Pay Attention and Listen Up!

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Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

Listening and paying 100% attention to anything is amazingly powerful in every area of your law practice and life. Your legal clients will know you care when you listen, devoting your undivided attention and focus to their issues. Your spouse will light up when he or she knows you are giving your full attention. Your kids will know the love you feel for them when your mind isn’t somewhere else.

Attention energizes, and intention transforms. Whatever you put your attention on will grow stronger in your life. Whatever you take your attention away from will wither, disintegrate, and  disappear.

The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success by Deepak Chopra, p. 70

100% Attention is truly “showing up” in each moment of your life and “accepting” the moment as it exists, or accepting your responsibility to change it – or both. To be 100% attentive is to be completely in the moment. It’s timeless. When you are 100% attentive there is no past, no future, only the now – which is the only thing we truly ever possess, but almost never appreciate.


Paying 100% attention is at the core of providing “counsel” to clients. Rule 2.1 reminds us that as an “Advisor” we are to exercise independent professional judgment and render candid advice. To accomplish this task, you must pay 100% attention or you’re bound to miss a detail that leads to a follow-up question or something that makes or breaks the case.

You also have to pay attention to non-verbal communication if you’re going to make a difference in the lives of your clients. We sometimes deal with clients during very difficult times in their lives, so paying attention to how they say something may allow you to alleviate discomfort, heal pain, lessen shame, provide sincere client service, and get to the source of the problem.

The Art of Giving Advice

One simply cannot render good advice unless one has paid 100% attention to the client’s situation or problem. Legal ethics rules suggest a higher standard and taking good notes client meetings is important, but to reach this higher standard we also need to pay attention not just to the client in front of us, but to the things going on in their industry that give context to the client’s issue. Rule 2.1 says “In rendering advice, a lawyer may refer not only to law but to other considerations such as moral, economic, social and political factors, that may be relevant to the client’s situation.” (Your rule may be a little different of course.) Being a valued and trusted advisor requires bringing what you’ve learned by paying attention—integrating your experience with the story the client is sharing.

I have a client that is a well-known Internet marketing expert. His team is always pushing the latest and greatest. They move very quickly. To serve them adequately, I have to be right with them on the leading edge. In order to be an effective counselor to this company, I have to pay attention not just to the internet marketing industry and the client’s projects, but also to the personal relationships of the client’s team. If I stop listening with senses other than my ears, something otherwise “immaterial” may escalate to “critical” very quickly. It’s the same in any in such a fast-paced, creative, and highly emotional relationship. Without paying attention to all these inputs, my ability to counsel would be reduced.

(Photo:http://www.flickr.com/photos/94379417@N00/4808475862/#/)

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  • Great post, Kevin! This is great advice for everyone, not just lawyers. Things like paying 100% attention are definitely easier said than done.
    Thanks,
    Vi

  • Candice Aiston

    Love this post, Kevin! It’s a needed reminder, as it’s so easy to fall into the grind and forget what’s truly important as lawyers!

  • I love the post Kevin. Great reminder that attention is key. Without it, you could miss a nuance that was not their previously.

  • Thanks for the comments gang. For the record, this is one of the hardest things on the planet for me to do. I’m one of those ADHD attorneys, so I have a set of techniques that I use to help me pay attention – especially in client meetings. That’ll be the subject of another post if you all think the techniques are worth sharing.

  • Kevin, I’d be interested in the techniques you mention in your comment … looking forward to your next post.