Image Courtesy: Nemo
Every year, Harvard, Yale, Stanford and other top-law schools churn out their share of bright eyed students who are looking to make a difference and a name for themselves. However, only a few will become what some may call â€˜legal eaglesâ€™.
Many lawyers have writing, speaking, research, problem-solving, interpersonal and analytical skills. Yet, very few will stand on the same podium as Mary Jo White, Ted Wells, Dan Webb, Johnny Cochran and Alan Dershowitz.
So whatâ€™s the secret to becoming a Top Lawyer?
The secret is NOT entirely in knowing the law and how sharp you are. Yes, these elements are critical in the making of a top lawyer, but at the end of day, they are just two elements promising you stardom but not guaranteeing it.
The secret lies in (drum rollâ€¦â€¦)
The secret is in listening to what the client is saying. No matter how mundane it sounds, the ability to listen is easier said than done.
Take for example a hotshot, suave, 500 dollar suit-wearing Ivy-League lawyer representing a big corporation. On the face of it, he/she is representing a client which is a large corporation. In reality, however, there is a face behind that corporation. This could be the Chairman, CEO, COO, CFO, etc. These individuals have hopes, targets, ambitions and fears just like any other person. They are people with different levels of understanding, who are either thick or thin skinned. These people have good and bad days. Listening therefore can make the difference.
What is listening?
Listening is not just taking instructions from clients (that you in any case will need to do); listening goes beyond that. Listening involves knowing your client’s:
- Misplaced faith
- Blind spots
It is by having a complete understanding of your client’s position that you would not only be able to accurately answer, but also reassure. It is through proper listening that you pick the right tone, language, moment and demeanor when addressing your client.
Piece of cake? Think again
Sounds easy, right? After all, how hard can it be, listening to a client? Think again; the skill is critical and may catapult you to the heights of stardom and yet it is NOT taught in law schools. Some law schools may hire speech coaches to work on your advocacy but then that is not exactly developing better listening skills, or is it?
The art of listening
Listening is not just critical for a lawyer’s success but also very important from clients’ perspective as well. After all, they are the ones writing the check. Why shouldn’t they deserve the best in return? Is it too much to ask for understanding one’s hopes, concerns, interests and priorities? Believe it or not, these genuine human concerns are not addressed simply by having your office on the 80th floor and printing glossy brochures, created by expensive creative consultants.
Crux of the matter is…
So, becoming a top lawyer does not involve having a bird’s-eye view from the top floor of a skyscraper but getting inside your clientâ€™s head. Ask any â€˜legal eagleâ€™, theyâ€™ll tell you the same. Were you listening? Share your thoughts.
Kathleen Townsend is a regular blogger, writing mostly on topics of general interest to her readers. A sociology enthusiast, she is a graduate of George Mason University, USA. Presently, she works for Learninglaw.