Long ago I used to work with a great lawyer named Ed. Ed was calm, at least compared to me. When I was freaking out about my files and my workload and certain that I was going to get myself sued for something or other, Ed just did his work, calmly and professionally, no matter how much pressure he was under. We used to call Ed the Iceman because we were sure that he had ice water in his veins. I envied Ed. I never did find out if his insides were any different from his outsides.
Another lawyer who I worked with for a long time and who I will call Mervyn, was just as cool as Ed on the outside. However, over many years I figured out that on the inside he was just as crazy as me. Maybe worse. He just hid it better. In fact, when the pressure was really on, Mervyn would look to me to calm him down, all the while coming across to others as if he did not have a problem in the world.
I had another partner who was always too busy. Everyone knew it. Clients and Partners alike hesitated to give him work because he was constantly too swamped to handle it. Associates were afraid to enter his office to ask for help because they did not want to be the person who pushed him over the edge. The only indication that he could possibly take on another project would be in his docketed hours. They were never particularly high, and not because he did not record all of his time. On an objective basis, he had plenty of capacity. He just did not have the mental bandwidth to cope with a full workload and remain calm.
According to Doctor Google, it is Rob Lowe who said, “don’t compare your insides to other people’s outsides,” which is pretty good advice, particularly for anyone who spends any time in the social media universe.
In a law firm, there is more than enough stress and pressure to go around. Some people appear to handle it well, and maybe some of them actually do. Some do not. If you are managing a law firm, it is important to know that for reasons which vary from firm to firm.
If you are managing a firm which strives to protect and nurture the mental health of its people, this knowledge will assist you to support those whose natural tendency is to take on too much and care too deeply, and to help them become the best that they can be.
If, on the other hand, you are managing a traditional law firm, knowing who might need some help learning how to handle the pressure in order to develop into an excellent lawyer allows you to determine where to focus your passive aggressive attention, and who to pass over for partnership or fire.
See why understanding a bit of psychology is so important?