Conference on Emotions

Ever wonder whether it is appropriate to reveal your emotions to a client, or have you had the experience of sharing your emotions and wishing you had not? Can we, as lawyers, become too emotional about our clients and cases, interfering with our relationships and clouding our judgment? Or do we not share our emotions as often as we should?

I am pleased, but in the deep end of the pool, to have been asked to represent our profession on a panel along with a physician and a member of the clergy to discuss these issues. The event is the annual Conference of the Professions, jointly sponsored by the Cary M. Maguire Center for Ethics & Public Responsibility at SMU, the Dallas County Medical Society, the Dallas Bar Association, the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, the SMU Dedman School of Law, and the SMU Perkins School of Theology.

Are there “right” answers to these questions? Would you expect doctors and pastors to feel differently about “opening up” to their patients and parishoners than lawyers with their clients? If you have any insights and would be willing to share them with me, I would be grateful for your call or reply email.

Define “Successful”

I recently attended the annual meeting of the International Institute for Conflict Prevention & Resolution (“CPR”). Though I have been a member of CPR for about three years, this was my first annual meeting. I doubt I will ever miss another one. It was wonderful, and not only because the meeting was held in Charleston, South Carolina!

One of the mediation topics presented was an interactive discussion of the criteria important to a “successful” mediation. The audience (approximately 150 experienced neutrals and advocates from all across the United States and several foreign countries) could vote with the use of a hand-held clicker in response to questions posed by the presenter, and the results instantly tabulated and displayed. It was a lot of fun, and very insightful.

When asked which of the following were most important to a successful mediation (quality of the mediator, relationship of the parties, timing, type of dispute, attitude of counsel, and “other”), only two criteria received a substantial number of votes. By a significant margin, “quality of the mediator” was deemed most significant, followed by “attitude of counsel”.

I am fairly certain that most of the mediators in the audience probably voted for “attitude of counsel”, and most of the advocates in the audience voted for “quality of the mediator”, but I can’t prove it! But I believe everyone in attendance would agree that as a general proposition, experience, preparation, patience, and persistence matter. As a mediator, I try to bring these qualities to every mediation.