Soapbox Edition

Oliver Wendall Holmes, and others of his era who regarded law as a science, would disagree with this post.

Here’s why. I regard emotional intelligence skills training as essential training for lawyers.

In Justice Holmes’ defense, emotional intelligence wasn’t a thing at the turn of the 20th century. Yet the profession’s law-as-science origins may be at the root of much of our modern-day lawyer distress.

I’m admittedly biased, though with good reason. I’ve seen the difference emotional intelligence skills training, which gives us a window into our internal experience, as well as our shared human experiences, has made for lawyers across practices, and for the law students I’ve been fortunate to meet in my classes over the years.

Lawyers are high-achievers who excel at problem solving for other people, while their own satisfaction, fulfillment, and often their health, teeter on the precipice.

Why Emotional Intelligence Skills Training?

Because the actual practice of law is relational. Laws, statutes, rules and regulations are the tools of the trade, but the practice involves people and that’s where things get complex.

Whether engaged in a business transaction, a matter in litigation, an estate plan, an employment agreement, a divorce mediation, a criminal matter, a real estate transaction, a financial transaction, a merger, intellectual property, insurance claims, workers comp, immigration, to name just a very few of the very many practice areas involving lawyers, those lawyers are dealing with people and their very subjective, often shifting, points of view.

Lawyers bridge the chasm between our objective system of laws, rules and regulations, and the myriad issues that arise from complex, nuanced, varied, and subjective human relationships and experiences.

Lawyers are creative problem solvers who untangle disputes, solve problems and construct solutions that their clients—real people—can accept, and might even be happy with.

Where am I going with this?

To sustain the energy, stamina and endurance needed function optimally in the high-intensity, high-demand legal profession, and to remain clear, calm, ethical, alert, healthy, and able to problem solve, lawyers need training that helps them accurately assess and manage the range of mental, emotional and somatic states through which they cycle on any given work day—be it dealing with a difficult client, negotiating a settlement, or supervising a young attorney. Each of these situations requires a different and nuanced skill set.

To engage effectively with their many allies and adversaries in practice, lawyers also need to be able to accurately assess and understand the varied and nuanced mental and emotional states of their clients, colleagues, opposing counsel, and many others with whom they interact on a daily basis.

My point?

No attorney I’ve ever met said they went to law school to be stressed, angry and exhausted. The fact that practice sustainability skills weren’t taught in law school, doesn’t mean that they aren’t essential to successfully practice law.

The legal profession is a people-driven profession. EQ skills give us a window into our mental, emotional, and somatic states, and guide us toward behaviors that support and strengthen us in difficult situations.

But like I said, I’m biased. What do you think? I’d love to know.