Peter Rouse discusses the importance of emotional intelligence in the face of increasing use of artificial intelligence in the legal marketplace.
Popular fascination with artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, exemplified by the unprecedented success of the Channel 4 series ‘Humans’, has led to dire warnings from some quarters that lawyers’ days are numbered that are, I believe, equally fictional. Nonetheless, and though the dystopian future portrayed in ‘Humans’ may yet come about, AI has a much smaller part to play in legal services in at least the next five to 10 years than the doomsayers predict.
So long as humans manage their personal lives and run businesses, own financial resources and direct decision-making in organisations, they will look to other humans to help them navigate their way through conflict, change and opportunity. Where we can, we should use tools that remove the risk of human error and reduce demands on our personal and mental energies, freeing up capacity for higher level judgement.
In his recent article posted on Digitopoly, Joshua Gans makes the argument that the rise of AI makes judgement even more valuable. Where decisions rest with humans, they are influenced by feelings and drives not all of which are conscious, including ideas of self and others and possible impacts on those constructs resulting from projected outcomes. Our ability to discern other’s emotional concerns is known as emotional intelligence or ‘EI’.
That certain something
The importance of EI in business is well-established and yet so little investment is made in developing awareness and skills in this key area of influence; perhaps because EI is altogether harder for us than AI as it is something that we must develop within ourselves. It cannot be externalised, delegated or outsourced. In his book ‘The Power Paradox’, Professor Dacher Keltner presents evidence that real power comes to those capable of positively influencing the states of other people. EI is the stuff of relationships that attract, retain and refer business and talent and, for those who have it, is the key to success for themselves and the firms they work in.
Finding the key
Service is not just something you do; it is also, and perhaps most importantly in terms of perceived performance and the likelihood of repeat business, an experience. A client has a right to expect a lawyer to get the law right; what makes the difference is how well-served the client feels throughout the engagement, regardless of the outcome. Understanding and managing expectations is, I believe, the key to trust; and trust is key to success in retaining and building client relationships.
Lawyer and Counsel
A business consultant who worked with vets once told me that most were under the mistaken belief that their business priority was to heal animals, whereas in truth it was to deal with the owners. The same can be said for many lawyers who skirt around the human factors influencing clients for whom legal matters are, at some level, potentially threatening situations. Lawyers can and should provide ‘counsel’ in such a way that takes account not only of the facts and applicable law but also of the emotive situations in which clients, and others involved, find themselves; unfortunately, such skills are not taught in law schools and lawyers are not always renowned for their sensitivity.
The future will indeed look bleak for lawyers who see their expertise as centred in knowing law and regulation as the pace of AI accelerates and the cost comes down. Smart lawyers will recognise that their future security and earning capacity rests in their ability to counsel their clients with sensitivity to their very human concerns and drives, providing something that robotic and largely scripted interactions will, I like to think, never quite achieve.
Peter Rouse is Director of Patent Annuity Costs Limited and founder of Rouse, a leading international IP firm. He is the author of the best-selling book, Fragile – mastering the relationships that can make or break a career, and a firm.
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