Book Review. Objections overruled. No more denials, delays, or excuses. Lawyers need it to provide top shelf client service and to do their best work. Those who study, develop, and implement it – emotional intelligence abilities, skills, and competencies – should differentiate themselves as the value proposition, go-to trusted advisors from the also-rans when it comes to attracting, engaging, serving, and retaining their clients in the increasingly turbulent, uncertain, and disruptive legal services environment of the 21st century. Science also shows that emotionally intelligent law people generally will enjoy a healthier and more satisfying personal and professional life. Twenty-first century lawyers must go beyond smart.

This post provides an analytical review, and recommends Ronda Muir’s Beyond Smart: Lawyering With Emotional Intelligence, published in August of 2017 by the American Bar Association. This book shows lawyers how to go beyond smart.

Who Wrote Beyond Smart?  Ronda Muir, a former outside counsel and in-house counsel, has practiced law in New York and Europe. Muir, founder and principal of Law People Management, LLC, and a leading authority on workplace and people management challenges unique to the legal industry, authored this great book.

Muir couples her years of experience in the legal trenches with her advanced study of behavioral sciences to provide solutions for individual lawyers, corporate law departments, and law firms of all sizes on issues which include compensation, conflict, culture, firm structure, leadership, productivity challenges, and professional development. In addition to her book, and frequent speaking engagements, Muir publishes and offers her cutting edge insight and timely observations about the legal industry and its providers at

Why Should Legal Professionals Read Beyond Smart? Many audiences, including the legal profession and its allied professionals, members of state and federal judicial systems, law students, and legal academia, will reap many benefits from reading,  studying, and implementing the principles of emotional intelligence discussed by Muir in Beyond Smart .

This enlightening, informative, and very useful book will help its readers bridge the chasm of avoidance and fear of using emotion in the practice of law. It takes a huge step in replacing ignorance with knowledge about the place and role of emotions in the legal profession. This book will enable the serious reader to begin to overcome those impairments which have plagued lawyers for decades.

Muir’s book provides the first definitive guide and a long overdue “comprehensive review of the burgeoning field of emotional intelligence as it relates to the practice of law.” The information, tips, and guidance found in Beyond Smart distinguish Muir’s work as the standard for emotionally intelligent lawyering.

Contents of Beyond Smart. The contents and organization of Beyond Smart reflect the commitment and dedication of Ronda Muir to her work. Her great literary accomplishment squares up true to her stated purpose: “I have made it my business to review the extensive research and widespread uses of emotional intelligence by other industries in order to piece together what that means to us in our daily lives in the law.”

The book does not contain filler words or fluff. Aiming to make a positive impact on a very critical and often skeptical audience concerning the subject matter, Muir offers substantial evidence to support her book’s conclusions and arguments. Beyond Smart synthesizes and functionally integrates the results from psychological science, organizational behavior, and management science empirical research studies and reviews. Also, the book includes leading scholarly business and legal commentary about the subject in a most helpful format and style. Muir frequently shares her insight and wisdom stemming from her many years of law practice and legal workplace consulting.

Beyond Smart contains nine chapters, an appendix which provides some detailed practical guidance about emotional intelligence models and assessments, very good table of contents, and a helpful and detailed subject matter index. Each chapter has numerous citations, many having well over 100, to authorities and resource materials in the endnotes. An extensive bibliography also ably supports the work, and provides the interested reader a pathway for further study. Every chapter contains helpful diagrams, charts, or text boxes which highlight the main, take-away points. Muir’s style makes it easy for the reader to navigate this very important territory.

The first two chapters discuss some basic concepts about the origin, development, and history of the concept emotional intelligence. Basic information about emotion physiology appears here, too. The background and traditions behind the law’s hands-off, avoidance relationship with emotions and an outline of the resulting shortcomings our lawyers’ emotional intelligence sets up the reader to benefit from the critical information and advice found in the remaining chapters of Beyond Smart discussed next.

