (at a level you can sustain) for the rest of your legal career.

  • If you’re feeling uncomfortable in your law firm, determine once and for all whether it’s you (and if so, how to make the changes necessary to create a better fit for yourself) or whether you’re operating in a toxic environment (and if so, how to get out).

  • Set your professional development course so you have the skills you need for the work you want to do.

  • Design your systems for stellar client service.

  • Optimize your business development efforts by getting clear on your goals, identifying your rainmaking strengths, and creating a client development plan that you implement consistently.

  • Build a strong set of professional connections, so you have resources when you need a mentor, when you want to make a career move, when you need to affiliate with co-counsel, and more.

  • Learn to be comfortable and effective in networking.

  • Hone your delegation skills so you can get more work done in less time using the resources available to you.

  • Enhance your communication skills, so you communicate clearly with colleagues, support staff, clients, and the other people you encounter in the course of your practice.

  • Develop your leadership presence.

  • Determine when to incorporate which leadership style into your repertoire.

  • Align your in-office and out-of-office selves so that you’re an authentic leader in whom others can have confidence.

  • Discover how to evoke excellent performance from others without micromanaging or over-delegating.

  • Expand your emotional intelligence, so you relate better to those you lead and enhance your credibility as a leader.

  • Clarify your leadership vision.

Can I talk with some of your clients or former clients to see what it’s like to work with you?


I treat all aspects of my coaching engagements, including the fact of their existence, as completely confidential. My promise to every client is that, although they’re free to tell anyone they want anything about our coaching, not a living soul will find out from me that I even know them, much less that I’m actually coaching them. As a result, I don’t offer clients as references.

 

I will, however, provide case studies and comments from past clients on request.

 

 

How quickly can I expect to see results?

That depends on the goals you’ve set and how much effort you put in. Most clients notice a shift after our first conversation and notice significant movement within the first few weeks after we begin working together. I tell clients to expect to see results within three months. Of course, if you’re a first-year associate and your goal is to make partner, no amount of coaching can make up for the number of years of experience required to get there. On those kinds of long-term goals, however, coaching can accelerate the process and raise the likelihood of success.

How will we work together and what does the program entail?

After you sign up, you receive one-on-one attention through scheduled telephone calls, plus “on demand” calls and email. I’ll be available to review business/professional development and job search-related documents as needed. And you’ll receive articles, resources, and assessments (not including the DISC assessment or The Leadership Circle Profile, both of which are available to my individual clients at a significant discount from the standard fees), all designed to support you in developing or growing a successful, satisfying, and sustainable practice. We’ll create the strategies that will propel you forward, find the best ways to overcome the obstacles you encounter, and keep you on track toward the goals you identify.

How long do you work with clients?

 

Each coaching program runs for six months. That’s because I’ve discovered that clients who continue coaching for at least six months have dramatically better results than the clients who worked with me for a month or two and then quit. The reason for that difference is fairly clear: consistency, focus over time, and repetition of new habits and practices gained through coaching creates results. I want to ensure that you get the results you’re seeking and that you get the maximum return on your investment. Six months is, in my experience, the minimum time required to do that.

 

Now, I understand that coaching may be truly impossible in some months if, for instance, you have a 2-week trial. (I remember those days all too well!) If that happens, not a problem; we can pause the program and pick up where you left off on your return.

 

 

Do clients ever work with you for more than six months?

Absolutely! A number of clients have worked with me for eight months to a year, and some have worked with me for much longer. Some clients select the Maintenance option for the second round of coaching, and many continue at a faster pace.

What’s the coaching investment?

 

You have three options, depending on the speed with which you want to move forward, the amount of time you have available, and your budget: Platinum, Gold, and Silver. Each package requires a six-month commitment, and absent advance agreement, time does not roll over from one month to the next.

 

The 6-month Platinum Coaching Package was created in response to client requests and is my most popular package. It is for those who want to hit the ground running and to make as much progress as possible, as quickly as possible. As a Platinum Package clients you will maintain ultimate flexibility, because you can schedule your calls in advance or for “just in time” coaching, as you prefer, and you’ll receive full access to every program I create. This is also the only coaching package that offers unlimited review of all of your written materials created for business/professional development, such as articles, presentations, etc.

 

 

Due to the intensive work we do and the availability that I maintain for each client enrolled in this package, I can only accept 15 Platinum Package clients at a time. However, I do maintain a waiting list.

You’ll receive:

  • One 60-minute quick start telephone consultation, in which we’ll conduct an in-depth analysis of your practice as it stands today, and you’ll get clear on your objectives. At the end of the call, you’ll have a detailed strategy to guide you toward your goals.

  • Three 60-minute calls each month when we’ll review your progress, correct course as needed, and troubleshoot any obstacles that may arise. These calls will occur in the first three weeks of each month, leaving you the last week to catch up or rest up. You may schedule the calls in advance or not, leaving you complete flexibility.

  • MP3 recordings of each call so you don’t have to take notes and can listen to the calls again (or share the calls, if you choose, with a colleague or other interested party) on an as-needed basis.

