Useful commentary for in-house counsel on brains

My former colleague at Hildebrandt, Mark Sirkin, published a clear and useful article about the human brain – “a user’s guide” – in the NYSBA J. Sept. 2010 at 38. How well in-house lawyers understand the brain and effectively use their own makes an enormous difference.

Sirkin demolishes the myth of multi-tasking. Further, as he memorably puts it, scanning email while you talk to someone is “bad manners and bad neuroscience”(See my post of Aug. 26, 2009: trying to do too many things at once with 8 references and 1 metapost.).

Sirkin also gives sound advice on the care and feeding of brains. He lists websites that provide brain training:,, and Along with food, rest, and brain exercise, Sirkin recommends relaxation techniques such as “yoga, tai chi, meditation or mindfulness, and biofeedback.” To my amazement, given that this blog has 5,730 posts, not one mentions any of those techniques! Stress lurks around many in-house desks, so these could be useful.

Finally, Sirkin espouses emotional intelligence (EQ), noting sadly that lawyers tend to have higher IQs than the average person but “their EQ scores tend to be lower” (See my post of Dec. 3, 2007 #4: EI with 5 references.) How you empathize with clients may often be more important than how rationally correct and precise you are.

One particular observation of Sirkin hit home for me: “[I]f you are trying to convince someone of something, it is easier to teach that person a new idea than to get the person to give up an old one.” I like that as a consultant and as a change agent.

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