Ex-City lawyer training coaches

Anna Margolis trained at Herbert Smith and worked as an employment lawyer for two American firms, including a stint living and working in Los Angeles.  While in the USA she trained as a professional coach and, being so struck by the quality of the training she received, she has now brought the same coach training course to London.  She is passionate about the benefits of coaching and sees coaching as the ideal career for City workers wishing to transition into a financially viable, flexible and credible profession.…


mtl:  Hi Anna, please can you start with your legal career.


Anna:  After reading one too many John Grisham books when I was younger, I set my sights on training at Herbert Smith as I wanted to give myself the best litigation training available; Herbies was London’s top litigation firm at the time.  I trained there but, wanting a more hands on and varied career (that also paid more), I left on qualification to do employment law at American firm Morgan Lewis.  As I was joining a small department that was looking to grow, I was able to do a lot of business development and implement new initiatives, which was a lot more fun than being part of the classic Magic Circle face-time culture. I really enjoyed it. 


After two years there I was headhunted to join another American firm, Seyfarth Shaw, which was planning to open an office in London.  The role involved spending time in the USA to get to know the firm and how it operated before moving back to London. I worked in the LA office, where I specialised in international labour law. 


mtl:  Why and how did you become a coach?




Career timeline


1999 – 2002

History, Birmingham University


2002 – 2003

PgDL, College of Law


2003- 2004



2005 – 2007

Trainee, Herbert Smith


2007 – 2009

Employment assistant, Morgan



2009 – 2011

International labour law, Seyfarth

Shaw, LA



Coaching qualification, iPEC, LA and

working as a coach



Moved back to London to run iPEC



Anna:  From fairly early on I didn’t see a long-term career for myself in law. I was bringing in a lot of business even in the junior stage of my career and while the firms I worked for were impressed by my efforts, the typical hierarchical structure in the law didn’t allow for them to recognise it in any tangible way. I wasn’t prepared to wait around for another six+ years to make partner.


I also found the system of billing in law firms inefficient and frustrating.  It didn’t make sense to me that inefficient people were rewarded because they billed a lot of hours.


Being an international labour lawyer also meant that for a long time a large proportion of my work was concerned with making people redundant around the world, which takes its toll after a while. While I’d always dreamt of working in the US (due to John Grisham!) and would have liked to find a way to stay there, my job in LA was very tough because I was working gruelling hours servicing Europe in the mornings and Asia in the evenings and since I wasn’t US qualified I couldn’t speak to clients directly or do any of the business development that I enjoyed.


All that combined led me to a cross-roads where I needed to decide what I was going to do. I booked to go on a retreat in Costa Rica to clear my head in the hope of discovering a way to enjoy living my life seven days a week rather than just living for weekends.  While I was there I met an amazing woman who told me that she was a coach. I’d never heard of coaching before but she LOVED her work, which also appeared to pay well and offer her plenty of fulfillment and flexibility. She suggested that it might suit me, so when I got back to LA I looked into the courses that were available through the International Coach Federation (ICF), which is the global body for the coaching industry.


Thinking that if I left my job I would have to transfer back to the UK, I looked into all the UK course providers. I was totally uninspired by them; they were just so bland. The US providers were head and shoulders above the UK ones so I deduced that I would find a way to travel back to the US for the live elements of the training if necessary. That’s when I found the Institute of Professional Excellence in Coaching (iPEC).


iPEC’s training was ICF-accredited, had been independently ranked as the top training provider in the US and was designed to be taken while I was still working (meaning no gut-wrenching earnings gap while I trained in something new) and their philosophy really spoke to me on a deeper level – it was perfect!  Wanting to make sure that their graduates were up to scratch and to get more of a feel for what it entailed, I requested a session with a graduate who lived near me in L.A. She was incredible and I ended up coaching with her for six months, during which time I signed up for iPEC’s training.


The first weekend of the course (which can also be taken as a separate module for people who are generally feeling a bit stuck in life) was absolutely LIFE-CHANGING. I could not believe what a positive contrast it was to the legal environment I had been working in for the previous five years. I knew instantly that I’d made a great decision. I thoroughly enjoyed the rest of my training and haven’t looked back since.


