Family Law Lawyers Screened For Empathy

Prominent L.A. Attorney Says Future Lawyers Should Be Screened and Trained for Empathy

Increasingly we are entering an era where future lawyers should be screened and trained for empathy!

LOS ANGELESSept. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Baer, an award-winning attorney and mediator in practice since 1991, notes, "Those who tend to be attracted to law school in the first place tend to be logical thinkers (rule oriented) and have low EQ levels. Moreover, the research indicates that the training students receive in law school also causes an 'erosion of empathy.' Furthermore, the more empathic students tend to drop out of law school at a much higher rate. 

Moreover, lawyers with 'higher level of resilience, empathy, initiative and sociability' are more likely to leave law practice than those with lower levels of those traits."

Baer claims this root problem is causing significant problems for society.
"Law schools must begin recognizing the damage that is being caused to interpersonal relationships and our overall society, due to the low EQ levels of those involved in the field of law and make a concerted effort to address this extremely serious problem. Law schools might learn a thing or two from the changes taking place in the education of future physicians," said Baer.
He then showed how a quote written about changes under consideration with regard to the medical field could apply equally well to the legal field with a few minor changes. The quote with his changes in brackets is as follows: It would benefit everyone if "leaders [in the legal field began] exploring ways to infuse more empathy into the [legal] field. That includes re-evaluating the criteria for who should get admitted to [law] school in the first place, and what they should learn while they're there. Their reforms [should] raise questions about what constitutes quality [legal] care, how (and whether) it can be trained, and how much change is even possible in the American [legal] system today."

To speak with Mark Baer,
Please contact: Aurora DeRose (310) 396-6090 –

Prominent L.A. Attorney Says Future Lawyers Should Be Screened and Trained for... -- LOS ANGELES, Sept. 2, 2015 /PRNewswire/ --

If you were building the perfect lawyer, what characteristics would you give to your creation? Intelligence? Probably. Creativity? Perhaps. Attention to detail? Determination? Integrity? These are all desirable qualities, and you could make a reasonable argument that any one of them are the most critical for a lawyer to possess. There’s another trait, however, that may stand above all others in importance—and strangely enough, it’s one we don’t frequently associate with lawyers.
Between my time as a practicing lawyer, an entrepreneur in the legal industry, and the head of Bloomberg Law, I’ve seen a lot of lawyers in action. And some of the best lawyering that I’ve had the privilege of seeing came from my own experience during the sale of my legal outsourcing company, Pangea3. One of the final hurdles of the transaction was a marathon “turn-page” meeting. For a full 12-hour day, we literally went page by page through the merger agreement and hammered out the open terms. This was a business meeting straight out of central casting. It took place in the conference room of a major law firm, and the two sides had an array of people in attendance: outside counsel, board members, bankers, business development leads, and others.
It was an intimidating environment, but one in which I felt comfortable. At that point in my career, I had been both a corporate lawyer and a business person. Meetings such as that one were my stage. My instinct, then, was to be a vocal participant—until I got the schooling of my life. It came at the hands of Eric Lerner, the lawyer we had hired for the transaction. Earlier in my career, he was one of the leaders of the corporate department at the law firm where I had cut my teeth. He had mentored me there, and I knew that his technical knowledge and negotiating skills were top-notch. Of course, the same could be said for many corporate lawyers.
What set Eric apart that day, and what sets superior lawyers apart throughout their careers, was one quality in particular: empathy. Before the meeting, Eric took me aside and got my head straight. The first thing he did was clarify my role. You’re the selling entrepreneur, he reminded me, along with the fact that I had never been in that position before. It sunk in that this was new territory for me after all, not the comfortable terrain I had imagined. Next, he told me clearly what I should do in my role: say nothing. I should only chime in, Eric said, when he truly needed the voice of the seller. Over the course of the marathon meeting, I spoke just a handful of times. And by the time it was over I could see that his approach was the right one.
Had I not been advised by Eric, and opened my mouth, I would likely have given away something that we didn’t need to give up, or conceded a point that we actually ended up winning. Worse, I could easily have compromised my own position, reputation and standing with our buyer, and therefore my likelihood of success as a leader who would be staying on with the acquirer for two years post-close.
Many lawyers approaching such a meeting would have thought only about what they wanted to accomplish, and how they intended to do it. Eric took another step—one that makes all the difference. He viewed the matter from his client’s perspective. He understood that given my background and personality, I would be eager to contribute to, if not control, the “turn-page” meeting. That understanding allowed him to tailor his advice very specifically to my needs. The fact that his legal counsel was so personal to me is what had such a great impact on me, and why I still remember it so clearly today.
The quality of empathy doesn’t make lawyers smarter, or better reasoned, or help them find the right Ninth Circuit case to cite in their Supreme Court brief. In that sense, it doesn’t have much to do with legal practice—and its application certainly isn’t limited to the law. From consumer-products companies that use focus groups, to automakers that study ergonomic design, many different enterprises can and do benefit by thinking from their customers’ perspective. Certainly, when we design new products and improve existing ones at Bloomberg Law, we are always thinking from our clients’ perspective.
Being empathetic will make any lawyer better at their job. The legal industry has slowly been waking up to this knowledge for some time. The profession is gradually shifting to a Copernican view that puts the client, rather than the lawyer, at the center of things. You can see it in little shifts, like the one that occurred some years ago when law firms realized that they should organize their websites by industry (as their clients would think) rather than legal practice areas (as lawyers would think).
Individual lawyers can take this insight much further, and gain much more from it. My experience is just one example, but it’s clear to me that lawyers who can truly view issues as their clients do will develop stronger relationships with them. They will understand their goals, fears, and needs at a level of depth that will make them much more effective advocates. And of course taking the time to connect with clients will help attorneys further stand out in today’s very competitive market.
When Eric called me the day after the merger was completed, he didn’t ask a financial or legal question. Instead he asked: “How do you feel?” It was an empathetic question—just the kind a great lawyer would ask. 

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