“Empathy is standing in someone else’s shoes, feeling with his or her heart, seeing with his or her eyes. Not only is empathy hard to outsource and automate, but it makes the world a better place.” Daniel Pink
“All advocacy is, at its core, an exercise in empathy.” – Samantha Powers
Last week, I wrote about my message to our graduates who did not pass the most recent Ohio Bar Exam. To my surprise, I received more responses to that Monday Morning Message than any prior message. I’ve given a lot of thought about why.
I think the answer is that all of us, no matter how successful we may have been or will be, have experienced loss, failure, disappointment, and struggle. It goes with being human. So when someone else experiences a setback, many of us tap into our capacity to find an echo in ourselves. It’s called empathy.
We are training our students to solve problems and disputes, advocate for justice, and change lives for the better. Some believe that lawyers must be dispassionate. I don’t agree. Lawyers must be able to see all sides of an issue, but if our students cannot relate to the problems of their clients emotionally as well as intellectually, they are unlikely to represent their clients successfully.
That’s one of the reasons we send each student who is admitted to C|M|LAW, a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird, in which Atticus Finch says, "You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Here a few of the responses I received to last week’s message.
“This is probably the hardest loss I have ever experienced. Family and friends have helped me to dust myself off and to know I am greater than this loss….The beautiful part about this loss is that I have emerged a different person—leaving behind the intense anxiety and fear of failure that directly interfered with my ability to effectively show the examiners the lawyering skills that I have worked so hard to cultivate. Awareness of this fatal flaw now allows me to move forward with the confidence and conviction that a lawyer should have. I know I can do this… When I told my son of the bad news he said, “mommy don’t worry, they made a mistake!! I saw you study every single day! He was so adamant that there had to be an error. Such innocence warms my heart.” – Anonymous
“Your comments have a universality about them which can help many others who experience failure (as we all do, at one time or another).” Richard Pogue, Senior Advisor, Jones Day
“Too often we forget about these students or we address them in a tone and tenor that fails to strike the right balance between empathy and motivation…. Good things happen when we commit to making this the finest student-oriented law school in the State.” -Nicholas De Santis, Assistant Director of Academic Support
“I have personally developed a concept I refer to as the “Phoenix Theory”. I judge myself and others in an important part by how they rise from the ashes after a significant setback. I too have learned more from my failures and believe I am better for them….In time, I hope our students who you directed your message to will also rise from the ashes like the Phoenix and I believe they will. One of my mentees and now close friend passed the bar on his second try and he has become an exceptional lawyer. Finally, congratulations on the high passage rate.” Bob Weisman ’75, Ice Miller
“Thank you for supporting all of our friends, including those who did not pass….Interestingly, just this morning I was watching a video on TED, specifically the Elizabeth Gilbert video
Success, Failure and the Drive to Keep Creating which has many good applicable points.” Russell O’Rourke ’84, Myers, Roman, Friedberg & Lewis
We are here to support all our students, because we are invested in each of their success. And we are here to train all our students to be invested in the success of those they represent. As President Teddy Roosevelt said, “Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
For copies of past messages, please go to this link: Monday Morning Messages.