Linking lawyers’ success to personality factors

Summarizing 40 years of empirical research on lawyers’ and law students’ personalities, values and goals, decision-making styles, motives and moral development Susan Daicoff stated about American lawyers that they ‘differ from the general population’ (Daicoff, 1998, p. 548). In this and other of her works (Daicoff, 2006; Daicoff, 2012) she offers extensive discussions on problems related to lawyers’ growing job dissatisfaction, their professionalism and the negative public opinion about lawyers and their work. As was noted earlier, even though Elwork and Benjamin (1995) defined lawyers’ personality factors as stressors, they actually saw them as a variable that might moderate the effect of stressors on lawyers’ wellbeing. A similar approach towards problems inherent to the law profession and possible solutions that might alleviate them is taken by Daicoff (1998; 2012). She basically states that understanding lawyers’ personalities is important not only because some of their traits and characteristics might be the cause of lawyers’ distress, mental health problems and job dissatisfaction but more importantly because there are specific personality traits that cause lawyers’ professional success. In her opinion, it is wise to carefully review and analyze proposed solutions and changes of the legal system and education from the perspective of personality traits that are typical for most lawyers and even necessary for a person to choose this occupation and become a lawyer. A number of factors, traits and skills have been identified in empirical studies of lawyers in Canada and the USA (Daicoff, 2012). Daicoff (2012) summarizes them in four broad categories as follow:

• Intrapersonal skills—awareness, values and abilities related to the self (motivation, diligence, self-knowledge, independence, etc.) 

• Intrapersonal management competencies (work process organization, professional development, stress management, etc.) 

• Interpersonal skills—awareness related to other people (understanding others and their behavior, emotions and moods, being tolerant and patient, etc.) 

• Interpersonal management competencies—skills and abilities related to business development, building connections, dealing and communicating with other people (clients, business partners, colleagues), etc.

It seems that a number of skills have been identified as inherent to lawyers more often than others. These are ‘drive, honesty, integrity, understanding others, obtaining and keeping clients, counseling clients, negotiation, problem solving, and strategic planning’ (Daicoff, 2012, p. 828). Additionally, Daicoff summarizes that a growing body of research on lawyers’ personalities has recognized lawyers as ‘more competitive, dominant, achievement-oriented, focused on the economic bottom line, and analytical than the general population’ (Daicoff, 2012, p. 830).