Empathy Costs Attorneys Nothing, But It Offers Them Everything

by Lauren Currin on Apr. 22, 2019


Summary: No attorney needs a lecture about the difficulties facing their clients. When you work in the legal field, you encounter plenty of people facing hardships. You understand a client’s challenges more than most people ever will.

But there are a few ideals that attorneys should revisit often. Never measure one client’s challenges against another’s. Each client calls for a fresh set of eyes. From their perspective, their case is probably one of the greatest tragedies they’ve ever faced, and it deserves to be treated that way.


In order to truly embody this ideal, you must have empathy. Being empathetic costs you nothing, but it can set you apart from the competition in profound ways, and at the same time it can also ensure that all your clients’ needs are met.


Practicing Empathy Doesn’t Mean Just Being Nice


No professional can benefit more from practicing empathy than attorneys. As an advocate, you are tasked with articulating your client’s experience. By routinely considering what life is like for your client, you’ll be positioning yourself to look at a case from a more intimate and well-rounded vantage point. So, empathy is essential to what you do every day, and it can make or break your case.


It’s equally important to empathize with your clients because it will make you a more compassionate and attentive advocate. Client experience is a key part of every firm’s service, and it’s often overlooked in favor of the legal services a firm offers. But clients want more than just a legal representative; they want someone who listens to them and understands what they’re going through.


Client experience is a broad concept that encompasses many different approaches to improving your law firm’s service. And that client experience can be dramatically improved by practicing empathy with each and every client that comes through the door.


Overcoming a Jaded Perspective


If you are a personal injury attorney who handles mostly catastrophic injury cases, it would be easy to take a client’s suffering less seriously if they come to you with a repetitive-stress injury or soft tissue damage. If you are a criminal defense attorney who mostly represents people charged with serious felonies, it might be easy to minimize the anxiety a client is feeling when they come to you for help with a series of traffic violations.


Attorneys must resist the urge to see one client’s suffering through the lens of their other clients’ experiences. Instead, they must see the case in front of them through the eyes of the client at hand. Clients will know whether an attorney isn’t taking them seriously. An inattentive attorney will not only be doing their client a great disservice by offering them less respect than they deserve, they will also be doing them a great disservice by dedicating less time and attention to their case.


Reset your mindset each time you meet with a client. Remember that, for them, their case is one of the most important things happening in their life. In the time you spend with them, it should be the most important thing for you, too.


Practicing empathy makes you a better attorney. It also makes your clients feel as important as they deserve to feel. You might even find that your job is more rewarding when you experience each case with a renewed sense of purpose and compassion.


The daily grind of working in a law firm can easily lend itself to complacency or apathy. Clients can sense when an attorney isn’t taking their legal matter seriously.  And it can be the kiss of death for the attorney’s relationship with their client.


You don’t need to put yourself on an emotional roller coaster to serve your clients. But you can develop a practice of checking yourself to make sure you see each client through a fresh set of eyes and treat them with empathy and respect.

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