Being a lawyer is not easy. You are constantly worried about a million things, such as hitting your billable target and not messing up on your ten ongoing matters. Young lawyers are expressing their frustrations with practicing the law, such as their discontent with their area of focus, not getting along with and understanding their colleagues, or not meshing with the firm culture.
What if the solution to all of this starts with a personality test? I'm not talking about those Buzzfeed personality tests that tell you what type of fruit you are or which Power Ranger you are most like (Green Ranger, by the way), I'm referring to the popular Myers-Briggs Type Indicator assessment.
I am not saying that a personality test can solve all your concerns. However, it may allow you to understand how to react and adjust to different situations and people based on your personality.
The MBTI is based on the theory of psychological types as described by the renowned founder of analytical psychology, Carl Jung. The MBTI reveals how people perceive the world around them and make decisions through different psychological preferences and sorts each person into one of the 16 possible psychological types, derived from the following four opposite pairs:
- Extraversion (E) or Introversion (I) – does your attitude draw energy from action and the external world of behaviour, action, people, and things, or does your attitude draw energy from quiet alone time and the internal world of ideas and reflection?
- Sensing (S) or Intuition (N) – do you perceive and gather information and through concrete and tangible information that can be understood through your five senses, or do you perceive and gather information through underlying theories and principles which are found in tangible data, relying less so on the five senses?
- Thinking (T) or Feeling (F) – do you judge and make decisions based on what is reasonable, logical and adhering to a given set of rules, or do you judge and make decisions based on empathizing with the situation and reaching a balanced win win outcome by considering the needs of everyone involved?
- Judging (J) or Perceiving (P) – do you prefer to live in an organized and structured way (judging based on thinking or feeling), or do you prefer to live in a spontaneous and unrestricted way (perceiving based on sensing or intuition)?
According to a 1993 study conducted by Larry Richard, the most prevalent personality types for lawyers are:
- ISTJ (17.8 per cent)
- INTJ (13.1 per cent)
- ESTJ (10.3 per cent)
- ENTP (9.7 per cent)
- INTP (9.4 per cent)
- ENTJ (9.0 per cent)
While the least prevalent personality types are:
- ESFP (0.5 per cent)
- ISFP (1.4 per cent)
- ESFJ (2.7 per cent)
- INFJ (2.7 per cent)
- ENFJ (2.9 per cent)
- ESTP (3.3 per cent)
31 per cent of all lawyers surveyed are considered introverted, while 41 per cent of all lawyers prefer to approach problems through logic and live in a structured way. These results are not surprising given the traditional bookish nature of the practice of law, and it hasn't changed much since the legal industry has generally been resistant to change – although it will be interesting to see how the dynamics of lawyer personalities will change in the future given the technological disruptions as of late.
Extravert v Introvert lawyers
The majority of lawyers prefer introversion, so if an extravert associate engages with an introvert partner with too much banter and energy, it might be off-putting. Certain practices like labour law have a tendency to attract more extraverts, whereas tax and real-estate law attract more introverts. One way to improve on relationships at work would be to adapt your own style of communication to match those of the colleagues you are trying to engage with. Also, if you are an extravert working in a predominantly detached and isolating practice area, perhaps try a practice that is more collaborative and client facing.
Sensing v Intuition lawyers
Sensory lawyers prefer tasks and practices where they can achieve practical and tangible results, such as real estate, tax and general practice. Intuitive lawyers prefer tasks and practices that allow them to think from a top-to-bottom viewpoint, and to think creatively, such as criminal, litigation and labour law. If you are finding it hard to approach a problem through an abstract-intuition view, try reaching out to a sensory-focused colleague for some insight? If you are trying to explain something to a partner that is intuitive, don't get bogged down with details and illustrate the bigger picture first.
Thinking v Feeling lawyers
The law is a thinking profession. Thinking lawyers are logical and detached, they stay away from having their personal preferences impact their decision and are by the book. Thinkers like to argue because they don't take conflict personally and view it objectively. Feeling lawyers are values based and arrive at a decision through personal and subjective means. Feelers avoid conflict as they take it personally and strive for balance and harmony instead. Thinkers like the intellectual side to law, whereas feelers like the opportunity to help people. Conflict at work occurs when thinkers engage with feelers robotically and with little emotion, and when thinkers want to make a quick and rational decision whereas a feeler wants a more personalized and steady approach.
Judging v Perceiving lawyers
A majority of lawyers are judging types and prefer to control their environment through detailed schedules and contingency plans, they also love making lists and will use them as an agenda. Perceiver lawyers prefer to be more adaptable and will keep their options open, they use lists as more of a rough framework as opposed to a must-do agenda. A perceiver lawyer's last minute "winging it" approach may make judger lawyers anxious. A perceiver can mitigate by providing a judger with concrete milestones and advance notice of deadlines, whereas judgers should not be micromanaging and imposing detailed timetables on a perceiver.
So what type of lawyer are you?