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Pessimists Make the Best Lawyers Pessimists Make the Best Lawyers

Bronze medal Reporter Adv. Aneeta Posted 22 Oct 2020
Pessimists Make the Best Lawyers

Many times, in people’s opinion, pessimists have a bad reputation. Pessimists are considered to be “losers.” And who wants their legal professional to be a loser. People like and want winners, especially if their case is in the Courts.

But when we look into the practice of the Law, an argument can be made that “….pessimists make the best lawyers.”

The dictionary definition of a pessimist is: “…a person who tends to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen. Pessimists point to ways in which life has deteriorated". Other terms used for a pessimist include doomsayer, skeptic, doubting Thomas, and worrier.

Are these the qualities you want in your Advocate, especially in difficult or complex cases?

If not a pessimistic lawyer who has a prudent perspective? Isn’t it necessary for a lawyer to see all the views of the case, both positive and negative, seen and unseen?

Shouldn’t a lawyer have the ability to anticipate a whole range of problems? In a sense, to be pessimistic is also to be holistic, that is, contemplating all possible outcomes, negative as well as positive.

Optimistic projections of the outcome of a particular case may initially reassure the client. Then when the inevitable roadblock deflates the optimism, and reality punctures any rosy projections based on optimism, will the client not be far more unhappy and even angry with their legal professional’s lack of judgment?

 If there is merit to the value of a pessimistic lawyer in making the best lawyers, of course, there are consequences for the lawyer themselves. A pessimist can also be known as a killjoy. The lawyer who is professionally pessimistic needs to be careful they are not emotional pessimists, unable to see joy without the desire to kill it.

All psychological studies agree that unhappy human beings, unable to separate their professional and personal appreciation of joyfulness and happiness may find themselves to be increasingly depressed or in poor mental health. 

Pessimists can also tend to attribute the causes of negative events as long-lasting and global issues. They can fear the flood but never look for the rainbow.

Mature optimists see the bad phase of a situation as changeable and temporary while a confirmed pessimist may view them as permanent and unchangeable. Conceivably, pessimistic students may have lower grades than optimistic students. This is not a mature pessimistic world-view.

It is a lack of separating the willingness to see the full range of negative possibilities as well as the opportunities to achieve goals such as winning a case or achieving high grades.  

“Optimism is a little like red wine,” says Duke University, USA finance professor Manju Puri. “In moderation, it is good for you; but no one would suggest for you drink two bottles a day.” Being overly optimistic can mean being overconfident in your position and reluctant to examine every aspect of a case. 

In its worst form, over-optimism is a fear of negative possibilities that pessimistic foresight might have forecast.

In 1990, the University of Virginia Law School tested one whole class with an “optimism-pessimism” test. Students were followed for three years continuously. The result was that the pessimists outperformed the optimists.

When it comes to lawyer’s pessimism is seen as a plus point as they see troubles as permanent and pervasive. This helps them to see every possible side of the trouble. A professional who can clearly see how bad things may turn out for clients can also see clearly if things might turn out well for themselves. 

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