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Personality and Your Legal Career. Presented by the Lawyers Assistance Program Facilitated by Robert Bircher. Personality.

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Personality and your legal career

Personality and Your Legal Career

Presented by the Lawyers Assistance Program

Facilitated by Robert Bircher


  • Many lawyers attempt to practice law in legal cultures or areas of law that are inconsistent with their core personality-sooner or later dissatisfaction and problems are inevitable

  • Getting to know your own personality is critical for making good career choices

  • It is important in this analysis to accept yourself as you are rather than who you think you “should be”

  • Some lawyers think they should have the same personality as lawyers on TV or local lawyers they admire and proceed to try and be fundamentally different than they actually are-this won’t work

Authentic self and ideal self
Authentic Self and Ideal Self

  • Your authentic self is your basic nature and personality-As any mother knows this evident shortly after birth and is unique

  • Your Ideal self is the self that will be acceptable and gain approval from others-this is part of acculturation and is based on pleasing others for survival-it could also be called your “should” self

  • At first you rebel at the way others want you to be but after many years of capitulation it becomes difficult to determine which part of you wants what!! Is this me or who I am supposed to be??

Authentic self and ideal self1
Authentic Self and Ideal Self

  • For example if you are told that going to university and becoming a lawyer will make you happy, for many years you may actually come to believe it –even though it is often a dream of your parents not you!!

  • Lawyers generally do little genuine career planning (except for academic planning) before law school and usually have no conception of what law will be like until they actually do it. If they are lucky they find a job that perfectly suits them. For most however, it is hit and miss until they gradually figure it out

Personality dimensions
Personality Dimensions

  • Lets have a look at personality dimensions using the Myers Briggs model

  • People will have both dimensions and a preference for one dimension or another -you can write with both hands but one will be easy and comfortable and one will not

  • Most people use both in different circumstances but if given no pressure and a free choice will find one side slightly more natural or normal for them-we will talk about extremes for illustration but most people have some of both

Introversion and extraversion
Introversion and Extraversion

  • Most people know about this-extraverts focus their attention and energy on the outside world introverts focus on the inside

  • An extravert loves crowds and people and is energized by them, introverts like one on one or small groups

  • A good friend of mine from Victoria is an extravert and if we go for a walk in downtown Victoria the longest we can go without him stopping and chatting to someone is about 5 minutes-it once took us nearly a day to walk around Beacon Hill park and we met about 50 people!!

  • To an introvert an office party is a drag, especially if is your partners law firm-who wants to make small talk with a bunch of strangers I won’t see again!!

Introversion and extraversion1
Introversion and Extraversion

  • Introverts think then talk-extraverts think out loud

  • Extraverts like breadth, introverts like depth

  • Everyone is capable of both depending on circumstances

  • When I teach my extravert comes out and enjoys it-most of the rest of the time I enjoy being introverted

  • Rate yourself on the scale provided

Sensing and intuition
Sensing and Intuition

  • Everyone uses their senses to gather information from the world but that information is processed differently

  • Sensors trust what can be measured and documented and focus on what is real and concrete and stay in the present

  • Intuitives naturally look for meanings, relationships and possibilities based on their senses-they value imagination and trust inspirations and hunches-they tend to anticipate events

  • Sensors tend to remember facts, intuitives pick up insights and interpret the facts

Sensing and intuition1
Sensing and Intuition

  • At a meeting the intuitives will pick up the underlying “vibe” of a meeting even if nothing is directly said about it

  • Sensors are good at remembering detail

  • Intuitives trust their senses and may not use a map

  • Sensors are not overly worried about the future-intuitives may worry a lot about it

  • Rate yourself on the scale attached

Thinking and feeling
Thinking and Feeling

  • Everyone has both but there is usually a preference or style a person has at their core

  • It is about how decisions are made-thinkers make decisions logically and impersonally-feelers make decisions based on values (what is important to you and others)

  • Thinkers are logical and analytical about their decisions even if it means an unpleasant outcome

Thinking and feeling1
Thinking and Feeling

  • Feelers make decisions based on how much they care or what they feel is right

  • This choice can be difficult since it is overlaid with cultural gender roles-men are commonly seen as thinkers and woman as feelers and our socialization reinforces this

  • Lay off story-Rate yourself on the scale

Judging and perceiving
Judging and Perceiving

  • This relates to the amount of structure we like in our lives

  • Judgers like to live in an orderly way and are happiest when their lives are structured and matters are settled-they like to regulate and control their life

  • Perceivers like to live in a spontaneous way and are happiest when their lives are flexible-they like to have many options available

Judging and perceiving1
Judging and Perceiving

  • Judgers are not necessarily judgmental-they just like things resolve

  • Perceivers are not necessarily perceptive-they just like being open to many possibilities

  • Judgers will experience tension until closure is reached and are constantly drawn to making a decision

  • Perceivers experience tension when they are forced to make a decision-they like to keep options open

Judging and perceiving2
Judging and Perceiving

  • A balance between these works best

  • Perceivers can be terrible procrastinators and judgers can be rigid and inflexible

  • Imagine a couple shopping for a bike-the perceiver asks many questions and goes to several bike shops and still has trouble deciding-the judger asks at the first shop which bike do you recommend and buys it

  • If a brochure arrives for a CLE event the judger either signs up immediately or throws it away-the perceiver keeps the brochure for weeks weighing the pros and cons of going to the seminar or not

  • Rate yourself on the attached scale

Final compilation
Final Compilation

  • On the attached page put down your 4 dimensions IE INFP

  • You can get more information on this online-Google Myers-Briggs Personality profile or MBTI

  • You can also take a test online

  • Many are free-they may or may not be any more accurate than what you have today

Personality and law
Personality and Law

  • Obviously certain personality characteristics benefit certain legal careers-but because law has so many types of careers there is always a niche for anybody who looks around and is flexible enough

  • An ESTJ would make a great Barrister-they would however, not be popular and would have no bedside manner at all

  • An ISTJ would be the perfect researcher-they would however be painfully boring to be around

  • An INFP would be a good mediator-although they might be seen as flakey and indecisive

Personality and law1
Personality And Law

  • Mismatches can result in extreme unhappiness and even leaving law altogether

  • If you have an articling student who is a strong feeler/intuitive under a principle who is a strong thinker/judger you will likely end up with a disaster that is unpleasant for both

  • Generally you can pull out various parts of your personality under various circumstances-an introvert can be a good public speaker-a thinker can feel and a feeler can think-it doesn’t mean you don’t have access to these things

Personality and law2
Personality and Law

  • It works best when you are not trying to be something you are not-to put a an ESTJ in charge of human resources would be a disaster

  • Many lawyers have tried to change their personality to adjust to the expectations of others-this is inevitably doomed to fail and will unpleasant in the process

  • The firm culture and area of law must suit you for you to be happy

  • The more you understand and accept who you are the easier it is to find a good match

Personality and law3
Personality and Law

  • The system in place does not take personality into consideration-most law schools use marks not personality tests

  • Even though your personality is a key factor in your performance and happiness in legal culture it is usually ignored by both firms and individuals

  • It is important to “true up” who you are with what you do,otherwise you may end up trying to pound a square peg into a round hole and waste valuable time and life energy