Dramatic social shifts occur periodically. One is taking place now. The
Business School refers to it as “(o)ne of the most influential
business ideas of the decade.” The following quote appeared in
the July, 2005, American Bar Association Journal: “Research over the last
decade has conclusively demonstrated that emotional intelligence
success more than any other single factor ….”
Success in our context is to thrive as a lawyer, doing that which is rewarding
and satisfies purposes higher than monetary gain and ego satisfaction. After
all, these alone are shallow bins from which to get complete satisfaction from
Some of the important qualities of EQ are: 1) The ability to Empathize; 2)
Self awareness; 3) Social Awareness; 4) Positive Thinking and Hope; 5)
Thankfully, it has been discovered through research that these qualities can
be learned and mastered (unless you’re psychopathic). As it becomes more
ingrained in society, the results are impressive. Companies embracing it have
excelled. Where government leaders practice it, success unfolds. A recent
is General David Petreus. He was honored for his success in Iraq. The area
his command saw the fewest casualties and the most cooperation from Iraqi
Why? He and his soldiers went into the community to find out what the people
wanted from them. They delivered to the extent they could. They stood out, way
out, compared to the other generals and leaders working in Iraq. The ability
to listen, empathize and act intelligently on the insights gained were the main
keys to their success.
To be effective we must master ourselves and have the ability to empathize
with those with whom we deal. This includes clients, opposing attorneys,
judicial officers, our staff, the judge or jury, and so on. This does not mean
agreement or sympathy; it means the ability to see things the way the other
person does; to place oneself in the shoes of another and see things from their
perspective. You can love or despise a person and still empathize with them.
If you do, you can deal with them meaningfully and effectively. If you
you’ll likely fail to achieve all your objectives.
The modern view of integrity includes the qualities of EQ. In his book,
Dr. Henry Cloud observes that:
There is no shortage of talented, brainy people who are very, very good at
what they do and are able to work the system and schmooze other people to get
things done. There are zillions of them, and we all see them every day.
There is no integrity in this. Nor is impeccable honesty sufficient. There
are “many honest, ethical people of ‘integrity’ who were not
making it in some way. * * * (T)he reality is that their
still preventing their talents and brains from accomplishing all that was in
their potential.” (p.9)
For those seeking to improve their integrity, they find it comes from:
- Empathy, “…the ability to enter into another person’s
experience and connect with it in such a way that you actually
some degree what the other person is experiencing … at least for a
moment ….” (pp 9 & 58)
- Gaining complete trust of others by connecting authentically with
- Seeing all of the realities right in front of them, and being in touch with
- Effectively dealing with problem people, negative situations, obstacles,
failures, setbacks, and losses; realizing that “life is largely about
- Transcending their own interests and giving themselves to larger purposes,
thus becoming part of a larger mission;
- Resolving conflicts by seeing and working with the truth from the other
side and integrating it into one’s own truth, finding a solution that
transcends either polarity, (p.133) “going hard on the issue and soft
on the person.” (p.192)
- Actually producing the outcomes that their abilities would allow them to
Attorneys respected for their work and ideals appear to share the following
- They empathize with their clients and those around them. Again, this is
not always sympathy or agreement. It is simply the ability to recognize what
factors are driving the thoughts and actions of the client and others they
- They are genuine and connect in a meaningful way with others with whom they
deal or seek to influence. They don’t seek to dominate by aggression.
They are dignified but not aloof.
- They are honest and show integrity. By doing so others respect them, even
their opponents in most cases.
- Rather than automatically imposing their own agenda on everyone, they
and carefully survey the situation and study the individuals they are engaged
- They are not impulsive or rude. Instead, they respond appropriately and
with purpose, showing respect to those around them, even in the face of
- As a result, the attorney possessing emotional intelligence is in control
of their own emotions and actions. They are realistic and accept those things
they cannot control but carefully take action where their control or
can make a difference. Time and emotion are not wasted with tantrums,
or other negative behavior.
- Their mental and other resources are devoted to positive thoughts and
Their minds are not cluttered with negativity and unproductive thoughts.
things go wrong, these attorneys see it more as an opportunity to face and
get through the circumstance with dignity and grace. They don’t make
excuses or seek to pass out blame.
- They realistically assess the circumstance and calmly take appropriate
They follow the course described in Ben Stein’s book, How
People Win. He calls it “bunkhouse logic.” When a cowboy
finds that a well on his trail has run dry, he doesn’t sulk, go into
a rage or seek to assess blame. He sees the circumstance as just a good
to move on to another water source.
