Coaching Goals & Planning Strategy

Take the time for goal setting

One of the things I have found in my work with lawyers, from new associates to senior partners, is that there can be a reluctance to dedicate time to effective goal setting.  The same is true of executives, and I myself, am guilty of it from time to time.

In this fast paced world of blogs, blackberries, and instant messaging, we are all caught up in fast forwarding the action.

Coaching is about maximising effectiveness, and accelerating results.  So as a coach I am all about hard work, effective use of time, and strategic action, but it is important to remember the vital step that comes before: goal setting.

Here are a few words from an executive coach I admire, Mary Beth O’Neil, from her book Executive Coaching with Backbone and Heart (2000):

Without clear goals and measures for those goals, neither leader nor coach is focused enough to choose the most effective course of action. … It is astonishing how often leaders ignore the goal setting process.  I have come to the conclusion that this task – like many that involve people processes with hard-line results – is simple but not easy.  Goals are simple and obvious to understand, but difficult to pull off well and consistently. (P. 112)

When you are working on your own planning this year, whether you are a managing partner, practice group leader, partner, associate, or newly called lawyer, take some time for meaningful goal setting in three key areas:

Bottom-line: Measurable revenue, profit, billable hour goals.

Work process:  Quality levels of service to clients, these are goals that related to how the work gets accomplished.

Human relations: How you need to work with others to accomplish your bottom-line goals.

Robert Crosby first outlined these three types of goals in his book The Authentic Leader (1998) and O’Neil discusses them in her book.  I find them very helpful in my work with lawyers because when a lawyer goal sets at these levels, he/she begins to focus beyond the the financial objectives to the changes in behaviour and processes that will be required to achieve the bottom-line results.  Planning on this foundation means the actions that follow are meaningful and effective and the financial goals are much more likely to be achieved.


About the author

Allison Wolf

I am the founder of AWAL and one of the most senior coaches for lawyers in North America. I have helped countless clients over the past fifteen years, develop thriving legal practices and before that served as director of marketing for award-winning law firms. My specialty is uncovering the thinking traps and gaps holding clients back and helping them acquire the mindsets, skills, and habits for growing successful and rewarding legal careers. After a career in legal marketing and business development with law firms in Beijing, New York, and Vancouver, I was trained as a coach in 2004 at Royal Roads University and now coach clients from across North America. You can reach me at or learn more about my coaching practice from the coaching section of the Attorney With A Life Website.