Emotional intelligence for lawyers

Emotional intelligence (EI) refers to the degree to which one is:

*  aware of one’s own feelings,
*  able to discriminate among those feelings and to manage them to faciliate appropriate responses,
*  able to motivate oneself despite feelings of self-doubt, inertia, etc.,
*  able to recognize others’ emotions based on various cues,
*  empathetic to others’ feelings, and
*  skilled in handling interpersonal relationships and conflicts.

Research by Daniel Goleman, who brought EI to public attention with his book Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ, shows that 85-95% of the difference between a “good leader” and an “excellent leader” is due to emotional intelligence.  Goleman’s new book, Social Intelligence, examines neuroscience to further support the idea that humans have a biological tendency to be empathetic, cooperative, and altruistic.  It’s no secret that we’d all prefer to work with and for nice people rather than jerks, and EI is a measurable way to describe how a a “nice person” behaves and to help pinpoint the areas for individual improvement.

Googling on “emotional intelligence” will turn up over 3 million hits; Googling on “social intelligence” turns up about 38,500 (but Goleman new book was released only in late September, so that will surely change).  Stephen Seckler has provided a link to a very well-written Altman Weil article on EI for lawyers, complete with a quiz to reveal your EQ.  Check it out.

PMBR Infringed NCBE’s Copyright

Though most readers likely took and passed the bar exam some time ago, perhaps this post will be of interest nonetheless.  This may be old news to some, but it was new to me…

On August 22, Judge Fullam of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania entered an Order and judgment on behalf of the National Conference of Bar Examiners, against Multistate Legal Studies, Inc., Robert Feinberg, and Dona Zimmerman, better known to scores of bar-takers as PMBR. The Court found direct evidence of copying (which, for those not familiar with copyright law, is quite unusual in an infringement case) under striking circumstances.  Feinberg took the Alaska bar exam five times before barely passing it on his sixth attempt, and he was caught removing a sheet of scratch paper with notes on it at the conclusion of the afternoon session of his third try at the bar.  The Court concluded that “nearly all” of the 113 PMBR questions challenged by the NCBE as infringing were substantially similar to copyrighted MBE questions, and imposed a variety of remedies including nearly $12 million in damages.

When I took the Georgia bar in 1993, most students took only Bar/Bri.  But when I took the Florida bar in 2005, I quickly discovered that most students took both Bar/Bri and PMBR.  I took the 3-day PMBR course described in the Order and found it useful.  (For anyone planning to take the bar, working as many questions as possible is critical preparation, in my opinion.)  I was of course attracted by the promised similarity between the PMBR questions and what I’d find on the actual bar, though I did view that claim somewhat skeptically.  But when I took the bar itself, I was surprised to find substantial differences between it and the preparatory questions I’d worked.  Not just a lack of repetition; the format of the questions bore little resemblance to PMBR’s practice questions or to the questions released by the NCBE.  And now I know why: in July 2005, the NCBE reprinted the exam because PMBR’s copyright infringement “had compromised the initial version.”

I have no bones to pick with PMBR.  I passed the Florida exam and went on my merry way.  But I do find this story fascinating… And I wonder what PMBR’s enrollment statistics will be for the next bar exam prep period.

Working Mother magazine’s Top 100 places for moms to work

Working Mother magazine released its annual list of the top 100 places for moms to work, selected on the basis of each company’s flexibility, leave time for new parents, child care, elder care and the number of women occupying top jobs.

Three law firms made the cut: Arnold & Porter, Covington & Burling, and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman.

The website for Working Mother magazine is down at the time of writing, but I’ve linked it in case it comes back up.  Bad day for it to be down, huh?

Introducing the “magic wand” for communicating: the DISC

As I wrote on Monday, the DISC assessment helps people to understand their own behavioral and communications styles, to identify the styles of other people, and to learn how to make that knowledge work for them.  Today, let’s look at what each of the dominant styles tells you about how a person is likely to act and how best to communicate with that person.

What creates communication?  Body language (55% of the message), tone of voice (38% of the message), words (only 7% of the message), and the pace or rate of speech.  The DISC takes account of all of these factors and teaches you how to use each for maximum effectiveness.  Drawing on behavioral insights that date back to 400 B.C., the DISC measures observable behavior to categorize how people act.  Each of the DISC styles brings its own strengths and weaknesses, and none is “better” than the others.

Dominance: If someone is a “high D,” they’ll probably be rather impatient, demanding, competitive, goal-oriented, and quick to anger.  In communicating with a D, you want to focus on the task at hand and present what you need to communicate almost as an executive summary.  If the D needs more, she’ll ask — but don’t hold your breath waiting for that.  And when the D communicates with you, she’ll probably be blunt, forceful, and directive.

Influence:  A “high I” style is a persuasive, enthusiastic, creative person who likes people and is well-liked.  Communicating with an I calls for creativity, flexibility, and energy.  Use lots of examples, analogies, and pictures, and don’t hesitate to let the I know what other people think.  It’s helpful to be informal with an I and to be ready for lots of spontaneity, but be prepared to cope with the I’s dislike of rigid organization.

Steadiness:  The “high S” is loyal, supportive, a team player, someone who doesn’t like confrontation or change.  His pace will be slower and low-key, and communicating with an S requires reflection of that in your own behavior.  The S wants to hear about how a plan of action will create stability and predictability, and he’s unlikely to act without examining all of the options and working to minimize risks.  The S likes personal attention and being part of a team.

Compliance:  Someone with a “high C” style is organized, detail-oriented, and focused on quality.  Communicating with a C calls for lots of data, a thorough presentation, plenty of material that supports what you’re saying, and precision in the communication.  Think of the C as someone who likes graphs, data, and accuracy.  The C will be rather formal, not a “touchy-feely” kind of person, and she won’t be in a hurry to make a decision.

As these brief introductions to the styles indicates, knowing a person’s dominant style of behavior will allow you to tailor your approach to that person and to understand better what’s going on when that person reacts.  For example, the meaning is radically different between a D who’s angry and an S who is; the D will be quick to get angry, whereas anger in an S likely reveals a much deeper issue because the S doesn’t have a short fuse and dislikes confrontation — so you’ll want to take an S’s anger as a much stronger signal than a D’s anger.  Similarly, you can plan an approach based on behavioral style: think brainstorming with an I and PowerPoint with lots of data for a C.

Once you understand your own behavioral style and learn to recognize others, you will have an inside track to clear communication.  Imagine being able to plan your pitch to a potential client already knowing what kind of information will help him decide that you and your firm have the skills and the savvy to provide the services he needs.  Visualize being able to stop acting as a referee between your colleagues or support staff and instead being able to help them understand where the team members are coming from so they can work together more effectively.  Consider how knowing your own style can help you understand how others are likely to see you, what your strengths and weaknesses are likely to be, and how to adapt your own behavior to communicate better with others.  Knowing more about your style could even help you improve your golf game.

This is just a brief introduction to the DISC and to the attributes and communications styles of each DISC-identified behavioral style.  If you’re interested in learning more, please contact me.

“Law practice the way it should be.”

David Maister recently profiled Christopher Marston, a 29-year old Boston attorney who founded a 9-person law firm known as Exemplar Law Partners immediately after he graduated from law school.  The firm bills exclusively on a fixed price model, offering more budget-friendly services to its clients and a good work environment for its lawyers.  The firm touts its practice as follows: “No hourly bill.  No hourly bull.  Law practice the way it should be.”  Marston is blogging about his experiment, and his comments are truly fascinating.  I particularly commend his post titled, “The Dirty Little Secret About Hourly Billing and Low Professional Satisfaction!”

It will be interesting to follow the firm’s success.

Congratulations to the women of Kuwait!

This is off the ordinary topic, but today cannot be overlooked.  As readers likely know, women voted today in Kuwait’s elections for the first time in a national poll.  Without delving into the politics (or the socio-religious implications of the politics, or any combination thereof), this is a red-letter day for women in Kuwait and perhaps more generally for women in the Gulf and Arab world.  The spirit of change is clearly expressed by the offer extended by Jazeera Airways, a Kuwaiti carrier, for free flights to Kuwait for women, to ensure that as many Kuwaiti women as possible get the opportunity to cast a vote.  We may argue about what freedom is, how any society may or should express it, but it’s remarkable to see when all members of a society get a voice.

As an American woman, it’s hard to imagine not having the right to vote.  But, for the sake of interest, I offer the following selected dates:

1869:  unmarried female householders permitted to vote in Britain’s local elections
1893:  New Zealand grants equal voting rights to women
1894:  married women permitted to vote in local (but not national) British elections
1906:  Finland grants women equal voting rights
1907:  Norwegian women permitted to stand for election
1913:  Norway adopts full woman suffrage
1920:  U.S. adopts woman suffrage nationwide
1971:  Switzerland grants women the right to vote

The Woman Suffrage International Timeline is a fascinating read.  It’s surprising to note how early some women were permitted to vote, and how long women were required to wait in some “advanced” societies.

Did you know that U.S. women were first granted full voting rights by the Constitution of Wyoming Territory in 1869?  Indeed, Wyoming promised to forgo statehood rather than give up woman suffrage, though it was granted statehood in 1890 and termed the Equality State.

I grew up learning about Wyoming’s suffrage history because my mother wanted to research the story.  She did so for more than twenty years, and an overview of her findings were printed in the Centennial edition of the Wyoming Annals:  Sidney Howell Fleming, “Solving the Jigsaw Puzzle: One Suffrage Story at a Time,” Annals of Wyoming 62, no. 1 (1990): 23-72.  But there’s much more to the story.  Although I write with a daughter’s pride, the history deserves to be more widely known than it currently is.  I invite anyone interested in this topic to contact me for further discussion… It’s a breathtaking conversation.

Work/life balance: the partners’ perspective

The May 2006 ABA Journal is full of interesting articles.  The most fascinating to me is titled “The Great Divide: Partners and Associates Are at Odds over Opposing Approaches to Work, Play and the Practice of Law.”  Unfortunately, the article is not (yet?) available online.  Get to your closest law library, if you aren’t an ABA member, and read this article.

Its thesis is that many partners believe there’s a generational conflict between themselves and young associates — Gen Y.  An unnamed partner at a New York-based national firm says that few young associates remain in the office after 5 PM, that few are motivated to work hard, that associates don’t appreciate the training and opportunities (not to mention high salaries) that firms shower on them.  Karen Turner McWilliams, of Reston, Virginia, is quoted as saying, “When I was coming up, associates did anything and everything they could to appease the partners.  That is no longer the case. . . . They really have bought into this work-life balance phenomenon that is pervading all industries.  So they are not willing to work as late, be on call, work weekends.  That is the mentality . . . It’s really not a bad thing.  I honestly can see both sides of the argument.”

Wow.  (I have to add that those comments don’t in any way reflect my experience.)

On the flip side, the article also describes young associates’ observation that unflagging enthusiasm for work is too often rewarded with layoffs or early retirement.  Accordingly, associates want to have a rounded life rather than being willing to work all hours for a higher profit-per-partner ratio, particularly now that partnership is a less certain reward and of less certain value than in the past.  Peter Ellis, an associate in the Chicago office of a large, international firm, argues that his peers do work hard in the office and that they carry work with them via BlackBerry, cell phone, and laptop when they’re away from the office.

What’s most striking to me in this story is the disconnect in viewpoints.  Of course, absent that schism, there would be no story.  But there must be at least a grain of truth to the descriptions — and they do in fact ring true.

In considering the merits of the two positions, I’m left with a quandry: is practice an either/or?  Is it a choice between being a 24/7 drone or being a work/life balance spoutin’ slacker?  And how do we measure this stuff, anyway?  Money, generally produced by billables, is the traditional measurement, but that seems to predetermine the conclusion since anything that reduces the number of hours that could otherwise be realized is detrimental under that scheme.

Perhaps there’s a tipping point between hefty-but-healthy hours and income and the hefty-but-unhealthy path to burnout.  Perhaps that’s where we’re headed.  In 1994, then-Chief Justice Rehnquist said that average billables in the 1960s were about 1450 per year as compared with an average of 2000 annual billable hours in the 1990s.  As always, the devil is in the details.  Is the tipping point 2050 average annual billable hours?  (Evidently not!)  Is it 2400?  Who gets to decide?

I’d submit that each group of lawyers, i.e. each firm, as well as each individual lawyer gets to decide and that in fact, we’re all deciding right now.  (And for the purposes of this discussion, my comments are limited to lawyers in private practice.)  If a lawyer is deciding between Firm A, which pays a high salary and has a mandatory minimum of 2000 billables, and Firm B, which pays an exhorbitant salary and has an unwritten goal of 2500 billables — doesn’t the lawyer get to decide?  She won’t be forced to either firm, though of course the weight of her law school debt may exert substantial pressure.  She has the ability to decide what she wants her work/life balance to look like, and as long as the hours in the work part of the equation is at least as high as the partners of her chosen firm expect, it’ll work.  (And if they are higher than expected, higher than her colleagues, the system will adapt or she will choose to leave for a firm with a commensurately higher pay scale or better opportunity in some other way.)

So then, isn’t the answer to have a completely open legal market, in which sweatshops admit to being sweatshops?  In which other firms establish their goals and identify which goals are truly aspirational and which are required?  In which candidates for employment say upfront that they’re unwilling to work weekends or to bring work home?  Ideally, I think that’s a part of the answer.  But the world doesn’t work that way.  And so we’re left with unstated expectations, the more senior lawyers’ sense of having stretched themselves in ways that the new crowd is unwilling to do — they don’t make ’em like they used to, you know — and younger lawyers torn between the siren song of more money, more more more, and the quieter but (at least for some) more fulfilling vision of a life.

And of course the intangibles remain: what value do younger lawyers place on training?  Mentoring?  An apprentice-style start to their career?  What value do more senior lawyers place on these same aspects?  And what’s the financial bottom line?  Not to mention the role of technology, though I do hope the article is dead wrong in reporting observations that senior lawyers don’t believe it’s possible to be working without being physically present in the office.

More answers than questions.  But the one answer that emerges crystal clear: it is incumbent upon each lawyer to know why he’s decided to practice law.  If it’s money, that’ll dictate one branch on the career path.  If it’s social justice, that’ll be another.  If it’s to help people, refinement is necessary to crystallize exactly what that means.  But without these markers, the young associate stands all too high a chance of ending up in a practice setting that can’t and won’t meet his vision for his career.  And then, the least damaging result will be a disconnect between his perspective and his senior partner’s.