Emotional Intelligence Provides an Edge

By Irene Leonard, Lawyer Coach    

Anyone can become angry — that is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose, and in the right way — that is not easy.Aristotle

While lawyers routinely engage in anger and related emotions — frustration, disagreement, outrage, contempt, dislike and hostility — and often inappropriately, and they use emotions like fear to motivate, many lawyers avoid sad emotions such as grief, sorrow, disappointment, suffering or regret. These same lawyers express discomfort in talking about feelings with their clients.

Lawyers who believe this are missing out on the important benefits that come from having a developed emotional intelligence (EI). They are not giving themselves the additional edge and advantage that comes with a high Emotional Intelligence Quotient (EQ). To develop your EI and rise to Aristotle's challenge, you need to know how you use emotions and how they run you.

Daniel Goleman's ground-breaking book, Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, popularized the concept of EI so much so that many are saying what Goleman advanced: that a high EQ is a much more important indicator of a person's professional success than merely a high Intelligence Quotient (IQ).

EQ is a measurement of emotional intelligence: the ability, capacity or skill to perceive, assess and manage the emotions of one's self, others and groups. Emotional intelligence includes the ability to empathize and work with others, and manage while under stress. It is said, "IQ gets you through school, but EQ gets you through life."

Consider the qualities you look for when hiring. You want someone with initiative, good communication skills, self-confidence, and the ability to be a team player, who is good with clients and cooperative — all skills that are characteristic of a high EQ.

Components if EI

You can learn to increase your EQ by working on the following emotional intelligence components:

Why Increase Your EI?

The practice of law is not just dealing with the intellectual concepts of law, but includes how the law impacts people, and that stirs up a huge range of emotions. Lawyers work with people continually — within their firms, with clients and with other parties. They constantly deal, persuade, talk and negotiate with people. Most of the time these people are under some kind of stress, be it emotional, financial or personal.

Goleman states that individuals with high EQs are better equipped to make use of their cognitive abilities. They are often chosen for advancement because they inspire people to action and make others feel more confident.

People with high IQs, but low EQs, are unable to relate to the people they work with and cannot handle stress constructively. Developing your EQ can lead to career advancement as well as better relationships.

A high level of emotional intelligence helps lawyers interact with their clients. It gives them the ability to sympathize, discern and detect. It allows them to read the people they are working with and to understand their concerns.

Lawyers with a developed emotional intelligence make better day-to-day decisions about everything from the best course of action for their clients to how to get new clients.

How To Improve Your EI

Goleman says there are four ways:

A high EQ can bring happiness because it lets you focus on feelings as well as facts, whereas IQ is concerned solely with logic. A strong EQ helps you access the benefits of your IQ. It takes both to build a successful career, strong relationships and a fulfilling life.

Clients need you to listen to them, be empathetic and communicate clearly, and to understand their emotions and how those feelings are impacting their decision making. The lawyer who takes into account all factors, including emotions — theirs and their clients' — will be the lawyer with the more successful and rewarding practice.


Irene Leonard has been a professional business coach for lawyers and other professionals for over 11 years, after practicing law for 18 years. She can be reached at 206-723-9900 or through her website, www.CoachingForChange.com. 2009 Irene Leonard

The article was published in the August 2009 Bar Bulletin