One of the occupational hazards of being a professional is that people are paying us for our knowledge and wisdom.

This is particularly true in the practice of law where the ability to argue or state a position is often seen as the hallmark of good lawyering. Many of us like to talk.

In truth, there are times when we miss the mark by opening our mouths. If we want to be effective in representing our clients, we need to be active listeners first.

Our eagerness to demonstrate our intelligence and legal acumen can interfere with our ability to truly understand the underlying issue or problem that someone needs to address. This means that we can find ourselves trying to solve the wrong problem.

But prescription without proper diagnosis is malpractice.

Active listening also plays a crucial role in building trust and trust is essential if you want clients to hire you or referral sources to send you matters.
When we are actively listening, we are showing empathy and building connection.

When we listen just so we can formulate a response, we miss the opportunity to really hear what the other person is saying. We lose the connection that is so important in relationship building.

It is pretty easy to detect when someone is just waiting for a chance to talk. We all do that from time to time. We all know people who are repeat offenders.

But practicing curiosity is a much better way to make others feel heard.
Ask open ended questions and then ask more open ended questions.
Find ways to be helpful rather than ways to prove how smart you are.

The same is true if you are in a leadership role in a law firm or corporate law department.

Are you frustrated with the quality of the work that your associate has done, or do you disagree with their analysis? Get into a conversation. Find out how they arrived at their answer. Learn whether there are any obstacles they face in getting their work done in a timely fashion.

In law school, we were actually rewarded for coming up with the right answer. In the working world, however, listening to understand is a lot more important than listening to formulate the best answer (at least in the short run).

So the next time you are speaking to a colleague, a client, a prospective client, or a potential referral source, show true interest in what they are saying. By doing that, you will engender a lot more trust and find your business relationships growing a lot stronger.

In addition, you’ll probably be a lot more pleasant to be around.

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