Lighten up, Francis

14 Feb 22

Excerpts from The Unique Psychological World of Lawyers:

In his book, Authentic Happiness (Free Press, 2002), Dr. Seligman reviewed his research on whether any personality attributes were consistently correlated to success in any of 104 careers he studied. Interestingly enough, the only career he found consistent correlations for was lawyering. And the attribute? Pessimism. Pessimism was so highly correlated with success in lawyers that the higher the pessimism in law students, the higher their grades.


A personality assessment that has been in use for 40 years is the Caliper Personality Profile. Over a million professionals have been profiled using this tool. Lawyers show a distinct difference from other professionals in a number of attributes. For example, skepticism is a trait that ranges from being cynical, judgmental, questioning, argumentative and self-protective on the high end to accepting, trusting and giving the benefit of the doubt on the low end. The general population has an average score of 50 on skepticism, while among lawyers it is consistently the highest scoring trait, averaging 90. This trait can be very useful in the practice of law …. However, most people tend to use their strongest traits in every arena of their lives, so this high level of skepticism is also carried over into partnership meetings, team deliberations and committee work (as well as personal relationships) that may call for more trust and collaboration.