Successful Lawyer Skills and Behaviors

17 Pages Posted: 15 Apr 2014

See all articles by William D. Henderson

William D. Henderson

Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Date Written: 2013


The market for entry level legal talent circa 2013 is dysfunctional, as it is organized around stale and unreliable measures of academic ability. Both logic and experience, as well as a fair amount of social science, suggest that success as a lawyer depends upon a wide array of additional factors, such drive, personality, work-life experience, and the quality of one's formal education. Yet, legal employers continued over reliance on academic factors result in significant hiring mistakes. In turn, the low expectations of employers relieve law professors of the burden of having to improve the quality of legal education. If employers won't notice, why bother trying?

This book chapter offers an explanation of how this strange state of affairs came to exist. It also draws upon a substantial amount of evidence to suggest that many law students have the potential to become great advocates, counselors and problem-solvers. They possess the requisite intelligence; and substantial subset also have the required motivation. All that is missing is excellent teaching, training, intensive practice, feedback and coaching. This is a tremendous opportunity for legal education and the legal profession.

Keywords: Labor markets, IQ, intelligence, personality, motivation, legal education, law firms, hierarchies

JEL Classification: A12, D4, D7, I22, I21, R10, M51, L8, L1, J4

Suggested Citation

Henderson, William D., Successful Lawyer Skills and Behaviors (2013). Indiana Legal Studies Research Paper No. 273, Available at SSRN:

William D. Henderson (Contact Author)

Indiana University Maurer School of Law ( email )

211 S. Indiana Avenue
Bloomington, IN 47405
United States
812-856-1788 (Phone)
812-855-0555 (Fax)

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