Welcome to my occasional series of posts of excerpts from my book, Successful Innovation Outcomes in Law: A Practical Guide for Law Firms, Law Departments and Other Legal Organizations. The book is available in paperback and on Kindle on Amazon.

In this chapter, I focus on the importance of coaching and mentoring and highlight some of my learnings from my work with coaches at various points in my careers. Money spent on good coaching can bring an enormous return on investment.

The takeaway lesson from this chapter is a strong one:

Consider building the requirement for coaching for yourself into your job.

Coaching and Mentoring

At some point, probably sooner rather than later, you will realize that creating and running an innovation program is a very big job. It will also be one that increasingly pulls you away from what you like best (innovating and creating) and fills your time with activities you didn’t expect (meetings, sales efforts, political infighting, sorting mixed priorities, scheduling, hiring, replacing key team members who leave for other opportunities, approving expense reports, even more meetings, and so much more).

In the last chapter, I talked about getting help. In this chapter, I want to focus on two related, but different, forms of help: mentoring and coaching.


Mentoring can mean many things, but to me, mentoring is finding the wise guide (your Yoda) who helps you, listens to your questions, makes subtle suggestions, asks you hard questions, points you gently in the right direction, and always sees the bigger picture that you cannot. Many mentor relationships last a lifetime.

Unfortunately, you can’t just run out to the mentor store and buy a mentor off a shelf. Typically, a mentor relationship is something that you recognize rather than go out and find. And, often, it is the mentor who finds you. I love the quote, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears.”

In other words, you probably should not request a mentor in the list that you make before you accept the role. However, if you push hard for an executive sponsor, you greatly enhance the chances that that person will become a mentor for you, or introduce you to someone who becomes a mentor. But there is no guarantee.

More than likely, you will find mentors in the larger innovation community, in the people in your organization with whom you do great work, or in the clients you work with. That’s why it’s so important to participant in innovation organizations, attend conferences, and, yes, participate in social media. One of the great things today is that you might find a mentor anywhere in the world.


Coaching should be thought of a limited period of targeted assistance for which you pay for the service. Coaching is different from mentoring, but you might get similar results in some areas.
There are coaches of every kind these days, from life coaches to personal trainers, but I haven’t yet seen the rise of innovation coaches. Yet. In some cases, coaches have certification organizations or standard approaches and techniques.

Coaches tend to address specific needs or weaknesses. For example, if you are not experienced or comfortable speaking in public, you might get a speaking or presentation coach to help you reach a desired level of competence. This is another instance where it makes sense to build coaching into your budget request.

How do you find the right coach? I’ve personally had great success with two different coaches. I found each of them in a different way. Nothing about those finding processes is helping me find a new coach. It’s largely going to be a case of defining what you want, finding someone who matches that description, and determining whether there is a “fit.”

That said, it would be unfair of me to end there. Here are some of my suggestions.

  1. Look for executive or business coaches as opposed to career coaches (who excel in helping you find a job that fits you) or life coaches.
  2. Look for someone who works with entrepreneurs, startup executives, or creative professionals as the majority of their clientele.
  3. Look for someone who has experience working with lawyers and others in the legal industry.
  4. Look for someone who gives you “homework” and holds you responsible for completing it.

PRO TIP: If you’ve ever worked with a coach, you already understand how helpful they can be. Consider building the requirement for coaching for yourself into your job.

If you like this sample chapter, you will love the book.

If you make or are involved in leadership decisions for law department innovation, check out my Legal Innovation as a Service officerings – pre-scoped, flat-fee just-in-time, just-enough assistance for law department innovation leaders.

[Originally posted on DennisKennedy.Blog (https://www.denniskennedy.com/blog/)]

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