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Home Featured Stories Things CAN Change Podcast: Episode 1

Things CAN Change Podcast: Episode 1

November 20, 2019

The Law Society’s Coach and Advisor Network (CAN) sat down with Kate Dewhirst (health law lawyer, coach and CAN volunteer) to talk about creativity and the practice of law. She also spoke about her upcoming “Define Success Workshop,” and how she benefited from coaching others and being coached herself.

Register today for the Define Success Workshop (Dec 4, accredited for three Professionalism Hours).

Click here to learn more about CAN Management Coaching.

Music: “On the Verge” by Joseph McDade.


Phil Brown: Hello, I’m Phil Brown. I am counsel with Practice Management Helpline, part of Practice Supports and Resources at the Law Society of Ontario. I’m pleased to host the first episode of CAN’s podcast series Things Can Change, a brand new series showcasing legal professionals who have made transformative changes in their careers, what inspired them, who helped them, and practical tips that have made these changes possible.

For our first episode, we are excited to welcome Kate Dewhirst, Health Law lawyer, coach and CAN volunteer. Welcome to Things Can Change, Kate.

Kate Dewhirst: Thank you so much.

To start off, tell us a bit about your legal practice and how it has changed over time.

Well, I just celebrated my 20th anniversary of practicing law, so things have changed over those 20 years. I started in a large firm in Toronto and I was practicing a variety of different kinds of law. My focus has always been in healthcare, and I was really excited to be able to start off in that kind of an environment.

I have been practiced in-house and I was in-house counsel at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. I was their lawyer for five years. I then started my own business, was on my own for a year, started another firm and we got up to seven lawyers, so I was a partner in a small boutique firm. And then three years ago I went out on my own again and I have another lawyer that has joined me. So, I guess things have changed over time in the practice of law for me.

You’re also an active blogger and social media participant with a focus on the intersection of creativity and law. I’d love to hear more about that.

Yeah, I really over the last three years have been thinking a lot about the practice of law as an art form and how we can introduce the concepts of creativity to get more fun, more impact out of the practice of law. So for myself, I’ve been going to workshops. I went down to Santa Fe, New Mexico this year and met with Julia Cameron, who is known as the grandmother of creativity.

And I’ve been really exploring how to take my practice beyond, you know, just the characters that I put out in my legal opinions on a page, changing up the font, into thinking about how can I really communicate a message to my clients that connects with them, makes change for them, makes them think about their practice more. So that’s really what I’ve been thinking about creativity. And then I take that and share my ideas with lawyers that I coach how to have more fun and impact in their practice.

You’ve been one of our CAN coaches since 2016. What has the experience been like for you?

Oh, I’ve really enjoyed that experience. So, I have coached I think six or seven, maybe a few more, lawyers in particular in the CAN program. And what I love about coaching is it really trains me not to be in advising mode. It really trains me to listen to what people want in their lives, listen to their goals, and then help them get past self-imposed barriers.

So it’s great training for me as a lawyer to be a better listener, to be a more creative participant in conversation. And I’ve seen these lawyers who’ve come forward really wanting to make a change in their practice. So some of the lawyers have come forward embarking on new business ideas and want to have a conversation about how they do that, not having had experience as business owners before.

I have a recent coachee who’s been really looking at expanding her practice. And having a conversation with her has been exciting and rejuvenating for me too, thinking about what I can expand my own practice into being. So it’s a very give-and-take kind of exchange in this coaching relationship.

You’ve talked a bit about the positive aspects. Maybe you can tell us, do you participate in coaching yourself?

I do. I’ve been an active participant in coaching really my whole career. I think at the beginning of my career it was more informal. I had a lot of people who were right there by my side if I had questions or quandaries; that people were willing to help me by asking me really good probing questions about what I wanted and where I wanted to go.

But about I’d say eight or nine years ago I started participating actively in coaching myself, and I attend a program called Strategic Coach. It’s for entrepreneurs of all different kinds of businesses. And so I get actively coached every quarter, and that really makes me think about what it is I want in my life, in my business, how I want to impact the clients that I serve. So I’ve been doing that.

And then, over time I’ve had other coaches as well that I’ve brought in depending on marketing needs. I don’t feel like I’m an excellent marketer, but I’ve really tried to think about how can I change my game, how can I bring in new ideas. And I have found coaching to be a really great way of infusing what I know with other people’s ideas, thoughts, prompts, experiences. So coaching’s been really vital to my own practice and my own business.

You’ll be leading the Define Success workshop on December 4th for us at the Law Society of Ontario. Can you tell us about that program and why lawyers and paralegals would benefit from attending?

Sure. We had so much fun last year. So last year was our inaugural event. And really, people came together in person, and we had a robust community online, talking about what they wanted for their coming year. And I think December is the perfect time of year, it’s a natural time to reflect on what we want for the coming annual, you know, that period of time, one year from now, what do we want to have achieved.

And so, the Define Success program brings together people from all different practices for lawyers and paralegals to talk about what they want to achieve. We come together, we share our ideas. And one of the things that was amazing from last year was, online, people started to support each other in their goals. So, sharing what they wanted to do, thinking about what they could insert in their lives in their practice, and then coming together to talk about what might get in their ways and how to support each other.

So I would highly encourage anybody who’s listening, if you’re thinking about 2020, the year of the visionary, what do you want from your life. And come in to our course and really get concrete about what you want to achieve in 2020.

And then this is the second year of the program. What kinds of changes did the participants discuss last year specifically?

It was a real range of conversation and topics, but it came in all kinds of different headings, like physical changes to their own bodies. People wanted to take up exercising. People really focused on their practice, thinking about doing new marketing initiatives, how were they going to introduce social media into their practice. There were people who wanted to take on new forms of law and expand their practice into an area that they had not before thought of or practiced in. It was, honestly, the full range of ideas and goals that legal professionals can really engage in.

And again, one of the things that was wonderful about coming together was that other people who had had success, or even failures in approaching those goals themselves, were able to contribute to a conversation about how they met their goals, how they overcame disappointments in their own process. And that shared environment was really great in terms of creating community and also a commitment that people can make to something new in the New Year.

One of CAN’s goals is to build connections in the professions. How does the Define Success workshop fit with that?

One of the things that happens when we set a goal is we get stuck in the how. And in this workshop we talk about putting who before how. We talk about building what Oprah calls a kitchen cabinet, a group of people that can support you to build your confidence, to build your connections in a community to reach your goals.

And so that’s one of the things that this workshop does is it talks about how can you use the resources available through CAN, coaches and advisors. How can you find your own mentors and instructors to reach the goals that you define for yourself in your practice?

So the Define Success workshop is really about getting out of the complexity of ‘Oh, I’ve set this goal for myself, how am I going to achieve that’, and thinking through ‘Who can I reach out to? Who can I connect to? Who can I ask about this goal and how I can get there?’ And so I think it’s really vital to the CAN objectives that this workshop allows people to think about broadening their community, broadening their connections in very tangible ways, so that they can meet the goals they set for themselves.

Thanks, Kate, for joining us today. And if people want to find out more about Kate Dewhirst, where do they go?

So I have a website, That’s D-E-W-H-I-R-S-T. Or you can join me online at LinkedIn or Twitter @KateDewhirst.

There is still room to join us for the Define Success workshop on December 4th. If you’re interested, go to the Law Society of Ontario’s website under CPD Programs. The Define Success workshop has been accredited for three hours of professionalism.

Thank you so much. Hope to see you there!

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