I stutter: should I still go to law school?

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AReasonableMan
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby AReasonableMan » Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:14 pm

KDP wrote:I don't really think there is any question that from a pure investment standpoint that it does not make financial sense to go to law school. The job market is just saturated. Although I would never want to work in a firm environment, I doubt that if I did that there would be many opportunities open to me even with a proven track record and a book of business. ( if I have to bring my own business why would I want to go in the first place).

I still glance over the classified section of the Bar publication. I always laugh at the jobs that want 20 plus years of experience, you bring your own clients and they want to see your law school transcripts! That doesn't sound like anywhere I would want to work. If it were me I would want to see someone's tax returns. After all, are we trying to impress everyone with how smart some professor thought we were 20 years ago or are we trying to get good results for our clients and make a good living at the same time? I'll take the guy who made B's and C's, has happy clients and generated seven figures in fees consistently for the last five years. The guy with all A's and law review that billed $300K but I had to pay him $175K plus provide all his support staff can go work for the big firm where they can have lunch with all the other "smart" people and think about how much better than me they are. Not all people in big firms are like that but I can assure you that there are enough of them to perpetuate the stereotype.

Practicing law is great, but it is not for the faint of heart. You can make up for a lot with sheer determination, stubbornness, tenacity and the refusal to take "No" for an answer.

It's great you have a practice. I don't know why you're so gung ho about transcripts and entitlement complexes at these firms. I'm sure people's lunch conversations focus much more on work, children and the weather than they do about how smart they all are. Again, my only point was about weighing statistical probabilities. Your chosen career path is in no way inferior, and I'm glad it worked out for you, but it's most rational when there is no debt as you already mentioned. If your clients are everyday people, academic prestige markers are far less relevant to success.

Insofar as stuttering is concerned, a client signing a contract with you is based almost exclusively on their individual judgment and word of mouth from friends/associates. It would probably have a bigger impact if it required unanimity from a larger group or if individuals were making a selection based off the perceived preferences of others. Most people are open minded, but psychological studies routinely demonstrate the vast majority of people consider themselves to be more open minded than the average person. The result of this is a person is more likely to be closed minded when making a decision on behalf of someone else than when making a decision for themselves.

Your stutter is also the type of thing that lays all its cards out on the table at once so its impact fades over time. For example, most atypical characteristics aren't as apparent up front. Once you pass a certain point, its impact becomes increasingly less pronounced as people become used to it and don't make presumptions based off of it. It's a unique trait in that it's something most people have done at one time or another so tend to perceive it as a more intense version of the emotions that would cause a fluent speaker to stammer as opposed to simply a genetic predisposition to process language in the right hemisphere of the brain.

AReasonableMan
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby AReasonableMan » Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:33 pm

Clearly wrote:The boomer is strong with this one.

Eh he's right in that its impact likely isn't very relevant in practice it doesn't pose a significant disadvantage going solo. It's conceivable that the traits that accompany it and a lifetime of overcoming adversity actually give the person an advantage. If two otherwise identical people reach the same spot despite one having a disadvantage the other did not, conventional logic would say that as impact of the disadvantage subsides, the disadvantaged individual will surpass the non-disadvantaged individual. It's like how between 2 sports teams with identical records, Vegas tends to favor the team that handled more adversity during the regular season.

dudders
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby dudders » Wed Jul 08, 2015 2:57 pm

Before law school, I had a (non-legal) supervisor with a pretty severe stutter, with associated nonverbal superfluous behaviors. (I just had to look up the technical lingo. Think tics. Wikipedia describes them as "visible or audible speech behaviors, such as lip smacking, throat clearing, head thrusting, etc., usually representing an effort to break through or circumvent a block or stuttering loop.") It was a job that requires lots of talking, both with employees and the public, and it worked out fine. It was what it was, and he didn't let it bother him or hold him back from anything.

I wouldn't be worried about overall career possibilities. Nothing is impossible. Most people know what a stutter is and that it's pretty uncontrollable. Anyone that can't be patient or finds it distracting or annoying ... you've lived with it until this point, so you know that'll happen and there's not a lot you can do about it.

Above the normal OCI/job prospect concerns (great school, great grades), etc., I would say the only thing you can control that would impact you one way or another is confidence. I know nothing about you personally. But lack of confidence comes across in interviews. If your stutter makes your nervous, gives you anxiety, or changes how much you would talk and what you would ultimately say in an interview, that could hurt you. If you're a good interviewee who looks comfortable, projects confidence, and happens to have a stutter, NBD. (I don't mean you need to project stutter-positivity or go over the top or anything, I just mean if you look/act nervous, or seem frustrated, whether it's because of your stutter or anything else, that's a bad interview.)

