Do Certain Personalities Make More Successful Lawyers?

Results from a study published by the Arizona Summit Law Review concluded that the stereotypical “lawyer personality,” in which thinking dominates feeling, may not apply to successful women lawyers. 

The study, Super Women Lawyers: A Study of Character Strengths, found that women who excel in the profession “exhibit a predominance of heart strengths as opposed to more analytical head strengths, with gratitude and kindness appearing most frequently.”

After tests and interviews with women named to Super Lawyers, the study found:

  • Gratitude was the most common top strength, followed by kindness, social intelligence, zest – all of which are termed heart strengths;
  • Of the top ten strengths, the ratio of heart strengths to head strengths was seven to three; and
  • All the women had a mixture of head and heart strengths among her top strengths.

The women regularly and strategically use their top strengths for professional success; and a majority of those interviewed independently named positive relationships with others – “whether with clients, coworkers or other lawyers” – as the reason they have been successful.

The areas most likely to benefit from heart strengths were:

  • Business Development: Relationship-building heart strengths played the largest role among women in the study for business development. One woman interviewed said that “it worked as a two-way street in client relations and in turn, client development”; and another said that her relationship strengths “make the difference in attracting high-end clients who are willing to pay at a partnership-level rate.”
  • Firm Management: Heart strengths such as kindness, gratitude, and forgiveness were found to help the women in their firm leadership roles, especially when working in tandem with their strongest head strengths. Interviewees said heart strengths greatly help in delivering feedback in a compassionate way, thanking employees for their hard work, and be invested in mentoring others.

The conclusion of the study? “Successful women lawyers use a predominance of heart strengths strategically, either alone or in conjunction with more analytical head strengths, to flourish in the practice of law.”

What this means for you: Consider your own character strengths. Your head strengths have helped develop your legal acumen, now how you can use your heart strengths to cultivate your network? When we allow ourselves to utilize our entire wheelhouse of strengths professionally we set ourselves up for increased success. 

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