Empathy – an ability that allows you to be more than a lawyer
What is empathy? Daniel Goleman says there are three types of empathy:
cognitive, emotional, empathic interest.
Cognitive empathy is what helps us understand how others think; we can understand their point of view. The emotional one allows us to experience the feelings of the interlocutor, without this automatically meaning that we will be able to show compassion towards him/her. Empathic interest brings together, to some extent, the abilities of other types and adds to them compassion and the desire to take action and offer help to the person in front of us.
For a harmonious relationship with his client, a Unique Lawyer must prove, on the one hand, that he/she has all the specialized knowledge necessary to solve the cases. But beyond that, they must also show an understanding of the point of view of his/her client, in the specific way in which the person before them approaches the problem they are facing. That has to do with cognitive empathy.
The other day I read some testimonials from a successful California lawyer. He said he was once a football player who had been seriously injured in a car accident. After an initial discussion with the client, he realized that the man was unaware of legal terms or how a lawsuit was conducted. That is why he tried to show his client, in a language familiar to his client, so that the client could understand his case.
We are a collection of experiences gained over our years of existence in this world. We are body and soul, spirit and matter; what we are, at any moment in our lives, is also a result of all the emotions and feelings with which we have encountered during the events of our lives. Therefore, it is human nature to seek communication with peers, something more than a simple exchange of personal experiences. The capacity for emotional empathy can be extremely useful in any context of life and, therefore, in our professional lives. Especially since we work with people, and for people.
The ability to feel the feelings that our interlocutor has faced, or still faces, is very important in the lawyer’s work. Many times, it can prove to be the key to deciphering the attitudes and actions of our customers. Mitch Jackson, the lawyer mentioned above, understood that the football player who was his client, was not familiar with legal terms. Therefore, in order to make him understand all aspects of his process, he tried to explain the case to him in sports terms, using metaphors taken from the terminology of American football.
We believe, however, that a Unique Lawyer, a lawyer who wants to make a difference in his profession, but also in the world in which he lives, will go beyond these steps and seek to develop what Daniel Goleman calls “empathic interest.” Understanding a different point of view of the concrete facts and experiencing the feelings of the interlocutor towards these facts is already a higher stage than the simple exchange of stories about one case or another. But we are convinced that a lawyer can do more than that. That he/she can indeed be “More than a lawyer”. Therefore, he/she will work primarily on their own person to develop this ability to be able to really put themself in the place of their client, asking for their help and to try, at the same time, to help the client, with his/her whole being.
The American lawyer I spoke to managed to speak the language of his client, assuring him that he was understood. Moreover, he managed to make him see the whole process, in which he was to be involved, as a football game. He, therefore, made full use of his client’s emotional side, causing him to become stronger and also emotionally involved enough as he could show that empathy. Here is a situation in which the protagonist could prove to be more than a lawyer. Because he knew how to show compassion and put these feelings at the service of his client, to whom he assured the victory of the case.
Surely you have faced, throughout your career, at least one situation in which it was necessary to put yourself in the place of your client, to show empathy. We would love for you to share some of these moments with us.