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Disc Profiles Lawyers Traits and Practice Settings

published December 23, 2021

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Every attorney is different, so every attorney is suited for a separate practice area and practice setting. Some might have the personality that thrives in large law firms, while others might be doing very poorly there. Some lawyers need constant contact and collaboration with many other people, while others might prefer to work on things alone. That is why understanding your personality and how it plays into or against different settings and areas is vital for finding success in the legal profession. An evaluating tool called DISC assessment by legal recruiters (we use it at BCG Attorney Search, as well) and others to assess personality types of lawyers to ensure they go into an environment that fits them best. This article will find more information about DISC personality types and how they work or do not fit into different practice settings and practice areas.
 
 

What Is the DISC Assessment Tool?


DISC profiles and assessment tools on a DISC theory of personality that William Moulton Marston constructed. He was a psychologist and an attorney simultaneously, so the device is especially fitting for the law industry. Its name comes from the personality traits Dominance (D), Influence (I), Steadiness (S), and Conscientiousness (C). Scoring low or high on these traits determines which environments are better or worse for a personality. It is widely used in the legal profession and in other types of business to help make essential hiring decisions or in recruitment to assist candidates in determining the best kind of environment for them.

 

DISC Traits - Dominance


Attorneys who score high on the dominance trait in DISC profiles tend to be very driven, direct, and focused on getting things done. Leaders are naturally independent and do not like to follow. They want to be successful and are willing to work very hard for it. They do not like to show their weaknesses and fear seeing as weak.

They are high-achievers, so it is common for them to apply only to the top law schools, work super hard to end up as some of the best students in their class to then be able to get into one of the major law firms. Succeeding in such an environment also means that they are usually quite competitive and do what they can to win against their competition.

Competitiveness often comes from the need to prove something, whether it is themselves or someone else in their lives. This need to prove something and desire to always win can push them to work more and better than most other lawyers. It is not uncommon for them to be among the ones billing the most hours in a law firm.

This trait is essential for success in large law firms. Big law firms need to be competitive, result-oriented, and willing to work hard for reasonable compensation. However, highly dominant people also like to choose which law firm they start in carefully. The bigger and more prestigious the law firm is, the better for them. These attorneys want to win, but they also like a challenge, so they surround themselves with people as good as them.

However, as it goes in many major law firms, working hard does not always equal advancing as fast as the attorney would like to. Recognition for achievements is essential for people scoring highly on the dominant trait, so not promoting to partners quickly enough can discourage them from continuing as a law firm associate. They usually want to continue to practice law, so they might want to open their law firm.
 

Suitable and Not Suitable Practice Settings


People with a dominant personality want to feel in control and important and work on critical legal matters. They can get this in practice areas, such as big, competitive law firms, solo law practice or own law firm, prosecution, the leadership of a company, or general counsel in a big company.

On the other hand, the areas that are not competitive (and in which they do not feel important or the center of attention) are not very suitable for people with highly dominant personalities. These are academia, public interest, routine jobs in government, small practices, or most in-house jobs.
 

Suitable and Not Suitable Practice Areas


Dominant personalities want to compete and win, so practice areas, such as litigation, criminal law, corporate law, or entertainment law, are perfect for these attorneys. Family and labor law are also a good match. All of these areas allow the attorneys to be competitive.

Areas that are pretty routine and do not allow the attorney to outshine others and compete are not suitable for these dominant lawyers. These include real estate, tax or patent law, bankruptcy, insurance coverage, or trust and estates.
 

DISC Traits - Influence


As the name of the trait suggests, people who score high on influence desire to influence others and create the world around them like that. They are very social, talkative, can persuade other people, and work with their emotions. Like dominant personalities, they are not afraid of being the center of attention; however, they want to like and be approved of by others, not compete with them. They like to talk and can present their ideas very well verbally. People like them because they have this positive energy around them, are often hilarious and witty, and know how to work the room. They may not always be overtly detail-oriented and like to look at the big picture more.

