The Importance of Active Listening for Young Lawyers

Good communication skills are very important to lawyers.  We typically think of those skills in terms of good writing skills, good speaking skills, and good advocacy skills.  Although those skills are very important and you should strive to perfect them, another very important communication skill is often overlooked.  That is the skill of active listening.

Effective communication is about more than expressing thoughts and opinions.  It often determines how we receive information and interpret the messages of others, and it is necessary to a deeper understanding of another’s thoughts and demonstrating empathy and building connections.

Active listening is critical in many legal practice settings, from interviewing witnesses to negotiating billion dollar deals.  It requires attention to what others are saying — really focused attention — in order to gain information and to develop relationships with the speaker that can benefit you in myriad ways.  When you give your full attention to a speaker, you send a message that what is being said is important and worthy of  your time.

In a recent article, “Unlock the Power of Active Listening,” the writer, Tomer Rozenberg, suggests that active listening also includes involvement with a speaker without judgment and which goes beyond simply hearing words. Active listening also can improve problem solving, by ensuring that you fully comprehend what you are hearing, and can lead to more effective solutions.  And it can cut down on misunderstandings that often are very time consuming.

Recall how annoying it is to be in a conversation with X, who is not listening and is concentrated on other things and other people.  X is scanning the room over your shoulder, clearly not engaged with you, and likely anticipating a next conversation before completing the conversation with you.  Chances are that you form harsh opinions about X, the kind of opinions that you would not want others to form about you.

To avoid that result and develop active listening skills, start your conversations by maintaining eye contact, avoiding interruptions, and responding by paraphrasing what has been said.  An occasional nod or favorable facial expression also can go a long way toward achieving active listening.  My guess is that you are an active listener in conversations with your supervisor or manager because you think your job depends on it.  And you may be right about that.  Most managers and supervisors do not relish repeating themselves because someone is not listening.

Practice active listening in your personal life and move on to conversations in your professional life.  Active listening has no downsides and can be very important for career success and satisfaction.  And don’t you want to use all of the skills available to you to achieve those objectives?





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OCI is Not the Only Show in Town Any More. Meet PRECRUITMENT.

Something new is in the works when it comes to law school recruitment.  For law students who have relied on “On Campus Interviews”, there is now an option in the works.  Maybe  we  all should have seen it coming during uncertain times for law firms as the economy remains uncertain.  Hiring is down, but there is still a demand for top talent.

The following two articles are instructive.  This article  is an important harbinger for all law students seeking summer positions in Big Law and presents the concept of “prerecruiting, and this article is an update on summer associate positions, which turn out to be less of a guarantee of permanent hire after graduation.

The new “Precruiting” scheme seems like a power play from firms under the guise of allowing law students to lock in summer positions early and have more time to concentrate on their studies.  How benevolent.  I guess it has nothing to do with competition and wanting to “one up” other firms participating in traditional On Campus Interviews.

Although I understand the constraints that law firms are experiencing, I still value not using law students as pieces on a chess board.  It seems to me to be a bit disingenuous to pretend to care about the well-being of potential hires in the beginning and then throw them to the side at the end.

Decide for yourself.  And plan accordingly.

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Bravo to the Lawyer Moms

I was in Oklahoma City recently delivering the keynote address at a state bar association conference.  I met many interesting people, including junior lawyers, senior lawyers, male lawyers, female lawyers and judges.  One of the standouts for me was a woman who looked like she could deliver her baby at any minute.  She is a partner in a mid-sized firm, mother of two with a third on the way, and she has my vote for the the I Can Do It All Award.  She did not run off after the luncheon address but stayed for the panel discussion and for the Happy Hour afterwards.  She was all in, with a beautiful smile on her face all the time she was sipping her non-alcoholic beverage and the rest of us were enjoying a glass of wine.

Another woman had an infant in her arms and was doing the “mother rock” in the back of the ballroom throughout my speech.  Most of the audience did not notice her because their attention was focused forward toward me and the screen where the power point was playing.  But, I noticed this woman and her baby, and I loved seeing them there.  It knew that it had to be challenging for her to attend, but I thought that the subject of my speech, Owning Your Career, must have interested her enough to put in the effort.

Later, I saw that young woman with her baby in the hall outside the ballroom.  I told her that I enjoyed seeing her and the baby in the back of the ballroom.  Her response left me speechless.  She told me that, after the speech, she called her husband, who was home taking care of their two-year-old.  She told him that, after hearing me speak, she was sure that she was going to make it through her career challenges.  As she stated, “I now know that I am going to make it because you gave me the confidence I need to meet the challenges and succeed.”  God bless her.  She and others like her are what keep me going at Best Friends at the Bar.

So, when I was thinking about lawyer moms for this blog, I also wondered about the issues of interviewing for a job when you are pregnant.  I have not had that experience, but I found an article that raises all the issues you need to consider if you find yourself in that situation.  Although I am usually on the side of full disclosure, I was surprised to find that I was nodding my head at other possibilities.  I think you will find it helpful if you ever find yourself in that situation or if you are an employer on the other side of the interview.

Best wishes to all you Lawyer Moms.  Bravo!  I feel your pain and also your euphoric feelings of accomplishment.  You rock!

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