Is your personality an indicator of your future success? Freshfields opened their doors to the BBC as part of a TV programme on personality. The purpose was to see if there appeared to be any link between certain personality traits and the success of lawyers. Success was measured by the lawyers’ level of progress in the firm. What it showed was an apparent link between success and certain personality traits.


The programme looked at three traits:


Agreeableness – describes to what extent we are concerned with the feelings of others and how easily we form bonds with people.


Openness – which is about how receptive we are to novel ideas, the degree to which we question the rules and the way things have been done before.


Extroversion – this is about how positive, ambitious and assertive we are.


The show demonstrated the advancement of lawyers at the firm by grouping those with similar personality traits in one of the three lifts in the London office of Freshfields. The lifts went higher if lawyers had advanced further in their career.


With agreeableness there was an inverse relationship between the degree of this trait and success in the firm. Those who scored low on agreeableness were more successful. So we don’t need to be nice to do well said the programme. In this firm 63% of the highest salary earners scored low on agreeableness.


Those lawyers with a higher score on openness also scored higher on success. So the lawyers who questioned the rules appeared to do better. This might also indicate that those who are comfortable with change do well.


With extroversion it was those lawyers who scored a medium level of this trait who did best. Lawyers need some of this to be successful but not too much. So it is important to be socially receptive, but not socially distracted. The difference might be those who are interested to meet and get to know colleagues and clients but not to follow all the office gossip.


So those lawyers who scored low on agreeableness, high on openness and medium on extroversion were the highest earners at Freshfields.


The programme also stated that it is even more important for women to have low agreeableness to do well.


The programme raises a number of questions such as;


  • Is this the same for all the big firms?
  • What does the situation look like in medium and smaller firms?
  • What would be the results if analysed by practice area?
  • Do practice areas need a balance of lawyers with different personality traits?
  • With the growth of cross jurisdiction work do lawyers need more interpersonal skills and extroversion, or put another way more patience to deal with people from other cultures?

It’s also worth noting that not 100% of top salary earners scored low on agreeableness, so what we were shown are tendencies not absolutes. It’s probably useful to have lawyers who score highly on agreeableness engaged in new business development at a senior level.


If you want to know more about ITD’s approach to personality profiling please contact us. 8)

Is your personality an indicator of your future success? – Freshfields on the BBC