The Lawyer Personality

Hey baby, what’s your type?

This isn’t just a schmutzy pickup line. Do you know your Meyers-Briggs Personality Type?

I took my first MBTI (Meyers-Briggs Typology Indicator) test the year I graduated law school. Oh yes, studying for the bar will drive you to many realizations, and one of mine was that this law crap was boring and I hated it.

I didn’t really take the outcome seriously at the time, chalking it up to bar study insanity. Oh well, 8 years later it finally sunk in.

The MBTI is the work of a mother-daughter team, Katherine Cook Briggs and Isabella Briggs Meyers. They based the test on Carl Jung’s famous Personality Types book. Career counselors are fond of the MBTI, though it has its fair share of critics (as does Jung). The premise of the MBTI is that there are four poles, or dichotomies, to the human personality. Your tendency toward a particular trait is scored on a scale, rather than an absolute. The traits are:

  • Introversion/Extraversion
  • Sensing/iNtuition
  • Feeling/Thinking
  • Judging/Perceiving

There are (doing the math) 16 personality types in the Meyers-Briggs world. None are inherently better than the other, but some types find certain kinds of work a more natural fit than others. For example, ESTJs are practical, realistic, and matter-of-fact, with a natural head for business or mechanics. They are born supervisors or administrators. Unlike, say, ENFJs, idealists who are born teachers.

The middle two dichotomies are regarded as the key traits. In other words, if you’re an “ST,” your comfort zone is using your five senses to gather information, then analyzing it. Intuition and feelings are not particularly valued by STs.

Most lawyers are ISTJs. Surprise, surprise.

Personally, I’ve found the MBTI a useful starting point for seeing my personality in a positive way, and to help me navigate toward work that I’m temperamentally better suited to.

What was my type? The one probably least suited to being a lawyer: INFP. Let’s just say God had a sense of humor when she packed me off to law school.

To get the best results out of the MBTI, you should take the paid version, and probably work with someone trained in its use, like a therapist. The paid version controls for more variables, like gender. At a bare minimum, take a free online version, which may be useful or at least entertaining.

The MBTI is not going to substitute for the voice of God, mind you, but it might help you sort out some of the competing voices in your head. Well, the ones you can discuss in polite company, anyway.

Jennifer Alvey is a recovering lawyer who coaches unhappy attorneys to discover the gifts of their personality traits, and the career they best fit into. She offers discounted sample coaching sessions, to find out what that feels like to be valued for who you are. Email jalvey@jenniferalvey.com to schedule your sample career coaching session today.

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81 thoughts on “The Lawyer Personality

  1. Where do you think an ENTP stands in the lawyering field?

    That is me of course. But unlike you, I love learning law. I see a lawyer as a leader. Too bad they have to confirm so much to rules. :p

    • hay, im mike.

      I was just wondering, I think i have done this test well something like it anyway. my main business avenues are as follows.

      100% Introvert

      90% Intuition

      100% Feeling

      40% Perception

      Now just so you understand how this is calculated 0.00% would be exactly half way between the two traits ( e.g. extrovert and introvert )

      so that makes me a INFP, same as you.

      Now my sister is a lawyer and I am 2 years out of school (19). I am thinking of attending law school. I have the grades to do so. But if you have the same personality type as me and you did not appreciate what law had to offer in terms of a career, I am defiantly open to advice. also if you could elaborate why INFP is the worst suited personality for law. that would be great. would be great to hear back from you.

    • I can’t believe you said that! I’m an INFP but the “voice of God has been telling me for years to be a lawyer.” I’ve been arguing with God over and over telling him I’m too old…too poor…and an INFP. How does one argue with the “voice of God?”

      • @Krissie

        Ok, since I’m practicing law right at this very moment, I’ll play.

        How old and poor are you?

        And why don’t you fill me in on this entire “voice of God” experience.

