James P. Flynn, Managing Director of the Firm and Member in the Litigation and Employment, Labor & Workforce Management practices, in the firm’s Newark office, authored an article in Law360, titled “Remembering an Underappreciated Legal Skill—Listening.” (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt (see below to download the full version in PDF format):

Recently I was going back and forth with a colleague about training programs for our developing lawyers. This colleague, a respected friend, looked at the list I proudly provided of the various advocacy, writing, presentation and positioning lessons filling our firm's educational schedule, and he responded with the pith of true perception, "Not a word about listening."

I immediately saw the gap that I had not seen only moments before. And, I knew the truth of which Oliver Wendell Holmes — not the former U.S. Supreme Court justice but his father — referenced when he wrote, "It is the province of knowledge to speak and it is the privilege of wisdom to listen."

What a great lesson for lawyers, especially trial lawyers, to remember.

Look, in this day and age, the art of listening is disrespected, or at least neglected.

As one astute law professor, Jennifer Murphy Romig at Emory University School of Law, noted in a blog post, "listening skills are deteriorating among lawyers and the general public. Distractions and the dominance of visual media and written communication are sapping our attention and our strength at gleaning auditory information."

And a 2021 study, published by the Texas A&M University School of Law and forthcoming in the Santa Clara Law Review, noted that, "[d]espite the importance of active listening for lawyers, legal education has not prioritized the development of this skill," further noting "the silent treatment that legal education has given to listening.”

There are many reasons why we lawyers must work to reverse that deterioration, prioritize that skill, and end that silent treatment.

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