Sleep Matters!

As lawyers, we are under constant pressure to work more and sleep less. However, it’s important that we prioritize sleep to the benefit of our careers, our health, and our happiness.

“The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life,” says Sleep Scientist Matt Walker in an April 2019 Ted Talk. During his talk, entitled Sleep is Your Superpower, Walker explores the many physiological downsides to not getting enough sleep. 

Not getting enough sleep can suppress your immune system, and may lead to increased risks of inflammation, cardiovascular disease, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease. Walker also describes how sleep impacts memory—without enough sleep, the brain has difficulty forming and storing new memories.  “Sleep isn’t an optional lifestyle luxury, it’s a nonnegotiable biological necessity,” Walker implores.

Indeed, there is evidence that getting less sleep may be linked to increased mortality rates. Recent research cited in an article in the British Psychological Society’s Research Digest states that “approximately 65 minutes more than, or under, the average nightly sleep duration (7 hours in this sample) was associated with a 10 per cent increased risk of dying over the course of the study.” 

The article, called “Researchers identify sleep as a key reason why personality traits predict longevity,” explores the connections between personality, sleep, and health. For instance, participants who scored low on the trait of conscientiousness also tended to be people who got less sleep and were more likely to die before the end of the research period.

Additionally, the National Health Institute has a wealth of information about how sleep (or lack thereof) plays a role in health, safety, brain performance, and learning. Scientific research continually reminds us that sleep is important for both our physical and mental well-being, but what can we do to get more or better quality sleep?

We’ve created a free downloadable PDF e-book, Sleep Matters!. Not only do we further explore why sleep matters, but we offer tips to help you improve your sleeping habits and provide a document that you can use to track your sleep. This book is part of our Healthy Habits content series and Happy Effective Lawyer Workstyles, which also include several other e-books. We hope that you find these resources to be helpful in improving your practice of both law and life.

Our Chosen Business: Developing Core Competencies

This series explores the importance of soft skills and the development of core competencies involved in decision-making and effective client representation. My model addresses core competencies within five categories that are observable, teachable, and learnable by lawyers.

To learn this model, feel free to download my latest Effective Lawyer column published in the Pennsylvania Lawyer magazine of the Pennsylvania Bar Association. 

If you are interested in receiving PDF’s of any of the others in the series listed here, please email me at


The Heart of Lawyering

At this time of year it is especially important to recognize that our role as counselors has broader implications. This excerpt shows the importance of using empathy –of understanding from a “human point of view”.

The following is an excerpt from Kristin B. Gerdy, The Heart of Lawyering: Clients, Empathy, and Compassion, 3(24) Religious Conviction (2013). (View Full Paper).

Understanding clients and exercising empathy and compassion comprise the heart of lawyering. The Oxford English Dictionary defines empathy as “the power of projecting one’s personality into (and so fully comprehending) the object of contemplation.” The English word empathy comes from the German word Einfühlung, which literally translated means “feeling into.” According to Carl Rogers, the founder of the client-centered therapy movement, to demonstrate true empathy is to “sense the Client’s private world as if it were your own, but without ever losing the ‘as if’ quality,” whereas compassion, which is often mistakenly seen as synonymous with empathy, is “the feeling or emotion when a person is moved by the suffering or distress of another and by the desire to relieve it; pity that inclines one to spare or to succor.” This definition refers to the compassion given “towards a person in distress by one who is free from it, who is, in this respect, his superior.”

To “understand, from a human point of view, what the other wants to happen in the world” requires the lawyer to think, feel, and understand what that person would think, feel, and understand, to be what Professor Martha Nussbaum terms “an intelligent reader of that person’s story.” Simply put, when a person experiences empathy, she is able to “stand in the shoes” of the other person.

To be truly effective in the use of empathy, the “intelligent reader” of the other’s story must become the “accurate translator” of that story to others. A lawyer fundamentally is a translator. As such, she needs to be able to empathize with the other side in order to translate that point of view for her client during settlement negotiations. She also needs to empathize with what opposing counsel is experiencing in order to relate effectively with her. She needs to empathize with the judge or the jury in order to know their concerns and address them as she conveys information to her client and as she makes her own strategic judgments. In other words, empathy is fundamental to the hard-care lawyering skills that affect results.

Compassionate lawyers bear the burden of others, namely their clients. …[They] can hardly be restrained from trying to render assistance and to bring healing when they witness suffering, pain, and other injustice. …[A]ll lawyers can help to bear the burdens of others as they focus on the people they serve and seek solutions for the problems they face.

Further, compassionate lawyers comfort those who stand in need of comfort. Often this comfort is given by small acts of compassion that may or may not be directly related to the legal proceedings in which the lawyer is involved. Sometimes this compassion is shown simply by the way the lawyer interacts with the client and in the relationship that develops between the two.

By bearing burdens, giving comfort, and showing care in their interactions with others, lawyers can demonstrate compassion in their professional practice.

TED Talks to Make You Smile

Smiling and laughing with someone in any setting engages dynamics which creates bonds and interpersonal connections.
My article, “The Benefits and Pitfalls of Humor in the Bargaining Room,” addresses this subject in more detail. If you are interested in reading more, please email me for a copy

The Master Mediator, The Benefits and Pitfalls of Humor in the Bargaining Room, 36 CPR Alternatives 1(6) (Jan 2018).

The following TED Talks were compiled by Chris Heivly, Crack a Smile After Listening To These 5 Silly TED Talks, Inc., (Apr. 18, 2017). TED Talks and descriptions from

How to Tie Your Shoes
Terry Moore found out he’d been tying his shoes the wrong way his whole life. In the spirit of TED, he takes the stage to share a better way.

How to Use a Paper Towel
You use paper towels to dry your hands every day, but chances are, you’re doing it wrong. In this enlightening and funny short talk, Joe Smith reveals the trick to perfect paper towel technique.

Play is More than Just Fun
A pioneer in research on play, Dr. Stuart Brown says humor, games, roughhousing, flirtation, and fantasy are more than just fun. Plenty of play in childhood makes for happy, smart adults – and keeping it up can make up smarter at any age.


Habits for Cross-Cultural Lawyering

The following contains excerpts from Sue Bryant & Jean Koh Peters, Five Habits for Cross-Cultural Lawyering, from Race, Culture, Psychology, and Law (2005). (Read More)

Where lawyers and clients do not share a same culture, trust issues can develop. It is important for the lawyer to be understanding to build a good attorney-client relationship, and to do this they must be culturally competent.

Habit 1
Identify differences/similarities between yourself and your client. Assess the significance of the differences/similarities –this helps to identify any misunderstandings, biases, or stereotyping that may be happening. Try to be honest in identifying these differences (ethnicity, social status, religion, etc.)

Habit 2
Analyze how cultural differences/similarities may be influencing interactions between you and your client (also others involved in the legal process). Keep note of what you think may affect the case. What cultural biases could affect the jury?

Habit 3
Question your client’s behavior. Sometimes we perceive behavior from our perspective instead of from someone else’s. Consider it with Habits 1 & 2 in mind.

Habit 4
Incorporate cross-cultural knowledge. Be culturally sensitive. Ask your client questions –ask them what they think about the problem and ask for advice. If your client is from another country, ask them how it would be handled in their country.

Habit 5
Be self-analytical instead of self-judgmental. If you notice a red flag, think of ways to address it. You are more likely to stereotype when you are feeling stressed.