Kim Parker-Career crossroads support coach
I was admitted as a solicitor in 1987 and 22 years later, after a varied career in private practice (primarily as a commercial property specialist), I faced redundancy at the height of the recession in the UK.
As there were no other property positions available, I re-trained as an executive and personal performance coach while doing some part time legal consultancy work on a freelance basis. I now run my own practice as a private coach/mentor to lawyers and other professionals at a career crossroads who want support when planning their future direction.
Where did you start out in law?
After graduating from Cambridge and somehow managing to get through the Law Society Finals Exams, I trained as a solicitor in the City of London back in the days when we were known as ‘articled clerks’. No one had mobile phones and the only piece of technology on my desk was a dinosaur of a dictating machine!
Why did you decide to be a lawyer?
I had always been fascinated by the law at school and in my mind there was no question that I would do anything other than practise as a solicitor after my law degree. It’s funny, because I can remember having a desire to ‘help real people’. I thought I would happily get a job in a small high street firm handling family and housing law. Destiny, however, had other ideas when I was offered articles in a medium-sized commercial firm in the City of London!
How would you describe your ambitions to help other legal professionals?
Many dissatisfied professionals don’t wake up to the reality of their situation until they are almost at rock bottom. There’s a lovely story about a little boy who was caught tossing oysters back into the ocean after they had become washed up on the beach. A man approached and asked what he was doing. The little boy replied “I am saving these oysters’ lives”. The man looked around at the myriad oysters on the sand and belittled the boy saying “Don’t you see, you can’t possibly make a difference, there are thousands of oysters on the beach!” The boy simply bent down, picked up another oyster and as he threw it into the sea, replied “I made a difference to this one”. My mission is to start making a difference in people’s lives before it’s too late! So far this has been mainly with exclusive private one to one coaching.
My ultimate vision is a profession in which every moving part is honoured and involved. A profession which facilitates people to flourish as they contribute. Firms which form an intrinsic and valuable part of the local and global community, working with the people and for the people. In so doing, they are driven not primarily by profits but by service. And happily the natural consequence is that in so serving they generate wealth in all its forms for both themselves and the people they serve. I mean not only financial wealth but also abundance of wellbeing and harmony in the community. My vision also includes the employees at each firm being fully engaged with the firm’s own vision and mission, so that everyone is willingly pulling together as a team and recognition flows freely. Furthermore, that as every individual takes personal responsibility for his or her own experience, they discover the liberation that will ensue. In short, ‘happy lawyers’!
Tell us about the business you run now, and how and why you got involved and what you want to achieve?
As I arrived at a networking meeting soon after I launched my coaching practice, a partner of a local law firm stepped forward, guffawed loudly and exclaimed “ah, it’s the lady who thinks she can make lawyers happy!” Proof, if any were needed, that I was on the right track.
Having had first-hand experience of the highs and lows of legal practice myself, and receiving very positive feedback after coaching and mentoring dozens of grateful professionals, my conviction in the power and value of my work as a coach is strong. My vision as stated above encapsulates quite well the ‘how’, the ‘why’ and the ‘what’.
In terms of the specific work I do, it’s never about what I want to achieve, nor about what I think my clients should want to achieve. It is about helping them get in touch with what they themselves truly want out of life and their career, making a plan to achieve that, and supporting them through the process. Here are some real examples of lawyers I have worked with:
Take S, for example, a young solicitor. He gradually became aware that he no longer wanted to be a lawyer at all and that it was ok to feel that way. He has decided to start training as a teacher.
R, on the other hand, a solicitor who had been practising for almost 30 years, was deeply dissatisfied in his job. However, he decided that he wanted to stay happily in the same job but to break the vicious circle of long hours, insufficient sleep and inefficiency which had been leading to longer hours, less sleep and even greater inefficiency. He achieved exactly that after just a few sessions.
