I’ve recently returned from visiting a monastery with nine attorneys. This four day visit was an eye-opening experience on several levels. Here’s how it came about: one of the Atticus programs I personally conduct is called the DYR Program. DYR stands for Double Your Revenue and consists of attorneys who meet three times a year to discuss ways in which they can double their law firm revenues in the shortest amount of time.

We typically get together during the year at one of the attorneys’ offices and they use this occasion to discuss the latest innovations that they’ve made.

On this last trip, however, we departed from tradition, and based on a recommendation from one of our group’s members, we went to a monastery run by Episcopal monks.

Unsure of what to expect we showed up on a Thursday night and presented ourselves to the monks for a day and a half session on the Art of Listening led by Brother Curtis.  We were treated to a high level discourse on the subject, which included distinctions about being present while listening to clients, the importance of doing one thing at a time (and doing it often), and expressing gratitude for what we have.

One particular analogy which struck a cord with every attorney present was that of a lifeguard.  Our instructor, who had been lifeguard as a young adult, stressed that each lifeguard was trained to stay out of the water as long as possible.  In spite of what the untrained may believe, plunging into the water to rescue a drowning victim is not the recommended first course of action. It was considered the riskiest, most dangerous way of helping people.  The idea was to initially help those in trouble with lifesavers, pulls, and hooks.  Going into the water where people may be thrashing and panicking was always considered a last resort.

The monk was making the point that when helping others, one must stay grounded as much as possible and not get pulled under water.

All of us listen to the tragic stories of clients. We sympathize and even empathize with the difficulties they encounter.  Brother Curtis guided us to be affected, not infected, by the problems and situations.

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