When you consider these strengths of high influencers, the great automatic choice for them in litigation, litigators have the chance to express their ideas in both the written and spoken word. They try to persuade others about their side of things, and winning a case is a form of approval. They also have to constantly contact other people during their work and are the center of attention.

However, it is essential to note that the largest and most prestigious law firms might not be the most suitable for people who are high influencers. In these environments, associates are not a reason to expect to shine or stand out. These vast firms need hard workers who are willing to put their heads down and work hard without recognition for many years. Not getting this instant recognition can be discouraging for influencers, so they often wither in this environment. They often choose settings where they earn less money to be the center of attention and influence others.

Attorneys without influencing skills usually do not like to attract attention and do the technical work somewhere in the back.
 

Suitable and Not Suitable Practice Settings


High influencers are very social and need to be around people who want to listen to them and who they can influence. These are settings, such as public interest, political office, academia, or law-related sales positions. Many law firms also like this personality profile; however, attorneys have to find the right law firms to become the center of attention quickly and not get swamped under a sea of hundreds of other associates.

Because influencers need to be around people and want their ideas to hear, any setting in which this is not possible is not a good fit for them. That means working as a solo practitioner is not the environment for a high influencer. Large corporations and big law firms that do not support individuality and creativity but want their employees to be soldiers are environments in which influencers cannot thrive.
 

Suitable and Not Suitable Practice Areas


Just as with the practice settings, influencers do best in areas where they can be around other people they can talk to and persuade about their side of things. That means locations like the already mentioned litigation. But it is also family and criminal law, entertainment law, corporate, or labor and employment. Any practice area in which they can become the center of attention and outshine those around them.

Areas that do not allow the attorneys to be around other people they can influence are not for high influencers. Any place where these attorneys cannot talk to and connect with people will beat them down, which is the wrong practice area. These areas include real estate, tax law, patent law, clerical positions in different places, or many financial and legal situations.
 

DISC Traits - Steadiness


The third of the DISC personality traits is steadiness (supportive). People who are steady value cooperation, loyalty, stability and want to support others and feel supported. People with persistent personalities do not like change and value consistency. They never want to offend other people and do not aspire to compete with them. They want to be in the role of supporter, and they value cooperation and teamwork. Because they want to depend on their job and others, they also like to be dependable, and they like to follow the rules. They do not like to attract attention and hate confrontation because they want to be accepted by the people around them.

I like to say this a lot, but being a lawyer is mainly a middle-class profession, and middle-class jobs have always attracted people with steady personalities. Many lawyers go into practicing law because they want to support their clients and help people. These highly constant people usually start in one of the top law schools to ensure they can get into a major law firm. Once they get into their ideal law firm, they work hard to support their employer, their peers, and most importantly, they work hard to provide excellent legal services to their clients. The law profession in itself is based on supporting other people - an attorney does not represent their interests, but the interests of their client or firm to settle their case or complete their transaction.

Of course, not all attorneys value steadiness or have the same steady trait in them. Those who do not seek out a more competitive environment than those who are highly persistent. These highly controlled attorneys need to work in firms or companies where they have a good team of people around them they can collaborate with and support. They like to follow the rules and are willing to help those around them follow them too. They are also highly motivated by being able to help others and help them solve their problems. If an attorney is not motivated and excited by supporting other people and solving their problems, they are in the wrong profession.

Today's large law firms sometimes go directly against this steadiness trait ingrained in the legal profession. These firms often have a high turnover rate and are hiring associates rapidly, which means that there is no stability anymore. Also, most of the attorneys are led to competing with one another, not collaborating, which does not correspond with the supportive nature of the legal profession. That is why so many attorneys today do not thrive in large firms and instead leave the law industry altogether.
 

Suitable and Not Suitable Practice Settings


Settings in which attorneys can feel secure and stable are ideal for these personality types. These can be law firms in small to mid-sized markets, smaller firms, or family-owned firms in these smaller markets. It can also be the positions in government, public interest, or academia. Supportive roles in non-competitive law firms or companies are also a viable option.

