Managing Emotions 1: Why Emotions Matter In Legal Matters (Emotional Intelligence 101 for clients)

In my post Finding the Right Lawyer, I spoke about the need to find a lawyer who has the legal skills needed for your specific problem.  For example, if you have an immigration issue, don’t go to a real estate lawyer.  In this post, I am adding to the “find the right lawyer” mix, a rarely discussed yet critical skill that most lawyers lack and yet most clients desperately need — Emotional Intelligence.

A few years ago, a successful doctor, who had gone through 6 lawyers over the past 6 years for his never-ending divorce, consulted with me.  (The wife had been through a few lawyers herself.)  It was the same dynamic each time: The doctor went to a new lawyer, told his sad and angry story and set out his goals.  The lawyer took a large retainer and committed to fight to the bitter end to achieve the doctor’s goals.  After a year or so, the doctor had paid out significant sums in legal fees yet no closer to achieving his goals. The doctor moved on to the next lawyer, thinking the problem is the lawyer.  That is why he kept changing lawyers.

After 20 minutes it was clear to me that the problem was not the high-powered lawyers or the financial or custody issues, but rather that the doctor’s goals were entirely unrealistic.  I told him that if he kept moving in the direction he was moving, he would spend another decade banging his head against the wall.  I told him he had two choices: (1) Buy a good helmet; or (2) Change your Goals.

Because his problem was unrealistic goals based on a  “my way or the highway” mentality and an inability to accept certain difficult realities in his situation, the solution for him was not yet another lawyer, but rather a top notch therapist.  Perhaps, if the therapist could get the doctor to get over his pain and realize that achieving 90% of his goals was sufficient, then I could wrap up the divorce so he, his ex-wife and most importantly, their children, could move on with their lives.

At the end of the 30 minute consultation, the doctor told me I was the first lawyer to tell it to him straight and he only wished he had gotten this advice 6 years ago.  In my blog post titled,  Client Goals 3: What You Need Your Lawyer To Tell You, you, as a client, MUST get your lawyer to tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear.

If you don’t get to the bottom of things quickly and efficiently, as I wrote in Client Goals 2: Be Realistic or Get Clobbered, you’ll end up spinning your wheels for 6 years, spending hundreds of thousands in legal fees and wasting so much precious time and energy.  Have you already experienced something like this?

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