If you have ever read the lists of professions that are ADHD-friendly, you will find law prominently listed. That may be why so many attorneys have ADHD. What does an attorney with ADHD look like? The three criteria that most experts recognize are inattentiveness, impulsivity and emotional dysregulation. Because ADHD impacts everyone differently, the impact can vary in different settings. That means situational variability is to be expected. Let’s take this from the theoretical to real life and see what an attorney with ADHD looks like at work. (One word to the wise, the difference between people with ADHD and people who are neuro-typical is degree and frequency. We all have executive function challenges from time to time and that doesn’t mean we have ADHD.)
People with ADHD work best when the topic is interesting to them. Interest is like oxygen for the ADHD brain–it needs it in order to function. Like everyone else, lawyers with ADHD have varied interests. You can see them in litigation, public policy, negotiation, mediation, etc. The ADHD brain does not tolerate boredom well and can thrive in high risk environments—like trial work or politics. The lawyer with ADHD is likely to be passionate about their field of interest and probably hyperfocuses on it. That should show up as working long hours and investigating every aspect of their case. As one of my friends used to say to describe me when something caught my interest: “you’re like a dog with a bone—you never let it go.”
On the other hand, the lawyer with ADHD can be disorganized. Ever walk into an office where everything is organized in piles? Do you have a colleague can’t be trusted with an original document? Disorganization, losing and forgetting things are common characteristics of ADHD.
How many times have you gone to a meeting, and one participant shows up late and then hijacks the meeting by interrupting others or speaking out of turn? Time insensitivity, and impulsivity are all traits of ADHD. These ADHD traits can also result in missed internal deadlines, routine or mundane tasks never getting done, projects started but not completed.
Ever sat in a meeting next to someone who is playing games on their phone? Distractedness, and inattention are hallmarks of ADHD. In the worst case, the bored person could pick a fight or say something controversial just to relieve their boredom.
In supportive environments, lawyers with ADHD can be highly creative, passionate advocates, who are fun to work with and very productive. They are the idea generators–the creative minds behind new and original arguments. They can be the work horses who labor endlessly on projects they feel passionately about. They are your colleagues, adversaries, classmates, professors and Judges.