Attorneys and others with EQ usually stand out in their circles. They are
to be around. Their clients trust them as do their opponents and judicial
This is because this attorney takes into account the situation and feelings
of everyone around him or her. They react and communicate in a manner dictated
by the results of their ability to accurately assess the perspectives, feelings
and perceptions of others within their sphere of influence.
Gerry Spence (How to Argue and Win Every Time) describes and explains
the aspects of emotional intelligence for lawyers better than anyone. He
his mistakes early in his practice where he failed to employ this quality.
a trial where he had taken a witness apart in blistering cross-examination,
a juror asked Spence, “Why did you make us hate you so much.” He
had forgotten to take into account the potential reaction of the jury to the
manner in which he presented himself. He had not empathized with the jury.
In another example where he used EQ, Spence describes his approach when filing
a brief. He pictures the judge and what it must be like to be that judge. He
thinks of how the judge must want to throw most briefs at the wall because they
have to read so many lengthy, boring, predictable, bombastic, and
briefs. On this topic, Justice Wickson Woolpert once told me as I was preparing
an appellate brief: “Dave, make it interesting and short.”
Abraham Lincoln displayed this quality in his statement that, when he would
be facing a man to influence him, he spent two-thirds of his time thinking
what the other would say and one-third of the time thinking of what he would
Complete and accurate listening is crucial. In the book Making Smart
Business School Press), the authors point out the “filters” of our
mind that compel us to tune out negative information or information
to us. When we do that we will ultimately fail. Leadership experts point to
this as the single worst trait of leaders who end up getting their company or
the country in trouble. The company, Compaq, suffered a huge downturn due to
its leaders’ failure to listen to warnings regarding the inroads being
made by Gateway and Dell.
It takes patience to listen accurately, and an honest effort. Having a right
frame of mind is necessary. Failure to do it leads to mediocrity or worse.
Every author discussing the subject of EQ or effectiveness emphasizes the need
to be genuine, not phony. Even the ultimate salesman, Zig Zigler (Secrets
of Closing the Sale), said you can’t have success without being
Those who are unable to be genuine have little hope of grasping, developing
and using the concepts of emotional intelligence.
Spence devotes another section of his book on this topic: “The
Power of Credibility.” He says, “The first trick of the winning
argument is the trick of abandoning trickery.” Those who engage in
eventually exposed for who they are. Being “straight up” and
gets us further in the long rung.
Emotional intelligence also requires that we avoid acting upon our primitive
instincts. Our first instincts are usually contraindicated when it comes to
getting the results we and our clients desire. If we are attacked our first
reaction, if not checked, is to counter-attack. This is most unproductive. They
say that a part of our brain’s frontal lobe acts as a “damper on
our instincts to go ballistic.” Some of us need to go into the shop to
get ours fixed. An emotional reaction or outburst usually escalates an already
bad situation and produces no favorable result. Anger (or intoxication for that
matter) has led to some of the poorest decisions humans have made. We usually
do it out of fear or self-protection, motives that cause us to wander from our
true objective which we’re unlikely to reach by way of knee jerking
Another trait contrary to emotional intelligence was exposed by George Carlin
who observed as follows: “Did you ever notice that when you’re on
the freeway those who are going slower than you are idiots and those going
are maniacs?” The thought that we are the center of the universe, are
all knowing and have all the right answers or keys to life, persists in most
of us. When our minds are closed to others and their ideas, because of this
our vision is stifled. We become myopic, less effective and unproductive. We
lose the ability to be creative in finding solutions for our clients.
a flaw in integrity as Dr. Cloud sees it:
(It) is the worst sickness of all: the preservation of the ‘good
is the character component of narcissism, the search for the ‘ideal
the wish to see oneself as ‘all good’ or flawless or perfect. It
is one of the sickest traits we can have.
The “my case” syndrome is also a problem for lawyers. What
can I get
from my case? What’s in it for me? Is the primary goal
the money we can make, the ego we can feed, or the aggression we can display?
What’s the underlying motivation for what we do? We should ask, how can
it be more meaningful for our clients, ourselves and for our legal community
as well as for the public in general?
One way to test ourselves on these qualities is to look at the wake we are
leaving behind. Like a boat, we move though the waters of our experience. Two
trails are formed, one to the right and another to the left. One wake
the tasks we performed, the other our people relationships. Are these trails
mostly positive or negative? As Dr. Henry Cloud puts it: “(w)e can tell
a lot about (a) person from the nature of (their) wake.”
The more all of us strive to employ the components of emotional intelligence
and integrity the more we will excel and be satisfied with what we do. It
to be a life-long process from which we never graduate. As we improve, however,
others around us are lifted and we lift the image of our profession as well.
We also find greater success and satisfaction with our lives.