When I graduated I worked alongside the same coach in LA who’d previously coached me, before moving back to London with my husband to bring the course to Europe. I am now the Programme Director for iPEC London and am planning to bring it to other European cities in the coming years.


mtl:  What do you like most about your new job?


Anna:  Firstly I believe wholeheartedly in what I’m doing and can attest through personal experience that it works. I’m completely engaged in my work and I look forward to the varied work tasks that I do each day. There was nothing worse than not caring about the work I was doing when I was a lawyer. Secondly, I am not answerable to anyone and don’t need to ask permission to take time off! I also really like the people I come into contact with and love doing work that helps others help themselves.


mtl:  Tell us a bit about the iPEC coaching course. 


Anna:  iPEC’s aim is to give people the opportunity to have both a fulfilling and financially rewarding career.  The course is delivered over seven months, during which time students learn the core skills and competencies to become an ICF accredited coach, along with the business development training and support to allow them to set up a successful coaching practice.


It is possible to gain the qualification while working full time because the live modules are held over three weekends (Fri-Sun) and the other work only takes about 5 hours a week. Therefore you don’t have to leave your job or reduce your income too early. 


The course also has a strong business development component which helps you get started with your coaching career before you finish the training (you can be out there coaching straight off the bat after the first weekend).  Finishing the course with a client base already formed certainly makes the career transition easier.


There is plenty of literature to help you decide if the course is for you and the graduates are only too happy to tell you about their experiences. Since starting my training with iPEC I have unanimously heard glowing reviews from people about their experience, and over 50% of iPEC’s business comes from people who have already been through the training, which to me, speaks volumes.


It’s really ideal for people who are solutions-focussed, who like helping people, who want flexibility in their job, or even who just want to get to know themselves better before making any big decisions. There are plenty of people who are looking to undergo some personal development who come along to the first module (our Life and Leadership Potentials training) and find the answers that they are looking for there.


One of my other favourite things about iPEC is that every single person who attends either the full training or the first module is invited to bring a guest for FREE. So often people split the cost with a friend or colleague and come together.


iPEC really do make what can often be a very isolating and scary cross-roads into something easy, constructive and enjoyable.


mtl:  Do you have any advice for our readers?


Anna: Yes, remember that successful transition IS possible. Many people have done it and you don’t have to do it on your own. There are so many people out there who can assist, including anyone in a profession you're interested in, anyone you admire, coaches, career-change websites, etc. You’re not trapped, there are options, so speak up and ASK FOR HELP from anyone and everyone – it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s taking the initiative.


Set goals for yourself. Fast forward six months to where you would like to be, then set goals to help yourself get there. In taking any big leap you need to pat yourself on the back for each little success along the way. Often I think that when we’re struggling we think we’re failing, rather than acknowledging that we’re actually growing.


Finally, reach out and call a coach who is prepared to offer you a complimentary consultation to see if they would be a good fit for you and, if not, will recommend another coach more suitable. A good coach will also offer personalised payment plans designed for the client so that they feel comfortable with the investment.


mtl:  Thanks Anna and good luck with running iPEC in London.


You can see the iPEC London website here: http://ipeclondon.com/


The first module can be taken as part of the full coaching qualification or as a separate module to help you unlock some of the blocks in your life.


Module 1 is called Life & Leadership Potentials Training and is a three-day weekend workshop.  It costs £950 + VAT, which includes being able to bring a guest with you.

The full ICF Accredited Coach Training Programme, which lasts 7 months, costs £5795 + VAT. 


iPEC offers one of less than 20 International Coach Federation (ICF)-accredited coach training programmes in the UK. With 17 schools across the globe, iPEC has been independently ranked as the top coach training programme in the world.


If you have any questions, you can contact Anna by email amargolis@ipeccoaching.com or get in touch with admissions@ipeccoaching.com - 0800 008 7647



If you know any other ex-lawyers who have gone and done something interesting or unusual with their lives then please get in touch.


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