Lawyers are masters at communication, except when they are not. Those times seem to be when lawyers are communicating with clients and staff.

Clients complain about communication is sparse without enough context or so overly detailed that it is no longer understandable. Clients say conversations sometimes feel like an interrogation where there is no right answer. 

Some of my lawyer clients tell me their families are tired of having a conversation with someone who is lawyered up with an answer or rebuttal for every darn thing.  These families and friends don’t feel listened to or heard.

How can a profession that makes it’s living communicating in a persuasive way be so bad at communicating in a meaningful way?

I blame law school.

Law school conditions lawyers through a slow, methodical process to mistrust and disregard our own feelings and the feelings of others. We are told to favor logic and facts over emotion.  An idea that is both hysterical and hypocritical since law school itself is one long emotional roller coaster ride.

I believe that our disregard for emotions, especially our own, damaged the profession and our ability to serve clients fully. Legal clients go to a lawyer to solve a legal problem but they also want comfort, reassurance, and hope. Three things most lawyers are loathed to give clients (or themselves.)

I’ve been talking to professionals and executives about communication for about 20 years as a mediator and Ombuds. My go to book to share as always been Difficult Conversations

But there’s a new book in town.

Anne Ralph, Clinical Professor of Law at the Ohio State University, Michael E. Moritz College of Law wrote a sparkling review for the book,  If Understood You, Would I Have This Look on My Face?: My Adventures in the Art and Science of Relating and Communicating by Alan Alda.

Alan Alda teaches lawyers to communicate
M*A*S*H episode: “Five O’Clock Charlie” Credit: CBS Photo Archive.

You may recall Alan Alda as the actor who played Hawkeye Pierce on MASH, one of the longest running TV shows with eleven season.  He went on to host American Scientific Frontiers and open a center on communication.

His book chronicles his journey to become a more masterful communicator.  I just downloaded my Audible copy from Amazon because how could I resist that voice as the narrator?

Reclaiming our emotional health and wellness is a big part of reinventing our professional.  I encourage you to listen to this book and look for ways you can be more responsive, listen with more purpose and say what really matters.

Want to get better at delegating?  Join the Institute




Dina Lynch Eisenberg, JD, is the CEO of, an outsourcing training/consulting firm for successful lawyers and entrepreneurs based in Oakland, CA.

    3 replies to "Lawyer stop making that face"

    • Rachael A.

      Great topic. There are so many roots to the communication problem, and like you said, people just want to be heard – humans are emotional beings!. As attorneys, we should work hard on honing our communication, to interpret the legalese for our clients and make them feel successful, not confused or less than. Thanks, Dina!

      • DLE

        Yes!! Help clients feel successful even at their lowest moments

      • DLE

        Spot on. Thanks for sharing.

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