Riskin EmpathyAfter working with thousands of lawyers, I have learned that there is a tremendous gap between the way they perceive their interactions with their clients and how they actually interact.

When I ask lawyers if they care about their clients, the answer is almost always a resounding, “Yes.”

The next question I ask is, “Do your clients know you care?”

That question typically receives a puzzled look and then a response something like, “I think so.”

When I then ask, “Why do you think so?” the answers normally have nothing to do with conveying that the lawyer cares. They typically include how hard the lawyer works for the client, including early hours and late evenings, or reductions in fees that the client often doesn’t even know about.

When I press the point by asking “Have you told your client you care?” the answer is almost always the equal of “No.”

Most lawyers are reluctant to show empathy and caring because they feel it will make them look weak or too personal. Nothing could be further from the truth. Empathy and caring can be demonstrated in an assertive way. For example, a lawyer can say, “I can see how frustrated you are at the actions taken by the other side, and I think you’re very much entitled to those feelings. I think you have every right to pursue your position aggressively and I will do everything in my power to get you what I believe you deserve.” (Qualifications can follow from there to manage expectations, but you get the idea.)

A blog post by Ilina Rejeva entitled How Can Empathy Help You Differentiate Your Law Firm? published at LegalTrek argues that empathy can be a strong differentiator. I agree, and I encourage you to read the article.

Let me know your thoughts on this and any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.