Muir and others have helped produce a free Well-Being Kit published by the ABA to assist legal workplaces and individual lawyers get started on the road to better mental health, a goal everyone in the legal industry should have high on their list to do.
A full day’s discussion in NYC of business analytics in a digital world as it applies to law firms, which Muir participated in, has been captured in Business Intelligence and Analytics for Law Firms: Insights for a shifting business ecosystem. Muir’s article on the need to recognize and utilize emotional data is included. You can start on the journey of learning how to identify and use the data that is critical for your practice by purchasing the book here.
Recently, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner Joe Milowic broached the topic of mental health in the legal industry by speaking publicly about his long-standing struggle with depression. His is hardly the first to voice the anguish of such a condition. Www.lawyerswithdepression.com is a national award-winning website written by a lawyer on just that topic, with news, resources, blogs, and guest articles aimed at those who struggle with depression, anxiety, and other mental health challenges.
The ABA/Hazelden study issued in 2016 found that lawyers outperform other professions in the undesireable areas of loneliness, substance abuse, depression, anxiety, stress and suicide. And it’s the youngest lawyers who are most impaired–hardly what they anticipated when they were putting in years of hard work to prepare for a career.
To compound the insult if not the injury, another study, by Thomas Curran and Andrew P. Hill published by the American Psychological Association in 2017, suggests that millennials suffer more from “multidimensional perfectionism”—a combination of excessively high personal standards and overly critical self-evaluations—than other generations.
Of the respondents to a survey conducted by the American Lawyer’s Young Lawyer Editorial Board, roughly 50% said their career in law had adversely affected their mental health, and 89% said their firm was not doing enough to support employees with mental health issues, or that they were not aware of any support in this area. While 62% said they would not perceive a colleague as weak if they suffered from a mental health concern, 79% said that they were not comfortable seeking support from their law firm for mental health problems for “fear of being perceived as weak,” “fear of it hampering career progression” or “fear of it reflecting negatively in performance reviews.”
The Board rightly reviews these and other indications of the seriousness of the mental health problems facing the legal industry and calls for action.
Let’s start with a simple acknowledgement of the problem. Half of lawyers say their job is making them sick and most firms are not even recognizing it, let alone doing anything about it.
The ABA seems to be sounding the alarm. Resolution 105, adopted by the House of Delegates at the Midyear Meeting in Vancouver, supports reducing mental health and substance use disorders and improving the well-being of lawyers, judges and law students, with recommendations set out in The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change from the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being.
To that end, Muir and others have helped produce a Well-Being Kit to assist legal workplaces and individual lawyers get started on the road to better mental health. There are certainly other things that legal organizations can do to reduce the mental health fallout of their work environments, as the Board notes. More autonomy and discretion, the acknowledgement of meaning and purpose in what they do, greater social connections and collaboration, and a stronger sense of mastery and competence can all help give lawyers a better emotional grounding in their work.
For individual lawyers suffering from symptoms of mental illness, the ABA website a provides a directory of lawyer assistance programs and confidential hotlines that have grown up across the United States. In the U.K., lawyers can call LawCare’s free, independent and confidential helpline on +44 800 279 6888. But these options offer to treat symptoms, not the core source of the impairments–the workplaces themselves.
A post by Jordan Furlong, a Canadian legal consultant, noting the closing scene from the Simpson’s Season 8 episode “Homer vs. the Eighteenth Amendment,” might guide us in our quest to change this disastrous dynamic. During a celebration of the end of Prohibition, Homer stands atop a pile of beer barrels and raises a toast: “To alcohol! The cause of — and solution to — all of life’s problems.” As Furlong suggests, lawyers are often similarly situated with respect to a number of their own problems. And certainly when it comes to the lethal threat posed by our life’s work, both the problem–and the solution–lies with lawyers.
If you are thinking of applying to the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College, you will now have to demonstrate you have some emotional intelligence skills.
Last month, the Tuck School announced that it would henceforth look for applicants who, in addition to being smart and accomplished, possess two other qualities: nice and aware. Or, as compressed on Twitter, “don’t be a jerk.”
“What we’re looking for is emotional intelligence, empathy and respect for others,” Luke Anthony Peña, executive director of admissions and financial aid at Tuck, said. “Tuck is a distinctly collaborative community, so being able to challenge others tactfully and thoughtfully is important.”
Traditional evaluations of grades, test scores and experiences will be supplemented with the addition of questions on applicant essays and recommendation forms that get to the “nice and aware” attributes. Applicants will be asked: “Tuck students are nice, and invest generously in one another’s success. Share an example of how you helped someone else succeed.” Those submitting references will be asked to respond to this statement: “Tuck students are nice. Please comment on how the candidate interacts with others including when the interaction is difficult or challenging.”
Following closely this approach to applications, which is spreading through US business schools, law schools across the country are starting to….
Oh, wait, that, of course, is not the case. While law schools are dropping the requirement of applicants providing LSATs and other types of cognitive scores, they aren’t about to join the anti-jerk movement any time soon. How could law schools justify such a move when law firms and law departments reward such attributes in some of their highest earning professionals?
Let’s not focus on “nice.” Let’s just start with “aware.” That is the first challenge for lawyers worldwide–realizing that expertise, including legal expertise, is of much greater value if it is delivered to clients, staff and adversaries in an emotionally sophisticated way. In other words, gaining that “awareness” that Tuck has homed in on in its application process.
Don’t let your summer go by without getting the ABA’s best seller Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence. To make it even less painful for you to brush up on your EI skills, you can now get Beyond Smart in either paperback or e-book at a 25% discount using Discount Code ABASUM25. Let the wisdom begin!
