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Better Law Practice Through Better People Management

Muir a Panelist at Annual International Bar Association Meeting in Sydney, Australia

Posted in Announcements, Communication, Emotional Intelligence, Professional Development, Wellness, Work Satisfaction, Work/Life Balance

Muir will be speaking on a panel led by Robert Bata at the 2017 International  Bar Association Annual Conference in Sydney, Australia on Monday, October 9th on the subject of “Re-Inventing Yourself:  Recognizing Decision Points in Your Career.” Join us!


Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence

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

I am pleased to announce that (along with the eclipse) Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence is available as of yesterday here on the ABA Shop website. For a discount, use Code RMUIR10 through December 31, 2017.

This is the first comprehensive guide to understanding, using and raising emotional intelligence in the unique context of law practice. It covers a myriad of topics, including:

  • What emotional intelligence means, its research origins that feature a lawyer, and its four components
  • The demographics of EI
  • How lawyers compare to doctors and other professionals in emotional intelligence
  • Why emotionally intelligent lawyers are smarter, better practitioners (as negotiators, litigators and judges), make more money, and are physically and mentally healthier
  • The critical importance of emotionally intelligent communication in client service
  • How emotionally intelligent law departments and law firms profit from high EI leadership, greater performance, enhanced teamwork, and increased client satisfaction, as well as lower attrition, healthcare and professional liability costs
  • Why emotionally intelligent practices can thrive in an increasingly competitive and technologically challenging marketplace, even outperforming artificial intelligence
  • Law firms that have dared to lead in promoting emotional intelligence
  • How to find out your personal level of emotional intelligence
  • Four steps individuals can take to raise their emotional intelligence, including practical tips to raise each of the four components of emotional intelligence
  • Four steps that workplaces can take to raise organizational emotional intelligence
  • Why law schools interested in producing the best and brightest should include emotional intelligence in admissions and curricula

Let’s hope that the new beginning that this historical eclipse heralds also occurs in our legal workplaces in need of strategies for meeting the challenges of the 21st Century.

Order your copy here.


My thanks to reviewers from all sectors of the legal world who have endorsed the book:

“Emotional intelligence is one of the most important, yet overlooked, areas of law practice…. Ronda Muir has written what is instantly the standard in the field. It is a gift for lawyers and legal educators alike.” Daniel S. Bowling, III, Senior Lecturing Fellow, Duke Law School, Recipient, 2016 Outstanding Professor

“Every managing partner needs to read this book…. The good news is that there are things that can be done to improve emotional intelligence.” Sir Anthony Salz, former Chair, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer

“A must read for in-house counsel striving to navigate internal management emotions while enhancing the probability of successful external interactions.” Steven Overly, senior legal leader over a 30-year career at Lockheed Martin, General Electric, NUI, Cirrus Logic and other companies

“In the face of challenges to law firms by alternative service providers, new business models, smart software, and Artificial Intelligence, the proven power of Emotional Intelligence is needed to assure success, indeed to assure survival. EI is not a frill, it is a core competence.” Michael Mills, Co-Founder, President of Neonta Logic, Inc., formerly a partner at Mayer Brown

“Muir provides the scientific background for what many of us have long suspected about what makes for a successful lawyer or judge, and couples this science with practical advice to address problems all lawyers face.” Christopher L. Kaufman, Senior M&A Partner, Latham & Watkins, LLP

“Ronda Muir displays her mastery of emotional intelligence in this enlightening and comprehensive book…. Thoroughly researched and thoughtfully organized.” Randall Kiser, Principal Analyst, DecisionSet, author of several books including forthcoming Soft Skills for the Effective Lawyer

“Muir gives us compelling examples of lawyers who have gained from high EI and those who have suffered from its absence…. Attorneys appear to underrate EI as a critical skill. Muir challenges us to think more deeply about EI and how it can help us to become more accomplished lawyers and have more satisfying personal lives.” David Katsky, Founding partner, Litigation Department Leader, Katsky Korins

The Equine Approach to Emotional intelligence

Posted in Client Service, Coaching, Communication, Conflict, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Professional Development, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Wellness

Linda Kohanov is one of the pioneers in the area of building emotional intelligence skills through human/equine interaction. Based on the theories she discusses in her numerous bestsellers, her organization Eponaquest offers programs in Arizona to artists, educators, and business leaders that “employ horses in teaching people leadership, assertiveness, personal empowerment, relationship, intuition, and emotional fitness skills.”

