Practicing Law: 5 Benefits of Effective Listening
Good communication is critical in the legal profession—and we’re not just talking about presenting persuasive arguments. For an attorney, active listening is just as essential for building relationships with and effectively serving clients, witnesses, and anyone else you may interact with.
What is effective listening?
Before you can effectively advocate for your clients, you need to fully understand their issues and concerns.
To do this, you need to listen well. But listening isn’t just about hearing what the other person has to say—it also involves helping them feel comfortable, processing the information they’re sharing, confirming that you’ve understood it correctly, and asking the right follow-up questions.
The more information you can gather through effective listening, the better you can use it to improve client relationships and work through legal cases.
Listening isn’t just for clients, though. The better you listen to your colleagues, the more you can gain from their experiences.
Here are our top five benefits of effective listening for lawyers.
1. Listening contributes to case analysis and strategy
Listening is a complex act that involves simultaneous hearing, processing, and decision-making about whether and when to speak. The act of listening is deeply intertwined with thinking and learning.
A lawyer who can listen effectively and consistently during long meetings and lengthy testimonies will have a head start on case analysis. Identifying potential issues, categorizing relevant knowns and unknowns, and prioritizing the following steps are all analytical and strategic tasks that are greatly aided by effective listening.
Part of this process should include communicating this information. If you’ve taken thorough notes during a client’s strategy session, ensure it gets added to matter documentation in your case management software so the rest of your team stays in the know.
2. Listening helps avoid surprises later
Surprises are unavoidable in law practice. As a lawyer, you know all too well how frustrating it can be when, after a witness has flailed on the stand or a client has found documents that should have been produced earlier, you suddenly recall something that was said earlier, foreshadowing the exact event now happening.
Effective listening isn’t robotically tied to an outline or checklist. It’s spontaneous.
And spontaneous listening allows you to make adjustments and veer off script after hearing something that isn’t quite right. Carefully listening for potential surprises enables you to ask better questions and listen with more focus on the specific answers, minimizing the risk of surprises down the road.