HERDING CATS: The Lawyers Personality Revealed By Dr. Larry Richard


“Managing lawyers is like herding cats.” It turns out that the old saying is based on fact. I’ve been studying the personality traits of lawyers for the past twenty years, and have measured dozens of traits among thousands of lawyers. Research confirms that not only are lawyers highly autonomous, but they share quite a number of personality traits that distinguish them from the general public.

These “lawyer personality traits” have broad implications for the management of lawyers, the cultivation of rainmakers, the retention of associates and a range of other critical issues in the day-to-day practice of law. In this article, I will explain how lawyers differ from the lay public — in some cases significantly — and how rainmakers differ from other lawyers. I’ll then discuss how such personality data can be used to improve hiring and management.

Personality exerts a potent influence on virtually all aspects of law firm life. In recent years, managing partners, especially in larger firms, have come to appreciate the importance of understanding these factors, an understanding fostered in large part by practical needs. For example, Lloyd Semple, managing partner of Dykema Gossett, based in Detroit, reports that “while I was initially somewhat skeptical about the value of the process, we have recently used personality information obtained from the Caliper [Profile] to our great benefit. Our leadership group used the profile to better understand our respective strengths and weaknesses, which improved our working relationships. And recently the partners in one of our regional offices used the Caliper’s information to assist them in several leadership and organizational decisions.”

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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