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Lawyers, Lawyering, and Law Coaching

Charlotte Lawyer and Master Coach Chris Connelly joins Law Talk with Bill Powers to discuss reviewing your law practice, life, and profession during the Coronavirus Outbreak.

Speaker 1: You're listening to Law Talk with Bill Powers, your resource for answers to your most pressing legal questions. Attorney Bill Powers sits down with some of today's leading legal minds to discuss everything from legal issues and legislation to practice tips and policy. Now here's your host, an NBTA board certified criminal law specialist, former president of the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and renowned trial lawyer, Bill Powers.

Bill Powers: Hello and thank you once again for listening to our podcast, Law Talk with Bill Powers. We've recently increased the number of podcast listening options available to you. We're available now on Spotify, Stitcher, Libsyn, Apple podcasts, radio.com, Google podcast, and iHeartRadio. If you have topics of interest or suggestions for guests, please feel free to email or call us at (704) 342-HELP. That's (704) 342-4357. And if you enjoy our humble little educational podcast, we'd really appreciate it if you tell your friends and family to google Law Talk with Bill Powers.

Bill Powers: In discussing developing trends in the law and topics of interest, our continued goal on Law Talk is to provide helpful information about the practice of law in North Carolina, our courts, and of course our court system as well as the thoughts and policies behind those laws. To say things have changed during the Coronavirus would be an understatement. The question is, will things ever return to normal, whatever that now means? We are now on the front end of historic and unprecedented times, civically in our courts and professionally as attorneys engaged in the practice and the business of law.

Bill Powers: While these times can be unsettling, if not downright disturbing, there are some positives. There exists opportunities to change, to develop, and to grow both personally and professionally. This morning, our guest is Charlotte attorney Chris Connelly, my longtime friend and fellow advocate for justice. Good morning, Chris. Chris Connelly: Good morning, Bill.

Bill Powers: Glad to have you.

Chris Connelly: Glad to be here. How are you doing?

Bill Powers: I'm well. I'm well. Chris, thank you so much for graciously joining us. I appreciate your willingness to share 30 plus years of your institutional knowledge and learning. It's frankly invaluable. The older I get and the longer I practice law, the more I appreciate the insights and experiences of other attorneys. We all have room to grow professionally. If you are not developing and growing, I personally believe you lose relevance. Law is one profession that you can continue to work well into old age. That is if you have the fire and the passion, and that the both still exist.

Bill Powers: I personally firmly believe whatever you do as an attorney, it not should be, but must be predicated on an overwhelming desire to help people. Chris Connelly is a lawyer's lawyer in my mind. He possesses decades of practical legal experience, gathered from years of running a busy litigation law practice and occasionally duking it out in court.

Bill Powers: Chris's office is in Mecklenburg County in Charlotte. He focuses on criminal defense legal issues. In fact, he is a recognized specialist in the state of North Carolina for North Carolina state criminal defense by the North Carolina State Bar. I first met Chris when he was an assistant public defender. Chris opened his own private practice in 1997 and he is a stalwart advocate practicing in Mecklenburg County courthouse. Both separately and collectively we have seen a lot of water go under the proverbial bridge in court. We together have seen Charlotte grow and change. We've seen a lot of lawyers and judges and prosecutors and police officers and political agendas come and go.

Bill Powers: Through it all, in my humble opinion, Chris has always been dedicated to helping and developing fellow practitioners. That is lawyers. Lately, relatively speaking, he has begun sharing his insights with attorneys by professional law coaching through an organization he founded called Chris Connelly Coaching.

Bill Powers: Frankly, I think Connelly Coaching is a natural fit and transition for Chris. For years Chris has always generously shared his experiences and knowledge with others. I've always enjoyed talking to him about his perspectives. Chris Connelly holds a certification as a master level coach. Going into his third decade of professional life, Chris is now branching out into coaching and consulting with other professionals, small business owners, and entrepreneurs. Having learned a lot of things the hard way I assume, he is focusing on what he knows best. Work life balance, career transition, staff retention, and business development. Chris, did I get it mostly right?

Chris Connelly: You got it exactly right.

