The Case for Emotional Lawyering

Emotional lawyering isn’t weak — it’s a superpower.

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It doesn’t matter where or how I meet you. It could be at a coffee shop, a dinner party, a 15 minute Hello Divorce strategy call or a consultation through Levine Family Law Group. Everyone (or just about everyone) has the same internal and external fears.

For years we focused on the external thinking that was enough. How we could transition clients out of marriage in the most efficient, ‘successful’ and cost effective manner. It wasn’t until we began surveying our communities and really connecting with clientele that we realized – the divorce itself – the procedural and substantive issues that needed to be resolved – was really only one piece of a much bigger puzzle.

We are struggling with so much more. Regardless of whether you chose to leave after agonizing for what felt like forever or your spouse made the unilateral decision to end your marriage – divorce is hard. There is (almost) always an internal struggle and dialogue at work:

  • Will my kids be ok?
  • Will we end up in court battling it out? (I don’t want a messy, long divorce?)
  • Will my credit suffer so much I won’t be able to purchase a new home?
  • How long will this take?
  • Who can I trust? Will my lawyer really do what s/he says they will do? What incentive do they have to get this done quick and quietly?
  • What will it look like to be “me” instead of “we?”
  • Will I have enough money to make ends meet?
  • I don’t want to “start over.” What if my next relationship turns out the same? or worse?
  • Will I ever stop feeling badly for leaving?

We’ve long been conditioned as lawyers not to address this stuff. “It’s what therapists and divorce coaches do. Your hourly rate is too high.” “This is a business transaction. The emotional needs to be left out of the transactional.”

I’d argue that we need to let go of that thinking. It doesn’t benefit our clients to ask them to make decisions in a vacuum. I’m not advocating for hours and hours of therapy like chats – clearly we are not the best equipped to handle counseling – after all, we don’t even have a psychology degree. But, what we can do a lot more of islisten.

Listening is the most underutilized tool in a lawyers toolbox. By listening to our clients, we don’t just connect with them on an emotional level… but we can really hear the case in a new way – all the pieces, motivations, triggers…this can only benefit our strategy and the client’s outcome.

“Success” to most of us, clients included, means balance across all areas of life – work, health, friends and family. Divorce and other family or legal matters – can jeopardize every facet of our lives. How can we employ emotional lawyering such that we our devising and executing on a strategy that does far more than satisfy egos or create a financial ‘win.’

Not everyone needs or want this type of lawyer. That’s ok. We can have different services and products that account for this. And not every lawyer enjoys or even has the skills to connect on this level. That’s ok too – it doesn’t have to be you (gasp) who makes this client connection – there may be other people in your office who are better suited for it.

Regardless, let’s rethink what it means to lawyer in 2020.

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