From Trial Attorney & Executive to Certified Coach

About Bernie Knight

As an equity partner at an international law firm, and as the Acting General Counsel of the U.S. Treasury Department during the critical period of the financial markets crisis and the General Counsel of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office during the greatest legislative change to the U.S. patent system in the last 50 years, I have worked with and managed many lawyers in a variety of contexts.   I have managed teams to deliver top performance in stressful situations and under immense time pressures.

During my career as a lawyer, I received two masters degrees from Johns Hopkins University, one in Developmental Psychology and one in Community Mental Health Counseling.   I am a Licensed Professional Counselor.   I was recently, elected the President-elect of the DC Mental Health Counselors Association and I have been a speaker on mental health issues.

photo of Bernie Knight, JD, LGPC
Bernie Knight

At times, I have managed more than 2,000 lawyers and support staff.  As a manager, I have often been called upon to deal with many types of personnel issues, including morale issues, conflict resolution issues and general matters involving employee happiness or dissatisfaction.   Dealing with these issues could be draining and I questioned whether I needed to spend so much of my time on these so-called “psychological issues.” I soon realized as a young manager that one of the hallmarks of an outstanding leader or manager is to be helpful to his or her employees no matter the issue.   The simple reason is that a happy employee or associate is a productive employee or associate. Being successful is fun.


It Helps to Be Helpful

So, what makes an employee or associate happy at work?   Studies have shown that the top factor in job satisfaction over money or anything else is feeling appreciated.   Always take time to tell your team how much you appreciate them when it is earned.   Life is short and people should feel good about work and you.

I attribute much of my own success to doing what I could do to “put an oar in the water” and help those around me achieve their goals.   I always shared the credit with all those involved for successes and took the blame personally for mistakes, provided that my team kept me informed.   I also helped people get new jobs when they wanted to move on, often to my disadvantage.   Likewise, I did not shy away from making the hard decisions and have always felt that the compassionate act may be to encourage an employee to move on.

My Transition from Attorney and Executive to Certified Coach

I decided to leave my career as a partner and executive to coach others who desire to look at their work and personal lives directly and develop more fulfilling and productive career and life goals.
I decided to leave my career as a partner and executive to coach others who desire to look at their work and personal lives directly and develop more fulfilling and productive career and life goals.   I always knew that I would follow this career path.   In the 1990s while working as a trial attorney for the U.S. Justice Department, I started taking psychology classes at night at Johns Hopkins University and now have a license from the District of Columbia as a Professional Counselor.   I also am a certified Coach.

Board Certified Coach- logo

Leadership and Government Experience

I have diversified and significant leadership experience, which makes me uniquely qualified to provide attorneys and executives with productive coaching.   My experience includes being an equity partner and practice group co-lead at a major law firm, the General Counsel of two organizations and a senior manager at a major accounting firm. I have been the General Counsel and Acting General Counsel of two federal agencies during the most challenging periods.

One of my most interesting and challenging assignments was as the Acting General Counsel of the United States Department of the Treasury responsible for key components of the Administration’s financial crisis response.   In this role, I provided legal advice to the Secretary and was responsible for managing more than 2,000 attorneys in the Treasury Legal Division.   I supervised and developed much of the legal implementation of key components of the $600 billion TARP program. I was called upon to make decisions quickly on issues that had not been addressed before.   This required me to assemble a top-notch team, motivate them to perform, monitor their performance and achieve quick results for the Nation.   All of this was quickly reported in the national press, so I had to make decisions that were effective and supportable before much public scrutiny.

Equity Partner

I left Government work in 2013 to join the patent litigation group at a large law firm as an equity partner.   As an equity partner, I learned first-hand how to “pitch” business and create revenue for the firm.   My law firm experience has been exciting and rewarding, yet something inside of me has been pulling me to become a coach to help others achieve similar successes. I love new challenges.

 Bernard Knight 2016 National Law Journal IP Trailblazer 

On a Personal Note

Bernie's dog, Zoe

I have a Doberman Pinscher named Zoe and have shown her in dog shows.   I have shown dogs since I was a teenager.   I have had a champion Great Dane and a champion English Setter.   I decided to retire Zoe from the dog shows because my interests lie elsewhere right now.

I paint–mostly still lifes– and have had art shows.   I actually taught myself to paint and shared studio space at one time with more accomplished artists.   I sold my work and even bought it back when I have missed the piece.   I hope to do some more painting now that I have changed careers…I miss it.   It brings me peace.

Having a balanced life is not easy, but it’s imperative if you want to be successful and happy.  I am happy to share what I’ve learned with you.  Contact me so we can talk about your needs.

For a full list of my Press Quotes and Speaking EngagementsCurriculum Vitae