Listen Like a Lawyer

Many of us spend a lot of time thinking about and teaching our students about the fine art of listening.  So this morning when I found out about a law blog devoted to listening, Listen Like a Lawyer, I had to  check it out.  Jennifer Murphy Romig (Emory) curates the blog and describes it as follows.

Welcome to Listen Like a Lawyer. This blog will explore the theory and practice of effective listening, and how lawyers, law students, and just about everyone involved in the practice of law can benefit from working on their listening. Effective listening provides a distinct advantage to anyone whose job involves communication—a description that certainly fits lawyers.

The motivation for this project is twofold.

1. Good listening makes good lawyering

First, good listening is a necessary component of good lawyering. Lawyers who are powerful listeners can negotiate more effectively, answer judges’ questions more responsively, communicate more completely with clients, and otherwise enhance their relationships and effectiveness in almost all aspects of their practice.

2. Listening is in jeopardy

Second, I have a sense—and don’t think I’m alone in perceiving—that listening skills are deteriorating among lawyers and the general public. Distractions and the dominance of visual media and written communication are sapping our attention and our strength at gleaning auditory information. The foundation for these beliefs, as well as challenges and counter-arguments, will be topics explored during the life of the blog.

Who this blog is for

The intended audience is anyone interested in effective communication by lawyers. I think this group includes, at a minimum, lawyers, law students, in-house counsel and others who regularly work with lawyers, judges and mediators, law professors (particularly clinicians and those who teach communication- and skills-based courses), and other professionals in the legal industry. I hope to draw on a variety of source from academic to practical to totally outside the box.

This is a conversation about listening and lawyering

The benefit of the blog format is that it permits and encourages a flexible, responsive flow of ideas. Please make constructive comments, and e-mail me at if you want to comment privately or discuss possibilities for guest blogging. Thank you, and enjoy the blog’s journey exploring what it means to listen like a (really good) lawyer.

This looks like a great resource and I plan to put in on my list of blogs to lurk upon.  And, if you hit the link, you’ll see that today’s entry is guest post from Katrina June Lee (Ohio State) discussing this year’s Lawrence Lecture.

Hat tip – Susie Salmon

6 thoughts on “Listen Like a Lawyer”

  1. I think this is a good topic for a blog to explore. Listening is an important concept that is often taken for granted. I think being an effective listener is just as important as being a skilled orator. The two go hand in hand. Listening is about paying attention, focusing and concentrating, all important skills for a great attorney. Listening is especially important for us as attorney’s to show our clients respect, understand them and their needs and the problems they present to us. Also as attorney’s if we want others to listen to us and hear our point of views, its important we extend that same courtesy. As problem solvers misunderstanding even just one aspect of an issue could be detrimental in finding solutions.

    Any career that mainly uses communication must also understand the importance of listening. Its through listening we connect with our environments and others and also create genuine relationships. Relationships are a key to life, and the way we as humans operate in the world. Because listening is an act of generosity and an act of discovery it furthers that notion.

    I think listening is only in jeopardy because it’s become overlooked. The importance and need for great listeners is not stressed as much as it once was. As relationships become more artificial the need to listen becomes less important. I think this blog could be helpful in showing us how to teach ourselves and teach others to become better listeners.

  2. I agree with Ms. Susie Salmon that listening skills are an essential component for good lawyering. Being a great listener allows the lawyer to hear every aspect of a clients situation. Your client does not have the legal background to correctly evaluate their situation. So, the client may emphasize unimportant aspects of their situation and mention briefly the most important fact. By being a great listener you, as the lawyer, will be able to recognize that important fact and re-center the client’s focus around that material fact.

    Millennials today have limited attentions spans, which I believe we, as lawyers, must overcome to become great listeners. Our lives are filled with multi-tasking, watching sports that each play lasts less than one minute, abbreviated statements for texting (e.g. BTW), etc. Our limited attention span transfers over to our everyday conversations as we find ourselves thinking about what you are doing later in the day and ignoring the person that you are having a face-to-face conversation with.

    The focus on this little concept of listening is a great reminder for us upcoming lawyers as our lives today are filled with emails, blogs, tweets, and emails.

  3. This seems like a much needed, and overlooked part of being a lawyer, or just a good person in general. I know our ADR class at Marquette has talked about this, and most write it off as common sense, however many do not practice it in their every day life.

    I especially agree with the second point about listening being in jeopardy. Before attending law school, I was a teacher for give yeas, and I tried to encourage attentive listening by the students. It is a skill that is diminishing in our current culture of trying to one-up or out-wit whoever it is you are talking to.

    I am currently reading the new book called “Showboat” about Kobe Bryant, and one USA Today writer commented how impressed he was with Kobe Bryant as an 18 year old, because he truly listened to interviewers, or anybody’s, question before answering, and how he noticed many people in their teens and twenties had lost that skill.

    This is what I believe to be a truly valuable skill and this blog should be helpful to law students and the public at large.

  4. I think this is a great concept of a blog to address several issues in the legal field. I agree with the two propositions of the blog, that good listening makes good lawyers and that the characteristics surrounding good listening are slowly deteriorating.

    However, I hope the blog with address a couple of issues with the two “motivations” for the blog. First, I agree that good listening makes good lawyers. However, I think it could be more accurately stated that good listening is required to be a good lawyer. Lawyers owe a duty to their clients to represent them competently. This can only be done through attentive listening to the client’s story and concerns. If the lawyer does not have all the facts surrounding the client, the settlement agreed to may not be completely adequate for the client. This could subject the lawyer to disciplinary procedures for inadequate representation or lack of competent representation.

    This problem could hopefully be addressed by the solution to the second motivation of the blog. I agree that listening skills are quickly deteriorating among lawyers. I propose a solution to this problem to prevent a lawyer from becoming too distracted during interviews. The first thing a lawyer should do when meeting with a new client is to put down the pen and paper and not take any notes. Having the client tell their story from beginning to end without taking any notes will show the lawyer the big picture of the client’s case. Then, the lawyer should have the client provide any documents and evidence to support the case. This will allow the lawyer to create a timeline of events and identify any gaps in the case that would lead towards a settlement. This process will keep the emphasis on the client’s story and require the lawyer to listen closely to the client’s story.

    I think this blog will have some great topics to write on and will be able to provide some solutions and insight into the two motivations.

  5. This type of blog is very useful for lawyers and law students, especially in today’s world of texting, emailing, and tweeting. A lawyer cannot properly execute her duty to competently represent her clients if she cannot properly listen to their concerns. In class, we have learned about the importance of hearing what the clients are telling us and understanding what it is that they are really searching for.

    I have noticed myself tuning others out when they are talking to me because I am preoccupied by my phone or my own thoughts. If we can learn how to listen actively as students, it will be easier s to truly listen and understand our clients wants and needs the first time they tell us when we are practicing.

    If nothing else, this blog serves as a little reminder that it is okay to put down the phones and computers, and set aside our own thoughts. so that we can listen to those seeking our advice. This is a lesson that we can use in our every day relationships as well, not just within the legal practice.

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