Lawyers’ Low Emotional Intelligence Might Increase Malpractice Liability


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

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Lawyers test at low emotional intelligence compared to the general population and other professions. They are particularly low in a critical component of emotional intelligence: emotional perception, or awareness of their own and others’ emotions.

This could be a problem. Ronda Muir reports that in the medical world, lower emotional intelligence (EQ) tends to increase malpractice liability for doctors. In other words, doctors are more likely to get sued if they are out of touch with your emotions.

Muir thinks lawyers with low emotional intelligence probably have the same problem. She even found this quote from the ABA:

At the most elemental level of law practice, emotional intelligence appears to be necessary for attorneys to avoid malpractice liability.

Want to find out your EQ? Take this quiz. According to the Harvard Business Review, emotional intelligence is “firm, but not rigid.” That means you can improve your emotional intelligence if you are willing to work at it.

Muir recommends starting by building your “emotional vocabulary.” You should also exercise, consider meditating, and keep a journal in which you reflect on the emotional situations you face throughout the day. But if you are really serious about improving your emotional intelligence, the HBR says you might want to get a coach:

While no program can get someone from 0 to 100%, a well-designed coaching intervention can easily achieve improvements of 25%.

An effective coach can be expensive, but so is a malpractice claim. Plus, people with higher emotional intelligence tend to be happier people with stronger relationships. Whether you get a coach or work on your EQ on your own, there doesn’t seem to be a downside.

Featured image: “Successful businessmen handshaking after negotiation” from Shutterstock.


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  • I think part of the issues stems from legal education – which trains and embeds the idea that every position should be argued and one should not necessarily admit when they are wrong. Such training leads to a disaster when a client feels their concerns are not being heard and it also hinders the attorney’s ability to find creative, and non-combative, solutions to a client’s problems. Just my 2.5 cents on the issue.

  • Daniel M. Mills

    The D.C. Bar has a six-session series beginning April 7 on developing emotional intelligence skills for lawyers: