Lawyers are beginning to understand the importance of emotion in the practice of law, including the concepts of mindfulness, compassion, empathy and understanding. The practice of law has never been a cookie cutter kind of business, every client brings new challenges and problems that need to be addressed. Many articles have been published about the importance of emotional intelligence and its role in managing and caring for clients. Just as important is the concept of emotional security and its role in client/attorney relationships.
Emotional security is basically the ability to have and exhibit confidence and competency to your client and the ability to engender trust between both parties. Lawyers who are anxious or stressed send all sorts of subliminal messages to their clients, as well as oftentimes being unprepared or fearful when conversing with a client. Clients (especially in litigation) are usually going through a very difficult time in their life and need to feel confidence and commitment from their attorney. If the attorney is not able to generate these feelings of trust in their client, being fired would be the least of their problems. These are the breeding grounds of ethical complaints.
In order to build emotional security, it is extremely important for the professional/lawyer to take an inventory of their strengths and weaknesses. Have some frank discussions with your associates and friends about how you are perceived and what you can do to present a confident and competent personality. If you are feeling afraid of failure or poor performance, seek help from counselors or coaches on how to deal with your fears. Most lawyers are very good at anticipating a client’s worst-case scenario in order to avoid the case going there, but not many lawyers know how to not take it personally. Lawyers have to do the best job they can and be practical enough to know that not everything works out as planned. Lawyers need to set boundaries on their time, and physical, emotional and spiritual health. They especially need to learn how to say “no” when work is making their personal life unbalanced. Lawyers need to pay attention to their physical health, especially if you are medicating any stress or anxiety. Finally, they need to take responsibility for their own happiness. No one is going to make you happy, only you can do that. In conjunction with establishing good boundaries, lawyers have to decide the principles of their character, enforce scrupulous honesty and unshaking integrity. Little white lies won’t get the job done, especially if we are lying to ourselves.
Just as important is the emotional security of the attorney/client relationship. Lawyers have to take the lead and the responsibility for establishing a mutual sense of trust. Lawyers can’t promise results they know they can’t produce to “get” the client. Lawyers shouldn’t promise they will make the adversary’s life miserable because that causes a nagging belief that you will make your client miserable as well. Lawyers have to make their client’s best interest the priority of the relationship. Are you available for your client or do you ignore their requests and fail to return calls on a timely basis. We all have needy clients which need to be managed but taking clients for granted will not create emotional security for the client. When you talk to your client, are you focused on the client or are you doing other tasks or multitasking when you meet or talk with them? Reassure the client that you are being efficient and effective with your fees and they are getting value from your efforts. Never, never, never, lie to your client. It not only will poison your relationship with the client, it will poison your reputation as well and may lead to complaints to the Bar.
Don’t be afraid to take surveys of your clients and ask them to rate you on how they feel about you. Ask them to rate you on a scale from one to ten on selfishness, honesty, empathy, respect (of the client), affordability, integrity, concern and most of all trust. Assure your client that if anything happens which causes them any concern to please bring it to your attention, so you can immediately deal with it. How your client feels about you is just as important as the results you get. When you have an emotionally secure relationship with your client, your stress and fear of failure will dramatically be reduced.