I had the pleasure of spending a day on the Texas ranch of one of her certified instructors and effective apostles, lawyer Francie Kilborne. Kilborne last year left her position as Associate General Counsel with Energy Transfer Partners. While she continues to service clients and chair the Corporate Counsel Section of the Dallas Bar Association, she has founded Solace at her ranch outside Dallas, Texas to provide her lawyer colleagues and others with equine-facilitated emotional intelligence development workshops. Some of her initial clients have been referred by a treatment center for substance abuse, a condition that many lawyers struggle with.

What exactly does equine-facilitated emotional intelligence development look like? After discussing some of the principles of emotional intelligence, our group lined up in our boots, sunscreen and hats for the morning session with the horses.  Each of us took a turn at entering a ring to approach our first horse. The challenge was to assess the horse’s demeanor and quickly adjust our behavior to the horse’s “personality,” such as its extroversion or introversion, based on the horse’s cues.

equine EI 2

The second exercise in the afternoon was to guide the horse in a small ring to a walk, trot, walk, turn in direction and trot again using primarily our voice and body language. It drew on our confidence and ability to project authority and enlist cooperation without physical coercion.

These interactions fine tune our ability to read emotion (fear, anger, anxiety, ease) in movement and expression and to then conform our behavior so as to promote collaboration and teamwork. They also exercise our confidence and commitment to a course of action, and teach us how to read and “work around” the usually unanticipated idiosyncrasies that commonly occur.

Dogs are another animal resource for learning how to better read and react to expressed emotional cues that are not verbal. Dogs are usually masters at reading yours–that is the skill that makes people consider them to be “smart.”

For further exploration of how lawyers can learn to be smarter than just their IQ, our forthcoming book (newly-retitled) Beyond Smart: Emotional Intelligence for Lawyers is coming out in time for the ABA annual convention in August and is filled with resources.

Outsmarting Artificial Intelligence Part 3

Posted in Assessments, Books, Business Development, Client Service, Coaching, Communication, Culture, Decision-Making, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership, Management, Mentoring, Productivity, Professional Development, Profitability, Recruitment, Retention, Risk Management, Teamwork, Uncategorized

So we realize the depth and breadth of the competition that artificially intelligent technology can pose to our traditional legal practices. We are, after all, not able to access as many sources and certainly not as fast and perhaps not as sophisticated in our analysis logarithms as some machines are.

Then again, we have our uniquely human skills of being able to relate human-to-human, even if some of those machines are steadily gaining in the relating realm as well.

In the HBR article “The Rise of AI Makes Emotional Intelligence More Important,” the authors agree that, “It’s these human capabilities that will become more and more prized over the next decade. Skills like persuasion, social understanding, and empathy are going to become differentiators as artificial intelligence and machine learning take over our other tasks.”

They also note, that “Unfortunately, these human-oriented skills have generally been viewed as second priority in terms of training and education. We’ve all experienced the doctor, financial planner, or consultant who is more focused on his or her reports and data than on our unique situations and desires.”

What to do to preserve our legal careers and futures in this fast-moving situation?

The HBR authors address that as well. “[T]o anyone who wants to stay relevant in their field as automated systems proliferate…[w]e have three recommendations:

  • Don’t fight the progress of technology…work to make it fruitful and complementary.
  • Examine your own capabilities interacting with, motivating, and assessing people. Recognize your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to emotional intelligence.
  • Invest in developing your emotional intelligence. The simplest way is to change your mental model about what is important in your role, and begin focusing on how you can better manage, influence, and relate to others. Or, take it a step further by seeking out training and stretch opportunities.

“What you have to offer — what you can do better than any smart machine — is relate to the people around you. Begin to nurture and invest in these abilities the same way that you have the more technical parts of your career.”

Using our keen intelligence to become more emotionally aware and our well-honed analytical skills to learn to be more emotionally intelligent is the path to a successful future for legal professionals everywhere.

Muir’s The Emotional Intelligence Edge for 21st Century Lawyers, due out this summer from the ABA, helps you better understand emotional intelligence, its advantages in legal practice, and how to gauge your and your workplace’s EI. It also provides tips to improve your and your workplace’s emotional intelligence.

To find emotional intelligence training designed specially for lawyers, contact Law People Management.


Outsmarting Artificial Intelligence Part 2

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

Sure, as we were saying, we lawyers could use some extra computing capacity, but isn’t there something unique about dispensing legal services that makes our positions secure from the onslaught of robots with artificial intelligence? For example, some aspects of providing legal advice involves less data crunching and more soft skills. Doesn’t that protect us lawyers from obsolescence?