KDP
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby KDP » Wed Jul 08, 2015 3:28 pm

Everyone is susceptible to succumbing to believing a stereotype as is evidenced by many of the comments here such as that my clients must be simpler individuals and not sophisticated corporations who could do better than hiring a lawyer that stutters. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've represented two worldwide, multi billion dollar organizations. This required an interview with 20 executives flown in from around the world in an arena environment while several hundred organization members watched. Great money. Strange organization. Wouldn't do it again. I've represented German car manufacturers that had a local issue. I could fill several tour buses with the millionaires that I've represented. Not all of these people were referrals. Some of them simply found my website, talked to me and liked me. It's really about like and trust. Mostly trust. These days when I'm in the courtroom, I don't stutter. I've developed methods for dealing with it so that if I am in a remote county, no one will even know it but me and my client. If I wore my feelings on my sleeve like I did when I was young I would be offended by such comments but I put that aside long ago. I take my satisfaction from lawyers that I could tell had the same mindset going into trial with me and get their behind gift wrapped and handed to them. Ignore and think less of people who stutter at your own peril. The fluency with which words come out of someone's mouth has no relation to their intellectual ability.

My vacation is nearly over. Soon y'all will have to continue this without me. My purpose here is to encourage people who stutter, not to spar with those who don't and want to tell stutterers to just settle for whatever positions are left over or "acceptable" for people who stutter.

dudders
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby dudders » Wed Jul 08, 2015 4:35 pm

dudders wrote:I wouldn't be worried about overall career possibilities. Nothing is impossible. Most people know what a stutter is and that it's pretty uncontrollable. Anyone that can't be patient or finds it distracting or annoying ... you've lived with it until this point, so you know that'll happen and there's not a lot you can do about it.


Not sure how this reads to others ... I meant it to imply that there's always going to be a small minority of a-holes, in the legal profession or elsewhere, but I'm sure OP has probably already experienced this and it's unfortunately just something s/he will have to deal with from time to time.

AReasonableMan
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby AReasonableMan » Thu Jul 09, 2015 10:34 am

dudders wrote:Before law school, I had a (non-legal) supervisor with a pretty severe stutter, with associated nonverbal superfluous behaviors. (I just had to look up the technical lingo. Think tics. Wikipedia describes them as "visible or audible speech behaviors, such as lip smacking, throat clearing, head thrusting, etc., usually representing an effort to break through or circumvent a block or stuttering loop.") It was a job that requires lots of talking, both with employees and the public, and it worked out fine. It was what it was, and he didn't let it bother him or hold him back from anything.

I wouldn't be worried about overall career possibilities. Nothing is impossible. Most people know what a stutter is and that it's pretty uncontrollable. Anyone that can't be patient or finds it distracting or annoying ... you've lived with it until this point, so you know that'll happen and there's not a lot you can do about it.

Above the normal OCI/job prospect concerns (great school, great grades), etc., I would say the only thing you can control that would impact you one way or another is confidence. I know nothing about you personally. But lack of confidence comes across in interviews. If your stutter makes your nervous, gives you anxiety, or changes how much you would talk and what you would ultimately say in an interview, that could hurt you. If you're a good interviewee who looks comfortable, projects confidence, and happens to have a stutter, NBD. (I don't mean you need to project stutter-positivity or go over the top or anything, I just mean if you look/act nervous, or seem frustrated, whether it's because of your stutter or anything else, that's a bad interview.)

Those non-verbal behaviors are called secondary features, and are entirely controllable so are very different than the stutter itself. Essentially what happens is your supervisor got into a block at one point, and inadvertently stomped his foot, then was able to say the word. This happened a few times, and eventually he adopted a reflex to stomp his foot whenever he blocks. Although the vast majority of stutterers are either left handed or ambidextrous, this is because language is being processed in the right hemisphere of the brain or in both hemispheres simultaneously while fluent speakers only process language in the left hemisphere. Stuttering itself is a 100% language processing condition. While it's conceivable someone can have both a stutter and Tourette's syndrome, in all likelihood, your former supervisor could simply stop the superfluous behaviors if he wanted to.

