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Law People

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Vote for Law People for Best Legal Blog!

Posted in Announcements

  We are proud to announce that Law People has been nominated from a field of hundreds to compete in The Expert Institute’s Best Legal Blog Contest, one of the largest competitions for legal blog writing online today.

Now it is up to the readers to select the very best of the blogs with an open voting format that allows participants one vote per blog. Each blog will compete for rank within its category, with the three blogs that receive the most votes in any category to be crowned overall winners.

The competition runs from November 5th until the close of voting at 12:00 AM on December 17th.

Vote for Law People by casting your vote through one of the social media platforms here.


Exhaustion: Building a Successful, Sustainable Legal Organization

Posted in Client Service, Compensation, Emotional Intelligence, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Professional Development, Profitability, Risk Management, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Wellness, Work Satisfaction

Paul Rawlinson, Baker McKenzie’s Global Chair, stepped down temporarily from his position last month. The firm’s announcement read in part:

“Based on the advice of his doctor, in response to medical issues caused by exhaustion, Paul has decided to take a step back from Firm leadership and client responsibilities to make his health and recovery his immediate priority.”

While we don’t know the particulars of Mr. Rawlinson’s situation, the legal profession generally seems similarly overcome.

In September of 2017, a year after the release of a survey that found the levels of problem drinking and mental health issues in the legal profession significantly higher than in previous studies, the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession was formed.  The Working Group published a well-being toolkit for law firms, to which Muir contributed, and announced in September 2018 that several firms had signed a pledge to focus more on lawyer mental health. It is unclear whether Bake McKenzie was among them.

Pundits everywhere have weighed in on the causes of these increasingly troublesome mental health breakdowns among our ranks. As discussed in Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence, Muir’s research has uncovered some tantalizing correlations. The LSAT’s deductive-style questions apparently favor those who are slightly depressed, indicating even before entering law school a population possibly not able to manage their emotions well. There are also indications that law school may further alienate students from recognizing, and then being in a position to deal with, their emotional states. Pessimism, long recognized as a pervasive career asset among lawyers, nonetheless has some potentially unattractive side effects both personally and professionally, making collaboration, relationship-building and maintenance, risk-taking, innovation and reaching out for help more difficult. All of which can lead to isolation and a spiral downward because of little personal support.

Firm practices often reinforce or compound these personal tendencies. Those so accused include compensation plans:

“Compensation systems intentionally incentivize lawyers to work as hard and as long as they can… [m]agnifying and exploiting lawyers’ weakness for individual achievement and financial gain…”

We all know that practicing law can be a taxing and stressful endeavor. Yet there are a number of steps legal organizations can, and certainly should, take to improve the mental health of their troops. The first question, however, is whether we are even going to consider that endeavor to be a valuable undertaking? Exactly what does it take–beyond statistical exclamations and individual carnage–to make that a priority?

Congratulations to Baker McKenzie for at least copping to their Global Chair’s impairment and offering support and a way back home. Who is next?

Standing Room Only Crowds at the EI Programs at the 2018 IBA Annual Conference

Posted in Announcements, Books, Business Development, Client Service, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Decision-Making, Diversity, Emotional Intelligence, Ethics, Innovation, Leadership, Management, Productivity, Professional Development, Profitability, Recruitment, Retention, Risk Management, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Work Satisfaction

Friday, October 12th was the last day of the 2018 annual IBA conference being held in Rome, Italy. Over 7,000 lawyers from around the world converged on the Eternal City to listen to dozens and dozens of programs on topics of interest, including updates in subject matter expertise, innovations in legal process and other subjects of rising interest.

Muir spoke on a late-afternoon panel on Monday that discussed winning and retaining clients through cross cultural understanding. In spite of its late time and competing programs, the room was full and the panelists, representing Brazil, Finland, Japan, the UK and the US, covered obvious and less obvious aspects of working cross-culturally, including considerations of gender, religion, deductive vs inductive thinking styles, civil vs common law traditions, and emotional intelligence.

On Thursday morning, Muir participated on a panel, chaired by New York lawyer Mark Hsu, on Emotional Intelligence and the Law that included speakers from Scotland, Germany, Hungary and New York. Drawing from her book Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence, Muir gave an overview of how using emotional intelligence skills in the unique context of law practice helps lawyers have a more successful and satisfying career.

Panelists discussed how important achieving an emotional equilibrium is to managers of firms and departments, to getting and keeping clients, and to dealing with professional and personal stress, and made suggestions on how to improve lawyers’ EI skills.

Although attendance had generally fallen off at working sessions by Thursday and panelists were expecting a sparse crowd, in fact the double room was filled to capacity with the overflow standing in the corridor.

The takeaway from this conference is the good news that emotional intelligence is a topic of increasing interest and relevance to lawyers around the world.

