How To Be a Better Listener

One crucial thing lawyers must (before anything else) do, is listen and listen better. Often times, lawyers lose sight of the client and stop listening to their clients because they become enraged with the overall story or they become blindsided by the opposing attorneys’ tactics. In short, if an attorney fails to listen properly to their client’s account of the facts/story, the attorney’s presentation of the case may fail to address important and critical matters at trial, which could cause the attorney to the lose the case (not to mention potential future clients). How is this problem remedied?

Step 1: Attempt to eliminate distractions.

  • Turn off your phone and suggest to your client to turn theirs off as well during your consultations.
  • Encourage your client to not bring other people to the consult or other projects so you and the client can focus on the details of the client’s story and issues
  • If your client brings their child, suggest for the client to bring activities for the child to engage in while you are meeting to eliminate further distractions
  • Let your client know that you have set aside their consultation time just for them and give them your undivided attention

Step 2: Slow Down.

  • While in a consult do not let note taking take away your focus on what is being said.
  • Listen to your client instead of trying to formulate a plan and trial tactics — you can piece together the information later. In the consult focus on what your client is saying and doing.
  • Do not multitask in a consult. Focus on the task at hand- listening to your client.

Step 3: Avoid Making Judgments too soon

  • One major challenge with listening is avoiding judgment. As an attorney, you will inevitably have clients or consultations with clients that you feel are lying, are bad people, etc. You CANNOT judge people before you get the full story and facts. Prematurely judging the situation could cause you to lose clients and miss out of cases that could have had a great outcome for you and your client.
  • Be careful not to insert your own personal feelings about matters when listening to a client’s story—your personal feelings could cause you to prematurely judge a client.
  • Your clients need advice and the only way to give client’s advice is to not judge them and listen to their story and facts completely.

I know these tips seem obvious, but the time you take to allow yourself to listen to your client and actually connect with your client is invaluable and these little tips are the key to successful client/attorney relationships.

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Angela McIlveen
CEO/Partner Attorney
Angela McIlveen is a founding Partner Attorney at the McIlveen Family Law Firm. As a partner at the McIlveen Law Firm, she handles cases in family law including child custody and support, divorce, alimony, adoption, separation, domestic violence and equitable distribution. She is often called upon to teach CLE classes to other attorney and to speak at events.

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