“Putting your best brain forward”: Reflect on your clients’ psychology
This is the one of seven strategies that you can follow to help you apply the emerging lessons of neuroscience and evolutionary psychology to the day-to-day work of your practice, as explained in the article Putting your best brain forward: How neuroscience awareness and evolutionary psychology can help lawyers avoid claims and offer better client service
Even a basic introduction to evolutionary psychology can offer useful insights into clients’ experiences with the legal system. After taking a course on the subject, Nathalie Boutet, founder of the Neuro Family Law Institute, found herself better able to detect when a client was feeling triggered into a fight-or-flight response by a conversation. Armed with the knowledge that short term memory suffers in these situations, Boutet now gives clients notepads so that they can write down information. She follows up meetings with an email that summarizes instructions and advice given, and also reminds clients of tasks they have been asked to complete.
Here at LawPRO, we have long recommended summarizing instructions and advice in writing, because problems with lawyer-client communication are the most common cause of claims. We may not have had the benefit of knowing the underlying science behind communication failures, but we’ve certainly seen the evidence: lawsuits against lawyers.
“Trigger” reactions are just one effect lawyers can look for in their clients. Craig E. Jones,
Q.C., a professor in the Faculty of Law at Thomson Rivers University, reminds us that just as we can strive for awareness of our biases, it can be useful to identify them in clients, too. “When you are speaking with a client,” says Jones, “be aware that [because of the effect of confirmation bias] he is trying to reinforce what is already in his own mind.” This means that after a loss, a client may have a salient memory of anything the lawyer said that the client interpreted as “egging him on” to go ahead with the litigation, and may not remember any qualifications expressed. An understanding of confirmation bias might prompt a lawyer to put into writing any words of caution that she might have about the action’s chances for success.
Here is the list of all seven strategies to “put your best brain forward”:
- Think slowly, and let your clients do the same
- Lay a solid foundation for routine decisions
- Consult with others
- Check your biases
- Nourish your brain
- Reflect on your clients’ psychology
- Strive for self-awareness