A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

A Survival Guide for Legal Practice Managers

Communicating with influence

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

By Richard Lawton and Mary Ferguson, Ignite Coaching Australia

Apparently when Paul Keating was asked to identify the secret of Barak Obama’s success he answered in one word – ‘poise’. The good news is, yes, that poise can be learned, and there are certain techniques that can make a big difference to the influence we cast on the world around us.

Use your voice

Voice is a big part of creating a presence of poise. There are some simple techniques you can use to train your voice to increase depth, size and resonance, and therefore a sense of magnetism: a voice that people want to listen to. How many successful people do you know who have a voice that’s hard to listen to? (for various reasons let’s exclude politicians!)

Learn how to read people

You can also develop your awareness of high and low status body language and of how to ‘read’ people. This doesn’t mean that something has to be put on, in fact, what really works best is authenticity; letting yourself shine through. Often, a significant part of the retraining is about trust; in discovering that the place to start is with who you are right now, and that you have what it takes to come up with the goods.

Stay grounded

Staying grounded under pressure is what it’s all about. Knowing how to breathe fully-down into the belly, that is, the hara/centre of gravity, when in a high stress situation, puts you in touch with the training that makes martial artists succeed, and gives you an aura of calm, centered, unruffled readiness for anything.

Stand tall

If you know how to stand tall, whatever your height, people will be ready to listen to you. Psychology has for years named this the ‘halo effect.’ I’ve found that when I show people how to put an imaginary crown on their head, they discover their inner aristocrat. I watched a petite female lawyer, use this and saw her ‘size’ grow exponentially; she acquired a definite ‘don’t mess with me,’ vibe, that served her well in a predominantly male office. 

Learning how to naturally elongate your spine makes you look more impressive and even possibly younger, because you look like you’re ready for action. 

There is a caveat here; mere posturing will not get you very far

Your best bet is to work with a specialist coach to bring out your authentic strengths. Exploring these physical shifts,will bring to the surface those beliefs that contradict our sense of self worth, and this is where the most valuable form of personal development starts.

Editor's Note

Interested readers can learn more about this topic by viewing the on-demand recording, "Presenting Confidently and Authentically" co-presented by Richard Lawton and Mary Ferguson, from ALPMA's new On-Demand Learning Centre.  This recording is free for ALPMA members and $99 for non-members.

About our Guest Bloggers

Richard LawtonAs a coach and consultant, Richard Lawton has worked with all levels of legal professionals, executive level managers, CEO’s and board directors. Past clients include the Vic & NSW Bar Associations, Lander & Rogers Lawyers, Herbert Geer Commercial Law, NSW Crown Solicitors Dept, VCAT, Esso Exxon Mobil, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Telstra, Australia Post, Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Scott Winton Insurance, Workplace Training & Advisory Australia, Sugar Australia, Bouverie Centre.

Richard’s former life as a theatre director informs his ability to help people master self-expression and performance capacity. 


Mary Ferguson is an IAMA accredited mediator, with senior corporate experience in recruitment and psychology services.  Mary’s clients are senior and mid level managers, lawyers and professional services executives who are stepping up in their careers and require the direction, support and encouragement for lasting change and fulfilment. She works with people who want more confidence, creativity and inspiration in their lives and in their jobs. 

Mary’s professional business qualifications and depth of experience in senior corporate marketing and human resources based roles internationally have led her to the role of executive coach and facilitator. 

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