Project: Kindness in the Law

Kindness? Why kindness?

I know it seems a bit odd. But even before I quit my job as an attorney, I was constantly wondering why legal professionals didn’t prioritize kindness in their daily interactions with staff, clients, colleagues and classmates.

JDs underestimate the power of kindness.

So what do I mean by kindness in the legal field?

Honestly, simply not being a dick would be a huge step for the majority of the profession. I’m not asking for much here. It’s not like we need a major revolution in order to teach highly educated professionals what kindness is.

Kindness is like pornography — you know it when you see it. (Shout out to Justice Potter Stewart #nerdalert)

Or at least you would think as much. But perhaps what we need most is mindfulness about kindness (or the lack thereof).


I remember waaay back in my early days as an attorney. A partner and I were on a conference call with opposing counsel. It was a messy deal, and counsel wasn’t making things any easier. Out of what I assume was frustration, the partner raised his voice and leaned into the speaker phone to advise opposing counsel that we would not be budging on our position, his client be damned, we don’t have time for this…you get the idea.  Here’s the best part:

When we got off the call, the partner turned to me and said, “See? You get way more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

I can only imagine what my facial expression looked like because I was thinking, “THAT’S your idea of honey?”


Listen. The practice of law is by its very nature adversarial. I get that. But where is it written that it must also be hostile, demeaning and downright mean-spirited?

People can be on opposite sides of an issue and still be kind. Like, say, husbands and wives. I mean, I’m pretty sure 100% of marriages would end in divorce otherwise. Thus…

Let it now be written that the practice of law shall not be the epitome of hostility.

Lest you think this is just a hippie dippie life coachy thing to say, allow me to share some interesting science behind kindness.

While it’s easy to think that kindness only helps the person to whom the kindness is being shown, there are significant benefits to the person exhibiting kindness:

  • Reduced stress and anxiety
  • Strengthened immune system
  • Lowered blood pressure
  • Greater sense of control over one’s life
  • Increased happiness
  • A more open mindset

Yes! All that from being kind. It’s science.

These are just the broad strokes, but I’ll be getting into more detail in my posts later this month. Stay tuned, brilliant ones.

In the meantime…

What are some examples of assholery that you’ve encountered during the course of your career? Spill in the comments — I’m all ears!

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Annie Little About Annie Little


  1. Hi Annie –

    I was JUST reading this article the other day ( about the psychology of kindness and thought of it again with this post. It’s really interesting and I hope you like it!

  2. Cindy Franklin says:

    I’ve seen assholery of every shade since I passed the Texas Bar in 1989. One of my favorites was the criminal defense attorney who wanted me to go outside and have a fist fight (I have red hair so I strongly considered the offer) but my chivalrous male partner on the case stepped in and offered to do it for me. However, the most talented dicks don’t have to resort to physical threats. This profession.

  3. This was an interesting article. I spent years working with a mid sized firm that was focused on personal injury, workers compensation, social security, and criminal defense. The firm was well organized, but the culture, at least in their main office, was just the kind that hurts productivity. Managing partners have to embrace change in the law firm environment. It’s crucial to deploy the same principles and protocols that large companies with loyal employees demonstrating a high morale, and low turn over demonstrate. When you’re practicing law, more likely than not, someone is calling you because things are not going well in their life; and that could easily be an understatement. People don’t call lawyers because they’re just so happy with no worries. They call because of an accident, a concern, a contract breach, basically, because there’s a problem they want solved. In my opinion, we’re janitors. Nothing more than garbage men. We may wear different clothes and clean different kinds of messes, but that’s exactly what we do. We clean up people messes. In that respect, we’re not so different from a janitor. I think it’s important to keep that perspective because it can be all too easy to get wrapped up in what you do, get out of touch with your core values, and become an arrogant, pompous, jerk, without ever realizing it or thinking twice. Humility is not a trait found among many lawyers, at least Trial attorneys. Though I understand that, there’s a need for kindness and humility that would dramatically decrease the time spent resolving problems. AKA – Being a janitor

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