And C, a highly competent solicitor of over 20 years PQE, was paralysed at the thought of working full time for a large international practice after her four children had grown old enough to fend for themselves. So she continued to work part time as a legal consultant and then launched her own thriving music promotion business not long after starting to work with me. She wrote to me a few months later, totally delighted that she had been approached out of the blue with a great job offer that ticked all her boxes.
People sometimes ask me when or if I will go back into legal practice. I used to reserve my position, ‘just in case’. But now, I am clear that my role in supporting professionals is the right path for me to be on at this stage in my life. You can read my own story here… http://www.kim-parker.com
What else do you do in your spare time to relax?
I have a number of hobbies, some of which I don’t give as much time to as I would like – I will take up tennis and salsa dancing in earnest again one of these days! One of my favourite spare time pursuits is being out in nature – that really makes me come alive. I am very fortunate to live in a semi-rural area and I love taking a stroll along the river or blackberry picking, for example. I could also spend hours at home with a pencil or paintbrush in my hand, or outdoors with a camera round my neck.
What is your idea of a perfect day?
My ideal day is more about intangibles than what I’m actually doing. My day is likely to feel pretty perfect if it is sprinkled with love, sunshine, warmth, good company, laughter and being out in nature. Sadly my cat has recently died, but until then no day would have been purrfect without a purr from her too.
What is the best experience you have had in life so far?
Wow, it’s impossible to narrow it down to just one! I’ve travelled extensively, and this has enriched my life so much. There were so many highlights, but these are just a few examples: skydiving over Lake Taupo in New Zealand for the broadest and longest-lasting grin I’ve ever had; walking round the Jokhang Temple in Lhasa, Tibet for the most magical connection I experienced with Tibetan pilgrims; living with the natives on Siberut Island, Sumatra was a deeply humbling experience that reinforced how simplicity of living can paradoxically bring the truest abundance; being so mesmerised by the beauty of the Taj Mahal in India that I stayed from dawn to sundown soaking up the atmosphere and sketching the ornate marble inlay work; trekking to Annapurna base camp from Pokhara, Nepal for the resilience and sense of achievement it fostered within me. How’s that for starters…?!
Do you feel having a good work-life balance affects/improves your performance at work?
The only answer to this of course is a resounding ‘yes!’. But the question arises, what is ‘good’ work-life balance? I have heard it argued that there is no such thing as work-life balance, because it is all ‘life’, of which work is a part. It is a difficult quantity to measure. In my experience, the reality is that the way the scales need to tip for one person may be very different from how they tip for another, neither of which are objectively wrong.
Do you promote a good work-life balance?
Subject to what I said above, yes of course I do. The important question is what works for YOU. There have been times in my life when I have worked extremely hard and long, but because I have been passionate about the work or deeply engrossed in it, it didn’t feel like work at all. Lack of ‘balance’ tends to occur when the passion has faded or there are competing demands on one’s time and energy that lead to feelings of angst or other pressures (such as relationship pressures), or when the driving force to work long hours is sustained for so long without any attention being paid to personal needs that one reaches burnout (and yes, I’ve been there too). Burnout is not pretty, prevention is most definitely better than cure, not only for you but also for those around you.
Lifestyles4Lawyers is all about recommending new things to other lawyers, do you have one recommendation to make (i.e. to try out a certain restaurant, a certain place to go on holiday, a new way of working etc)
The biggest mistake I once made was to believe that my work was more important than looking after myself and my family. My top recommendation is always to put yourself first. This does not mean you are displaying lack of commitment to your work. On the contrary, you will have more energy and more motivation to succeed. One of the simplest ways to start putting yourself first is to make sure you get adequate sleep, take time to eat healthily and regularly, and always engage in at least 15 minutes of exercise a day. At first you might ask yourself “How could I possibly fit that into my busy life?!” Well, that is just an excuse! Instead, ask yourself an empowering question such as “How is it possible that I can fit that into my schedule?” Then allow your mind to come up with a solution.
‘Success coach for professionals’