About two decades ago, the concept of emotional intelligence emerged through studies that compared successful leaders with those who faced failure. Surprisingly, when discussing emotional intelligence with many lawyers, I discovered that they tend to overlook this crucial aspect. It’s high time for them to acknowledge its significance.
Emotional intelligence has been proven to be twice as vital in the business management world compared to intellectual intelligence and technical skills. As lawyers, we often get absorbed in the bubble of our current cases, but it’s time to elevate our business acumen. Embracing the following characteristics of emotional intelligence is essential for lawyers to integrate into their practice and personal lives, leading to greater success and reduced stress.
Self-Awareness: the Ability to Honestly Assess Who You Are
This entails being fully conscious of your strengths, weaknesses, values, and interpersonal interactions. Lawyers who possess an intimate understanding of these traits gain a realistic self-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 can recall being asked to become a US Bankruptcy Trustee in my district, a prestigious and popular role. However, I declined the offer because I recognized that I lacked the organizational skills and attention to detail required for the position. Often, lawyers find themselves in situations where their ego blinds them to the realities of their abilities.
Focusing on utilizing your strengths and avoiding commitments that expose your weaknesses allows you to fully enjoy what you do and remain authentic. Self-awareness also extends to how lawyers treat one another. Many times, lawyers believe that professional courtesies have limits. Simple acts of kindness, like granting voluntary extensions of time, should not be lost in the legal system. Being kind and courteous doesn’t demand extra time or relinquishing power and status. Lawyers should embrace cooperation with each other for the betterment of the legal profession.
Self-Control: Another Trait Family Lawyers Need to Develop
The hallmark of a wise and astute lawyer is remaining calm and confident while everyone else loses their composure. Rash decisions made in the heat of the moment often lead to regret. I vividly recall a situation where I discovered that an opposing lawyer had destroyed evidence before trial. My emotions tempted me to file a grievance and motions right away, but I resisted the urge and chose to let it unfold during the trial. As a result, I was rewarded with a million-dollar verdict. Sometimes, patience can be more effective than resorting to aggressive measures. This approach reflects self-confidence and the ability to trust one’s instincts.
Throughout my career, I experienced periods when everything seemed to go against me. It’s important for lawyers to understand that adverse results and rulings are not necessarily personal attacks; they present opportunities for learning. Lawyers willingly entered a challenging profession, where obstacles are expected. Life, both in professional and personal spheres, can be tough at times, but having self-confidence allows lawyers to see the positive aspects in every situation. Even in difficult times, lawyers should maintain their resilience and continue moving forward.
When lawyers realize that their identity is not defined solely by results, they gain a valuable sense of awareness. This awareness puts them in control of their emotional responses and allows them to navigate their emotional landscape effectively.
Social Skills Are Critical to Emotional Intelligence
Frequently, I have encountered lawyers who appeared to intentionally seek disapproval from others. It’s quite astonishing! This behavior might be a reflection of the current societal norms, or perhaps it arises from our tendency to be overly engrossed in the intricacies of our cases. Some lawyers acted rudely, displayed abusive conduct, and demonstrated neurotic behavior. I even knew some attorneys who recorded every conversation and meeting out of fear of potential grievances being filed against them. Striking the right balance is crucial; we need to maintain confidence and resilience while also showing 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 truly matters is displaying maturity and grace. Stress remains the primary downside of being a lawyer. From my experience, this stress often stems from a lack of social skills. Some lawyers struggle with basic people skills, like being friendly and supportive. Knowing how to respond appropriately in awkward situations can lead some to avoid engaging altogether. Developing social skills involves building rapport and offering help to others. Lawyers are human beings, not isolationists by nature. It is essential to recognize that it’s not all about the lawyer, although some may feel that way. Empathy is often lacking among many lawyers; they may disregard others’ feelings and actions.
When lawyers make the effort to understand others, they become much more effective in their interactions. Being a successful lawyer is not solely about winning cases; it’s also about being a compassionate and effective human being. Understanding others’ experiences provides us with both an advantage and an appreciation for the profound impact lawyers can have.
Emotional Intelligence and Gratitude: the Most Overlooked Attributes of Any Lawyer
Gratitude stands in stark contrast to stress. Stress often arises from fears of not attaining our desires or losing what we have worked tirelessly for. I distinctly recall the last few months of 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 a decline in revenues. In those trying days, finding gratitude was challenging. I felt like a victim, convinced that everyone was against me.
In hindsight, I can honestly say that I am immensely grateful for those experiences. If I had possessed the knowledge I have now, I might have continued practicing law. Undoubtedly, cultivating emotional intelligence skills would have made me more successful, less burdened by stress, and genuinely happier.