I once heard an excellent keynote at a professional responsibility conference by Dr. Larry Richards, J.D., who markets himself as an expert in “lawyer personalities.”
As I wrote last year in Astrology for Nerds, I’m a little sheepish about my fondness for Myers-Briggs personality typologies. I realize the underlying science is dubious. (But did I mention I’m a classic INFP?) Dr. Richards offers some Myers-Briggs insights, but he also relies on the more rigorous “Caliper” test, which measures numerous separate traits.
According to Dr. Richards, lawyers start out pretty similar to normal people, at least with most attributes. A few anomalies stand out. For example, lawyers rank in the 89th percentile for desiring “autonomy,” and in the 90th percentile for “skepticism.”
Conversely, lawyers rank at the bottom for “resilience,” which Dr. Richards describes as
the degree to which a person bounces back quickly from criticism, rejection or setbacks. High Resilience people tend to take these negative events in stride. They aren’t as easily thrown off course by them as Low Resilience people are, and when they are impacted, they recover more quickly.
Most lawyers are Low Resilience. However, there’s a caveat to this generalization. Two specific groups of lawyers rank in the highest range for “resilience”: rainmaker partners at major firms, and high-stakes plaintiffs’ attorneys. Both exhibit the relentless drive and tough hide that characterize most successful salesmen. Apparently the rest of us are a bunch of Low Resilience snowflakes.