The Bah-Humbug lawyer personality – skepticism

Research has shown that lawyers are 40% more likely than others to be cynical, judgmental, argumentative, and distrusting. Don’t believe it? Well, of course not, you’re a lawyer.

Research conducted by Dr. Larry Richard, a trial lawyer turned phycologist, found that lawyers score in the 90th percentile for the personality trait of “Skepticism”, while the average Joe scores in the 50th percentile. The skeptical mindset, however, is not necessarily a bad thing for a lawyer. Skeptics are, by their nature, critical thinkers. They pick things apart, question facts and opinions, tend to envision all manner of potential problems, and will stick to their guns until convinced otherwise. That could make for a great lawyer.

Of course, skepticism can interfere when collaboration or trust is called for, such as in partner meetings, mentoring situations, or in leadership roles within the firm. Fortunately, skepticism is more learned, than it is a hard-wired personality trait, so with awareness and some effort, it can be toned down in circumstances where it is truly counterproductive.

Urgency and Autonomy

Lawyers also scored exceptionally high for the traits of “Urgency” at the 71st percentile, and for “Autonomy,” 89th percentile, which probably surprises no one. “Urgency” is a polite way to describe an impatient, driven personality. “Autonomy” is all about independence and self-direction. Both these traits, it should be noted, tend to separate lawyers both physically and socially from the rest of the herd.

Lawyers scored 21% higher in “Urgency” than did the typically relaxed, average person. While urgency can be very useful in moving along a case load or in efficiently completing tasks, it can wreak havoc on interpersonal relations and on listening skills. In fact, a previous post here pointed out that clients viewed being “good at listening” to be twice as important as did the lawyers who were supposed to be listening, a finding fully in keeping with the urgent personality. While urgency may have it’s drawbacks, being focused and results-oriented seems indispensable to practicing law.

Lawyers ranked just one point lower for “Autonomy” at 89%, than they did for “Skepticism” at 90%. Being cynical about it, you could put those two factors together and envision a cranky pessimist who doesn’t much like being told what to do. Further add in a rather pathetic score of 12.8% for “Sociability,” which is a desire to interact with others, and a score of only 30% for “Resilience,” a defensive hypersensitivity to criticism, and lawyers start to look a bit like Ebenezer Scrooge.

The study of lawyer personality is useful in identifying traits common to the profession that could prove problematic at times. Self-awareness is always a good thing, and reveals that a useful trait in one role can become a hindrance in another. But, does the lawyer personality come to the profession, or does the profession bring out the traits essential to the practice of law? That may be for each lawyer to ponder for themselves.

Research tips – finding Australian legislation

Forget Clients – Does Your Website Repel Lawyers?

Your law firm website has a number of objectives; to promote your services generally, to showcase the firm legal expertise through blogs, to impress prospective clients, to reassure existing clients, and to introduce your firm culture to future co-workers. Wait…what was that last one?

Prospective hires will do the same as prospective clients; they will check out your website. Job postings may create the initial interest, but research from the Harvard Law School’s Center on the Legal Profession (“CLP”) shows that those seeking professional advancement and leadership roles will examine the messaging of the firm website as well. What does your website, particularly the homepage, convey to lawyers looking for the right work environment?

But before getting to that, let’s briefly consider the content of a job posting for a litigation lawyer, as an example, tested at CLP in two versions. After all, if the job description is off-putting, your website won’t much matter. By combining job elements, a test posting reduced the list of job responsibilities from 15 in the original ad to 6 in the updated ad. While the job remained the same, the shortened list reduced the intimidation level. And by softening such testosterone-laden vocabulary such as, “strong, superior ability to satisfy clients and manage firm’s association with them,” to, “sensitive to clients’ needs and committed to a relationship with clients,” the number of female applicants rose from 62.3% to 72.5%, resulting in a larger applicant pool from which to select the best candidates.

Similarly, women and minority applicants appear to better relate to the job and to the firm behind it when firm leaders go out of their way to emphasize the value of diversity. A few choice quotes from senior lawyers such as, “the diversity of our people is the cornerstone of our ability to serve our clients,” broadened the applicant pool. And including a video, that features both male and female lawyers that speaks to firm values and showcases a range of employees happy in their work, helps connect an applicant to the job posting, perhaps making it possible to see themselves in a role that may have appeared daunting without the reassuring words and visuals. Positive comments from current minority lawyers also reinforce the notion that the firm is accepting and that advancement is fostered. Just seeing others with whom an individual can readily identify can go a long way to encouraging a job seeker to send in an application. When the commitment to diversity is made clear, applications from female lawyers jumped from 63.8% to 83%.

While the CLP studies highlighted the changes in the number of female job applicants, the changes that appealed to female lawyers in the job posting and on the firm website also resonated with others and encouraged a mixed pool of applicants. A larger and more varied number of job applicants is certainly positive and can bring in talent that might have otherwise bypassed a firm.

Article By: Lydia Early