Many people, including mock jurors and other research participants, courthouse personnel, friends, and attorneys, ask me if I am an attorney. Invariably, when this happens, I am wearing a dark, conservative business suit, the attire preferred by many attorneys with whom I am acquainted. I always answer, “No, I am not an attorney. I am a psychologist.” This answer often leads to a series of follow up questions, none of which are the subject of this post. Instead, this post is about why I like spending time with attorneys, including why I have chosen a career that involves spending time with attorneys instead of my colleagues, social psychologists. Here are a few reasons I enjoy spending time with attorneys: (1) they rely on my expertise to help them with things they cannot do absent my help or the help of someone like me; (2) they are usually appreciative of the help I provide them, thanking me repeatedly and exclaiming they could not have won their case without me; (3) they are highly educated and have as much expertise in law as I possess in psychology; (4) they view the world in vastly different ways than I, which leads to interesting and dynamic discussions that would not be possible between or among psychologists; and (5) many of them are vastly more fun and have fuller lives than most psychologists I know. Some of my colleagues have stated they cannot understand why I would rather work with attorneys than in academia, as a professor of psychology. Several of these colleagues are rather condescending in their view of my career, perceiving me to have “lowered myself” by having a non traditional career. Some of my family members and friends have implied that I can “do better” than work for attorneys, whom they perceive to be somewhat low life forms. (As an aside, people who have been on the opposing side of a mean divorce lawyer are particularly judgmental of my career choice. Hmmm…) I know myself pretty well and I am certain I would have been stifled by a traditional university professor career. The interoffice politics would have truly killed my soul, not to mention the endless committee meetings and unstudious students. Every person is different from every other person. I am happy in the career I have chosen, including the opportunity to work with professionals who are different from me. I really enjoy working with attorneys; I really do!
I share Melissa’s enjoyment of working with attorneys and on their challenging cases. We’ve written before about the intellectual stimulation of doing so. Neither of us grew up in a family of lawyers, as many of our clients did, but we grew up with a familiarity with lawyers, law enforcement (me), and courthouses (Melissa). Either of us could easily have become lawyers; I never considered it. Nor, until Melissa was in the trial consulting world, did I consider, or comprehend, much of the litigation world. Lawyers become experts on the subject matter of their cases, and we have to do so as well, to some degree. That is part of the enjoyment. As with Melissa, the preconceived fears of being around lawyers are there among my long time friends and acquaintances, at least some of them. We once had an employee who, after a few months of employment, told Melissa and me that she hated attorneys, thought there were too many lawsuits, and hated working on our clients’ cases. Why she sought a job in a trial consulting world is hard to imagine; it is easy, however, to imagine why she didn’t last her full 90 probationary period. Now we screen for this in all initial interviews. We’ve met many wonderful people, a few of whom have become friends in addition to clients. Let the fun, and work, continue.