10 Telling Traits Of Lawyers

Not to knock my own kind, but one of the best compliments I’ve ever received from someone was that “you don’t seem like a lawyer.” It made me beam for days. Why? Here are a few generalizations of lawyers (whether fair or not).

1. A know-it-all vibe. Lawyers are in the business of selling services of being smart and knowledgeable about the law. While confidence is key in “selling” yourself as a lawyer, that confidence can very easily slip toward into an arrogant, smarmy “know-it-all”-ness that most people despise. 

2. Pessimism. Going along with the above, most lawyers make excellent lawyers because they are so gosh-darn pessimistic. They think of everything that could possibly go wrong and paper it. Rose-colored glasses are replaced with a “everything will fall apart” mentality.

3. Anal-retentive. What brings value to a law firm is having attention to detail (business people don’t have the time, patience, or attention span for this type of detail), and thus, many lawyers I know are anal-retentive and never met a document they didn’t like to mark up. 

4. Excessive usage of fancy words. Legal jargon and sentence structure is designed to confuse the average layman. This is how us lawyers keep our jobs. I hear the same about accountants, too. By making everything more complicated than usual, we have job security and high barriers of entry. Thus, it’s only natural that we insert legalese and other perplexing jargon into every other sentence so that we leave the average person dizzy and confused. 

5. Social skills. You either have the lawyers who know how to schmooze/network, or the ones that need to be kept locked up in an office and just churn. Either/or. I’ve typically ran across the latter. Also, interestingly enough, though in a profession requiring confrontation, lawyers can be quite passive-aggressive. Be warned that when someone gives you a tight smile and says “everything’s fine” that everything actually is NOT fine.

6. Risk-aversion. I’m guessing at least 70% of the incoming classes at law schools are enrolled because they either (a) don’t yet know what they want to do with their lives and use law school as a default crutch option, or (b) they want to make a secure living. Rarely is it (c), where they want to use law to make an actual difference in this world. I myself was (a), as I found myself in quarter-life crisis and did not have a plan like most of my peers to go to NYC for banking jobs. Even though getting a law degree nowadays is no guarantee that you will make a comfortable living, it used to be, and thus why law schools swelled with enrollment. 

7. Drink like fish. Most lawyers like to drink. Unless Mormon. Many seem to have alcoholic tendencies to relieve the stress of being the “fixers” or “cleaner-uppers” of stress-inducing, demanding clients all day.

8. Dry dispassion. Being a lawyer requires you to detach yourself from the emotions/feelings surrounding an event/case, and focus on the objective whole. Thus, many lawyers that I meet are typically dry and dispassionate, as they have trained themselves to stay in this highly unemotional state for their career. It’s pretty rare that I run across a lawyer who buzzes with excitement, emotion, and passion for something. 

9. Highly competitive. You don’t get to law school by being a schmuck in school. Lawyers are highly competitive, and this high level of competitiveness drives them to do crazy things like go through the pains of applying and attending law school. When you arrive in law school, you start recognizing you are just one fish in a sea of Type A folks who are used to being the best of their class at their previous educational institutions. 

10. Self-focus. I think it’s fair to say lawyers are self-focused. In today’s legal climate with an overabundance of lawyers, you have to specialize in an area to attract clients and separate yourself from the pack, and thus, lawyers spend an inordinate time figuring themselves out and building their personal brand. Thought Catalog Logo Mark

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