A conservative estimate of 44,000 lawyers have ADHD/ADD, the majority of which are diagnosed. Lynn Phillip’s article in the ABA’s GPSolo Magazine outlines some of the major warning signs for lawyers.
In lawyers, one of the most obvious manifestations of the condition is their ongoing attempts to “get organized”—which always end in only short-term success, if any. They report falling behind in their work or being fearful they missed something important, and frequently they feel that they are not living up to their potential. By this point in their lives, many lawyers have learned to work around the manifestations of their ADHD symptoms. They struggle to stay focused on boring tasks, have trouble managing their time, and often start projects enthusiastically but quickly lose their excitement and, with it, the desire to finish the project. They are usually aware of being facile and quickly grasping and building on concepts, but planning for the eventual goal is a problem. They often have low self-esteem because of their inability to be consistent, stay focused, and curb impulses, and frequently they struggle with relationships—partly because they miss or misunderstand the social cues people give one another. They question why things that seem easy for others can be such problems for them.
This does not mean lawyers with ADHD are not extremely successful in practice. Here is one lawyer’s story of living with ADHD.
The World Health Organization has created a short self-diagnostic test, which can help in determining whether taking the time for a professional evaluation would be worthwhile.
Lawyer Assistance Programs are a great first resource for lawyers and law students with ADHD. State LAPs are often able to provide short-term counseling, referrals to doctors and counselors, and additional resources.
Law students with diagnosed, or undiagnosed, ADHD experience an especially difficult time staying organized, focusing on reading assignments, and ensuring deadlines are met throughout the semester. Students with an ADHD diagnosis should ensure they are working with their law school’s student services office to obtain any necessary exam or classroom accommodations needed.
The Harvard University Bureau of Study Counsel in the Center for Academic and Personal Development has developed many resources for students with ADHD, including short guides on Remembering What You Read, the Fundamentals of Time and Task Management, Practices in Managing Time, and Strategies for Focus and Concentration.