New ABA book discusses how lawyers can improve emotional intelligence

Amid a growing concern about substance use and mental health disorders in the legal profession, a new book from the American Bar Association explores how improving an attorney’s emotional intelligence can assist lawyers to be smarter, more productive and physically and mentally healthier.

“Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence” delves deeply into the benefits for a lawyer to recognize, understand and regulate their own and others’ emotions. The book follows the concept known as EI or EQ that was advanced in the early 1990s, and puts emotional intelligence in the context of how law departments and firms can profit from higher levels of performance and lower costs of attrition, health care and professional liability.

Written by Ronda Muir, founder and principal of Law People Management in Greenwich, Conn., “Beyond Smart” provides steps and resources for lawyers and organizations to develop four critical components of emotional intelligence — recognizing one’s own and others’ emotions; being emotionally empathic; understanding how emotions evolve and affect behavior; and knowing the best strategies for managing emotions.

Muir, a frequent speaker and publisher of, argues that the legal profession should take a page from the business world and the medical profession and recognize that emotional intelligence is more important than IQ in predicting and producing superior individual and organizational performance. Both fields have incorporated emotional intelligence into their education, hiring, training and management programs, she points out.

The book comes out at a critical time in the legal profession, as a coalition of groups, including the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, released in August a comprehensive report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change. The report, by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being, includes several dozen recommendations and represents the most ambitious roadmap yet related to addressing the problem of substance use and mental health disorders of lawyers.

The “Beyond Smart: Lawyering with Emotional Intelligence” book was sponsored by the ABA Section of Dispute Resolution and costs $129.95.  It can be ordered by calling 800-285-2221 or online at