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Baker & McKenzie Gets Spiritual

Vivia Chen

September 12, 2011

NewAge Think your firm is pretty spiffy because it's got a resident coach to help you navigate your career? Big deal.

Career coaches, talent managers, professional development experts, den mothers--whatever you want to call them--have become ubiquitous at big firms these days. More or less, they do the same things--help you set priorities, polish your skills, teach you a bit about business development, and set you on your merry way.

But how many firms offer all that plus hypnosis and New Age therapy? Well, that's all part of the package at Baker & McKenzie's Tokyo office. It's hired John Yoon, a self-help guru, to be its on-site professional development manager.

A former Paul Weiss and Shearman & Sterling associate, Yoon was hired to help Japanese associates at Baker & McKenzie sharpen their legal skills and improve their English, and to generally guide their career, reports Anthony Lin in The Asian Lawyer. But Yoon is equipped to offer so much more, says Lin:

For associates who really need a confidence boost, Yoon digs a little deeper into his motivational toolbox. He is a big believer in neuro-linguistic programming, a New Age therapy often associated with [Tony] Robbins that uses hypnosis and other methods to “re-program” the mind and remove blocks to mental progress.

I'm not sure how often Yoon gets to practice his art, but I don't think I'd want to be hypnotized or "reprogrammed" by anyone affiliated by my employer. It sounds scary--a bit too Brave New World for my taste.

I'd be the first to admit, though, I'm not a good candidate for this sort of thing. I don't get motivated by motivation speakers or pepped up by pep rallies.

But perhaps I'm just not giving it a chance. Maybe all that motivation indoctrination is exactly what young lawyers need to get them into the groove of practice. Perhaps if I had been properly hypnotized when I was an associate, I'd be happily marking up asset purchase agreements right now. I'd be a productive member of the profession, I'd make my parents proud, and I'd certainly be making a lot more money.

What do you think--is it a good thing for firms to get touchy-feely? Or should they stay out of that space?

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Maybe all that motivation indoctrination is exactly what young lawyers need to get them into the groove of practice.

While I think that professional development programs can be beneficial to both the firm and employees, the firm must also tread very lightly and carefully when introducing "spirituality" into its business. Doing so could result in claims of hostile work environment if employees feel coerced into adopting practices that contradict their particular religious faith

Law firms should include employee development programs...what the program includes should be left up to the firm...if productivity can be enhanced, include the program...on. an app. for the smartphone..podcast..etc.

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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