When the general counsel of Nestle USA, Kristin Adrian, named the most important skills of the top lawyer, she started with legal knowledge and experience, and then added, “the ability to listen.” Friends, Romans, and lawyers, lend me your lawyEARS!
To listen successfully is to overcome several traits in-house counsel sometimes exhibit. Quickly jumping to a conclusion while the client explains the situation; feeling that value comes when the mouth is in gear; and patronizing clients, since how smart are they anyway?; resorting to intellect rather than empathy (See my post of July 31, 2005 on emotional intelligence.). Adrian’s comments are from inform: Life Law, & Business, Issue 1 at 5, with a coda by Harry Turner, the general counsel of Renesas (id at 20). Turner reminisces that lawyers learn to listen better once they’ve been “burned by the experience of acting on a client’s ‘story’ without probing and understanding the full scope and all the facets of an issue.”