The Joke’s On Us: But Is It Accurate?

As all lawyers know, we are the butt of an abundance of jokes. Though we know these jokes are not to be taken seriously, it can be hard to think about the plethora of lawyer jokes and not wonder where they stem from.

After actively listening to some of the common jokes about lawyers, rather than just brushing them off, I realized these jokes all have one common element: They revolve around an assumption that all lawyers share certain unfavorable personality traits.

They portray lawyers as dishonest, arrogant, unsociable, money- and power-hungry beings.

As a lawyer (as well as the son of a lawyer), I could not disagree more that these stereotypes are not true for the vast majority of lawyers.

Though I understand the origins of some of these inaccurate characterizations, it is unfortunate that some of the necessary traits of a successful lawyer have been manipulated into negative stereotypes.

Rather than refute the obviously false qualities in lawyer jokes, I’d like to highlight some of the interesting and less frequently talked about personality traits of lawyers.


In many articles and studies regarding lawyers’ personalities, skepticism is consistently the highest scoring trait among lawyers. Skepticism refers to the tendency to be questioning rather than simply giving the benefit of the doubt. Skeptical people tend to be argumentative.

Considering that a lawyer’s job is to advocate for and defend other people, often through argument, it would make sense that successful lawyers possess argumentative inclinations.

Additionally, it is common for skeptical people to focus on problems and think about every possible situation that could go wrong.

In other words, skepticism is directly parallel to being an analytical and critical thinker. Although the word “skepticism” in itself may have a negative connotation, the critical thinking that accompanies it is a necessary trait for lawyers. It allows lawyers to brainstorm every possible outcome in a case so that we can be prepared to effectively plan for our clients no matter what situations may arise.


I can imagine that many people would be surprised to read that 60 percent of lawyers are introverts given our (wrong) reputation to be power-seeking and bold.

Although many people associate being introverted with being reserved or quiet, that is not the case. Introverts regain their energy from being alone and reflective rather than by surrounding themselves with other people as an extrovert would.

For a lawyer, these qualities are invaluable. While we do spend a significant amount of time talking with our clients, representing them in court and interacting with other lawyers or professionals, we spend just as much time, or more, doing behind the scenes work alone.

Law requires us to spend a significant amount of time reading, writing and thinking over our cases. These important tasks are most effectively accomplished when we’re alone – something introverts don’t mind at all. Given introverts’ predisposition to think before they speak, this can allow introverted lawyers to give truly thoughtful solutions to clients while taking a deliberate approach to risk.


Many lawyers share the characteristic of having a sense of urgency. We feel the need to get things done and never to miss a deadline. As we are a client-facing profession, the responsiveness that comes along with a sense of urgency is very important to form positive relationships with clients.

As a busy lawyer, I know how vital it is to be results-oriented. I am constantly working on some case or acquiring new clients; I can’t afford not to have a sense of urgency or I would be drowning in work. Ironically, many of the lawyer jokes I’ve heard revolve around lawyers dragging out their cases for as much time as possible.

Though there may be some manipulative lawyers out there who do this, I know that I would much rather finish a case (as long as I have received the best possible outcome for my client) not only for my client’s best interest financially, but also for mine in terms of time.


The majority of lawyers score low on resilience in personality studies. This implies that lawyers can be sensitive and defensive in response to criticism.

As we fight to champion our clients’ cause, we become aligned with the clients and their case. Unfavorable results are often internalized and taken personally.

Similarly with urgency, many lawyer jokes hint at lawyers’ arrogant confidence. Though I do agree that a certain level of confidence is a favorable trait for lawyers, the low resilience scores suggests that we really are more sensitive than generally perceived.

While being defensive can be thought of as a negative trait as well, it allows us as lawyers to take full ownership of our ideas and work.

While there is not one standard lawyer personality, lawyers often share many characteristics and qualities.

Considering that there are many negative stereotypes about us that are perpetuated by all the lawyer jokes, it is important for lawyers to exemplify our positive traits – which as we know are many.

This entry was posted in LEGAL.

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