While Emotional Intelligence has become a popular buzzword, the researchers on whose work Daniel Goleman based his bestselling Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, only formulated an assessment to test EI in 2002. Called the MSCEIT (Mayer-Salovey-Caruso Emotional Intelligence Test), it is the only EI assessment based on abilities instead of self-reports, i.e., it gauges your actual EI performance instead of asking how good you are at EI. 

Does it make any difference whether a lawyer is emotionally intelligent or not? To determine whether there is a correlation between emotional intelligence and excellence in lawyering, we undertook a study. 

We began with lawyers listed in The Best Lawyers in America as our "excellent" lawyers. Those willing to participate were given the MSCEIT and follow-up feed-back free of charge. 

Our participating lawyers practice across the country: Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Houston, Columbia, SC and New York. Their firms range from a small, 15 lawyer boutique to regional powerhouses to global behemoths. And the results are interesting.

  • This group of excellent lawyers performed 20% higher on average than lawyers generally.
  • This group’s highest score was in Understanding Emotions, the most cerebral of the four branches of EI, and the branch that most lawyers perform best in.
  • Also like most lawyers, this group’s lowest score was in the Perceiving Emotions branch. Although notably higher than the average lawyer score in this area, even excellent lawyers barely score the national average.
  • Excellent lawyers score significantly higher than lawyers generally on the sub-branch Managing Emotional Relationships. 

While these excellent lawyers, like lawyers in general, are better at analyzing emotions than recognizing them, they are operating on a higher EI plane than their colleagues. The excellent lawyers’ significantly higher average total results and significantly higher ability to manage emotional relationships may account for at least a part of their excellence: they are generally more emotionally intelligent and they are better in relationships with clients and colleagues.

Stay tuned for some of the (non-identifying) specifics on the best performing individuals.


While we have a good start, we want even more results to produce a more reliable study. We invite any lawyers now listed in The Best Lawyers in America to take the MSCEIT—a 40-minute confidential on-line survey– at our expense. We will provide you with individual feed-back, a written report, and the opportunity to have your firm identified as high performing.