Coaching takes off in South African law firm

Leaders at Bowman Gilfillan are reaping the rewards of coaching as the firm puts its top lawyers through the paces.

Coaching has taken off for law firms Jakub Jirsak

Coaching has taken off within law firms around the globe, with the Law Gazette reporting that the top 100 law firms are now spending an estimated £ 4.5 million (around ZAR 93 million) on coaching annually. As such, South African firms which want to compete globally are turning to coaching as a way to develop, guide and mentor their valued employees. Pan-African law firm Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group has been running an Executive Coaching Academy for its partners and senior leaders for two years. 'As part of this Academy, our partners, management board members and other senior leaders within the firm have had access to organisational coaching, with very positive feedback,' says Lee-Ann Greyling, group learning manager at the Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group.

Tailored support

Ms Greyling says the firm sees  coaching 'as a way to provide tailored support to our staff in their particular lines of business and according to their particular needs. Coaching is a more personal and a longer-term approach, compared to the traditional training models. It can cover anything from business development, entrepreneurial and networking skills, through to devising a personal career plan, working through career challenges, and also addressing ways to achieve some work life balance, for example.'

Coaching extended

Women and junior colleagues will be included in the programme after it was extended. 'Due to the many benefits associated with coaching and the focus on developing and retaining our talent, we recently expanded our coaching offering to include a focus on women and junior colleagues.  To this end, our new Internal Coaching Programme is designed to help our junior lawyers to navigate the corporate environment and demands of the big law firm,' Ms Greyling says.  

She added that whilst  juniors typically join the firm with good technical knowledge,  they may need to develop their soft skills and experience needed for a corporate role. 'This programme works with our lawyers and business service professionals, teaching them the personal mastery and business skills they need as their careers develop. They also learn the skills necessary to be able to climb the corporate ladder in a demanding and often stressful working environment.'

Maternity programme

The firm recently launched a Maternity Coaching Programme involving  six to eight hours of individual and group coaching before, during and after the maternity leave period. 'The benefits of this type of coaching are numerous. Firstly, it has been proven to increase the proportion of women, especially senior women, who return to and pursue their careers post maternity. Secondly, it facilitates a faster and more seamless re-integration into the business and return to full productivity for women who have been on maternity leave. Finally, it helps our female employees navigate through this significant life stage and helps them to decide if, when and on what terms they want to return to work.'

Challenging environment

Commenting on the programme, Alan Keep, managing partner of the Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group said: 'When we hire staff, we look for people who want to be part of a challenging environment that enables them to build rewarding careers. Coaching is one of the tools we provide to help them succeed.'

Lynn Roux, head of Human Resources at the Bowman Gilfillan Africa Group added, 'Our firm offers a supportive culture, allowing our employees the operational freedom to mould their own success. Because the nature of work in law firms is demanding, we are finding that coaching has become an essential way to attract and retain the right people and to ensure their personal career happiness.'

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