It is no longer news that lawyers are smart cookies and have been said to have among the highest average intelligence quotient ( “IQ”) of all job categories. Abstract thinking and the ability to recall volumes worth of information are some of the reasons lawyers are regarded as smart. However, studies have also shown that while lawyers have high IQs, they are emotionally underdeveloped and generally exhibit lower emotional intelligence than other professionals. This may be because lawyers are trained to logically analyse everything, focus on technical issues , find the right answers to all questions (in record time) and “stick to the facts”. Whatever the case, Lawyers have been found to have lower Emotional Quotient ( “EQ”).
High IQs will be great if lawyers were only dealing with analysing intellectual concepts, but law practice also includes how law impacts people. Everyday, lawyers are dealing with people (within their firms/companies , clients , experts in other industries or professions and other parties) while also juggling their own issues, dreams, and challenges—personal and professional. Lawyers and the people they are dealing with have emotions and are driven by emotions – without even knowing it. In order to effectively interact and manage people, it is important for lawyers to ramp up their EQ by becoming emotionally intelligent (“EI”).
At its core, emotionally intelligence is the ability to recognize, understand and manage your own emotions as well as the ability to recognize, understand, manage and influence the emotions of others. It also includes the ability to empathize and work with others, and manage them even while under stress. In the fast-paced and often stressful legal profession, where relationships are critical , a high IQ and EQ balance are extremely important in solving the many problems thrust upon lawyers by their clients. Lawyers with this imbalance, are unable to relate to the people they work with and cannot handle stress constructively in order to deliver required results.
Every Lawyer should be emotionally intelligent for the following reasons:
1. EI gives you the ability to adapt to changes in the legal profession
In its 2018 Future of Jobs Report, the World Economic Forum identified key skills that are needed in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. New technologies in this digital age mean that workers need to adapt to new roles and changes in the workforce. As a result, the report puts significant emphasis on not just technical and cognitive skills, but also on the “human” skills needed to thrive in this new age: creativity, critical thinking, flexibility, resilience, and emotional intelligence. Also, clients in the digital age are demanding transformed legal services – services that are client centered with the ability to handle complex and tense social situations and merge law, technology and business. As legal work becomes more diverse and global, a lawyer’s ability to be flexible and adapt to the demands of different clients relies on the strong interpersonal skills of emotional intelligence.
2. EI lawyers stand out from the crowd and are more employable
Employers are no longer looking for lawyers with high IQ – who are only technically proficient but also lawyers with great EQ levels. Marjorie Shultz, a Law Professor and Sheldon Zedeck a Psychology Professor came up with 26 factors which, they argued, could predict whether or not an individual would be an ‘effective’ lawyer. Many of these were ‘non-cognitive’ factors such as communication, conflict resolution and working with others. These factors require emotional intelligence. In addition, firms and companies have been developing different ideas about what they are looking for in their lawyers of the future. They are now looking at divergent thinking, candidates who are able to critically assess a situation by exploring different possible options rather than just applying rules, someone with initiative, good communication skills, a team player – all skills that are characteristics of a high EQ.
3. EI Lawyers are able to exercise better judgement
This is because they are able to manage emotions like anger and frustration (which always find their way into a stressful work day) and effectively deal with issues, assess risks by paying attention to the emotional data around a risk, and better understand which ethical standards are appropriate in a situation. EI lawyers are able to distinguish among the various emotions they are feeling, recognize and manage emotions that are not relevant and reach a more emotionally unbiased course of action. Rather than restricting action, being emotionally intelligent actually frees lawyers to more confidently take on emotion-vetted risks.
4. EI Lawyers are better at getting and keeping clients
And this is how they make more money and get the most promotions and benefits. Any lawyer who can effectively read the clients they work with it, understand their concerns and empathise with them stands a better chance of helping them find a solution to their problems – and keeping them. Clients want lawyers who can listen and communicate clearly, who understand their emotions and how those feelings are impacting their decision making. The lawyer who ticks all these boxes will most likely be the lawyer with the more successful and rewarding practice.
5. EI helps you to work confidently as part of a team
As legal work becomes less hierarchical and more collaborative, considering the feedback and emotions of others is essential. Emotional intelligence allows you to become aware of your own strengths, while being able to tune in to the strengths and skills of others. An openness to consulting with others can lead to creative problem solving and an appreciation for the value of teamwork. Self-regulation means you are thoughtful, deliberate and empathetic, yet decisive, traits that will make you both an effective team member and leader.
6. EI helps you develop and apply strong leadership skills
When you think of a “perfect authority,” in your legal field what comes to mind? You might picture a lawyer who never loses his or her temper, no matter what problems he or she is facing. Or you might think of a lawyer who has the complete trust of his staff, listens to his team, is easy to talk to, and always makes careful, informed decisions. These are qualities of someone with a high degree of emotional intelligence. High Emotional Intelligence is what differentiates successful lawyers and great legal leaders from the rest.
In all, Lawyers with higher EQs are better equipped to make use of their cognitive abilities and access the benefits of their IQ. A strong IQ and EQ balance will help you build a successful career, strong relationships and fulfilling life. You know what they say – IQ will get you through school, but EQ gets you through life!