The College of Law Practice Management inducted its new Fellows at its annual conference held last weekend–October 24-25–in Nashville, TN. Ronda Muir, founder of Law Practice Management LLC and author of Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence, was one of those honored. The highlight of the conference was hearing from a couple dozen highly expert Fellows, Fellows-to-be and others talk about the state of law practice and their visions for the future. The welcoming address was made by former US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, who is Dean and professor at Belmont University College of Law. On Muir’s panel addressing Resilience and the High-Performance Culture were Fellow Stewart Levine and consultant Renee Branson. Other panels addressed innovations in the legal industry in firm and lawyer compensation, leadership roles, business development, client services, analytics, AI and other technological applications and ways to provide more accessibility. What a world of interesting changes these highly qualified experts see for the legal industry!

For a limited time, Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence is on sale! From September 23-27, you can order the book online or by calling the ABA service center at 800-285-2221 using the discount code FALL2019.

Beyond Smart is the first comprehensive guide to understanding, using and raising emotional intelligence in the unique context of law practice. This user-friendly practical resource is designed for legal professionals who desires to improve their communication, client service and leadership skills and create a high performance, high functioning workplace.

Get the book and get your emotional intelligence on!

There’s a reason that SAP, Google, Aetna and IBM all have Chief Mindfulness Officers–they are explicitly trying to address the emotional fallout among their ranks in tech-revolutionized workplaces. But those working in legal workplaces are also feeling emotional fallout, from technological pressures, isolation and other major stressors, as the Law.com Minds Over Matters project conducted over a full year makes crystal clear. So it is encouraging to see that there are those at the top in law starting to step up to support those at risk.

Dentons recognizes that in looking at the legal workplace of the future, “people are going to continue to be the differentiator,” in that “the critical part of the legal workflow will be the human interactions and the humanity that we bring.” To that end it has developed a comprehensive program called NextTalent that has resulted in some substantial programs, promisingly innovative but still rare in the legal world, which emphasize the development of emotional intelligence: “Dentons sees its NextTalent initiative filling the need … for the next generation of lawyers [to] be globalists and adaptable to working with different people from different backgrounds and different cultures from across the world … by focusing on emotional intelligence.”

So the firm is piloting several programs in different countries to see what works best, including introducing various assessments to see which helps their people best understand and improve their EI skills, offering eight-week mindfulness programs, and experimenting with teamwork and leadership trainings borrowed from other industries.

One Dentons pilot program called Ginger Emotional Support, an on-demand component of their “Wellness for Life” initiative, has been instituted in 6 California offices, Phoenix and Honolulu, offering coaching services by text, video or in-person. If needed, an onsite wellness coach can help address professional or personal issues through direct counseling or by making referrals. That is in addition to the firm’s “headspace in the workplace” pilot program which promotes meditation and mindfulness for enhanced mental health.

More recently has come Dentons’ appointment of a Warsaw tax partner as “Chief Mindfulness Officer” for Europe, specifically charged with, of course, developing lawyers’ emotional intelligence.

“It is odd that we’re all spending tens of millions of dollars on new tools and new technology for the legal talent we have, but we’re not spending even more on finding ways for these lawyers and professional staff to find more fulfillment in their jobs,” Joe Andrew, Dentons’ Global Chair, notes. As Jay Connolly, Dentons’ Global Chief Talent Officer, puts it: “I want our talent to wake up in the morning and think, ‘I love coming to work. This is where I want to be.”

Even if your firm or department hasn’t caught up to to providing these types of programs, there are always other avenues, like the myriad podcasts, for example, that lawyers everywhere can access to help assess, explore and build their personal and interpersonal skills. Among many are those provided by the ABA (including specifically for law students)Stanford Law School, the Florida Bar, the Happy Lawyer Project, and Lawsome.

Let us hope that this is the beginning of a race to the top–to develop the emotional intelligence of lawyers worldwide, a goal benefiting all the stakeholders in the legal firmament.

 

We are proud to announce that Ronda Muir has been chosen as a Fellow-Elect of the College of Law Practice Management, with her induction to take place at the College’s 2019 Futures Conference on October 24-25 in Nashville, Tenn. Muir will be serving on a panel discussing “Resilience and the High-Performance Culture.”

The College of Law Practice Management was formed in 1994 to honor and recognize distinguished law practice management professionals, to set standards of achievement for others in the profession, and to fund and assist projects that enhance the highest quality of law practice management.”

Join us there for a two-day conference discussing some of the most pressing issues and innovative solutions in law practice today.

Starting with the class of 2023, Yale Law School is joining a couple dozen other law schools, including Harvard, Penn, Georgetown and NYU, in offering applicants the opportunity to take the GRE instead of the LSAT as an entrance requirement. The question, logically enough, is whether that change in entrance exam will make any difference in the makeup of the class.

