Recently, the ABA ran an inteview with Larry R. Richard, J.D., Ph.D., of the Leadership & Organization Development Practice Group of Hildebrandt International. Richard studies lawyer personalities, and has found that they “are very different from those of the general public.” It’s a little bit hard to tell from the Q & A what such differences consist of, but another of Richard’s publications make the picture clearer. He argues that lawyers tend to have abnormal personalities in the following areas:
- High Levels of Skepticism: “People who score high on this trait tend to be skeptical, even cynical, judgmental, questioning, argumentative and somewhat self-protective. People who score low tend to be accepting of others, trusting, and give others the benefit of the doubt.”
- High Levels of Urgency: “A high score on Urgency is characterized by impatience, a need to get things done, a sense of immediacy. Low scorers tend to be patient, contemplative, measured, in no particular rush . . . [E].xcellent lawyers in our study scored roughly twenty per cent higher on this trait than the general public.”
- Low Levels of Sociability: “Sociability is described as a desire to interact with people, especially a comfort level in initiating new, intimate connections with others. Low scorers are not necessarily anti-social. Rather, they simply find it uncomfortable to initiate intimate relationships and so are more likely to rely on relationships that already exist, relationships in which they’ve already done the hard “getting-to-know-you” part, such as their spouses, friends and family members.”
- Low Ego Strength: “People who are low on Resilience tend to be defensive, resist taking in feedback, and can be hypersensitive to criticism. In the hundreds of cases we’ve gathered, nearly all of the lawyers we’ve profiled (90% of them) score in the lower half of this trait, with the average being 30%. The range is quite wide, with quite a number of lawyers scoring in the bottom tenth percentile.”
This certainly fits my anecdotal impressions of lawyers, but it raises some pretty evident causal questions – does law school make us like this, or are we drawn to the profession because we are already miserable, insecure, high-strung, S.O.B.s? More significantly, I wonder how much lawyers differ from other professionals, which would seem like the right comparison group, not the public at large.