Agreed on the rest of it with the caveat that your experience with it may be atypical in that you met someone who seemingly has a very severe stutter even by severe stutter standards, and successfully held a leadership position. If say ~10% of the general population holds leadership positions and approximately 0.1% of the population has a perpetual stutter your exposure to it is rare. If we pretended for the sake of a hypothetical that your supervisor did not stutter, and instead had green skin, then in 10 years if you interviewed an individual with green skin, you might be immediately able to distinguish and remove the interviewee's green skin from your assessment of the applicant, and recognize that the green skin doesn't really involve anything other than skin color. If you had never met a person with green skin before, you would be less inclined to remove the applicant's green skin from your analysis of the applicant.

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Jmart082
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby Jmart082 » Thu Jul 09, 2015 10:49 am

JUST WATCH THE KING'S SPEECH, BRAJ. He totes crushed it.

AReasonableMan
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby AReasonableMan » Thu Jul 09, 2015 11:07 am

dudders wrote:
dudders wrote:I wouldn't be worried about overall career possibilities. Nothing is impossible. Most people know what a stutter is and that it's pretty uncontrollable. Anyone that can't be patient or finds it distracting or annoying ... you've lived with it until this point, so you know that'll happen and there's not a lot you can do about it.


Not sure how this reads to others ... I meant it to imply that there's always going to be a small minority of a-holes, in the legal profession or elsewhere, but I'm sure OP has probably already experienced this and it's unfortunately just something s/he will have to deal with from time to time.

Having met 100s of people who stutter, I would say the discussion of a-holes reflects a common misconception about people who stutter, which is that they are sensitive about it. You really can't take any lifelong trait in a vacuum, and not account for decades of life experience with the trait.

Stutterers can largely be divided into 2 types of people: those who withdraw from life because of it, and those who don't. Once you look at a stutterer who is passed college or who holds a position requiring speaking with lots of new people, you're really looking at the second type. Because stutterers all know whether they will stutter on a given word before saying it, if you see someone who stutters repeatedly in social situations yet keeps talking, this person is necessarily fairly comfortable with it, and is probably impervious to jokes or whatever about it. I don't really think mentioning it or even joking about it would offend these people. I'd wager that making fun of their dress or tie would sting much more.

The most famous example of such desensitization is probably Moses, who voiced a fear of addressing the Hebrews due to his stutter to the point of requiring a replacement speaker, then gradually begins to address a 500k person audience on a pretty routine basis. If someone has a healthy self-concept then their sensitivity over it is limited to where it produces a tangible result. Namely, if a judge denied their motion because of it, they'd probably be very angry where as if the judge made a quib about it unrelated to his ruling, they probably wouldn't care. In the interviewing context, as I previously mentioned, because stuttering is simply put: right brain activation in language processing and the right brain is the emotional processing center of the brain, any emotional reaction to speech reinforces it. Thus, the more someone who stutters associates it with a bad outcome, the more they will stutter in a given situation. If you made fun of a confident person's stutter in good spirited fun, they're very unlikely to care. If you told someone who stuttters they will be fired unless they don't stutter, it's a virtual certainty their stuttering will get markedly worse.

AReasonableMan
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby AReasonableMan » Thu Jul 09, 2015 11:36 am

Jmart082 wrote:JUST WATCH THE KING'S SPEECH, BRAJ. He totes crushed it.

LOL - That was a rehearsed speech with preestablished pauses that reinforce speech only being processed in the left side of the brain. In his day to day life, he stuttered all throughout his life. Personally, I have delivered speeches to large audiences throughout my life perfectly fluently, but this requires a ton of focus. In an actual real life conversation, it can be unpleasant to allocate 90% of your focus to speaking to the exclusion of being physically present in the moment with another person. As strange as it may sound, neurological studies have found that a decrease in stuttering among individuals who stutter is correlated with a decrease in IQ. This is because we're speaking about a neurological abnormality as opposed to simply a speaking abnormality. Due to increased speed in processing language, it's actually a positive adaptation in writing and learning, which is why we have actually seen an increase in its commonality over the course of history. For what it's worth, stutterers frequently can speak another language fluently, and it's common for a person to stutter speaking English, but be perfectly fluent speaking Mandarin or Spanish - it's not really a nervous reaction or a matter of simply working with a pathologist.

