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26 August 2016

Study shows lawyers less adept at coping with uncertainty

New research has found that lawyers are less able to cope with uncertainty and are less suited to handling difficult situations than other professionals.

By Victoria Basham


Non-lawyers on average scored higher than lawyers on measures of ‘ambiguity acceptance’ and ‘risk approach’ in a study in which lawyers and professionals in other industries completed the High Potential Traits Indicator (HPTI), a personality tool that tests individuals’ suitability for leadership roles.

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

Implications for law firms

Edward Walker, a psychology postgraduate at Leeds University and former law firm graduate recruiter who conducted the study, told Lawyer 2B that the research had interesting implications for identifying and developing leaders in law firms: ‘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.’

He added that firms that fail to do so are at risk of promoting people into leadership positions in which they are ill-suited to succeed. 

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