Muir’s February 1 post “Artificial Emotional Intelligence Predicts Election Results” was named the first of LexBlog’s Top Ten legal posts of the week.
Research long ago revealed that the portion of the brain that lights up when politics are being discussed is the emotional area–the limbic/amygdala area of the brain–not the rational prefrontal cortex. In short, politics is not a topic about which we are rational–a conclusion that these days may be particularly apparent.
A recent study published in the Journal of Applied Psychology confirmed that emotional intelligence can be a highly effective gauge for measuring an employee’s suitability. To meet that need, the researchers at the Universities of Geneva and Berne, Switzerland, developed assessments for employers to use during the hiring process to determine a candidate’s levels of sensitivity to and recognition of emotions.
Everyone at Law People Management wish you and yours the happiest of holidays! May you travel safe, enjoy the company of family and friends, and experience the profit of a successful career and the peace of a life well-lived.
For a more emotionally intelligent 2019, the ABA is offering a 20% discount off the applicable member price on Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence and other ABA titles using discount code ‘OURGIFT18.’
If there were any question as to whether emotional intelligence positively impacts every endeavor, research has recently verified that even athletes benefit from EI. A study of marathon runners showed that, of 237 runners, those with higher emotional intelligence finish half-marathons faster than their low EI competitors, even after controlling for the effects of physical training and the number of half marathons run in the past.
As we count our Thanksgiving blessings, we should remember the many lawyers (and their friends and families) who are not feeling blessed, but rather tormented by the life they are leading in the law.
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.
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?
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.
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.