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Why don’t former straight-A students automatically make it to the top of the corporate heap? Why do some technically competent lawyers repel clients, to the point where otherwise rational business executives avoid their own lawyers at all costs? These aren’t anomalies, according to proponents of emotional intelligence. Their theory is that grades and IQ scores reflect only a thin slice of human ability — and good people skills are another way of being smart. Author and psychologist Daniel Goleman, the best-known champion of this theory, argues that emotional intelligence skills — such as empathy, self-control, and the ability to read social situations — are far better predictors of success within a given field than are traditional measures. The practice of law obviously requires both intellect and people skills. The good news is that emotional intelligence abilities can be learned, so theoretically everyone can improve his or her edge. Corporate Counsel reporter Catherine Aman talked with Goleman in October to find out how emotional intelligence applies to the corporate legal department. What follows is an edited transcript of that interview.

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