Interview Sonja Ewerdt-Schlaak, Judge, Germany

Lawyer Career: Success in the legal profession is no coincidence. Is it always just the result of hard work? Or is it also about doing the right thing at the right time? What is the secret of successful lawyers? What should one pay attention to from the very beginning? Do you really seize every opportunity? And is the decision for a career really a decision against a fulfilled private life? In our series "Success in the legal profession is no coincidence" we present top lawyers and their very personal recipe for success:

Sonja Ewerdt-Schlaak

Supervision for Lawyers: Lawyers are in daily contact with people in difficult and complex living conditions. The people who turn to them are in an exceptional situation, be it due to a serious conflict, a difficult life situation or confrontation with their own misconduct.

The Challenge

Lawyers are in daily contact with people in difficult and complex living conditions. The people who turn to them are in an exceptional situation, be it due to a serious conflict, a difficult life situation or confrontation with their own misconduct.

This is where lawyers come into contact with the shadowy areas of human experience. They think their way into these complex situations in order to arrive at appropriate procedures and decisions.  To do so, they not only have to familiarise themselves with the factual and legal situation in detail, but also consider the consequences of their respective approaches.

This can be difficult or burdensome, for example, if the legally appropriate approach has serious consequences for one or the other party involved or because there is an interest that is particularly worth protecting. Judges also face the problem of how to make the right decision in a factually "correct" manner, but also as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Challenges arise not only from the drama of individual cases, but also from working together as colleagues. While in the area of family law, for example, the burdensome issues, especially with regard to the endangerment of the welfare of the child, can prove difficult, in other contexts dealing with disturbed communication can be problematic. Conversations and negotiations do not always run "smoothly".

Solution Supervision

Supervision is suitable for reflecting anew on these difficult situations in everyday legal life and thus opening up other alternatives for action. It represents a specific contribution to quality assurance and ensures professional development.

In contrast to coaching, personal development is not the main focus.

Rather, it is an ordered and guided form of reflection with the aim of expanding professional action competence. It is explicitly not about evaluating or even judging the procedure in individual cases, but rather about gaining new insights into how to deal with difficult situations and developing modified strategies from them.

Mediation analogues collegial case supervision

The method of mediation-analogue collegial case supervision has emerged as a special form of supervision for lawyers. It is based on the mediation process and its methodological and content-related components. The focus is not on the lawyers in their professional personality, but on the respective case presented by them.

Mediation analogous supervision is

  •     self-determined
  •     future-oriented
  •     open to results
  •     resource-oriented and
  •     oriented according to interests and needs.

The content focus is on case work. The question: "how can I proceed in the concrete case in a goal-oriented way?" is the central issue.

From the hypotheses and options developed by the group, those are determined which the lawyers consider to be helpful for their further procedure in the concrete case. They themselves should choose from the various options and only include those aspects that meet their own interests and needs.

It is not a question of coming to terms with the past. Rather, with the help of the group, the lawyers should be enabled to develop a concrete idea of the best possible further action in the specific case.

The Outlook

Supervision and coaching are essential building blocks for the reflection of professional action. Personal development and career development and the professional examination of case-related issues go hand in hand.

Last but not least some notes about your career path, please:

Sonja Ewerdt-Schlaak, M.M., Certified mediator and supervisor, judge at the local court

I have been working as a judge for over 20 years, since 2015 also as a judge of property. In 2016 I completed the Master's degree in Mediation at the FernUniversität Hagen and completed a university-certified training as a supervisor. I am a volunteer speaker and mediator in the field of refugee assistance and as a supervisor for mediators in schools and conflict navigators in the judiciary.  

My aim is to help people to regain a clear view in difficult situations.

I see mediation and supervision as ways of recognising one's own resources and making use of them in order to be able to act constructively in a future-oriented manner.

In my free time I love long walks with my dog, my husband Dipl. Psych. Volker Schlaak and our two children.

Thank you very much!

(Originally published on 03.10.2018 on the former CLP-Blog JurCoach)



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