How to Make the Most of Your Empathy: A Checklist

1.       Give your client your full attention. Do not multi-task when meeting with clients.  Take steps to avoid interruptions and external distractions, such as noise.

2.       Listen actively.   Avoid thinking about what you will say next when your client is talking.  Understanding should precede being understood. 

3.       Pay close attention to clients’ clues (body language, tone of voice) so as to appropriately respond to their concerns.

4.       Reflect your understanding of your client’s emotional state.  Acknowledge how your client’s legal problem makes him feel.

5.       Think of your client as a person, not just as a source of income, and be curious about your client’s entire story. 

6.       Think of yourself as a coach as well as a provider of legal services. Recognize that part of your job is to move clients toward more positive emotions.

7.       Avoid legal jargon, lectures, and longwinded answers.  Pause between paragraphs to give clients time to process your explanations and their own emotions.

8.       Ask clients open ended questions.  Ask for explanations and examples.  Don’t just ask leading questions.

9.       If possible, meet clients in their environment rather than in a sterile law office.

10.     Roleplay and engage in simulation scenarios with colleagues to improve your empathetic response.

11.    Communicate regularly with clients.  Respond to their emotions and their expressed regrets. Ask them frequently if you are accurately perceiving their concerns and desires.

12.    Use resources such as personality inventories to become more aware of your own strengths and weaknesses as a communicator.