Interested in starting your own journey in legal counseling but unsure what to expect? Then read up on our interview with Jo-Anne Stark, President of Legal Coaches Association, located in Vancouver, BC, Canada.
What's your organization, and who are your members?
I promote legal coaching as an affordable alternative for everyday people who have everyday legal problems. Most people cannot afford to hire a lawyer - but they can afford to hire a legal professional who can work with them on a regular basis to help them navigate their legal journey. My work in legal coaching led me to establish the Legal Coaches Association and to develop the Certified Legal Coach training program - a professional development offering that helps to train other lawyers and paralegals to offer legal coaching services to the middle class.
Tell us about yourself
I've been a lawyer for 30 years, and I've also been a legal client myself. Having gone through a protracted divorce that lasted over a decade, I knew that there had to be a better way to offer legal services to the middle class - one that would allow the client to remain in full control of their legal matter AND their budget. The access to justice problem in North America has left 60 to 80% of litigants forced to represent themselves in disputes - and I found that to be unacceptable. I developed legal coaching as an innovative method to provide convenient services to clients who are prepared to work on their own cases but with a qualified coach in the background guiding them through the process. What motivates me each day? The opportunity to share this expertise and knowledge with innovative lawyers and paralegals so that legal coaching can be offered broadly to the public.
What's your biggest accomplishment as an organization?
I tested legal coaching and launched the first all-virtual, all-coaching law firm back in 2019 - and within a year, I was giving presentations to legal professionals about the business platform, published a guidebook called Mastering the Art of Legal Coaching, founded the non-profit Legal Coaches Association and developed the certification program to train other lawyers and paralegals on how to run effective coaching practices. Developing an entirely new system of offering legal services to the public was initially criticized by the old establishment as being "disruptive" as it goes against the traditional practice of law. However, I strongly believe that legal professionals are here to serve the public - which means we need to listen to what clients really want and provide them with that service using a method that is convenient and set at a price that is affordable. It's been my passion for years, and it is immensely satisfying to hear from so many people who are finally able to find the legal help that they need. Accomplishing all this in the first 18 months of the pandemic was difficult - but in the end, I was able to hit all my targets and grow the network of legal coaches in Canada and internationally.
What's one of the hardest things that come with being an organization?
Probably one of the most difficult challenges is being part of a profession that resists change. We need to change our practice, or we will continue to see barriers to access to justice. This requires challenging the status quo - and questioning unreasonable standards and rules that create barriers to legal professionals. Hearing from grateful clients makes this all worth the effort.
What are the top tips you'd give to anyone looking to start, run and grow an organization today?
- Make a plan, and then start. Don't wait for conditions to be perfect; just commit to taking the first step.
- Don't listen to people who will attempt to beat you down or tell you that you can't do this. Align yourself with winners who are out there, making things happen!
- Make sure that the business is something you are passionate about
if it isn't, you may find that the long hours and financial commitment to get up and running are too much to manage.
Where can people find you and your group?
If you like what you've read here and have your own story as a solo or small business entrepreneur that you'd like to share, then please answer these interview questions. We'd love to feature your journey on these pages.
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