Developers at the University of Southern California Institute for Creative Technologies have built a new generation of artificial intelligence they call SimSensei–virtual agents that display such high levels of artificial intelligence that it allows them to engage convincingly in back-and-forth interactions with people. SimSensei’s star virtual therapist Ellie is so effective that she is preferred by clients over her human counterparts.    

What kind of intelligence is Ellie tapping into? Ellie interfaces with her human clients in a non-judgmental way using technologically-generated emotion recognition, empathy and emotional understanding. In other words, Ellie is an emotionally intelligent machine.

Lawyer Michael Mills, Co-Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Neota Logic, a technology platform for legal services, has suggested that, “[What] make[s] people valuable as technology advances is…empathy. Yes, empathy. Discerning what some other person is thinking and feeling, and responding in some appropriate way.” 

Although, as Susskind points out in the chapter entitled “Objections and Anxieties” of his book The Future of the Professions, since empathy is not something many lawyers have now, envisioning machines that lack that quality does not disqualify them from delivering expert legal services. And as machines improve these EI skills, lawyers are well-advised to at least keep up, less they be outdone in both the computing and relating arenas.

Many experts agree that emotional intelligence can be the key to making lawyers valuable despite technological advances. In Humans are Underrated: What High Achievers Know That Brilliant Machines Never Will, the author contends that as “the skills that have been the basis of progress for most of human history: Logic, knowledge and analysis…[are] being commoditized by advancing technology,…the skills of deep human interaction” will only become more valuable.

With the growing involvement of smart machines, emotionally intelligent lawyers offer clients the opportunity to connect with a person who hears, understands and empathizes with their issues, someone to air dilemmas with, someone who can see the gray, help make the difficult judgment calls and then sympathetically explain what’s happening and why and then be there for them during the aftermath.

As Garry Kasparov concluded after being defeated by IBM’s DeepBlue, working together — machine and man — each with their distinct strengths, offers the potential for the highest level of service.

So, no, thankfully, HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, or even some Google-updated Go-competent version, is not likely to replace us just yet as the perfect lawyer. But a human lawyer, who can reliably bring empathy and other emotional intelligence skills to the table, might well.

Our next post will  addess how we can do that.

For further insight into the advantages of emotional intelligence in the practice of law and how to raise yours and your workplace’s, see Muir’s The Emotional Intelligence Edge for 21st Century Lawyers due out this summer from the ABA.

Outsmarting Artificial Intelligence Part 1

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

If you’ve been watching Mostly Human, the new CNN series on some of the extreme applications of technology, you may be smugly thinking that at least law is immune to such bizarre technological intrusions. But the surge of technological advances in artificial intelligence and the rising incidence of its applications in business is destined to have a major impact on law practice in both the near and far future. The only questions are how much and how soon.

Legal practices have seen how technology has already transformed document review, knowledge management, e-discovery, client relationship management and other aspects of law practice. What is just coming into view is the artificial intelligence capacity that can make inroads into the ranks of the human lawyers using those applications.

In March 2016, a Google computer program thoroughly beat one of the world’s top players in Go, the most complex board game ever created. As an article in Harvard Business Review has pointed out, “IBM’s Watson is already cracking medical cases that stump doctors, and investors are fleeing expensive, actively managed funds for better-performing passive ones. The value of some of our most prized career paths is already being eroded.”

The question in Richard Susskind’s 2010 book The End of Lawyers? was recently answered in his newest book The Future of the Professions: How Technology Will Transform the Work of Human ExpertsThere he predicts that within a few decades “the traditional professions will be dismantled, leaving most (but not all) professionals to be replaced by less expert people and high-performing systems…there will not be sufficient growth in the types of professional tasks in which people, not machines, have the advantage to keep most professionals in full employment.”

Susskind is a British law professor and for years has been the IT Adviser to the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, enjoying a wide following among the techies and consultants who operate in the legal arena. Is he just rattling our cage?

Already “The World’s First Robot Lawyer” is being touted for having processed hundreds of thousands of parking tickets to save clients millions of dollars. Then an important study announced in 2016 that a robot using artificial intelligence reached the same conclusions as judges did in almost 80% of the court cases presented to it, suggesting not only that machines may be able to more accurately predict the outcome of court proceedings than our litigators, but also that at some point a human judge may be unnecessary. A recent book Robots in Law parades all the ways that technology is, depending on your view, either expanding legal avenues or encroaching on human legal turf.

