Some attorneys take more indirect paths than others into the legal world. Take products liability attorney Lisa Blue, who got her Ph.D. in psychology and worked as a family and sex therapist. Then, one day, she stepped foot in a courtroom to consult on jury selection. Before she knew it, she was in law school, and since then, she has established herself as an expert jury psychologist and has won hundreds of millions of dollars for her clients.
Blue’s background in psychology comes with finely tuned listening skills, allowing her to engage jurors and connect with them like she connects with her patients.
An excerpt from the 2006 edition Texas Super Lawyers explains her transition to law:
So how did a doctor of psychology with a successful family therapy practice get into law? The answer might be surprising, and a bit unsettling for some attorneys. In the late ’70s, when Blue was heading up a drug abuse hospital for teenagers in Houston, she noticed that a huge proportion of her patients shared a common characteristic — they were children of trial attorneys. She noticed a similar trend in her work as a sex therapist. “In the late ’70s, the largest number of patients with sexual problems were attorneys,” she explains.
When she recalls her fascination with this trend, Blue’s approach is frank and clinical. “Here were these people who were great communicators when in front of a jury but then at home they were such poor communicators,” she says. Blue attributes the incongruity to a lack of ability in many lawyers to discuss their feelings. “Attorneys are great actors,” she explains. “And if you go to court and you’re depressed or down, you still have to be on.” But that ability, Blue says, doesn’t always translate well into a family environment, where being open about one’s emotions is essential.
While Blue was seeing a lot of attorneys in her practice, it wasn’t until she received an invitation from a patient to assist in a jury selection that she experienced a courtroom firsthand. “The experience was horrible,” she recalls. “The other side stood up and said to the jury panel, ‘Does anybody here know Dr. Blue? She’s come to analyze you.” At that time, jury psychologists didn’t exist, and Blue says, “I felt like he had thrown the case just by mentioning me.”
Nevertheless, Blue found the courtroom fascinating. “It was all very exciting and adversarial,” she recalls, “and there was so much psychology involved from the time the lawyer walks into the courtroom until the time the case is over.” Inspired, she decided to go to law school to “learn the rules” and then continue her work as a psychologist with a specialty in trial psychology and jury selection.