Excellence in Law requires empathy. In fact, I'll go as far as to say that a Lawyer with a poorly developed approach to empathy is a Lawyer with an incomplete skillset.
A couple of important points before we continue.
1. Yes, empathy is a “soft skill”.
2. No, lawyers who show empathy are not technically weaker inside or outside of the courtroom. In fact, over the course of my career, I have found that some of the most "dangerous" lawyers in court, also happen to be the most empathetic of all. And their clients stick with them forever, as they should.
An empathetic lawyer will produce better results for their clients because empathy promotes and nurtures communication and trust. Communication and trust not only results in more information - it results in ongoing communication and higher quality information to work with.
In a client-lawyer relationship, high quality levels of communication is when the "magic" happens. “I trust my lawyer completely and so I share everything with them, including how I feel, as we navigate my legal journey, together.” The empathetic lawyer becomes invested in your legal journey with greater emotional depth and complexity and can deliver better outcomes. Period.
Additionally, an empathetic approach towards the party on the other side of your legal matter often provides far greater chances of a positive outcome when compared to going in fighting.
So how do you know if you've found it?
Go with your gut. Take extra time to make sure that you enjoy the way that your lawyer communicates with you. Are they asking you questions about your legal matter and about how the legal journey is affecting you? Over the course of your working relationship you will rely on these communication skills to deliver news, strategy and outcomes, both positive and negative, related to your legal matter.
Navigating a legal matter is stressful. There's no two ways about it. At the end of the day your lawyer is supposed to be your guiding light during times of turbulence. And that requires empathy.
Shana Nodel J.D
Principal Lawyer & Head of Litigation