The Relational Mindset in Law: An Example in Practice

Recently, I read and reviewed Stewart Levine’s book, entitled The Best Lawyer You Can Be: A Guide to Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness.

In the afterword of the book, Stewart and contributor Louise Phipps Senft, Esq., focus on what it means to practice in a “relational” rather than “transactional” manner. 

They urge readers to “take time to read, contemplate, and consider how others’ voices and discern how their expertise affects your thinking and moves you to act in ways that are good for you.”

Like me, many of you may already be following the Relational Mindset or other healthy habits and practices without having unpacked why in detail. I personally have always aimed to translate and apply the Relational Mindset in practice with colleagues and adversaries on a platform of civility and collegiality.

As an example, when I was a young lawyer practicing from a storefront office, I handled small civil matters for working class clientele. At this time, there were a handful of lawyers in the Pittsburgh legal scene that had the reputations of being underhanded and unethical. However, I rejected the current legal trend towards Rambo tactics. I tried to work with every opposing counsel and claim adjuster in a cooperative, respectful, and transparent manner. After receiving a few brushback tactics, I resisted the tit-for-tat and handled the tensions with what I hoped was grace and understanding. It worked. I got along well with these notorious lawyers by applying what I now know as a Relational Mindset.

Another attorney in the area had an office in the next neighborhood over, and from the first case, I knew that we would cross paths often. I did what I could to further a positive relationship while not compromising the interests of my clients. I do believe that I achieved better results with my clients by taking the high road. I recall sitting in the lawyer’s office one day and he said something to the effect of, “well, you have always been a straight shooter with me and never nasty, so we can skip the fighting since it won’t be any fun for me. Let’s make the following fair deal now rather than later.”

With a few minor revisions, we made the deal, and I sincerely thanked him as I shook his hand to leave. Because I utilized the Relational Mindset in my approach with him, and he eventually met me halfway, we were able to work together productively and achieve a favorable outcome for each of our clients.

I highly recommend that you read Stewart’s book and consider the areas where you can apply the Relational Mindset to your own practice of law!

Source: Stewart L. Levine, The Best Lawyer You Can Be: A Guide to Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual Wellness

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