Any practice setting that provides stability and consistency is not the right setting for people with a high stability trait. Competitive settings where there can be a lot of conflicts are also not the most suitable for many attorneys with this DISC personality type. These are law firms and companies with a lot of employee fluctuation, competition, and conflict, i.e., firms and companies in large markets and major cities. Settings where the compensation depends on how much business a lawyer can generate or where compensation varies a lot month by month are not the best environment either.
 

Suitable and Not Suitable Practice Areas


An important factor in finding the proper practice area for an attorney with a stable and supportive personality is finding something that does not conflict with others. Sitting behind a desk and working hard from behind the scene without attracting attention is vital for these personality types. However, many attorneys with different personalities might not enjoy this. These are transactional areas, tax, and patent law, finance-related law positions, or ERISA.

In contrast, areas that are not stable or require the attorney to hurt others and be in conflict with them are not enjoyable for stable and supportive lawyers. That means these attorneys would not thrive in litigation, family law, criminal law, or in trust and estates.
 

DISC Traits - Conscientious


Many attorneys have a conscientious personality trait. According to the DISC assessment, a moral person wants and needs to provide very high-quality work. They are very cautious, systematic, careful, and detail-oriented. They are meticulous in their research and always want to have an excellent understanding of a problem and gain expertise to ensure they produce exemplary work that will be praised and not criticized.

Conscientiousness is especially needed in large law firms. These firms have huge, important clients that require flawless work done to the highest standard. Big law firms cannot afford to hand in work that is not accurate, has typos, errors, or wrong formatting. It is sometimes okay not to be as diligent with document review or writing up papers in smaller firms and less competitive markets. The clients there do not have the money to pay for hundreds of hours of research and editing. However, in large firms where the clients pay high billing rates for whole teams to work on their case, the firm cannot hand in something with inaccuracies or errors.

The whole legal profession is based on finding mistakes or tricking the opposing side to make a mistake. Not having this ability to find errors and avoid making them will, therefore, inevitably result in losing many cases. That is not fair for the clients, and it is also something that will drive the clients away. Great attorneys work meticulously to make sure they do not make any mistakes, and their conscientiousness allows them to think several moves ahead and outsmart their opponent.

Highly conscientious attorneys usually get their law degree from the top law schools and work in the best and most prestigious law firms.
 

Suitable and Not Suitable Practice Settings


Conscientious attorneys want to dive deep into issues and spend a lot of time and effort to make sure they know the problem from all sides before suggesting any solutions. That means any setting where the work is done at a high level is an excellent environment for these attorneys. Attorneys who are conscientious work great in large, prestigious law firms, as judges, or in firms, companies, or government offices comprised of other conscientious attorneys that can offer them a lot of money and resources to do their job correctly.

Any setting that does not have a high standard of work or is not comprised of well-trained conscientious lawyers will not suit these attorneys. These are small law firms or firms in small markets, positions, and consumer-facing firms or are not structured and rule-based.
 

Suitable and Not Suitable Practice Areas


Practice areas that value detailed and meticulous work and where clients can pay for this work are vital for attorneys with this personality type. It can be almost any type of practice area done at a high level - tax law, patent law, ERISA, to name a few.

Conscientious attorneys do not do good in areas where they are rushed and not supported in doing flawless work. These are usually areas with individual clients who cannot afford to pay high billing rates for months or even years, such as criminal and family law, personal injury, or consumer bankruptcy.
 

Conclusions


The law industry, just like any other industry, offers a wide range of settings, areas, and positions that all fit different types of personalities. Understanding personality and personality types are vital for attorneys and their success in the legal industry. One assessment tool for character evaluating legal recruiters use is the DISC profile assessment. DISC model recognizes Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness as the four main personality traits that are the main building blocks of different personality types. Scoring low or high on these traits determines what kind of firm, company, or positions suits an attorney the best and in which their personality would not allow them to thrive. Once an attorney understands their personality type and which practice setting or area suits them best, they can build their successful legal career.

See also:
 

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