Can Emotional Intelligence Be Trained?

Posted in Assessments, Coaching, Culture, Decision-Making, Emotional Intelligence, Innovation, Law Departments, Leadership, Management, Mentoring, Professional Development, Recruitment, Retention, Uncategorized, Work Satisfaction, Work/Life Balance

That is the primary question. Now that emotional intelligence is well established as a major net positive in virtually every profession, what can be done to raise one’s emotional intelligence?

The most recent evidence of the efficacy of emotional training comes in a study of doctors announced last month that found that EI training improved resident physicians’ emotional intelligence. The training was undertaken with a specific goal of protecting doctors against burnout, which the study noted “has reached alarming levels, with one study finding it affects at least half of all doctors. Burnout is defined as overwhelming exhaustion, cynicism, detachment from work and a sense of ineffectiveness and lack of accomplishment.” Research has shown a consistent relationship between high physician burnout and low patient safety and quality of care, a result that, of course, also impacts hospitals’ bottom line.

In this study published in the journal Advances in Medical Education and Practice, doctors took a test measuring their emotional intelligence both before and after completing the training. The results after the training showed significant increases in their scores for overall emotional intelligence, stress management and overall wellness. The training was integrated into the regular resident educational curriculum, with a focus on “self-awareness (being aware of your emotions), self-management (ability to manage your emotional reactions to situations and people), social awareness (ability to pick up emotions in others) and social skill. The educational intervention included didactic teaching, discussions and videos.”

This latest study comes on the heels of a new, May 2018 meta-analysis— i.e., an exhaustive review of  EI-training studies–which again says resoundingly “yes, emotional training works!” An analysis of 58 published and unpublished studies that included an emotional intelligence training program showed an average moderate positive effect for training emotional intelligence, regardless of design, gender of participants, and type of EI measure (ability v. mixed model). The increase was larger when discussion of the meaning of the construct and how it applies to the participants was included and was significantly larger when there was practice and feedback incorporated into the training. No significant differences in training effectiveness were found between programs based on ability and mixed-model EI theories.

That meta-analysis followed by only months another one (published in September 2017) reviewing 24 EI training studies that also found emotional intelligence training to be effective. This study found more nuances in the effectiveness of various types of training programs, with those based on the abilities-based MSCEIT model formulated by Mayer, Salovey and Caruso showing the most effectiveness. It also found that raising the ability to understand emotions–how they differ, develop and evolve and are best used–accounted for significantly higher results, a reflection of the critical importance of that ability in the ability to actually manage emotions. This study concluded that a fixed schedule (averaging 6 sessions, each with 2.5 hours duration) with defined individual goals for participants works best, although the training effectiveness increases as the length of training increases. For a more extensive discussion of these and earlier studies particularly as they apply to lawyers, see this recently published Psycholawlogy post.

The good news is that study after study and meta-analysis after meta-analysis confirms that emotional intelligence can be raised through training, which is particularly good news for law students and lawyers everywhere.


Join Us at the Annual International Bar Association Meeting in Rome

Posted in Announcements, Books, Business Development, Client Service, Communication, Compensation, Conflict, Culture, Decision-Making, Diversity, Emotional Intelligence, Ethics, Innovation, Law Departments, Law Education, Leadership, Management, Mentoring, Productivity, Professional Development, Profitability, Recruitment, Retention, Risk Management, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Wellness, Work Satisfaction, Work/Life Balance

For those attending the International Bar Association annual meeting in Rome this upcoming week of October 7, Muir will be speaking on a 4:15 pm panel on Monday, October 8th–chaired by Peter Alfandary, Esq.–that will be discussing winning and retaining clients through cross cultural understanding. Related to emotional and social intelligence in several respects, cross cultural “intelligence” has become increasingly important with the arrival of a truly global legal marketplace.

On Thursday, October 11 at 11:15 am, Muir will be participating on a panel chaired by Mark Hsu, Esq, on emotional intelligence and the law. Drawing from her book Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence, the first comprehensive guide to understanding, using and raising emotional intelligence in the unique context of law practice, Muir and the panel will delve into the origins and physiology of emotional intelligence and how it helps practicing lawyers have a more successful and satisfying career.

Join us in exploring these important subjects!

Getting Past the Artificially Emotionally Intelligent Interviewer

Posted in Culture, Diversity, Emotional Intelligence, Innovation, Law Departments, Recruitment, Uncategorized

As AI is becoming more adept at emotional recognition and interaction–the holy grail for Google and other companies, your own emotional intelligence skills become more important for the sheer benefit of interacting with that software, as mentioned in the last post. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal adds additional gloss to the growing importance of emotional intelligence in an increasingly AI world, focusing on the increasing use of affectively competent AI to assess emotional states and emotional intelligence skills in job applicants.