AReasonableMan
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby AReasonableMan » Thu Jul 09, 2015 11:56 am

KDP wrote:Everyone is susceptible to succumbing to believing a stereotype as is evidenced by many of the comments here such as that my clients must be simpler individuals and not sophisticated corporations who could do better than hiring a lawyer that stutters. Nothing could be further from the truth. I've represented two worldwide, multi billion dollar organizations. This required an interview with 20 executives flown in from around the world in an arena environment while several hundred organization members watched. Great money. Strange organization. Wouldn't do it again. I've represented German car manufacturers that had a local issue. I could fill several tour buses with the millionaires that I've represented. Not all of these people were referrals. Some of them simply found my website, talked to me and liked me. It's really about like and trust. Mostly trust. These days when I'm in the courtroom, I don't stutter. I've developed methods for dealing with it so that if I am in a remote county, no one will even know it but me and my client. If I wore my feelings on my sleeve like I did when I was young I would be offended by such comments but I put that aside long ago. I take my satisfaction from lawyers that I could tell had the same mindset going into trial with me and get their behind gift wrapped and handed to them. Ignore and think less of people who stutter at your own peril. The fluency with which words come out of someone's mouth has no relation to their intellectual ability.

My vacation is nearly over. Soon y'all will have to continue this without me. My purpose here is to encourage people who stutter, not to spar with those who don't and want to tell stutterers to just settle for whatever positions are left over or "acceptable" for people who stutter.

I think the stereotype about simplicity or a lack in intelligence is pretty easily disprovable once you have some objective evidence whether it be your transcript or some professional success. However, we do know that stuttering is highly correlated with IQ abnormalities such that stutterers are disproportionately represented in those with developmental disabilities, and those in more advanced professions so it would be disingenuous its impact is limited to speaking in and of itself. Most people do not consider Albert Einstein and Charles Darwin stupid despite stuttering, quite prominently, throughout their lives. I also don't think anyone here argued anything remotely resembling your comment that they think your clients would be better off on their own. You seem to have repeatedly brought this up, but it's never been mentioned once. Personally, I have found this stereotype is limited to uneducated people and that most people judge your intelligence based on how you think. After
Last edited by AReasonableMan on Thu Jul 09, 2015 2:01 pm, edited 1 time in total.

KDP
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby KDP » Thu Jul 09, 2015 1:59 pm

"Insofar as stuttering is concerned, a client signing a contract with you is based almost exclusively on their individual judgment and word of mouth from friends/associates. It would probably have a bigger impact if it required unanimity from a larger group or if individuals were making a selection based off the perceived preferences of others. "


This is the comment to which I was referring. It seems to only to me that that a stutterer is not going to get clients where there is a hiring committee or more than an individual making a decision. It just isn't true. Maybe that's not what you meant.

I also never meant to say that clients would be better off on on their own or that someone had said that. If I did then I need to double check my auto correct or proofread more closely. Like I mentioned earlier, I'm on vacation and typing most of this on the beach between "refreshments"

It bothers me when people try to pigeon hole stutterers into what jobs are "okay" for stutterers to do. I don't recall having ever desired or being given a single accommodation, "break" or anything else along the way to becoming a trial lawyer. We don't receive "stutterers law degrees" that are easier to get or limited in scope. Therefore there should be no limitation on what we do. The only people that have any right to decide are the clients. I'm not saying you are doing this. Your comment just set me off a little bit.

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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby AReasonableMan » Fri Jul 10, 2015 11:51 am

It's just mathematics. It's unlikely people will hire you because you stutter, they will hire you because they think you are a good attorney or for some reason unrelated to your stutter. Some people will judge you based off your stutter. So let's say if 20% of people will do this. Applying basic math, the more people that are involved in a decision, the more likely it is that their decision will be at least somewhat based on your stutter. My only point is the more people that are involved, the more likely it is to be a factor.

KDP
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby KDP » Fri Jul 10, 2015 7:37 pm

People hiring me has absolutely nothing to do with whether I stutter. No one is going to hire me BECAUSE I stutter. That's ludicrous. No one would have such a requirement. They hire me because they believe I can achieve the result they are after. Your "logic" is flawed. I doubt it is based on any data whatsoever. My position is based on 20 plus years of experience. The committee of 20 that hired me in front of hundreds of people was a worldwide African (literally) American religious organization. I am white. That place was so full of "amens", "tell it's" and "let the man do the job's!" before we were done I thought we were going to have to have an alter call. I would challenge practically anyone to survive that whether you stutter or are James Earl Jones ( who I'm sure we all know struggled with stuttering). I have no idea why they took to me. It depends on the person, NOT whether they stutter. I haven't read enough of your responses to know if you stutter or not. Your attitude toward stutterers seems very patronizing so hopefully you are not one of us. My vacation is over tomorrow so it's back to work. I probably won't have time to continue this. We'll see.

