In some ways, lawyers with ADHD just make sense...
Did you know that the legal world has a surprising connection to ADHD? Brace yourselves because it's true! Lawyers are more likely to have ADHD than non-lawyers. I know, it's a head-scratcher. So let's dig deeper and find out what makes the law so darn appealing to these hyper-focused, adventure-seeking, justice-loving individuals.
About 4.5% of U.S. adults have ADHD. According to the landmark 2016 ABA study on the mental health of U.S. attorneys, 12.5% of lawyers report ADHD. That means lawyers report ADHD at more than 2 ½ times the rate of other adults. It also means that if you are a lawyer experiencing ADHD symptoms, you are not alone. But, why is that?
What is it about the legal profession that is attractive to individuals with ADHD?
After listening to my clients over the past 15 years, I have identified several aspects of the legal profession that could be highly attractive to those with ADHD.
Individuals with ADHD often crave excitement and stimulation, and the legal profession can offer a fast-paced, high-pressure environment that some may find appealing. The high stress of being an attorney provides adrenaline and dopamine, which feeds your ADHD brain. The fast-paced nature of most legal work also helps determine what you should focus on moment-by-moment, alleviating some of the burden of self-determination, which is so darn hard when you have ADHD.
Many individuals with ADHD are highly intelligent and enjoy intellectual challenges. (Yes, you can be super-smart and have ADHD!) The legal profession offers complex problem-solving, critical thinking, and analytical skills opportunities. And lawyers often need to make quick decisions and take calculated risks. Oftentimes decision-making can be paralyzing for people with ADHD, but when urgent decisions need to be made quickly, look out; it’s decision-making fun! Legal work can also allow for creativity and innovation in crafting legal arguments and strategies, which is attractive to individuals with ADHD who think outside the box.
Hyperfocus can help lawyers with ADHD to work through complex legal problems, prepare for trials or hearings, and manage large volumes of information more effectively. It can help lawyers to dive deeply into legal research, analyze complex legal documents, and develop innovative legal strategies. It can also help them to work efficiently and meet tight deadlines, tune out distractions and maintain focus on the task at hand, to stay engaged during long meetings or negotiations, all while forgetting to stand up and stretch, go to the bathroom, or eat lunch.
While the legal profession can be demanding, it also offers some flexibility regarding work schedules and the ability to work remotely. This can be attractive for individuals with ADHD who struggle with traditional 9-5 work hours. Flexibility can also backfire, allowing lawyers with ADHD to develop habits of working too much, for too many hours each day, and never really being “off work.”
External Structures and Procedures
Another factor may be the structure and routine that is often inherent in legal work. While the work can be unpredictable and challenging, clearly established procedures and protocols must be followed, which can provide a sense of order and stability for individuals with ADHD who struggle with impulsivity and disorganization. Following external structures helps to relieve the very difficult task of creating and following your own “structure,” or lack thereof.
Passion for Justice
People with ADHD often have a stronger-than-typical sense of right and wrong. Some individuals with ADHD may be drawn to the legal profession due to a strong sense of justice and a desire to impact society positively. My clients with ADHD are really, really good at identifying problems that need to be fixed—work-related motivation skyrockets when situations offend their sense of justice.
Passion for a Good Fight
Some individuals with ADHD may also be drawn to the adversarial nature of the legal profession, where they can use their quick thinking and argumentative skills to advocate for their clients.
Lawyers With ADHD... A Natural Duo
So there you have it! The law is like a roller coaster ride of excitement, intelligence, and hyperfocus for individuals with ADHD. It's a place where they can use their unique strengths to rock the legal world and change lives. Who knew the legal profession could be so irresistible to the ADHD crowd?
If you're looking for extra support to help you navigate your ADHD while you practice law, we have some coaching programs for you! Check out our 3-month group coaching program, The Focused Lawyer, or our 6-month One-to-One Coaching program.