  2. Honestly, I think ENTPs would be unhappy, on the whole. While their cleverness would get them to a certain point, many ENTPs go into law because they like to argue–they’re contrarian, really. But because ENTPs have that big old N in their type, they will arrive at good conclusions but be unable to show their work, as it were. As someone who also sports the big iNtuitive in my type, I can tell you it’s a special kind of hell to KNOW you’ve reached the correct conclusion but be unable to explain step by plodding, boring step how you got there. You’re gestalt in a paint-by-numbers world, if you’re an N in law practice dominated by Sensing types. If you’re close to the N/S divide and not strongly N, you might be able to make it work.
    But remember: practicing law today is not primarily about coming up with clever, innovative arguments. FAR too many law students find that out after they’re already $60K in debt.

    • I waver between ENTP and ENTJ, and was saved from being a lawyer by my mentor, an entrepreneur who’s started nine different game companies. I was just starting to realize how miserable I’d be as a lawyer (loved studying it; practicing it was a different story). As an NT I love new things, figuring out how to realize pie-in-the-sky ideas, and so on. I am much happier making games than I would have been practicing law. Thank goodness I figured it out in time. There’s a place for creativity in any profession, but I don’t think law is the best career if it’s your dominant trait.

      I think the profession could use more people who are weakly N, but strong Ns would go batty.

  3. I’m an INTP, borderline INFP, who decided to take a post-bac. program about a year ago in Paralegal. As an undergrad I wanted to be a writer and actor, but I’ve always been a bit pessimistic and never saw myself actually making any money at those careers.

    Law was kind of a random choice, but a year into my studies I’ve done really well and have had a few different instructors suggest I go to law school. I’m still young and would like to pursue it, but at the same time I don’t want to make such a huge commitment to find out I hate the practice of law like yourself. Any suggestions?

  4. Work as a paralegal for a couple years. There’s a ton about lawyer personalities nd the realities of legal work you would see on the job that you would not see or appreciate otherwise. The law firm environment is difficult to convey in anything short of a novel.

    You could also try to find a part-time law program, to try for a semester or two without incurring as much debt.

    That choice is more fraught with consequences, IMO. Where you go to law school definitely determines the arc of most legal careers. In other words, going to a Tier 3 school means, for 99% of those grads, that they ain’t never working at the Cravaths or Microsofts of the world. And a Harvard JD on your wall means a much wider swath of choices. Of course, statistics are not destiny, but it would be silly to ignore them. So if you want to try a part-time program, go to the best school you can get into.

    Yet another caveat: law school and law prctice are two completely different kettles of fish. When I was in school, the old saw was: “A” students become professors, “B” students become judges, and “C” students make all the money. There’s some truth in that.

    • Maybe it’s different for the lawyers — I’ll have to ask them — but as someone who works at Microsoft I can attest that it’s probably the Fortune 500 company that cares least about where you went to school. The loop is designed to figure out who *you* are, not who your resume/diploma says you are.

  5. interesting post. I’m an strong ENFP attorney who’s had modest success depending on the type of client I have. my business clients have been satisfied if unimpressed. my personal injury clients have been overwhelmingly happy, mostly because I kept them out of court while negotiating a good settlement for them. my estate planning clients have not been happy with the length of time it’s taken me to draft their plan, but they’ve been happy with the end result and glad that I took into consideration many of their unspoken concerns.

    I’m thinking about going out solo. any thoughts on that?

  6. I’m an INTP–have taken Myers Briggs several times and it always comes out the same. I found out I’m lousy at litigation–too much detail and probate–forget it. Have been in practice for 27 years and I’m still trying to figure things out. I like finding solutions. I work with a non-profit legal assistance program. I can be frustrating, but rewarding.

    Jakeb, Solo practice may be right for you, although it’s tough in the current economic climate. Check out the General Practice, Solo, Small Firm Division of the ABA. Lots of good people to talk to and the Solo Sez forum. That’s the place to ask about going solo. Good luck.