AReasonableMan
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Re: I stutter: should I still go to law school?

Postby AReasonableMan » Sun Jul 12, 2015 2:56 pm

I think you might be misinterpreting what I said. My point is exactly that. Of course, people hire you because they think you're a good attorney, and not because you stutter. The stutter never enters the equation; they don't care. As you said, nobody will hire you specifically because you stutter. It's much more likely they would choose not to hire specifically because you stutter. There's only two outcomes: it is either a neutral trait or a negative trait. My entire point was simply that the more people are involved in a decision, the higher the probability becomes that it causes you to not be hired. The people who are fine with it won't bring it up, because they see it as a non-issue. Therefore, if one person cares about it - you're in trouble.

Legal interviewing is unique from other corporate interviewing in that the "personality analysis" is not handled by HR, but by lawyers who don't have the same exposure and education in things like stuttering. People tend to be incredibly patient and forgiving with stuttering itself. Truthfully, if someone's stuttering were so bad that it precluded them from effectively conveying information, we'd probably both agree that they may struggle to adequately represent clients notwithstanding the fact that 99% of practice does not require oral advocacy.

The bigger issue tends to be the ascription of personality traits on individuals who stutter - just to name a few on the National Stuttering Association's website - as "nervous... timid... anxious... insecure... shy... less intelligent." The ascription of these traits is rational, and easy to understand. Most people have stuttered at one time or another - generally in situations where they were very nervous, shy or unsure of what they were saying. Thus, it's reasonable to assume consciously or unconsciously that one who stutters perpetually is merely experiencing these same feelings in a more intense way. The reason is a bigger concern is it disadvantages stutterers even in field where fluent speech isn't necessary and even where the interviewer is okay with the stutter itself. While these stereotypes are generally discarded once people get to know the person who stutterers, people aren't getting to know you in twenty minutes of formal dialogue asking scripted questions.

While these stereotypes aren't irrational, studies have only found there to be an inverse effect: stutterers tend to be less nervous, introverted and insecure than the general population. This makes sense when you consider that if 2 people both volunteer a speech, one who stutters and one who doesn't, the stutterer is knowingly and willingly accepting a risk that the non-stutterer is not. As stuttering is simply a language processing abnormality/disability, it is not a consequence of conditions that would cause fluent speakers to stutter. Of course, stutterers will stutter more if they are nervous, fatigued or uncomfortable just like anyone else. I mention all this simply to stay that the stutterer going to law school faces a higher degree of risk than a non-stutterer. In addition to all of the concerns for other law students, you're also betting on finding an office where everyone you meet is going to judge you based on what you say, not how you say it. There are many great places like this, but there are also some that are not. You're betting you will find the former, which like any bet is never 100% and necessarily requires some degree of luck.

Of course, it's possible to succeed in law with a stutter or with any disability. People do it every day. We're simply speaking about statistics and probability, not absolutes. It is a risk that must be analyzed before attending law school as are other things not related to ability to succeed - let's say things like weight, age, appearance, etc. These are all things that should not matter, and in some instances are legally not allowed to matter, but this is also Planet Earth. Like when you invest or purchase real estate, when spending 3 years and six-figures in non-dischargeable loans (I'm aware you tell all other people not to take out loans), you want to be aware of everything relevant to adequately weigh the risk.

To conclude, I'd press anyone who is interested to research Joe Biden's history with stuttering. He was once a severe stutter, but through charisma and being very smart he got by changing words a lot (all stutterers get a message from the brain a few fractions of a second before they stutter on a given word, and most get by with changing words). Once he had some early political success, the National Stuttering Association approached him about being a representative. The Democratic Party and his advisors required him to reject any association with stuttering due to the stigma it carries. Even today, one of the flaws his detractors point to is his tendency to make odder remarks than other politicians when forced off script. This makes many question his intelligence, but we as stutterers know he's simply changing words. Biden is actually pretty open about his history as a stutterer, and it's an interesting read for anyone. The point of this is merely to say there is a stigma, and it's better to confront it than pretend it doesn't exist.




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