Muir’s apt synthesis of research and commentary deftly argues and makes the case for emotionally intelligent lawyering in chapters 3, 4, and 5 of Beyond Smart. There she outlines four advantages of emotionally intelligent law practice, four ways emotionally intelligent lawyers and organizations benefit from emotional intelligence, how to build and achieve an emotionally intelligent workplace. Chapters 6 and 7 focus on ways that individuals can measure, develop, and leverage their emotional intelligence. Additionally, Muir discusses law school’s role in lawyering with emotional intelligence. She issues this challenge: “Law schools should lead by publicly valuing emotional intelligence, screening for EI-related skills, offering classes in emotional intelligence, promoting student connectedness, and ensuring that law professors possess and are fluent in articulating EI skills.”

Chapter 9 concludes this great book by showing convincingly that now is the time to lawyer with emotional intelligence. Muir highlights more than a dozen key points, and outlines how her comprehensive review of the research in the preceding 8 chapters “shows that equipping ourselves with high EI produces a plethora of advantages for lawyers, both professionally and personally, individually and in our organizations, that empower us to optimally deliver legal services in the stream of all those 21st-century trends.”

Recommendation. I highly recommend Ronda Muir’s great book, Beyond Smart: Lawyering With Emotional Intelligence. The legal profession has needed this book for decades. As Muir ends it, the last chapter’s phrase “Now Is the Time to Lawyer with Emotional Intelligence”, like the whole book, states the unvarnished truth. It sounds the fire alarm for us loudly and clearly. Beyond Smart provides legal professionals a comprehensive, now definitive basic guidebook needed not only for learning the waterfront of the subject’s basic content, but also the reasons why the subject – emotionally intelligent lawyering – stands as one of the real make or break propositions for lawyers to understand and adopt successfully in order to achieve and maintain our profession’s healthy future.

The status quo – being smart – will not sustain us. We must go beyond smart to survive mounting criticism of lawyers, dissatisfied clients, rising numbers of misconduct and disciplinary actions, professional malpractice, and failing workplaces. Our survival depends in great part on our learning about, understanding, appreciating, and managing our own and others’ emotions and feelings. Muir’s Beyond Smart shows the way to gain greater success and satisfaction in our personal lives and professional work. Get it.

Ordering Information: here | ABA order page here

Thank You.  Thank you very much. Dan DeFoe JD MS – Adlitem Solutions | Organization Development for Professional Services Firms and the Legal Profession: People. Projects. Practices |Web – | Email: | Blog – | Services – Organization Development Practitioner combining and leveraging 25+ years of diverse legal experience, 7+ years of allied health training and work experience, a Master of Science in Organizational Development Psychology, and educationally qualified or earned certifications in industry-leading normal (Myers-Briggs MBTI) and special business (Hogan Assessments) personality; ability (MSCEIT) and self-report (EQi 2.0 [derived from Bar-On model]) emotional intelligence; leadership (Certified Intentional Leadership Coach); and stress management assessment and tools (ARSENAL best practices system for stress resilient emotional intelligence) to partner with client organizations, their leaders, and member to discover needs and opportunities for growth and to design, develop, deliver, and evaluate results from implementing custom interventions for individual, team, project, or organizational solutions. | Mission:  “America’s leading resource for normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, and related coaching, continuing education programs, training, and workshops for judges, lawyers, law schools, bar associations, healthcare, medical, and other professional services providers and their organizations and leaders.”  Please visit Adlitem Solutions and Psycholawlogy again soon. Thank you very much.


Dan DeFoe

Owner and Lead consultant at Adlitem Solutions
I'm an attorney with 20+ years of experience and have an MS degree in organizational development psychology. I provide normal personality and emotional intelligence assessments, assessment interpretation and feedback, and professional development planning and training activities for lawyers, judges, other legal services providers, and their organizations.

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