Why Having ADD Makes Me a Great Attorney

default author image10.05.2016

Originality.  Creativity.  Charisma.  Energy.  Liveliness.  An unusual sense of humor.  Areas of intellectual brilliance.  Spunk.

About 90% of the compliments I receive mention these qualities.  And it’s no coincidence that these are the traits common to those with ADD.

ADD (aka ADHD – the terms are interchangeable) is highly misunderstood.  Some people might ask, why on earth would I want an attorney who is unable to focus, unable to remember anything, hyper-fidgety, and always distracted?  Truly, you wouldn’t want that.  But that’s not really what ADD is.

In fact, ADD is a collection of traits that makes me an excellent attorney.  Here’s the real truth about those of us gifted with ADD.

We think super fast.

The main difference between the ADD brain and the regular brain is speed.  People often come into my office with a large pile of papers and are astonished at the speed with which I immediately identify and hone in on the key facts and the important issues.  For us, our brains work at a rapid fire pace; ADD is sometimes described as like having a race car brain.

Fast thinking is the ultimate trial attorney skill.  I can’t tell you how important it is, when your mind is racing for an objection, when you’re analyzing a direct examination and figuring out which questions to ask on cross, when a judge asks you a question and you have to come up with reasoning on the fly that is logical and legally sound, not to be the one who is left stammering and stuttering.

Fast thinking also means I work super efficiently and this saves my clients money.

We are creative.

People with ADD are creative, original thinkers.  We thrive as entrepreneurs and inventors.  Creativity is extremely important in the law!  I often compare myself to an interpreter – lives are messy, and it’s my job to create a narrative with structure that is going to fit into a neat package that a judge will like and that dovetails with whatever legal theory we are trying to present.  This molding process requires a lot of creative work.  Who might be a surprise witness you might not have thought of?  What are some leads, some documents it didn’t occur to you to look at?  What are some reasons our adversary might be doing certain things, and how can we leverage that information?  Good litigation attorneys use our creative thinking skills constantly.

We are bold risk-takers.

Many people with ADD are prone to addiction or self-destructive behavior because we enjoy and thrive on risk.  What better healthy outlet than the risk of litigation?  With real lives at stake, naturally, I would never do anything to unnecessarily jeopardize my clients’ futures and well beings.  But most people are very risk averse.  Most lawyers don’t really want to go to trial.  Most lawyers are afraid and they have to talk themselves into engaging in a real fight.

I mentioned earlier that 90% of the compliments I receive involve the list ADD traits above (*).  The other 10% are about my chutzpah and fearlessness.  I thank my ADD for this.

But Isn’t ADD Bad?

Everyone has positive and negative traits.  The ADD brain is low on filing cabinets.  But you don’t need mental filing cabinets when you have a strong, well-managed staff and organizational system.  I write literally everything down.  I delegate A LOT!  There’s a reason we are entrepreneurial!

We have trouble focusing at times.  But at times we also hyper-focus.  I love few things more than spending an entire day working on an appellate brief or a post-trial memo.  That kind of thing is fun for me.  Most of the time, legal work is well-suited for the ADD brain because we are juggling a lot of tasks at once, quickly shifting gears, processing lots of information, and doing a lot of things all at once.  It’s where we excel.

We also tend to underestimate the amount of time it takes to complete a task.  This is an acknowledged danger zone and I always have to be very careful never to over-promise.

Conclusion: ADD is a gift

When I read Dr. Ned Hallowell’s formal and informal ADD diagnosis questionnaires in his excellent book, Delivered From Distraction, it was like a light bulb went off.  I scanned those pages for you to check out here, in case you’re interested.  If this post resonates with you (or even if it doesn’t), reach out to me!  I love connecting with others who are gifted with ADD, and I’ve found that leveraging the resources out there has enabled me to make the most of my abilities in ways I had never imagined.

October is ADD and Dyslexia Awareness Month.  For further information, check out:

The Hallowell Center

Dr. Hallowell’s podcast

Faster Than Normal – Peter Shankman’s page

Attention Deficit Disorder Association