Interview: Dr. Geertje Tutschka, PCC - Legal Coaching Trainer & Leadership Coach @ CLP

The CLP - Interview series goes into the second round: After the successful prelude with over ten experts from the legal industry, who have betrayed their very personal success tips for a successful legal career, this time ten lawyers will have their say, who coach - legal coaches, who for very different reasons have acquired additional competences with a professional coaching training.

CLP has interviewed these legal coaches in very different positions about what motivated them and how coaching has significantly influenced their professional careers.

Dr. Tutschka, may we ask you to briefly introduce yourself?

I have been a lawyer in Germany, Austria and the USA for 25 years - my motivation from the very beginning was to understand the "legal business". Therefore, I first completed several "apprenticeship years" in very different fields in order to gain the necessary experience and an overview.

But it actually started much earlier: With the unification treaty between two German states - I wondered how one could manage to influence so many people's lives at once. With an excellent A-levels in my pocket and a university place blocked for political reasons, I was just struggling through as a musician - when my world turned upside down.

Today, as a CLP speaker, I am a specialist in the fields of "Leadership", "Law Firm Development" and "Legal Coaching" as well as an internationally sought-after keynote speaker and author. The FAZ, Haufe.Recht and the Legal Business World have just quoted me on this topic. At the beginning of the year I was in London for the "Women in Law" Netherlands, I am currently supporting the Institute for Corporate Lawyers and Legal Departments (diruj) in their digital formats and will of course be present at the DAV's virtual lawyers' day in June on the subject of "The Law Firm as a Company". We are a long-standing partner of "Women in Law" in Vienna and "Vienna Legal Tech" as well as of the Competence Center of the University of Luxembourg.

Actually, however, since then I have only been a survivor - just like you.

#1 When did you first become involved in coaching and why? Did you get to know coaching as a client?

Before becoming self-employed, I deliberately allowed myself several years of "experience" in many different areas of law: For a few years I also worked in corporate law departments - here mainly in the automotive industry. When the crisis in the automotive industry caused a stir in the industry, we were expatriated as a family of five - my husband was also working as a corporate lawyer for an automotive supplier at the time - to Detroit, virtually in the eye of the hurricane. And it was really spooky and unreal back then. Perhaps some of you are familiar with the decaying industrial buildings of Mo-Town. When we arrived there with our children, we were at the arrival terminal of this metropolis of millions, almost alone while the departure terminal was completely overcrowded and chaotic. Automotive expats from all over the world were sent home in droves, and American workers who still had hope for a job elsewhere left Michigan.

The city was notorious for its race riots and had just made it to number one in the crime statistics. At night, homes in the settlements burned down to collect insurance. Downtown, one in two elementary school children had seen a murder. We were accosted on the open street about why we were driving Volkswagen - even though as a foreigner you had huge problems to lease any car at all (despite all the security you offered) and only VW had a special program for expats.

We lived out of suitcases and expected to have to leave the country within hours every day. Against this background, my own job search turned out differently than I had planned: a German lawyer was not needed there - whether paid or unpaid. It was very interesting to experience this "shut-down" of a branch/a metropolis as a lawyer.

At the same time, however, I had the feeling that I lacked an understanding of the "big picture". And for myself and as a mum, it naturally required an incredible amount of ego management effort to be "the rock in the surf" here - a little comparable perhaps to the Corona lock-down we just experienced.

In this situation, I was looking for professional support in addition to my great international expat community, and through a German-American network I found coaching through intercultural training. The coaching helped me to (re)find myself in this "eye of the hurricane".

Just this much: My coach was a German philosopher and after 40 years I realized that I am a synesthet and therefore belong to a minority. The film AVATAR brought it to the point for me in 2009 with "I see you".

This was so fascinating for me that I later completed a coaching training in the USA. This was a privilege - because coaching in the original American context, in the country where I was born, helps me today to come to terms with the facets of the German-speaking culture, where psychology and communication science claim a large share of the profession of coach.

#2 What was it that particularly fascinated you? What do you see as the added value of coaching for lawyers in particular?

I was fascinated by this humility: humility before the life decisions of others. As a lawyer, I had never experienced this before: After all, I had been paid for years to explain to others how they should shape their lives.

But I was also fascinated to finally see the invisible structures and processes in human interaction - be it in communication, be it in economic relationships, be it in the social "system" - to recognize and understand the "why".

Only then was it possible for me as a lawyer to argue in a solution-focused, effective and at the same time appreciative way.

#3 How do you use coaching today in your professional and/or private situation? In your experience, how and to what extent is coaching used by lawyers today?

My own coaching training was the beginning of a wonderful journey - and I think that is the case with every good coaching training.

My clients today appreciate that I ask "the right questions". Unsatisfied clients are practically a thing of the past.

Privately, as the mother of three cosmopolitan and communicative teenagers, I benefit immensely from my professional ego management. I have the feeling that I understand why certain struggles are important and I have to face them and when it is simply not necessary. This gives me room to make decisions and gives me composure.

For years I have also been involved in the largest professional association of professional coaches worldwide and since then I have been committed to quality and ethics in professional coaching, which is measured and monitored according to international standards. After my time as President of the German Chapter of the ICF and delegate in the Round Table Coaching (RTC) of the 17 largest professional associations for coaches in the German-speaking world, I established the two-day annual congress Coaching Day and the presentation of the Prism Award for outstanding coaching services in companies that have significantly shaped the corporate and leadership culture. Since then, I have also stood for coaching to the highest standards, both as a person and with my name. As a Professional Certified Coach (PCC) I am subject to ongoing quality control.

But above all: When I co-founded "CLP - Consulting for legal professionals" in 2012, I believed in the idea of a "better lawyer": I myself am a passionate lawyer. But the professional perspectives and structures were always somehow imperfect for me. To use professional coaching for career and law firm development - as I had got to know it in the USA especially for lawyers - was only logical and consistent for me.

In 2012 we were the first in Europe to offer this specifically for lawyers. Until then, lawyers in German-speaking countries did not know what coaching was and the few coaches who sometimes "coached a few lawyers" had successfully burnt their fingers. Unfortunately they had burned large parts of the industry for the topic "coaching", because coaching of lawyers is simply a special challenge: 08/15 coaches with strong communication skills and analytical perfection had been shredded by lawyers in rows and sent back to the sender. Lawyers now believed that coaching was "not for them" and these coaches promptly gave the industry a blanket statement that they were not "coachable".

CLP offered the chance to heal this false start and make a decisive contribution. When I was allowed to take over the leadership of the CLP-Academy and to establish the Legal Coaching Training Program, my heart's desire came true.

#4 Your personal tip for success:

"Choose your Battles!" - this was the answer I got from a clever dear friend, mother of four boys and in the third posting in Shanghai in the middle of the smok-lockdown in this minor hole 2015, when I asked her in her house how she could stand it (to have all four athletically active offspring between 3 and 10 years locked up for days and weeks): "You decide which fights you want to fight" - wisely said and I would like to add: "You decide which fights you strategically win"! - Everything else is mere survival.

Thank you very much.

Read the entire series of interviews including the first round here. 

Get to know another ten legal coaches from the international environment. 

Click here for the CLP Academy's legal coaching training.



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