Listening and Relational Lawyering
Susan L. Brooks, Listening and Relational Lawyering, in Handbook on Listening (Worthington & Bodie, eds. 2020).
Posted: 31 Dec 2020
Date Written: July 1, 2020
Legal professionals spend much if not most of their time listening to others, including clients, witnesses, co-workers, and judges. And yet, lawyers are notorious for being poor listeners. Perhaps this helps explain why the legal profession consistently gets ranked as one of the least trusted professions. The primary reasons for clients’ dissatisfaction have more to do with lawyers’ poor communication skills, and specifically, their poor listening skills, rather than about legal outcomes or the cost of their services. The weakness of lawyers’ listening skills is perhaps unsurprising given that listening traditionally has not been taught in the core law school curriculum. Nevertheless, a growing number of legal academics are calling for teaching listening as part of a broader set of relational perspectives and practices that can inform our understanding of law as well as legal practice, and perhaps can shift the legal culture as a whole toward being more relational. A relational approach, which the author refers to as “relational lawyering,” starts from the premise that all human beings are interconnected and share the same basic needs and interests. This chapter discusses the evolution of listening and highlights developments within and outside of legal education that are resulting in listening being viewed as a core competency. It then turns to what it means to teach listening holistically as a part of a relational framework and offers innovative tools and practices for incorporating a relational approach to listening into the training of legal professionals, including attorneys and judges. The chapter concludes with some thoughts about future directions for teaching listening within the legal field.
Keywords: Listening, Relational, Law, Legal Education, Communication
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