  • Unlimited email and telephone support between calls so you can get feedback on opportunities and obstacles right away. These calls are optional and available for you to use whenever and if ever you’d like.

  • Unlimited review of written materials you produce (for business/professional development or job search purposes; I do not review legal work product). Whether you’re writing articles for business development purposes or polishing your resume and cover letter in preparation for a job change, a second set of eyes can be invaluable. I’ll provide both substantive and stylistic input, usually within 2 business days.

  • Free access to all of the content (articles, audio programs, etc.) that I generate so you can reinforce the work we do in coaching.

  • Free attendance for any teleseminars or public live events that I host.

  • Special bonus: In-person 3-hour consultation in my office, which you can use anytime during the 6 months. (This is a $1500 value.) We’ll spend the time in whatever way is most helpful for you, whether it’s reviewing and revising your game plan, addressing obstacles and challenges that you’re experiencing, or diving deep in big-picture questions about your professional life.


The 6-month Gold Coaching Package
is for those who want to work at a more deliberate pace or need additional time between meetings to complete “homework” designed to help you advance toward your goals, and for those who don’t want the additional resources offered as a part of the Platinum Package.

You’ll receive:

  • One 60-minute quick start telephone consultation, in which we’ll conduct an in-depth analysis of your practice as it stands today, and you’ll get clear on your objectives. At the end of the call, you’ll have a detailed strategy to guide you toward your goals.

  • Two 60-minute calls each month when we’ll review your progress, correct course as needed, and troubleshoot any obstacles that may arise. These calls will be scheduled in advance each month.

  • Email and telephone support between calls so you can get feedback on opportunities and obstacles right away. You’ll have up to three 15-minute phone calls each month and reasonable email access. This “between meeting” contact is optional and available for you to use as best for you.

  • Review of written materials you produce for job search purposes, such as your resume and cover letter. I’ll provide feedback within 2 business days. (Please note that this package does not include review of any written materials other than resume, cover letters, and writing samples that you’ve selected for submission to potential employers.)

The 6-month Silver Coaching Package is designed for those who have completed either the Platinum or Silver Coaching package and want to continue coaching on a maintenance basis. I will occasionally enroll a new client into this package, but only after we thoroughly discuss your needs and goals so that I can determine the likelihood that you will get the results you want with this program.

You’ll receive:

  • Two 45-minute calls each month when we’ll review your progress, correct course as needed, and troubleshoot any obstacles that may arise. These calls will be scheduled in advance.

  • Limited email and telephone support between calls so you can get feedback on opportunities and obstacles right away. You’ll have up to two 15-minute phone calls each month and reasonable email access. This “between meeting” contact is optional and available for you to use as best for you.

Do you accept credit cards?

Absolutely! I accept American Express, Visa, and MasterCard.

Ok, I know which program I want. How do we get started?


Congratulations! Your decision speaks volumes about your commitment. The fact that you’re ready to move ahead tells me that you have the drive and determination to be successful in our work together.

 

So, let’s arrange a time to talk! We’ll spend some time getting acquainted and I’ll learn more about your objectives to confirm that the package you’ve selected is well-suited to your needs. Just email us or call 800.758.6214 to arrange our appointment to talk. I’m honored that you’d like to work with me, and I can’t wait to “meet” you!

 

 

I’m not sure I’m ready to get started. Is there any way to sample your work at a low cost to see whether it’s right for me?

Yes. If you’re not currently subscribed to my Leadership Matters for Lawyers newsletter, please sign up for your complimentary subscription by clicking on this link: Leadership Matters for Lawyers. And please visit the Life at the Bar Blog, where I discuss many of the top issues that lawyers face in building successful, satisfying, and sustainable practices. Reading my articles (some of which also appear in The Complete Lawyer) will give you a flavor for how I approach things, and you’ll get access to some of the tips and resources that I also provide to my paying clients. I also offer periodic free teleseminars, which I announce in Leadership Matters for Lawyers and on the Life at the Bar Blog.

OK, I’m ready to do this for myself, but I have a couple of additional questions. Can I call you?

Of course! Just email us or call 800.758.6214. My client relations manager will be happy to walk you through all of the options so you can make the right decision for you. And if you have any questions that she can’t answer (which doesn’t happen often!), she’ll also be able to schedule a time when you and I can talk directly.

One thought on “About Julie A. Fleming

  1. I applaud your insights into the challenges of practicing law. I have often found inspiration in the examples of how other lawyers tackle life and the practice of law. One of my lawyer heroes, Ellen Carpenter, a law school classmate, recently died of a brain aneurysm. Her sudden death has left us breathless, and caused her friends and colleagues to reflect on her noble, but short, life. Ellen’s life was remarkable, not only because of her many great successes, including becoming President of the Boston Bar Association, but because of her qualities as a vivacious, unassuming, ethical and dedicated lawyer and friend. You may wish to profile her since there is so much to learn. Please see her obituary and other writings at http://Www.Boston.com (Boston Globe 12/12/06), http://www.bostonbar.org/ (Boston Bar Association), Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, 12/18/06).

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