What Is Empathy? Why Does It Matter in the Practice of Law?

Kendra Brodin
Demonstrating empathy simply means you “walk in another’s shoes” for enough time to see their perspective or point of view.

Demonstrating empathy simply means you “walk in another’s shoes” for enough time to see their perspective or point of view.

Dean Mitchell via iStock

Empathy has true power, even though some in our legal profession may consider empathy to be unimportant, “soft and squishy,” or unaligned with the persona of a tough-minded, take-no-prisoners attorney. Rather, many studies have proven that organizations with empathetic leadership and cultures experience greater productivity, greater motivation, reduced attrition, and increased employee engagement, not to mention healthier bottom lines.

As attorneys, now is the time to understand what empathy is, why it matters, and how to use it to improve our professional and personal lives. We are living through trying times, and perhaps one positive outcome of the challenges we are facing at work, at home, and in our world is an increased sense of empathy, as we have an opportunity to see and appreciate the humanity in one another.

By understanding the powerful impact of empathy, we can build empathetic mindsets and, by doing so, we can increase the health and well-being of our law firms, our colleagues, and ourselves.

As the Dalai Lama says, “Empathy is the most precious human quality.”

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