Focus On

Advice for the career-weary | Jo-Anne Stark

Friday, March 12, 2021 @ 11:34 AM | By Jo-Anne Stark


Jo-Anne Stark %>
Jo-Anne Stark
Question: I’ve been practising law for almost 35 years and although I love it, I’m feeling I have so little time to pursue my other interests — or even make plans for retirement. After a lifetime of building a career and a network of clients, I want to find a way to work less, but still help people with their legal problems. I also want to retire to British Columbia one day, but all my work connections are here in Saskatoon. Is there a way to slow down without giving up the things I love about practising law?

Answer: I’ve heard a lot of stories like this — people who have devoted their lives to the practice of law and who are now ready to step back a bit — but not entirely! Fortunately for you, there are ways to still help others outside of the traditional practice of law — one that serves clients well, while still affording you the time you want (and deserve!) as you transition into retirement.

So, what are the options? The lawyers I talk to are more than willing to offer their services for non-profit organizations and other volunteer positions, including roles on boards. This could be an option for you. However, if you are still in need of extra income, this might not be the right time to transition to those roles.

Truth is, most law firms don’t have a pension plan which allows a seasoned lawyer to ease into a life of retirement. As American attorney Daniel Webster once said, most good lawyers live well, work hard and die poor: after all, it can be expensive being a lawyer and keeping up “appearances,” while also managing the growing costs of a law firm and partnership. It’s not always a career that leaves a person in a good place financially, when it’s time to start easing out of the rat race!

Lawyers who want to continue to help clients might consider converting their practice to legal coaching: many I’ve talked to have found this to be a solution that works for them, and for the people they help. With off-the-shelf and inexpensive technology, a lawyer can seamlessly structure a virtual solo practice and offer legal coaching from their office, home or favourite vacation spot! All that is needed are some basic tools, Wi-Fi and a desire to do law differently.

Legal coaches are popping up all over the country — lawyers who offer regular coaching sessions for a set fee to self-represented litigants and other clients doing their own legal work — a segment of the population that is currently unserved. Tens of thousands of people are doing their own legal work, because they cannot afford full-service representation from a law firm or they want to maintain control over their legal matters and finances. Why not tap into that market — be the legal coach with the expertise to help guide, inform and assist them — at a price that affords them access to justice.

Every month, I hear from middle-class people from all parts of Canada who are begging for legal services that are affordable — legal professionals who can assist them through regular coaching sessions that set reasonable goals, as they address legal concerns. The process is not only affordable — but it is also empowering for the clients. And happy clients always pay their bills on time — often then referring you to others who need help too!

It’s all about you and your client

With the current pandemic, clients are also looking for basic legal services that they can obtain virtually — so why not consider getting certified as a coach and launch a new career helping these people navigate the complex legal system? You will no longer have to commute to the office, manage staff or deal with complex accounting or administrative responsibilities. No more crazy court schedules or dealing with difficult people on the other side of a file. It’s all about you and your client. The legal coaches I work with describe having a weight lifted from their shoulders, with the ability to structure a career around their other interests. Legal coaching allows for true work-life balance, while still helping those who desperately need affordable legal services.

Jo-Anne Stark, B.Comm., JD, CLC, is the founding president of the non-profit Legal Coaches Association and author of Mastering the Art of Legal Coaching. Find her on LinkedIn.

Interested in writing for us? To learn more about how you can add your voice to 
The Lawyer’s Daily, contact Analysis Editor Peter Carter at peter.carter@lexisnexis.ca or call 647-776-6740.