Attorney Well-Being: Start with Emotional Intelligence

Mindfulness is a trending topic for lawyers and much has also been written on the benefits of meditation. Like other professions, lawyers are known to struggle with substance abuse, mental health, and general job dissatisfaction. While lawyers know that they need to reduce stress to improve their well-being, many are overwhelmed by the options and jargon. I had the pleasure of attending LegalShield’s Elevate CLE conference in San Diego last month, where Wendy Newman Glantz de-mystified emotional intelligence and provided a starting point for even the most conservative lawyer.

Wendy described how your emotions can disrupt your practice with problems associated with unhealthy intensity, arrogance or ego issues, volatility, rigidity, and selfishness. Her own journey included early career advice from a friend who said as a barracuda divorce attorney, Wendy was too emotionally involved with her clients. Over a decade later, when Wendy hit the proverbial wall and took a leave from practicing law, she realized her friend was correct.

Emotional intelligence (EQ) is defined as your ability to recognize and understand emotions, both in yourself and others, and to then use this awareness to manage your behavior and relationships. Unfortunately, over the years, Wendy has seen many professionals write-off EQ as fluff or a woman’s issue, when in fact, the benefits of high EQ in the workplace will not only lead to a happier and healthier environment, but also improve overall firm performance.

Psychologist Daniel Goleman defines the five components of EQ in Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, as listed below. Wendy added in examples of high EQ for each which help apply this to the law.

  • Self-Awareness: You recognize your emotions, moods, and drives and how that impacts others. A person with high EQ has the ability to receive and learn from constructive criticism from peers and clients alike.
  • Self-Regulation: You exercise restraint by controlling or redirecting emotions and anticipate consequences before acting. A person with high EQ can express themselves calmly in a difficult situation with control.
  • Motivation: You use your emotions to achieve goals and embrace your strengths to continuously learn. A person with high EQ is resilient and optimistic when they encounter disappointment.
  • Empathy: You are compassionate and understanding of others, including sensing their emotions. A person with high EQ provides better client service with knowledge of clients’ concerns and needs.
  • Social Skills: You excel at rapport and relationship building and inspire others. A person with high EQ builds a team and works well with others.

I have experienced some of the downsides of a low EQ in senior managers: high turnover, hostile work environment, and low morale. The cost of losing an attorney can range from $50,000 to $100,000 per lawyer, and that does not include the impact on your team and clients.

On the other hand, strong emotional intelligence in your leadership team can lead to better connections with employees, and allow you to understand your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Not only does that allow for better conflict resolution but also builds trust and ultimately relationships. For individuals, achieving a high EQ can improve time management and communication skills which leads to less stress, more energy, and better client service.

The first step is to recognize the value of strong EQ and become self-aware. Below are the top three takeaways to improve your and your team’s EQ and well-being:

  • Take an internal inventory of your own emotions and well-being, and allow others the time for the same personal reflection.
  • Go beyond leading by example and invest in your people by creating internal EQ programs based on employee needs. Communicate and survey your staff to discover issues.
  • Consider implementing stress-reduction techniques like relaxation, meditation, and mindfulness in your life, and provide support for your team to do the same.

Wendy also explained her method of resisting the temptation to fire back a nasty email when presented with a bad situation. She implements a three-day communication ban which allows her to take the time to pause and reflect without sending an email that she may regret later. Personally, I find composing an email, without any recipient, can be a good outlet for the stress of confrontation while implementing a professional time-out.

Wendy co-manages as a shareholder of Glantzlaw in South Florida. She has practiced law for more than 30 years, specializing in complex and highly litigated matrimonial cases. During her leave from the law, she recognized the benefits of nurturing a high EQ personally and within her firm. Wendy is also the CEO of RecreatingU, an executive coaching and consulting company and involved with the non-profit Spirituality for Kids. You can reach Wendy for more information on her internal law firm programs through Glantzlaw. Kevin Moore’s EQ mastery book is also an excellent EQ resource.

About the Author

Mary Juetten is the founder and CEO of Traklight, a cloud-based platform for tracking and protecting intellectual property, and is the co-founder and managing director of Evolve Law, a membership organization of legal entrepreneurs focused on innovation and the future of law. Contact Mary on Twitter @maryjuetten.


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