Empathy—the ability to feel the perspective of a distinctly different human being—is fundamentally hard. But litigators need to be able to empathize—with their clients’ plights, with those tasked with reading their work product, and with opposing counsel and parties who pose obstacles to achieving a reasonable resolution. In some ways, women have a cultural advantage when it comes to empathy because we tend to get more practice with it in extralegal contexts. Pro bono work provides a means for litigators with an empathy advantage to hone it in a particularly rewarding way. It can also be a means for litigators who find empathy a challenge to seek out experiences that will expand their capacity to understand someone who may seem entirely “other.” A win for all concerned!
Gretchen S. Sween, of counsel, Beck Redden in Austin, Texas