To Grow to Be a Successful Lawyer: Listening Skills

My last two blogs were about communication. This one is, too, but from a different point of view. This time I want to focus on how to listen instead of how to speak. Listen means hear.

Lawyers do a lot of speaking, whether presenting opinion to the client or arguing in court. But in order to be successful, a lawyer must learn to listen as well as to speak.

We must listen to our clients. Sometimes I find myself so intent on answering the client’s legal questions or suggesting a legal solution that I might not properly listen to their real concern. Part of our jobs as lawyers is to serve as psychologists of a sort. We need to listen to get the real story and to learn the client’s real problems. Perhaps the issue can be resolved in a non-legal manner, for example, or by a different legal means than first appeared.

We must listen to the other side during a negotiation of settlement discussion, so that we can hear what their desires really are. What we hear may enable us to figure out a viable compromise. Many times we may be able to find a solution that is not really law-related, but more practical or commercial.

We need to listen in court to what the judge is really asking, so we can provide satisfactory information or figure out what the judge’s real concerns are. Sometimes listening skills will let us “hear” the underlying issues.

Sometimes I may be so intent to say what I want to say (especially when I’ve worked hard to research the issue and I “know” what the answer is) that I might not take the time to listen as well as I could. It can be hard to put ego aside and listen with a discerning and compassionate ear. But sometimes good lawyering skills come down to what we have learned by listening.

What do you think? Do you have any good examples of this from your own practice? Please add your comments, ideas, impressions, and information to this blog.