A Quick Guide To Running A Law Practice: Listening To Clients
It is interesting how humans tend to categorize, explain, and distinguish some of their most basic activities, like listening, even despite the risk of overcomplicating it. Yet, when researching the term “listening” on the web, it is confusing to find terms like active listening, reflective listening, and empathic listening, especially when they are used both interchangeably and distinctively. Regardless of the terminology or intellectual analysis applied to the term, attorneys must have superior listening skills, especially when interacting with clients. The listening process is also critical to the success of a negotiation or mediation since it shapes the listener’s response.
In its simplest form, according to the definition posed by the Oxford Living Dictionaries, to listen is to give attention to sound or action. The act of “listening” is hearing the words of another speaker and trying to understand their meaning. Although a simple exercise of the human senses, listening is not an easy process.
The act of listening engages complex affective, cognitive, and behavioral processes. Affective processes are comprised of the motivation to listen; cognitive processes involve the understanding, reception, and interpretation of content; and behavioral processes include responding with verbal and nonverbal feedback.
One key that is frequently mentioned, whether referred to as active or empathic, is primarily listening for the sake of understanding the message rather than for the sole purpose of responding to it. This, coupled with asking questions in a slow, patient, responsive manner to gain clarity, helps ensure that clients never feel insignificant and hurried.
An attorney who is a good listener pays unequivocal attention to clients without interrupting. A good “active” listener analyzes the speaker’s words for deeper meaning, while also remaining aware of any non-verbal messages to understand their full meaning. Listening serves many valuable purposes. It builds respect and trust, enables the speaker to release emotion, reduces tensions, encourages the speaker so that information surfaces freely, and creates an environment more conducive to collaborative and effective problem-solving.
The California Desert Trial Academy is a progressive law school where students focus on those skills necessary to become not just a lawyer, but an attorney-advocate. Learning the skills to be an advocate gives students an expedient path to a successful and rewarding legal career. An essential skill for attorneys is the ability to train new employees and engender a feeling that they work with you in contrast to working for you.