I don’t want to stir up any controversy here. So, please put your political feelings aside and read what follows without a political perspective. I am just trying to figure out if likability still matters and are women lawyers held to a far more challenging standard.

I spent my entire career believing:

pablo Trust

I also strongly believed this premise applied equally to men and women. In 2016, I’m less sure about that. Why?

I’m just trying to figure out if what is going on in the election this year spills over to lawyers practicing law.

According to a recent Washington Post article, both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have high unfavorable ratings:Trump would be least-popular major-party nominee in modern times.  According to the poll:

  • Donald Trump has a 67 percent unfavorable rating
  • Hillary Clinton has a 52 percent unfavorable rating
  • Ted Cruz has a 51 percent unfavorable rating

A recent CBS poll reflected essentially the same numbers for Clinton and 10 points less unfavorable percentage for Trump. According to the CBS pollsters:

Compared to frontrunners in previous presidential primary races, Trump and Clinton’s unfavorable ratings (57 percent and 52 percent respectively) are the highest in CBS News/New York Times Polls going back to 1984, when CBS began asking this question.

According to Gallup. John Kasich has the most favorable ratings of all five candidates. See: Americans’ Views of Trump, Cruz at New Lows in March.

Based on history, you would expect John Kasich to be the run away leader in the primaries, but this is 2016. Just 8 years ago, Tim Sanders, the author of The Likability Factor wrote a short piece: What you can learn from the elections. He noted:

These polls ask voters a simple question: “If you were having a BBQ this Sunday, which candidate would you invite?” While it may seem trivial, according to Gallup, this poll has predicted the winner in tight presidential elections since 1976.

Before I concluded that things are different in 2016, I found this interesting Huffington Post piece: Likability Matters Most in the 2016 Election. It was interesting reading first pointing out that many of our leaders were not likable. Then this question is raised:

Which begs the question: what if, in addition to skill, these individuals had been likeable? Would they have achieved greater successes?

And then, the writer turns to a point made by Dana Milbank on the difference between the male candidates and former Secretary Clinton. Milbank says:

There’s a trade off for Hillary Clinton in terms of showing warmth and showing strength…. The tougher she presents herself as a leader the less likeable she becomes.

I read on and found Alison Dahl Crossley, Associate Director of Stanford’s Clayman Institute for Gender Research described “the likeability penalty.”

The more competent a woman is, the less likable she is judged to be. The opposite also holds true: the more likable a woman is, the less competent.

I’ve coached 100s of awesome women lawyers. They convey great competence and they are extremely likable. I shared this quote with an awesome young lawyer I coach who told me a judge recently paid her a compliment saying that her adversaries who think she is nice underestimate her and she takes advantage.

I urge you to read the linked articles. I leave you with two questions to ponder:

  1. Does a lawyer’s  likability still matter in 2016?
  2. Can a woman lawyer be considered tough and competent, and also be perceived as likable?