Peter Salovey, Yale University’s current President, was the Yale psychology researcher back in the ’90s who, while still formulating his theory of emotional intelligence, studied mood, including whether mood affects deductive or inductive reasoning abilities. To that end, in his surveys of participants, he used questions from the LSAT as examples requiring deductive reasoning. He concluded that a depressed mood produced significantly better performance in deductive reasoning (which starts from a general premise and analyzes whether specific instances are included within that premise), while an elevated mood produced better performance in inductive reasoning (which arrives at a general premise from specific instances). One logical fallout of that study, therefore, is that those who do well on the LSAT, while making them more likely to be accepted into law school, are also more likely to be feeling somewhat “down,” and more susceptible to depression or other evidences of poor mood regulation.

The GRE, in contrast to the LSAT, uses more instances of inductive than deductive reasoning in its questions. Therefore, those with more elevated moods may well do better on that exam than they would on the LSAT. As a added dividend, they also may be less likely to suffer from the scourge of depression that has been documented by, among other studies, the 2016 ABA-Hazelden study, which found over 28% of surveyed lawyers suffering from clinical depression, a whopping six times the national average, and almost half relating instances of depression over their career.

Let’s hope that the GRE helps put lawyers as a group on a more stable and uplifting emotional platform.

 

Muir and Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence were both cited in the IBA article entitled “Why Lawyers Need to be Taught more Emotional Intelligence.” Author Polly Botsford reaches out to several authorities on emotional intelligence around the globe and reports that lawyers are becoming more aware of the need for emotional intelligence in the practice of law and also for improving their own.

Only a month after Morgan Lewis announced hiring its “Well-Being Director,” Kirkland & Ellis unveiled a firm-wide Wellbeing Program for its 2,500 attorneys and staff to help address mental health and substance misuse issues that the profession was flagged in the 2016 ABA and Hazelden study as being at high risk for. Among 13,000 licensed lawyers in the study from across the country, 28% suffered from depression, 23% dealt with chronic stress, 21% struggled with alcohol over-use and 19% experienced disabling anxiety.  The goal is “to reduce the stigma around talking about and getting help for mental health and substance misuse issues,” including simple anxiety and stress, as well as more serious issues such as bipolar disorder or clinical depression, says the director of the program Robin Belleau, an attorney and a licensed clinical professional counselor who formerly was the executive director of the Illinois Lawyers’ Assistance Program.

She will emphasize three core components — resilience, connection to get help, and fitness and nutrition, and will make available two apps, one focused on activities such as mindfulness meditation and proper sleep hygiene, and another on moderating potentially addictive behaviors.

One of the keys to the likely success of this program is the endorsement and commitment of Jeffrey Hammes, chairman of Kirkland’s global management executive committee, who has asked for “a more open and transparent dialog about mental health within our profession.” In addition to signing, along with dozens of other law firms, the ABA pledge to develop a seven-point plan to address substance abuse and mental health issues, he said, Kirkland & Ellis has gone beyond those guidelines because it wanted to make sure the firm responds to Kirkland lawyers with a customized program.

Associates no longer get much of the on-the-job-training that firms once provided, usually at the client’s expense, to fill in the gaps between the theory they learned in law school and the realities of practice. And now there are more obvious gaps in the ability of young associates (and much older ones, as well) to competently represent clients in the digital age. While legal providers languish in this area (at the same time they are talking a good “innovation” and “technology” game), a McKinsey report quantifies the advantages of data-competent organizations as 23 times more likely to acquire customers, six times more likely to retain customers, and 19 times more likely to be profitable as a result.

But becoming digitally competent is not the only hurdle facing lawyers who want to be 21st century experts. The World Economic Forum Future of Jobs Report (executive summary) identifies the skills required in the digital age as critical thinking and problem solving–that mainstay of legal expertise, but also includes “social skills”–notably emotional intelligence and collaboration, which they maintain are now not only equally important workplace competencies but will be in higher demand across industries than “technical skills.” Over just five years, emotional intelligence has made it into the top ten skills, joining creativity, cognitive flexibility, and people-management skills. These are the skills that are largely ignored in legal academics and also are likely to actually decline during law school, as has been found in medical schools.

These “soft skills” are also essential to other results, including perhaps the biggest hurdle to practice improvements: innovation and change management—persuading historically recalcitrant lawyers to engage in constant analysis, improvement and training in response to needed advancements in a constantly changing environment.

If our law schools and/or our legal places of employment don’t start putting a premium on social skills competence, traditional lawyering will quickly go the way of other disrupted industries.