With the advent of AI, nearly all Fortune 500 companies now use some form of automation–to review resumes for key words, for example, but many are starting to use artificial intelligence that is sensitive to emotions and emotional intelligence to further expand software-driven assessments. As an example, the WSJ cites the recruiting assistant DeepSense, based in San Francisco and India, which scans social media accounts to determine underlying personality traits using “a scientifically based personality test,” a review which can be done with or without a candidate’s knowledge.

Behavioral interviewing involves asking applicants to recite their reactions to certain types of situations either in theory or in their experience. Most recruiters now favor behavioral interviewing over the old resume approach, which is fairly static and doesn’t give a good idea of how applicants interact in the office or respond to difficult situations. Working currently for over 50 companies, HireVue makes AI-based assessments of digital interviews with candidates–which often are in response to behavioral questions, using an algorithm that compares emotional expressions and other indications of emotional and personality traits, like “tone of voice, word clusters and micro facial expressions,” with those of people identified in the industry as high performers.

There are concerns expressed that these assessments may not be ADA compliant, in that they may discriminate against people afflicted with emotional expression disabilities, like some types of autism. Clearly further study is needed before a wholesale adoption of these types of recruitment tools are used throughout industries.

But the takeaway remains–in an increasingly digitized world, most applicants may not even get to the workplace that they hope to shine in without an ability to understand appropriate emotional cues, properly manage their emotional expressions and generally exhibit emotional intelligence skills.


Artificial Emotional Intelligence Becomes a Force

Posted in Announcements, Client Service, Emotional Intelligence, Innovation, Law Departments, Law Education, Leadership, Management, Productivity, Professional Development, Risk Management

According to Dr. Mary Czerwinski, manager and principal researcher of the Visualization and Interaction for Business and Entertainment group at Microsoft Research,”Emotions are fundamental to human interaction, but in a world where humans are increasingly interacting with AI systems, emotions may be fundamental to our interactions with machines as well.”

Several recent announcements illustrate her point. In June, BPU Holdings announced an advanced ZimOS Operating System Cloud service that “allows the individual or enterprise to invert AI and AEI to a more personalized, synthetic, emotional emulation.” Which we’re pretty sure means that the products being developed, such as ZimGo Polling (first AEI-based political forecasting platform), ZimGo Neil (a new kind of personal AI news curator making Apple’s list of top apps) and ZimGo aiMei (a personal AEI app geared to increase self-awareness and emotional intelligence on your wearable watch or smartphone) make unprecedented use of “sentiment analysis” to improve forecasting and produce other efficiencies.

As the company’s CTO says, “We are teaching the machine to synthetically emulate emotional intelligence to better relate to how you and I feel. So many exciting applications present themselves to enhance healthcare analytics, market assessment, consumer and voter sentiment, and delivering customized content in the Internet of Things.”

Then, starting this past July, all UK Government organizations–over 39,000 workplaces–have started having access to a cloud service using artificial emotional intelligence together with emotional recognition AI to analyze social media. It detects over 20 distinct emotions in any digital content, which helps organizations measure and understand how people feel about a topic – ranging from companies, brands, and people to concepts. It is particularly calculated to equip European businesses and government organizations with a better understanding of client and citizen emotions regarding topics such as immigration, the strategic direction of healthcare services, and wider societal issues in preparation for a post-Brexit world.

Then this month, Affectiva and Nuance Communications, Inc. announced their work together to “humanize” automotive assistants and in-car experiences. The goal is to deliver the industry’s first interactive automotive assistant that understands drivers’ and passengers’ complex cognitive and emotional states from facial, voice and body cues and that helps adapt behavior accordingly. It will be able to identify facial expressions of emotions such as joy, anger and surprise, vocal expressions of anger, engagement and laughter, indicators of drowsiness such as yawning, eye closure and blink rates, as well as physical and mental distraction because of cognitive load or anger, all in real-time. Nuance’s Dragon Drive already powers more than 200 million cars on the road using more than 40 languages for Audi, BMW, Daimler, Fiat, Ford, GM, Hyundai, SAIC, Toyota, and other brands and the partnership expects to expand its penetration appreciably.

These are only the latest and greatest examples of the wisdom of Dr. Czerwinski‘s statement. Knowing emotions–how to express them, recognize them, understand them and manage them–is vital to the most successful human interactions, but the era of artificial emotional intelligence is surging and those skills will be the ones that help us interact successfully with expert machines as well.

Business Analytics for Law Firms

Posted in Books, Business Development, Client Service, Decision-Making, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Management, Productivity, Professional Development, Risk Management, Uncategorized

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.

Addressing the Scourge of BigLaw

Posted in Client Service, Culture, Leadership, Management, Mentoring, Productivity, Professional Development, Profitability, Retention, Risk Management, Wellness, Work Satisfaction

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. 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.