Monday, April 10, 2006

Florida Coastal School of Law Professor Susan Daicoff, author of the recently published, Lawyer, Know Thyself has been collecting data on lawyers’ personalities for many years. Daicoff has Masters degrees in both law and clinical psychology, and according to her research, lawyers are different from ‘normal’ people in several ways.

Firstly, lawyers have a high need for achievement. They also score highly on measures of competitiveness, masculinity, argumentativeness, aggression and dominance. Compared to the general (US) public, they are more cold and quarrelsome, and less warm and agreeable. To address the problem of cause and effect (are corporate litigators quarrelsome and pedantic by nature, or do they just seem that way because it goes with the job?), Daicoff has data to suggest that some of these characteristics begin to manifest themselves in lawyers’ childhoods, or may even have a biological basis. Levels of the male hormone, testosterone, are for example, higher in lawyers than they are in the general population (and yes, this goes for female lawyers too). (!!! Die lah no wonder I have no boobs)

Next, lawyers have a disproportionate preference for 'Thinking' versus 'Feeling' — a distinction derived from Jungian psychology. People with a Thinking preference tend to make decisions in a detached, objective and logical manner, and make a conscious effort not to let their personal values get in the way of making a 'right' decision. A Feeling preference, on the other hand, is associated with making decisions on a more personal, subjective and values-driven basis. While 'Thinkers' might actually look forward to a good argument, Feelers' are uncomfortable with conflict, seek and promote harmony, and enjoy opportunities to help people. As a 'Thinking' type myself, it makes absolute sense to me that lawyers have a tendency to be coldly logical — it would also explain why I spend a lot of my time encouraging Partners to be a bit more 'humane' towards their often over-burdened assistants.

I don' t really fit the psychological lawyer mould. Hence, I don't think I was born to be a lawyer. I chose to be one. Hopefully it's just as good.


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