I have been thinking lately about the very best family law attorneys I know, and I have identified an attribute that truly sets the very best family law attorneys apart from all the others.
I watched another attorney last week, who was unaware that I was observing him. For purposes of this article, I will call this attorney “Mike.” I saw Mike interact with his client. It was clear to me as I watched him that he was completely in tune with what his client was feeling. Mike seemed to reflect back to his client the perfect balance of empathy and strength. He was able to understand what his client was feeling and to carefully select just the right words to both inform his client, and comfort them.
I saw Mike working with the opposing counsel on the case. The opposing counsel was a total jerk and wanted everyone in the room to be aware that he was frustrated. Meanwhile, Mike was in total control of his emotions. Once again, Mike seemed to be reading the emotions of the opposing counsel. The opposing counsel seemed loud and egotistical, and Mike picked up on that and rather than challenge that opposing counsel, which would have triggered his ego, Mike interacted with the opposing counsel in a way that seemed to lower the opposing counsel’s guard. Mike was able to lead the opposing counsel to believe that the result that Mike wanted, was a victory for the opposing counsel. It was a masterful use of the opposing counsel’s ego against him. As I watched, I realized that the opposing counsel was getting played like a fiddle and he did not even know it.
Later I saw Mike interacting with the judge. Mike seemed to know exactly the right words to say and exactly the right tone to take. The response from the judge was stunning to me, as the judge went from being irritable to cheerful. It was as though Mike had actually altered the judges mood by knowing how to approach the judge and what to say and when.
I went home from court that day and began doing some research and discovered that many researchers have studied this trait I am taking about and it has been labeled Emotional Intelligence . Emotional Intelligence is a trait or set of traits that go beyond traditional intelligence which is measured by IQ tests. Emotional intelligence has been defined in a few different ways, but most researchers agree that it consists of at least the following traits:
Perceiving emotions – the ability to detect and decipher emotions in faces, pictures, voices, and cultural artifacts—including the ability to identify one’s own emotions. Perceiving emotions represents a basic aspect of emotional intelligence, as it makes all other processing of emotional information possible.
Using emotions – the ability to harness emotions to facilitate various cognitive activities, such as thinking and problem solving. The emotionally intelligent person can capitalize fully upon his or her changing moods in order to best fit the task at hand.
Understanding emotions – the ability to comprehend emotion language and to appreciate complicated relationships among emotions. For example, understanding emotions encompasses the ability to be sensitive to slight variations between emotions, and the ability to recognize and describe how emotions evolve over time.
Managing emotions – the ability to regulate emotions in both ourselves and in others. Therefore, the emotionally intelligent person can harness emotions, even negative ones, and manage them to achieve intended goals.
In observing Mike it became clear to me that this attorney was ultimately capable of both successfully achieving his clients goals through his effective interactions with the judge and the opposing counsel, AND providing the best possible experience for his client through his ability to understand and support them emotionally through the difficult process. I realized that Mike was in a league all his own among family law attorneys because of his unique ability, because of his emotional intelligence.
How to Find a Family Law Attorney with Emotional Intelligence
If you are looking for a family law attorney, you should go meet with them and see if they possess these traits.
Is this family law attorney able to accurately perceive your emotions and to respond appropriately and in a way that is satisfying to you?
Is this attorney able to communicate effectively with you, while being aware of both his own and your own emotions?
How does this attorney interact with his or her staff? Does he/she seems to understand their emotions and his or her own ? Does he/she control their emotions?
Does the staff seem to buy in to the attorney ? If they don’t, it is not likely that the opposing counsel and the judge will.
Is this attorney able to control his/ her emotions with your, or does he/she get frustrated when you do not understand or when you have limited finances?
Does this attorney seem to agree with everything you say, in such way as to lead you to believe they are not sincere?
The bottom line is that not all family law attorneys are created equal. There are some really great ones out there and there are some lousy ones, and there is every type in between. The key is to meet with an attorney and see how they make you feel. Trust your gut. Use the questions offered above, and you will be able to find an attorney with high emotional intelligence. Come meet with us. See what you think. Our clients, and our track record tell us we are pretty dang good.