Archive for August, 2012

Getting people to really open to you is an art in itself. If you learn to do it well, you will be much more successful in representing clients, collaborating with colleagues and other partners, and earning the trust of everyone you work with. Different styles of listening apply to different contexts (e.g., an academic study, a police interrogation, a therapist), but when your goal is to make someone feel understood, and encourage their trust and openness, use a form of listening called reflexive listening: (1) Don’t criticize. Let the other person feel safe to talk without judgment. (2) Don’t sympathize either. Even sympathy is a type of judgment. Once you express a judgment, the other person feels like you have stopped listening with the intent to just understand. Give the other person a chance to fully explore their own thoughts, and fully express themselves to you, without cutting it short with an evaluation […]

Jane Austen’s Persuasion is about a pair of lovers, Anne Elliot and Frederick Wentworth, who are thrown together eight years after Anne, under the influence of a family friend who thought the match financially imprudent, broke off their engagement. The book is about many forms of persuasion, not least of which is how Anne, regretting her decision not to marry Wentworth, slowly wins back his embittered heart,  by doing no more to actively persuade him than just being her good, loving self. We are always, every day, in subtle ways, convincing people that we know what we are doing, that they should hire us for the job, that they should keep us on for the job, that they should put their trust in us, build a collaboration with us, take a risk on us or with us, enter a relationship with us, maintain a relationship with us, etc. It is not […]

I keep reading and hearing that the things I want to do as a lawyer are impossible: Open my own practice straight out of law school. Offer affordable legal services to low- and middle-income clients while supporting my heavily debt-laden self financially. Raise a family while maintaining a thriving career. Any number of things, really. It is sometimes hard not to listen. Even if I shrug it off at a conscious level, deep down in my bones is a terror that keeps me up at night. It is all well and good to go through law school and job interviews talking about one’s interest in providing legal services to people who need them blablabla. But when you sit down to try to define concrete actionable steps toward that goal, you start to realize you have no idea what you are doing. But I—you—can’t listen. Don’t listen to the voices that say […]

The basic psychological premise behind effective persuasion is that people only do things for emotional reasons. Logic is something they use to justify a decision they’ve already made or an action they’ve already taken. Effective persuasion therefore relies on appeals to emotion rather than appeals to reason. This is why Dale Carnegie’s book How to Win Friends and Influence People pairs the idea of influencing people with the idea of making them like you, and why one of the most popular quotes I have seen on the topic of persuasion is all about playing on people’s subconscious emotions: People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies. ~ Blair Warren, sales copy writer Encourage their dreams. This bypasses the other person’s conscious mind by tapping into her subconscious need or desire for respect, prestige, etc. Justify their […]

I’m 6 months into starting my own practice out of law school and the emotions have been world-beater elation one day followed by my wife taking me off the ledge the next. (Source: Comment, “I Just Want to Practice Law Postmortem,” Lawyerist.com) Starting any kind of business is an emotional roller coaster. The most blasé entrepreneurs I know have resorted to medication to handle the stress that comes with starting a practice. I don’t recommend medication, but learning to control the anxiety is critical. Going solo is hard enough, but doing it right out of law school can seem impossible and terrifying. Below are some strategies for quelling anxiety. Focus on the present, not the past or the future Take one day at a time. Don’t worry about the future. Plan for it and prepare for it, but don’t get anxious over it. A man who suffers before it is necessary […]

Culled from a number of sources on applying for legal jobs: (1) Thoroughly research the organization. Look not only at the organization’s web site, but also try to find recent news articles on the organization. Try such sources as Lexis-Nexis, Bloomberg, The Wall Street Journal, and legal news sites. Also speak to classmates and alumni from your school who have worked for the employer. In the interview, mentioning that you have read about the organization in the news and/or talked to former employees makes you look resourceful and genuinely interested in the organization. (2) Be able to answer the question “Why did you go to law school?” Practice how you will answer this. Start your answer with a strong thesis statement (“I went to law school because . . .”), rather than with a long roundabout story about how you ended up in law school. Then try to talk about how your reasons for going to […]

In his book The Global Achievement Gap, educator Tony Wagner identifies the core competencies everyone should master by the end of high school: Critical thinking and problem solving (the ability to ask the right questions) Collaboration across networks and leading by influence Agility and adaptability Initiative and entrepreneurialism Accessing and analyzing information Effective written and oral communication Curiosity and imagination How to teach these competencies? Perhaps by following the mantra, “First do no harm.” In another book, Creating Innovators, Wagner identifies five ways in which current educational practices actively undermine the development of these competencies: By focusing on individual achievement (e.g., GPA), schools fail to promote collaboration skills. By rewarding specialization, which hinders innovation. Wagner says the director of talent at Google once told him, “If there’s one thing that educators need to understand, it’s that you can neither understand nor solve problems within the context and bright lines of subject content.” By penalizing mistakes, which makes students risk-averse. […]

After the invention of the printing press, Europe experienced a Renaissance in art, science, and scholarship. Will the new learning structures made possible by the web allow a neo-Renaissance in our own time? Fred Wilson, VC and principal of Union Square Ventures, recently assembled a group of “leading thinkers, educators, and entrepreneurs” to talk about reinventing the “traditional school model of education.” The web, says Wilson, “transfers control from institutions to individuals and it is going to do that to education too.” How? According to Wilson’s group: (1) “The student . . . is increasingly going to take control of his/her education including choice of . . . curriculum.” We now have not only the web, but also a rise in crowdsourced knowledge. I think this would in many ways be a positive development. The most finely wrought curriculum in the world is of little value if it is not tailored to the needs, interests, and […]

A study of our academic elite In an Atlantic Monthly article from 2001, “The Organization Kid,” David Brooks writes about going to Princeton University to learn about “what the young people who are going to be running our country in a few decades are like.”What Brooks found with respect to the over-structured lives of the Princeton undergraduates he spoke to is very close to how I remember my undergraduate classmates at Harvard from 1999 to 2003: I asked several students to describe their daily schedules, and their replies sounded like a session of Future Workaholics of America: crew practice at dawn, classes in the morning, resident-adviser duty, lunch, study groups, classes in the afternoon, tutoring disadvantaged kids in Trenton, a cappella practice, dinner, study, science lab, prayer session, hit the StairMaster, study a few hours more. One young man told me that he had to schedule appointment times for chatting with his friends. No time […]

If you are struggling with anxiety, it may help to know that it is likely in large part the product of particularly American cultural forces. America’s anxiety epidemic The following is taken from a recent article in the Atlantic Monthly, called “Trickle-Down Distress: How America’s Broken Meritocracy Drives our National Anxiety Epidemic“: Americans lead the world in anxiety. A World Health Organization survey found that 31% of Americans suffer from anxiety at some point in their lifetimes, compared to 25.3% of those in Colombia and 24.6% of those in New Zealand, the countries that rank second and third in rates of anxiety. “[P]eople in developing-world countries such as Nigeria are up to five times less likely to show clinically significant anxiety levels than Americans, despite having more basic life-necessities to worry about, ” writes Taylor Clark, author of Nerve: Poise Under Pressure, Serenity Under Stress, and the Brave New Science of Fear and Cool. But when […]