Legal Coaching has many benefits.
One of the difficulties affecting many, perhaps most, people going through a family court proceeding on their own is in realizing that it’s not all about them. There are many players in a family law case. There’s the self-rep, the other party, possibly the children and a social service agency, perhaps a lawyer for the other party, friends and family giving “advice”, and, of course, the judge.
It’s critical for each self-rep to understand how they fit into the overall scenario, how what they say and do, and how they present the issues and facts, affects the way their case is seen.
Without being aware of how everyone else in the matter sees their role, the self-rep could make critical mistakes in the presentation of their case.
Just because a client feels this or that is fair or reasonable, and just because they think the judge should know this or that, doesn’t make it so – or mean they’re right. Helping people in court understand where they fit into the facts available, and to understand how what the others are saying is impacting the matter, will help them become more clear about their situation and more effective in advancing it.
Often the gulf between what a self-rep wants out of the process and what is realistically available is large. The self-rep sees matters from their own perspective and may be unaware of how the judge will see the same facts.
Good coaching can help a self-rep better understand the situation they’re in and the reasonable outcomes they can expect. This helps a person in court set meaningful and realizable goals.
Better goal-setting allows for a more effective presentation because facts and arguments that are irrelevant or pointless won’t get in the way of those that help a judge make the decision. Like barnacles on a ship’s hull, making the wrong arguments and trying to establish irrelevant facts, interferes with the smooth sailing towards the self-rep’s objective.
The more realistic and practical we are at setting our goals, especially in family court, the more likely we are to achieve them.
Enhanced communications skills
Good family law lawyers are good communicators. We need to communicate with our clients, the other party, other lawyers, witnesses, experts, and judges. Sometimes different skills are required for communicating with different people. We make a living by communicating persuasively.
Knowing how to communicate in different situations isn’t a skill set required for all jobs and for all people. Even the smartest and most successful people may not be good communicators. That’s why major companies and agencies have a “spokesperson” to communicate to the public. That’s why they hire an advertising agency – to communicate with the public.
It’s fair to say that most self-reps in family court haven’t developed, or even had to use, this sort of skill. They know their case and the facts, but they may have trouble organizing them or telling the story in a logical or persuasive way. Or they may be embarrassed to speak in public or get so tongue-tied that they forget to say what’s most important.
But coaching from an experienced lawyer, who understands the situation the self-rep is facing, can help the person acting for themselves communicate in a meaningful and effective way.
Coaching doesn’t turn a person into a great orator, but it helps remove the roadblocks to being persuasive and enhances whatever ability the person has so they can better tell their story.
All of the above leads towards greater self-confidence. Each self-rep naturally becomes more confident once they better understand their goals and have their material and arguments better organized. Most self-reps feel better about their case when they see what pieces of their story best advance their interest and how to counter what doesn’t, and when they understand when each party speaks and how to deal with the judge.
Rosabeth Moss Kantor, a professor of business at the Harvard Business School, summarized this by saying: “Confidence isn’t optimism or pessimism, and it’s not a character attribute. It’s the expectation of a positive outcome.” A good coach can help the client define and move toward their “positive outcome”.
Lower stress levels
Lastly, but far from least, a good coach helps reduce the stress level of the self-rep. The self-rep’s stress and fear about the outcome is reduced once they have a realistic sense of self awareness, realizable goals, improved communication skills, and confidence in being able to present their case as effectively as they’re able.