  7. This is so true. I am an I(but close to E)NTP. And I hated every moment of every day I spent in biglaw. It stifled my entire personality, creativity and joy for life. I was bored stiff and beaten down by partners who cared more about a typo than they did about a creative but solid legal argument. I looked around and saw people like me (drones) at all different ages and levels, too scared or entrenched to leave the job they hated.
    It got to the point where I was basically begging to be fired. Eventually, with the economic downturn, I got my wish. I’m not making as much money now, and my new job isn’t perfect, but I feel like I’m finding myself again, and realizing that I’m not a failure (which is what I felt like for 5 years–funny how getting laid off can actually occasionally be good for your psyche). INTP’s and ENTP’s can be great lawyers, but don’t expect to be happy if you go biglaw.

  8. So what kind of job/area did you move into? I’m really glad you found something that makes you feel alive and successful from the inside out.

  9. I’m working in-house and managing litigation matters with outside counsel. It’s great, because I can be an idea person without needing to be quite as much of a detail person. The other nice thing about the job is that I work with a lot of non lawyers that appreciate my knowledge instead of competing with it. (I also teach legal research and writing part time. I love teaching and would love to eventually do that full time. We’ll see.)

    In the mean time, now that I have more regular hours, I feel like I have a life back, and have been able to write creatively again, and enjoy time with my husband and my other hobbies.

  10. I’m ENFP. The work I did could gag a maggot with boredom.
    I should have gone to B-school. but no, I went to law school, went to BigLaw, sat in a room checking for commas and sifting through papers. Now I’m jobless…..but oddly, much happier.

    well, I don’t think it’s that odd…

    http://www.laidoffdiary.wordpress.com

  11. I’m an ENFP who has been practicing law for three years. I liked law school, but working in the transactional group at a big firm was so horrible, I became physically sick every morning. After being laid off and searching for 8 months, I found a job doing mostly litigation for a tiny firm. I’m not on a salary, which, while scary, gives me a lot of freedom to slack off and not feel guilty or work a ton and know I’ll be paid for all of it. I get to do things my own way, since there’s no corporate policy. Also, the people I work with can be a little eccentric themselves, and are always respectful (of my time, my status as a human being).

    I may not do this forever – my dream is to do career counseling or save enough money to run away to Europe and become a tour guide – but I think ENFPs can have fulfilling legal careers. You just have to find a flexible situation with less detail work or support staff that’s on the ball. I think ADR/mediation and guardian ad litem work would be ideal for our personality types – talk all day, help people, and no 30 page briefs to write!

  12. I’m an ENTP with an MBA finding a lot of the challenges in my current workplace that you speak of in BigLaw. I find my overly cold and analytical personality limits my effectivenss and happiness in my current workplace.

    I figured I might be happier in Law (scheduled to take the LSAT in Sept) and if not happy at least I’d be paid more handsomely for my toils. Then I read your post and wonder if I’d be an utter failure in the legal workplace.

    Is there a place/path that you see for an ENTP to be happy in Law. Or maybe you can elaborate on how Annie’s comments may be relevant to an ENTP.

  13. I am an NFP and have been borderline on the I/E. Miserable in law. Went for a year and quit and then (ack!) went back. That’s probably the F part of me – feeling sorry for my law school dean who was very nice and trying to encourage me to come back. I went to a top 20 school and that never happens. I needed a jerk to tell me to get out and never come back. My life would have been so different. I fear that I will spend countless hours in therapy replaying the “what ifs”. “What if I would have never gone to law school….” Growl.. good post.

  14. I’m an INFP and a family lawyer. I’ve been doing this for three years and I always have the feeling that there’s something bigger or better out there that I could be doing instead. I don’t think that I would choose law if I could go back and choose again.

