Lawyer Stress

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A generally accepted stereotype is that of the lawyer. They are usually drawn as uptight, swindling, heartless jerks. Dementors with briefcases. But it couldn't be that the only people attracted to law are those that have already cultivated such personalities. Hildebrant Baker Robbins, professional consulting firm with a long history of legal experience, has recently found that a large part of attorney-like traits are cultivated by stress.

Hildebrant conducted personality tests of 1,800 associates and partners to pinpoint some ''high performer'' personality traits. The consulting firm used the Hogan Assessment Project to get their results. The highest average scores for lawyers came from the Learning Approach which suggested education and academic activities are highly valued by lawyers. Lawyers ranked much lower on Adjustment, suggesting that lawyers are self-critical and temperamental, but self-aware. The lowest average score for lawyers, though, came on Interpersonal Sensitivity which suggests lawyers are largely ''task-oriented and tend to speak their minds but may also come across as cold, critical, and argumentative.'' Lawyers scored much lower on Adjustment and Interpersonal Sensitivity in comparison to other managers and professionals. Hildebrant went on to suggest that the results show that lawyers are more direct with others, and feel their work is more urgent.

Lawyers also have the highest ratings on the Hogan scale in response to stress. They are more excitable and become critical in the face of stress, become cautious in decision making, and become lax in attention to rules of conduct. This suggests that they will focus on their own work and pay less attention to socially acceptable ways of behavior, thus coming off ''jerky.''

Lawyers also tested high in the Skeptical category suggesting they are prone to arguing, which seems par for the course with the job, and high in the Reserved category with the ability to emotionally distance themselves from others. Again, this seems appropriate as attorneys should be swayed by facts and not faces.

Categories involving stress were lawyers' highest scorers. It seems the affects of stressors garner the most reaction from lawyers and they react in ways that make them distant and overly critical. And it is no secret that these jobs are high in stress.

Hildebrant finally suggests that these personality tests can ultimately benefit law firms. A managing partner scored extremely high, in the 99th percentile, in a particular category. The partner asked, ''Does this mean that I ram stuff home at meetings? Do I hijack meetings?'' His coworkers didn't reply, suggesting a resounding ''yes.'' The report then stated, ''Once this managing partner understood his own personality pattern and its impact on others, he was able to act like less of a tyrannical maniac and more like a benevolent despot.''

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