Research: lawyers worse at coping with uncertainty than other professionals

Lawyers are less well-suited to handling difficult situations and coping with uncertainty than other professionals, new research has found.

The study, by former law firm graduate recruiter Edward Walker, asked lawyers and professionals in other industries to complete the High Potential Traits Indicator (HPTI), a personality tool that tests individuals’ suitability for a leadership roles.

The results showed that, on average, non-lawyers on average scored higher than lawyers on measures of “ambiguity acceptance” and “risk approach.”

However, among lawyers, partners scored better than non-partners for these traits, suggesting that partners are better-equipped to handle uncertain situations.

There was no significant difference between lawyers and other professionals on the measured traits of calmness/anxiety, curiosity, and competitiveness.

Male lawyers scored higher than female lawyers in the ‘competitiveness’ category as well as on the ‘risk approach’ metric.

Walker told Lawyer 2B that the research had interesting implications for selecting and developing leaders in law firms.

He said: “The early identification of individuals with leadership potential is of significant importance to the future success of all organisations. This is particularly true for law firms who are restricted in their ability to appoint individuals with proven leadership capability from other industry sectors.”

“Cognitive ability and personality traits are the two most reliable predictors of future success; it therefore makes logical sense that firms pay careful attention to both when recruiting and developing their lawyers.

“Firms that fail to do this are at serious risk of promoting individuals into leadership positions that they are ill-equipped to succeed in.”