So are we human lawyers destined to become the next elevator operators? Sure, we could use some extra computing capacity, but isn’t there something unique about the dispensing of legal advice that leaves our careers out of reach of the latest robot?

We will address that thought in the next post.

For further insight into the challenges that artificial intelligence brings to the practice of law and how to gain the human advantage, see Muir’s The Emotional Intelligence Edge: A Guide for 21st Century Lawyers due out this summer from the ABA.

Whistleblowers United

Posted in Client Service, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Decision-Making, Emotional Intelligence, Ethics, Leadership, Management, Professional Development, Risk Management, Uncategorized

Speaking of ethical decisions, those who would be whistleblowers are usually caught by emotional crosswinds, often mentioning the difficulty they have in dealing with their own mixed emotions.

As researchers concluded in “The Role of Emotional Intelligence in Ethical Decision Making at Work,” “Whistleblowing involves an intrapersonal conflict—an internal struggle of conflicting emotions that need to be recognized and regulated. Empathy may also play a part when the whistleblower identifies with potential victims of corporate misbehavior. More common ethical dilemmas involve interpersonal conflict, such as blaming others, discriminating against them, and generally attempting to avoid personal accountability or blame. In these cases, emotions come into play either through a sort of ‘gut check’—recognizing one’s feelings of guilt—or via empathy when an individual anticipates or feels the victim’s emotional reactions.”

Let’s take a look at a few of the most notorious whistleblowers. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, lawyer Colleen Rowley, who was Chief Division Counsel to the FBI’s Minneapolis field office, wrote an analysis for then FBI Director Robert Mueller documenting how FBI headquarters personnel in Washington, D.C., had mishandled and failed to take action on information provided by the Minneapolis office regarding its investigation of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui, which information she felt could have averted the 9/11 tragedy.

Rowley has discussed her internal struggle to control conflicting feelings of anger over the FBI’s actions, her positive feelings for the organization that she dedicated many years to (and continued to work for for several years thereafter) and some fear for her own career in wrestling with whether to bring critical information to the attention of Meuller.

After leveling her criticisms, Rowley continued at the FBI and was one of three people awarded Time magazine’s “Person of the Year” for 2002. In February 2003, Rowley wrote a second open letter to Mueller in which she warned her superiors “that the bureau is not prepared to deal with new terrorist strikes that she and many colleagues fear would result from an American war with Iraq.” 

The other two notable whistleblowers honored in 2002 by Time magazine were Sherron Watkins from Enron and Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom.

Watkins was Vice President of Corporate Development at Enron Corporation when in August 2001 she alerted then-Enron CEO Kenneth Lay of accounting irregularities in financial reports, although her memo did not reach the public until five months after it was written.

Cynthia Cooper was serving as the Vice President of Internal Audit at WorldCom in 2002 when she and her team, often working at night and in secret, unearthed a $3.8 billion fraud — at the time, the largest incident of accounting fraud in U.S. history.

So what does emotional intelligence have to do with this? What has become clear is that emotional intelligence skills allow a clearer analysis of the situation and support would-be whistleblowers confronted with these ethical dilemmas. Emotional perception skills allow them to see more accurately why they are experiencing emotional disturbances — which might not be evident to the simply rational mind — and therefore make them better able to identify the ethical dimensions. Emotional management skills allow them to eliminate those emotions that are irrelevant to their assessment of the situation. It also allows them to manage their own fears and rebound emotions associated with whistleblowing, so as to embolden them with the courage and optimism to proceed and the resilience to recover from the emotional fallout.

Emotional empathy for victims can also play a part in helping individuals make ethical decisions, and in motivating them to action. Famed legal-clerk-turned-victims’-advocate Erin Brockovich said that it was her empathy for the suffering victims of pollution caused by Pacific Gas and Electric’s irresponsible actions that helped fuel her decision to pursue legal action against the powerful corporation, a case that was settled in 1996 for $333 million, the largest settlement ever paid in a direct-action lawsuit in U.S. history. She said that same empathy motivated her to continue her efforts to help other victims of corporate-caused environmental dangers.

What do these people have in common? Greater emotional intelligence skills are clearly one of them. Being of the female gender looks to be another. The relevance of the two is that as a general matter women score at least marginally and sometimes substantially higher in certain emotional intelligence skills, including empathy, than do men.
So what’s the lesson? Do we add emotionally intelligent women to the list of people we would just as soon not have snooping around the corporate ledgers?