Given the recent post about the power of crowdsourcing in predicting judicial decisions, for those who go against the group, there is another intriguing result: their brains light up in the amygdala, the emotional center of the brain. In “Why Do People Follow the Crowd?” a recent groundbreaking experiment found that when people “go along with the crowd” even when they don’t really agree, which often happens, it may be because hearing other opinions — even if they are wrong — can actually change what we see, distorting our own perceptions.
Using an fMRI, experimenters found that, during the moment of decision, subjects’ brains lit up not in the area where thinking takes place, but in the back of the brain, where vision is interpreted, i.e., people actually believed what others told them they were seeing, not what they saw with their own eyes.
And for those who went against the group, the fact that their brains lit up in the amygdala–the emotional center, signaled that they were experiencing “the fear of standing alone,” according to the experimenters.
So the courage to stand for what we see or believe can come from using emotional perception and regulation skills to identify and manage that fear.
In an interesting recent study entitled “Crowdsourcing Accurately and Robustly Predicts Supreme Court Decisions,” the conclusion is, as advertised, that “crowdsourcing outperforms both the commonly accepted ‘always guess reverse’ model and the best-studied algorithmic models.” Using a dataset and analysis that represents one of the largest explorations of recurring human prediction to date, the accuracy of prediction for this real-world context was 80.8%, the highest-known performance level of any method studied. What this means is that group guesses outperform any other method of predicting Supreme Court decisions.
What makes this finding particularly interesting is that Randy Kiser in his book Beyond Right and Wrong: The Power of Effective Decision Making For Attorneys and Clients uses his data to demonstrate that lawyers as a group, even well-seasoned litigation lawyers, are not particularly good at guessing trial outcomes, impairing their abilities to evaluate settlement offers.
One possible resolution of that apparent inconsistency is the fact that lawyers on average have lower emotional intelligence than the general population. Emotional intelligence has been described in other studies as the “emotional oracle effect” of successful predictions--including predictions of weather, Presidential nominations, movie box-office results, American Idol winners, stock market performance, awards, college football games, and other competitions.
Being able to identify and trust one’s emotional responses that have been developed over a life-time can provide the performance edge that can help lawyers assess and predict cases, jury responses and judicial decisions.
It was a racing good time at the YLD Spring Conference in Louisville, KY last week and the keynote topic was using emotional intelligence to advance your career. If you missed attending, you can still see a related webinar replay online here, and watch the facebook live recording, accessible here, where Muir answers questions about this important subject.
Record-breaking views of this session hold the promise that this generation of lawyers may be the first truly able to lawyer with emotional intelligence–a skill that can reverse the emotional distress shattering many lawyers’ personal and professional lives and also give lawyers a critical edge over the intelligent machines that lack the deep relationship skills that human clients want.
For those interested in purchasing Muir’s book, Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence, available in paper back and ebook, use discount code YLD30.
Where do you stand on this very important attribute?
One of the trends in corporate America that is starting to show up in law firms is the replacement of the old annual review with frequent real time reviews. Advocates of the new approach say the annual review focuses too much on past behavior, and often on behavior long in the past. At least two global law firms have initiated such ongoing performance assessments that are driven by the associates themselves.
Corporate supervisors have found that “giving people instant feedback, tying it to individuals’ own goals, and handing out small weekly bonuses to employees” is a more effective way of reinforcing desired behaviors and managing performance. As many as a third of corporations have signed on, with tech companies leading the way, but more traditional companies like PwC, Deloitte and GE are also among the converts. Estimates are that upwards of 79% of corporations are considering the move.
Part of the issue is the underlying philosophy of whether personal attributes can be developed over time. If not, a frank up-or-out appraisal may be all that’s needed. On the other hand, in a tight market where Millennials prize personal growth and research testifies to the malleability of many personal attributes — like emotional intelligence, frequent check-ins for course adjustments in an associate’s growth can benefit both the individual and the firm. The fast pace of business also argues for a more fluid and quick-moving response to performance.
This approach does require capable communication and motivation skills, which may be a challenge both for supervising lawyers and associates. Having an associate approach them for a review may result in more defensiveness or stonewalling than enlightenment from a supervisor. Over weighting comments on the positive side–but also making sure the associate knows what needs to be improved–can best mold future behavior. Research also clearly establishes that praising effort over results produces more attempts and ultimately higher performance. This is particularly effective with lawyers whose resilience levels are notoriously low and who may fold at any indication of failure. Assessing a particular associate’s strengths rather than creating organization-wide hierarchies in pay or position that can put them at odds with their colleagues also promotes collaboration and teamwork, essential attributes of 21st Century law practices.
Associates need to approach their supervising attorneys at appropriate times and without the defensiveness typical of lawyers, keeping a “I want to improve” mindset rather than one critical of their assignments or supervision. Being able to dialogue about issues and brainstorm possible improvements should be a joint undertaking that both parties contribute to.
Building the firm’s or department’s overall emotional intelligence is the best foundation for more frequent and more effective performance appraisals, regardless of who initiates them.
On Friday, May 11th, as part of the 2018 YLD Spring Conference being held this year in Louisville, Kentucky, Muir will be participating in several programs on the topic of “Advancing Your Career with Emotional Intelligence,” starting with the opening address at 8AM EDT, followed by a free webinar at 1PM EDT (or register on facebook), immediately followed at 2PM EDT by a facebook live session for interactive questions with Muir.
Young lawyers may be so focused on mastering the substantive part of lawyering that they ignore the emotional aspects of practicing law that can impact their careers. These programs will uncover how increasing one’s emotional intelligence, and particularly emotional perception, can help young lawyers and law students perform better, improve problem-solving skills, be more resilient, improve their mental and physical well-being, and improve their relationships with colleagues, clients, opposing counsel, and judges.