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1 Law Prac. Q. 7 (1999-2000)
Hiring Emotionally Intelligent Associates

handle is hein.journals/lwprcqu1 and id is 75 raw text is: IL ADER HI  &  MAA G M N  I

Hiring Emotionall
Intelligent Associat
We've all encountered the 900-pound go-
rilla partner who throws his weight
around, intimidates other partners, ex-
coriates hapless associates who displease him,
and eviscerates the poor secretary who forgets a
The wayward partner can be managed. How-
ever, it's much easier to hire emotionally intelli-
gent lawyers in the first place than to change the
behavior of 900-pound gorillas once you've got
them at the firm.
Many hiring partners and managing partners
state that they seek to hire well-rounded associ-
ates who are not only good lawyers but good
people. But if you look at the actual criteria that
are used by the firm to evaluate potential associ-
ate candidates, they place much greater emphasis
on academic prowess- law school attended,
grades, law review, etc.
Little systematic attention is paid to the tem-
perament of the associate. Temperament is really
a lay term for the visible layer of personality traits
possessed by an associate. Personality tends to be
stable, which means that if you hire an associate
who has a short fuse, in seven or eight years
you'll be admitting a partner with a short fuse.
For years, lawyers have dismissed psychologi-
cal matters as irrelevant, touchy-feely and in-
significant. In the practice of law, which is funda-
mentally a service business and hence a people
business, temperament and people skills often
play a large role in the ultimate success of a
Significant research conducted over the past 15
years establishes in more scientific terms the im-
portant role that these softer factors play in a
lawyer's success on the job. This is an area called
emotional intelligence, often abbreviated as EQ
(in distinction to academic intelligence, which is
known as IQ). In 1995, Dan Goleman, a psycholo-
gist and journalist who used to write for the New
York Times, published a book entitled Emotional
Intelligence, which has become an international
best-seller. In 1998, Dr. Goleman published Work-
ing with Emotional Intelligence, in which he demon-
strated the importance of EQ principles to the
What is emotional intelligence and why does it
matter? Basically it embraces four clusters of psy-
chological skills, or what are more aptly called
emotional competencies:

by Larry Richard

1. Self-Awareness. This is the gold standard of
emotional intelligence, the foundation element on
which all the other emotional competencies are
built. According to the research, people who lack
self-awareness are much more likely to derail in
their careers than people who are skilled in these
competencies. This cluster includes an awareness
of one's inner emotional life, knowledge of one's
strengths and limitations or blind spots, and self-
To be aware of your inner emotional life, you
need to be self-observant and in touch with your
feelings. If you're not, you can easily suffer what
Goleman calls an amygdala hijacking. The
amygdala is a structure in the ancient part of our
brain that stores emotional memories and helps
us to make instant, primitive decisions such as
Am I its prey or is it mine? When a mangled
phrase in an associate's first draft of a pleading
leads a senior litigator to see red and publicly ex-
coriate the associate, the litigator has suffered an
amygdala hijacking. At the time he blasted the as-
sociate, chances are he didn't have a conscious
awareness of his anger before he got to the point
where that anger triggered a powerful flood of
hormones that led to the excoriating behavior. His
lack of awareness resulted in his having little
choice in the moment. Emotionally intelligent
people can detect an emotion and identify it early
enough to allow the higher cerebral function to
intervene and thus head off embarrassing and in-
effective behavior.
Knowing your strengths and limitations is also
a key part of the self-awareness cluster. Lawyers
unaware of their limitations can all too easily ac-
cept a case outside their core area of expertise and
become a malpractice suit looking for a place to
happen. The emotionally intelligent lawyer
knows when to refer a matter or to consult a
Closely allied with this is the self-confidence
element. Many lawyers present a bold, assertive
air of certainty when arguing a point. This gives
the impression to many that the lawyer is confi-
dent. Confidence in this sense includes the idea
that the individual is thick-skinned enough to
take criticism and not become defensive, instead
listening and reflecting on the feedback to see if
there's an element of truth to it. Research on
lawyers' personalities reveals that the majority
are on the thin-skinned end of the spectrum, are

American Bar Association Law Practice Management Section / www.abanet.org/Ipm

In the practice
of law, which is
a service
business and
hence a people
and people
skills often play
a large role in
the ultimate
success of a
on next page)

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