Certainly whistleblowers are of mixed value depending on your perspective. All those personal injury and class action lawyers out there on either side of the fence are rooting for those emotionally intelligent women to break all the ceilings and go for the ethical gold. But any organization interested in avoiding liability and improving function and bottom line results recognizes that encouraging and supporting early “whistleblowing” is the most direct route to those objectives.

Discover your emotional intelligence level and how to raise it personally and in your organizations from our new book The Emotional Intelligence Edge: A Guide for 21st Century Lawyers due out this summer from the ABA.

Reducing the Liability Coming to Low EI Law Firms and Law Departments

Posted in Coaching, Communication, Conflict, Culture, Decision-Making, Diversity, Emotional Intelligence, Ethics, Leadership, Management, Mentoring, Professional Development, Recruitment, Retention, Risk Management, Uncategorized, Work Satisfaction

An amendment to Rule 8.4(g) to the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, first circulated in December 2015 and then adopted on August 3, 2016, prohibits lawyers while practicing law from engaging in conduct they “know or reasonably should know” constitutes harassment or discrimination based on “race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status or socioeconomic status,” because that harassment and discrimination “undermines confidence in the legal profession and our legal system.”

What is clear from the comments to this amendment is that it is intended to have wide application in the legal profession, including in the operation and management of law firms and law practices.

This amended Rule alone could have a significant and broad impact on the legal profession’s liability, since many legal workplaces have cultures conducive to harassment and also suffer from chronic under-representation and under-promotion of women and minorities. While violation of the Rules does not necessarily indicate liability, they are routinely cited in disciplinary actions and lawsuits, and their violation may be “evidence of breach of the applicable standard of conduct,” as set forth in Section 20 of the Preamble of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, as amended.

Certainly lawyers have already proven themselves vulnerable to the explosion of sexual harassment suits. These lawsuits exact financial and reputational costs that can be devastating to both individuals and organizations. They also jeopardize future growth by adversely impacting a firm’s or department’s desirability as a workplace and service provider, particularly among Millennials, who are highly sensitized to even micro-aggressions.

Legal workplaces have been subject to various types of discrimination claims as well, and the math often looks pretty convincing. For example, while for more than three decades half of all law school graduates have been female, and over-represented in high class standing, they make up less than 20% of partners (and less than 10% of equity partners) at most law firms and less than 20% of senior legal officers at most corporations. While there are arguments that an ethics rule may not make much difference in these stats, it isn’t surprising that a rule against discrimination is being demanded.

The conduct that engenders these types of lawsuits often arises because of low emotional intelligence — a failure to read one’s own and others’ emotional cues, to empathize with and understand those emotions and/or to manage them appropriately. Studies undertaken to raise ethical behavior of doctors and nurses in the healthcare setting concluded that, “[o]verall emotional intelligence of hospital employees had a significant impact on their ethical behavior,” and that “higher EQ scores” — specifically the ability to regulate one’s emotions — “predict higher performance in ethics.”

Emotional intelligence reduces risks of liability in several ways: the emotionally intelligent can more accurately assess the risks involved, can better understand which ethical standards are appropriate to the situation, and they can recognize and deal more effectively with the emotional fallout from ethical choices they make. Empathy in particular gives us a decided edge in making ethical decisions — people simply act more ethically when they are able to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Making sure our lawyers are emotionally intelligent is the primary bulwark legal workplaces can put in place in order to reduce harassment, discrimination and other ethical lapses and their associated costs and damage.

Muir’s book entitled The Emotional Intelligence Edge for 21st Century Lawyers, due out from the ABA this summer, reviews the advantages of an emotionally intelligent practice, in ethics and other areas, shows how to determine your individual emotional intelligence and gives steps for raising both individual and workplace EI to help avoid liability.


Happiest of Holidays!

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

From Law People Management to you and yours, we wish you peace, prosperity and good health during the holidays and throughout the New Year.

To that end, we are pleased to announce the publication by the American Bar Association of our book The Emotional Intelligence Edge for 21st Century Lawyers currently scheduled for summer of 2017.  A first in the industry, the book tackles how lawyers can overcome the stagnant growth, client dissatisfaction, vulnerable profits and debilitating distress that menace law practice in this century by using the proven advantage that emotional intelligence provides. More to come in the New Year!