Susan Smith Blakely

How Are Your Listening Skills?

Listening skills are some of those things that we all need to improve from time to time. Achieving good listening skills is a critical step toward growth as a manager or an employer in all legal-related businesses, and it is even more critical in your role as a lawyer.  If advice and counsel is a lawyer's stock in trade (which was clearly stated on a sign in the first of my father's law offices that I remember), the best advice and counsel is derived from listening to the facts, to the opinions of others and especially to contrary opinions.  Listen first and advise second.

Here is an excerpt from a blog by Bruce Tulgan, a leading "thinker" on issues of management and a consultant to many leading business across the country and the world.  His company, Rainmaker Thinking Inc., is making a real difference for employers, managers and employees.  Check out his thoughts and services at

Here is what Bruce Tulgan has to say about the importance of interpersonal communications and how they can be improved.

"Listen twice as much as you talk.

Never interrupt or let your mind wander when others are speaking. When it’s your turn, ask open-ended questions first and then increasingly focused questions to show you understand what the other person has said.

Empathize. Always try to imagine yourself in the other person’s position.

Exhibit respect, kindness, courtesy, and good manners.

Always prepare in advance so you are brief, direct, and clear.

Think of at least one potential solution , before trumpeting a problem.

Take personal responsibility for everything you say and do.

Don’t make excuses when you make a mistake. When you make mistakes, just apologize and make every effort to fix it.

Don’t take yourself too seriously, but always take your commitments and responsibilities seriously.

Always give people credit for their achievements, no matter how small."

Last week I posted a Thought For The Day that is based on a quote from Stephen Covey and is worth repeating here:

 "Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply."

It is worth pondering.

Susan Smith Blakely is the Founder of LegalPerspectives LLC and a nationally-recognized author, speaker and consultant on issues related to young women lawyers, young women law students and young women interested in careers in the law.  She is author of Best Friends at the Bar:  What Women Need to Know about a Career in the Law (Wolters Kluwer/Aspen Publishers 2009), and Best Friends at the Bar:  The New Balance for Today's Woman Lawyer (Wolters Kluwer Law & Business 2012), which addresses the work-life struggle for women lawyers and includes twelve profiles of women who have successfully transitioned from one practice setting to another.  Her new book, Best Friends at the Bar:  Top-Down Leadership for Women Lawyers, will focus on the responsibilities of law firm leaders and will be released by Wolters Kluwer Law & Business in 2015.

Ms. Blakely frequently speaks at colleges and universities, law schools, law firms and law organizations, and she has been featured in media including the LA Daily Journal, National Jurist, Washington Examiner Newspaper, Forbes Woman, DC Spotlight, Daily Muse and Huffington Post Business.  Ms. Blakely also is a frequent guest speaker and panelist at conferences on women's issues and the law profession.

Ms. Blakely graduated from the University of Wisconsin with distinction and from Georgetown University Law Center where she taught legal research and writing. She also is a Marshall Goldsmith trained career and leadership coach and a member of the CoachSource global network of leadership coaches.  She also is a career coach for the Indiana University Marshall Goldsmith Leadership Development and Executive Coaching Academy.   For more information, please visit 

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