Bill Powers: Great, great. Well jumping right in and preparing for this podcast, I like to do a little research on people, and even though I've known you forever, something that really stood out to me that I think is really interesting is the fact that you took a step back. You took a professional sabbatical. Tell me about that.

Chris Connelly: I did that back four years ago, summer of 2016, and I took off three months. It was the best thing that I could have ever done at that time. As a matter of fact, I wish I'd done it a whole lot earlier. I got to do everything I ever wanted to do. I got to travel, I got to go wherever I wanted to do, whenever I wanted to do. I took some vacation time where I just kind of stayed at home and watched everybody else go to work. I took the boys to some hiking, did some horse back riding, slept in, took some naps, read some books, got to drink a couple of beers at lunchtime, which is not something we ordinarily get to do in our line of work. And did a lot of travel and also did a lot of professional development too.

Chris Connelly: I would say it was one of the seminal events of my professional career. It came about, I would say it was an evolution. And I think there's never any one point where you say like, this is when it happened. Although there's a series of way stations, I have a family history of cardio issues and we went to see the cardiologist and he said that, "You've got a lot of stuff going on there." And as a matter of fact he sat there in front of my wife and said, "You got what's called the widowmaker." And I said, "Okay, well that's the wake up call." And I would say that was probably one of the turning points that got me thinking, okay, there's got to be something more than the go, go, go of what we do.

Chris Connelly: Between that and some coaching I got, I said I've really got to take a step back because we're on a treadmill. Kind of like a hamster wheel that you just can't stop. When you're not working, you're thinking about work. And a therapist friend of ours recommended that I take a sabbatical and it seemed like a stunning idea. Like, okay, just step back. I thought only college professors can do that. But I realized in thinking about, it was just the perfect idea, the perfect solution. I didn't want to stop working. I just wanted to hit the pause button for a while. So that's how it all started out. It was amazing. I'd recommend it to everybody.

Bill Powers: Wow, that is amazing Chris, and you said a bunch of different really good things. I want to unpack it a little bit. I don't know quite where to start. Let's back it up a little bit because you said several things that got you there, but one of the most important things you said in my mind was that you yourself had met with some sort of counselor or something and that's okay. That's not only okay, it's a good idea for what we do as lawyers is to talk to other people.

Bill Powers: Sometimes we ... At least I can be a bit insular inside and be in my own cone of silence or bubble, whatever you want to call it. So in the counseling aspect of things, was that part of the heart condition or was that separate? As you feel comfortable answering. I don't want to put you in too much on the spot here.

Chris Connelly: It's just part of a professional development and personal development that we seek experts. So we see a counselor and it's good to have... It's like getting a tuneup. You talk to a counselor, you say what's working, what's not working. I also had a coach to guide me through the process. And it's something that I think healthy people do to stay healthy.

Bill Powers: Well, I think it's awesome. I love the term tuneup. I think it's ... Maybe as you get older you realize that it's okay to ask for help. It's okay to reach out to other professionals. As lawyers we tend to always provide answers and guidance and reassurance and maybe sometimes in order to do that, as I like to say, physician heal thyself. It's okay to go talk to somebody. It's not a weakness in character. It's not a weakness in personality or a flaw. Right?

Chris Connelly: No, I think our profession is one that proposes to value being tough and being invulnerable. And I think that that's unrealistic. I think we've got to get out there and say, "Hey, I've got to talk with somebody." Just like our clients have to talk to us as experts, we have to talk to other people as experts. We don't have all the answers. We've got to turn to other people and ask for help.

Bill Powers: Yes, that's very true. In fact, I mentioned in the intro we talked about, I mean you and I grew up together in Charlotte. And we've seen ... At least I remember seeing ... I call them flame outs, where I see a really, really good lawyer really knocking them dead and then all of a sudden they've flamed out. Everything just cut off. They're going at mach three and then things happen.

Bill Powers: In our profession ... And they did a study on this recently. It was within two or three years recently. The numbers are not encouraging. Things are not getting better in the mental health, substance abuse aspect of lawyers. So kudos for doing that, and thank you for sharing it. I didn't know that. That's really amazing. Thank you.

Part 2 >>

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