Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Why Lawyers Should Get Emotional With Clients

When I speak at legal education programs I often comment on the need for emotional detachment. I explain detachment in two ways. First, maintaining enough emotional distance to maintain your objectivity and your professionalism. Second, to control your emotions so that you don't promise something to your client that you cannot deliver (particularly during the initial consultation). It does you nor your client any good to hard sell in order to land the client, just to fail miserably at the results end of the case. "Managed emotionalism" (yes I will take credit for this term) is an important element of family law lawyering.

Legal consultant Arnie Hertz delivers his take on getting emotional with clients, more from an empathy perspective.

Here are two facts:

  • There’s a client service deficit in the law.
  • Lawyers tend to regard emotions – their own and other people’s – as irrelevant to their work.

At first glance, these two facts seem unrelated. But they’re actually closely (even intimately) connected.

Some time back, I posted on the interplay of emotions and client service in this new era of customer control. I linked to a ClickZ article citing a (then) new book by Dan Hill called Emotionomics: Winning Hearts and Minds. Launching from the premise that humans are primarily emotional decision-makers, the book discusses how emotions factor into our business opportunities in the marketplace and workplace.

Picking up on this point from a slightly different angle, in a recent post, designer and marketing mentor Peleg Top says, Go ahead, get emotional. Top notes that, in marketing (and, I’d add, in providing) our services, “an effective way to generate action is to tell a compelling story, one that hits your customer’s emotions.” Suggesting that most service providers miss this mark, he observes:

If you look at the majority of service companies [ ], the common story is all about who they are and what they do best. If I’m the customer, why would I believe them? What would compel me to trust that they really know what MY problem is? What my needs are? No feelings are generated and I will pass over them without a second thought.

In this new economy, feelings are a main form of currency. It may require a leap into the unknown for many lawyers, but to build strong and lasting business relationships, we need to give our clients the emotional connection they’re craving.

Please click here to view Arnie's original article.

Please be sure to visit www.hardinglaw.com, the website for the law firm of Harding & Associates, for more information on California family law.


Sam Hasler said...

I have come to my own conclusions that we do not handle the emotional side of family law very well. We need to recognize client's emotional needs and explain how the legal system can and cannot deal with them. Balancing all that is a problem.

John E. Harding, JD, CFLS said...

You are so right Sam.

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