Around 20 years ago, the concept of emotional intelligence emerged in studies that compared successful leaders with those who struggled to achieve success. After conversing with numerous lawyers about their emotional intelligence, I discovered that they often overlook this aspect, prompting the need for them to start paying attention to it.
Research has revealed that emotional intelligence holds twice the importance of intellectual intelligence and technical skills in the realm of business management. As lawyers, we tend to be absorbed in our current cases, but it is crucial to elevate our business acumen. Therefore, it is essential for lawyers to integrate these characteristics of emotional intelligence into both their professional practice and personal lives to attain greater success and reduce stress.
Self-Awareness: the Ability to Honestly Assess Who You Are
This entails possessing a deep understanding of your strengths, weaknesses, values, and interpersonal dynamics. Lawyers who have a profound familiarity with these traits can make a realistic assessment of their identity and capabilities.
Lawyers who are totally aware of their strengths, weaknesses, values, and how they relate to others know who they are and what they can do.
I recall being offered the prestigious and popular role of a US Bankruptcy Trustee in my district. However, I declined the opportunity because I recognized that my organizational skills and attention to detail didn’t match the requirements of the position. Sometimes, lawyers find themselves in situations where their ego overlooks the reality of the challenges involved. By focusing on utilizing our strengths and avoiding commitments that expose our weaknesses, we can genuinely enjoy what we do and stay true to ourselves.
Self-awareness also extends to how lawyers treat one another. Often, lawyers may feel constrained when it comes to showing professional courtesies to their peers. Simple acts of kindness, like granting voluntary extensions of time, can get lost in the legal system. Being considerate and respectful requires no extra effort, nor does it diminish one’s power and status. Encouraging more cooperation among lawyers can foster a better legal community for everyone involved.
Self-Control: Another Trait Family Lawyers Need to Develop
The hallmark of a wise and discerning lawyer is the ability to remain calm and confident while others lose their composure. Acting impulsively in the heat of the moment often leads to regrettable decisions. I can recall an instance where I discovered that opposing counsel had destroyed evidence before trial. Although my emotions tempted me to file grievances and motions immediately, I resisted and chose to let the matter unfold during the trial. My patience was rewarded with a million-dollar verdict. Sometimes, we don’t need to resort to force; allowing patience to prevail can be its own reward. This trait also reflects self-confidence and the ability to trust one’s instincts.
Throughout my career, I’ve experienced periods where everything seemed to go against me. However, I’ve come to understand that adverse results and rulings are not necessarily personal; they present opportunities for growth and learning. As lawyers, we are not victims; we knowingly entered a challenging profession. Life, both at work and home, can be difficult at times. Yet, it’s crucial for lawyers to maintain self-confidence and recognize that both life changes and adversity hold positive aspects. Keeping our heads high and persevering is essential. Understanding that our worth is not tied to the outcomes (self-awareness) puts us in control of our emotional responses to these outcomes.
Social Skills Are Critical to Emotional Intelligence
Frequently, I encountered lawyers who appeared to intentionally seek animosity from others. It’s almost hard to believe! It could be indicative of the prevailing culture or perhaps stems from our hyper-awareness within the confines of our cases. These individuals would display deliberate rudeness, abusiveness, and neurotic behavior. I even knew some attorneys who recorded every conversation and meeting out of fear of potential grievances. Striking the right balance is crucial; we need confidence and resilience, but also respect and trust for ourselves and our legal community.
I have often run into lawyers who seemed to want everyone to hate them. Seriously!
While I could share numerous stories about lawyer neuroses, what we truly need to witness is maturity and grace. Undoubtedly, stress remains the primary downside of being a lawyer. From my experience, this stress often arises from a lack of social skills. Some lawyers struggle with interpersonal connections, not knowing how to be friendly and supportive. In awkward situations, they may refrain from engaging altogether, unsure of the right words to say. Building rapport and offering help to others are essential aspects of social skills that lawyers should embrace. We are all human beings, not isolationists by nature, and it should not be all about the lawyer, although many may feel that way. Empathy is often lacking; some lawyers seem indifferent to others’ feelings and experiences.
When lawyers make an effort to understand and connect with others, they become more effective on the human side of the equation. Success as a lawyer extends beyond merely winning cases; it is about being an efficient and compassionate human being. Having insight into everyone else’s experiences provides us with both an advantage and an appreciation of the immense impact lawyers can have.
Emotional Intelligence and Gratitude: the Most Overlooked Attributes of Any Lawyer
Gratitude stands in stark contrast to stress. Stress arises from the fear of not achieving our desires or losing what we have worked hard to attain. I vividly recall those last few months in my legal practice before transitioning to another profession. I was facing a malpractice lawsuit from a client’s ex-partner, going through my own divorce, and witnessing declining revenues. During that challenging period, finding gratitude was an arduous task. I felt like a victim, convinced that the world was against me.
However, in hindsight, I can honestly express profound gratitude for those experiences. Now that I possess the knowledge I lacked then, I might still be practicing law. There is no doubt that cultivating emotional intelligence can lead to greater success, reduced stress, and genuine happiness for lawyers.