Everyone knows the lawyer trope, from Hollywood directors to people sharing the latest jokes. Being a lawyer comes with a pretty hefty stereotype about being cut-throat, insensitive, self-absorbed, and power-hungry.
However, more lawyers are challenging the stereotype and making empathy a part of their practice. The reasoning is simple: empathy makes for better lawyers. Here are some compelling reasons why.
Playing a Role in Your Clients’ Worst Experiences
Depending on the nature of your practice, there’s a very real chance that you’ll play a pivotal role in someone’s worst experience. Consider the reasons why someone reaches out to you. For example, to get guidance after an emotionally and physically damaging car accident. Or perhaps to fight for the custody of their child.
As a lawyer, you have the opportunity to be a bright spot in a negative memory by simply treating your client like a living, breathing, human being. When it comes to negative life events, feeling like someone is on your side can be tremendous. Don’t just be a hired contractor— be someone who instills hope.
Facilitates Trust and Openness
When you show empathy in your practice, you’ll be able to develop a better connection with your clients. As a result, you’ll build a relationship of trust and openness. To do your best work as an attorney, you need to have all the unflattering details of someone’s experience. If a client doesn’t feel comfortable sharing and keeps things quiet, it could negatively impact the outcome of the case.
Use your empathy to build a rapport with each client. Give them a safe place to tell their story so that you can help them to the best of your ability. As a result, you’ll be able to do your job to the best of your ability, based on the information you have available.
Better Understanding Means Better Problem Solving
The better you understand something, the better you’ll be able to solve the problem. Active listening plays an essential role in empathy. To do this, you have to listen to understand, rather than to respond. This means staying quiet while your client speaks, asking clarifying questions, and offering words of encouragement. It also means keeping your thoughts to yourself until you have the bigger picture laid out in front of you.
A lot of lawyers look at a situation on paper and make a decision right away. Experience and knowledge is a powerful thing, and lots of lawyers experience success with this approach. However, taking the time to analyze based on all the information rather than preconceived notions can be the winning difference in some cases.
Ideologies within the industry are shifting. Many universities and practices are prioritizing empathy and putting behavioral tests in place to screen applicants. As a whole, many businesses are shifting toward prioritizing soft skills over education and experience. When it comes to empathy, it seems the future of the legal profession is no exception.
By developing these skills, especially early in one’s career, attorneys are increasing their hiring potential.
More Fluent in Body Language
Empathy doesn’t just play a role in connections with your client; it can help in court as well. The more empathetic you are, the better you become at understanding human emotions. This incredible skill helps you become fluent in body language and non-verbal cues. It can help you predict what happens next based on your understanding of human behavior.
By having these abilities — all stemming from empathy and emotional intelligence — you’ll have better control over situations you face as a lawyer.
Developing Empathy for Success
Developing empathy doesn’t happen overnight. It’s worth taking a personal development course to help hone these skills and recognize the gaps in your training. By focusing on this area, you’ll become a better lawyer over time.