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Emotional intelligence best predicts success as a corporate lawyer (!)

Steven Keeva in the ABA Journal (July 2005 at 72) proclaims: “Research over the last decade has conclusively demonstrated that emotional intelligence [known as EQ] predicts success more than any other single factor – more than subject matter knowledge and job experience,” according to Jean Greaves, co-author of a book on EQ.

Swallow hard. I hope you are not on a low salt diet, because to accept this you will need to take a big grain.

To know the law, understand the business, apply analytic ability, live for client service, slave long hours – nah, nothing serves you in the climb to CLO as much as “effective communication between the rational and emotional centers of the brain.” Emotional self awareness, lawyer, that’s the key.

Coyness, be gone!. I viscerally disagree with the claimed predictive value of EQ, but to be honest, I may be an EQ moron.

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2 responses to “Emotional intelligence best predicts success as a corporate lawyer (!)”

  1. Susan Dunn says:

    Since I coach, teach and write about emotional intelligence (EQ), your blog entry caught my eye. That’s a tricky qoute there, capable of being misconstrued, just as Goleman is misquoted. Goleman said EQ COULD be more important than IQ. I’m sure you’d agree in some cases it can be. EQ is a predictor of success because it includes competencies such as intention, resilience and focus. Can that make up for lack of education or experience? No, but all things being equal, it can make the difference. All things being equal, wouldn’t you rather work with (hire, work for) the person with the EQ skills? In a field with any number of competent individuals, it can (and does) give one the edge. I’ve seen the research Greaves refers to, but innately what do we know? EQ is about managing emotions, not deifying them any more than deifying ration. EQ cannot make up for lack of IQ, but it can render IQ useless. If you cannot manage your anger in a given situation you cannot apply your analytical or logical thinking. I’m sure you’ve seen that happen more than once. In fact one way to disable someone else’s power in an argument is to provoke them to anger, yes? We also must use the emotional factor to influence, convince, and motivate. Juries would be one example; client service, another. Given two attorneys with similar education, experience and records, which is the client likely to give his or her business to? The one they feel best about; you might even say “the one they LIKE the best.” In a rational field such as the law, emotion is suspect precisely because we comprehend its inherent power –to swamp our own thinking, to influence the thinking of others, to effect decisions, to make us think and act irrationally. And lawyers use it. Here’s something from Jim Perdue, Houston personal injury attorney’s website about winning in the courtroom (which he does): “Courthouse dinosaurs survive today because we have not forgotten the psychological phenomenon that most people make decisions with their hearts and then use logic to confirm them. Computers will never be able to reach the hearts and souls of people but they can help to present material in such a way that helps people logically confirm what in their hearts they know represent justice.” And do you not assess right away how the witness is going to affect the jury? “She’s xxx, AND the jury will like her.” As Oscar Wilde said, “It’s not enough to be wise. One must also be charming.” Nothing can destroy logic and rational thinking faster than emotion. EQ’s about managing emotion. And when extended to what we might call “social skils,” well studies show that while many doctors make mistakes, it’s the doctors perceived as “cold” and “arrogant” who get sued. Emotional intelligence also encompasses those competencies which allow you hard-working individuals to deliver the client service and slave long hours. Emotionally one might prefer to be out playing golf, after all. There’s not a person alive — a judge, a lawyer, a client — whose logic can’t be swayed by emotion — strong enough, long enough, or “just because.” Build the best case, meet all the deadlines, present well at the hearing and insult the judge and … Is EQ the best single predictor? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I bet you’ve got a lot or you wouldn’t be where you are.

  2. The qoute above may be overly optimistic. However, as a major provider of anger management/executive coaching with a focus on EQ, I can say with certainty that coaching clients from law and medicine consitently rate the training in emotional intelligence as being the most popular of the topics covered in our program.
    Our anger management classes teaches skills in stress management, anger management, communication and emotional intelligence.