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Lawyers and Project Managers: cut from the same cloth?

I am sure you’ve noticed that some people really enjoy their line work while others doing the same type of work just don’t enjoy it as much.

Some people really enjoy project management.  Equally there are many people who genuinely struggle with ‘project thinking’.  Although the latter may appreciate the need for project control on some level, they have real difficulty applying even high level project thinking to their work.

A short post on the Arras web site about what makes good project managers caught my eye. It noted that:

Good Projects Managers are often born logical and analytical


Nature Vs Nurture

Does this mean that, despite all the training opportunities to acquire the skills of project management, you have to be born with an innate aptitude for it to be a good project manager?  No, of course not.  Like anything else, project management skills can be learned and developed with practice.

What does seem to happen however is that project management, like many other professions, is most attractive to people with certain characteristics.  Such people seem to have a more natural fit with project management.  Because of this they enjoy it and they gladly put effort in to become better at it.

I once went to an event at the APM (Association for Project Management) which supported this notion that project management attracts people who share some common characteristics.


Picking Colours

The event was run by people from a company called Colourworks.  They handed out 4 colour cards to everyone in the audience.  The cards were coloured red, yellow, green and blue.  On each card there were some words which described character traits.  We were asked to read each card and then place them in order, left to right.  On the left side we had to place the card we thought came closest to describing us as individuals.  The remaining cards were then placed left to right in descending order of applicability.

I’d say about 80% of those present (mostly professional project managers) placed the blue card extreme left.  The blue card read: “cautious, precise, deliberate, questioning, formal, and analytical”.

The Colour Wheel
The Colour Wheel


This came as no surprise to the people from Colourworks.  As they explained, they expected most project managers to be “blues”.  You can see all the colours and traits in the “Insight Colour Wheel”, reproduced with kind permission of Colourworks.  For more information you might want to visit the Colourworks site where they have a snazzier version of this wheel.


Accuracy of online testing (at least in my case)

A few years before the APM event the division of LexisNexis I then worked for asked all its managers to complete an online personality profile. This was a more detailed, and objective, version of the card selection game. The purpose behind this was to allow us to understand our own personality characteristics a little better as a step towards improving teamwork.

The profile report I got back was uncomfortably accurate.  Let’s put it this way, my wife and children just laughed and said “yup, that’s you”.  According to this detailed profile I was placed very firmly in the blue quadrant.


Where would most lawyers place themselves on the colour wheel?

I studied law at university, and have trained and practised as a solicitor.  I suspect that, if given the four card self-assessment test, most newly qualified lawyers would place the blue one leftmost.  The traits listed in the blue quadrant of the colour wheel look very lawyerly to me.  I’d suggest that most newly minted lawyers are natural blues.

Although I’d also suggest that to advance professionally lawyers have to become adept at ‘shuffling’ the cards, emphasising different traits of their personality as their career progresses.  Perhaps striving to make sure they end up being “reds” by the time they are made (or in order to be made) senior partners.  (This sounds like the basis for a really interesting piece of research – but then, being an analytical blue I would say that wouldn’t I?).

If the base character traits of most professional project managers and practising lawyers are indeed quite similar – blues on the colour wheel – perhaps most lawyers have a natural affinity for the discipline of project management after all?


Where are you on the colour wheel?

[yop_poll id=”3″]

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