    That said, I have not moved on for two reasons: (1) I have to feed my family, and (2) I refuse to let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

    As far as the practice of law goes, there are LOTS of practice areas almost anyone can find something they like especially if they’re willing to move. Personally, I like family law because it’s not terribly paperwork intensive (I stay away from adoptions though) and I get to make arguments in which I combine my gut feelings with whatever logic or law is on my side (if it’s not on my side I just ignore it and gut it out).

    Oh, yeah, there are a lot of jerks in this field.

  15. ENFP! HATE LAW AND LAW PRACTICE.

    Working on getting out. When you start to think that it might be better to be dead than to be in a firm, you have to work at getting out.

    • I’m sorry you are struggling so. I’m certain that if you have the strength to withstand a hostile environment, you can do a fine job finding another, more suitable place. Best of luck to you.

  16. Hi all,

    I am an INTP.

    I am NOT a lawyer though I have worked at a Big law firm and know that I would NEVER want to work for a BIG law firm or do any business or corporate law of anytype. ZZZZZZZZZ boring.

    I studied Business and slaved away in corporation for a few years then ran for the hills. Drones on the business side so for the JD’s thinking it will be better to leave big law for Business in a corp it is same kinda jerks, drones, and boredom. Admitteldy, the people did seem perhaps a slightly less misrable in business though. And you may be able to find a fun and interesting niche in business somewhere. But I never found a fit.

    Anyhow here is my question,

    I am idealistic. So the idea of working as a Government Lawyer, like for the Civil Rights Commision, Fair Housing, or Public Defender, or other Government type law areas seem to appeal to me in theory in a romantic way. However, am I dreamining? Would law in these areas still be boring as corprate/Biz law seem. Would the intuitve part of me still be out of place as Government Lawyer. Is the law just more of a SJ persons domain than a creative NP? Is thier anywhere in law for “idea” people? Appelate work?

    I am thinking about law school. Am I crazy?

    Any thought would be appreciated. Trying to change my life.

  17. I like your question creativeINTP and I would also be interested in what some experienced lawyers (and specifically those who may have been within these branches) have to say. I too am drawn to using any sort of skills I would acquire in the legal field for ‘altruistic’ type endeavors such as Human Rights Law (although this may be extremely difficult to get into), or Government Law to sort of represent ‘the underdog.’ Anyone have any thoughts?

    On a side-note, I’d like to ask what exactly it is about law that people dislike the most? The environment? The work? The stress?

  18. I’m an INFP/INTP split and have been a litigator for 10 years. I enjoy legal argument and applying law to facts, more for the theoretical aspects than the practical aspects. I’m not someone who enjoys conflict, however, which is why litigation is something I’ve been trying to escape. Unfortunately, I’m good at it and it pays well. My way of coping has been to have a creative outlet and for me it’s blogging and music.

    That said, I very frequently think there’s a bigger task waiting for me out there. I often wish I had studied a science so that I could help the world with a new discovery, etc. I’m actually pondering leaving the law and going back to school to study biotechnology or oceanography. I just think life’s too short to be bickering over these lawsuits all day. I want to contribute to our world other than just writing a winning brief or winning a case.

    Good luck to everyone!

    • You could always defend (relatively) small companies in patent disputes. That was always somewhat rewarding for me. Especially when the patent was garbage.

      Copyright disputes are also kind of fun, depending on the client. Trademark disputes, definitely not so much.

      I actually don’t mind conflict when I’m on the side that is right and the other side is wrong. Sometimes the conflict is happening because one party simply wants to stay in business.

      I also don’t mind the situations where the client is just being stupid and where you can tell them “you actually do have to pay the 5% franchise fee. That’s what the contract says and yes, they do have a right to it even though you want to keep all the money. You also have to pay your rent.”

      I don’t like the entire megacorp vs. megacorp dispute. Small litigation is much more pleasant.

  19. Pingback: More on the Lawyer Personality « Leaving the Law

  20. The results aren’t empirically verifiable (including the official test – at best it’s a prediction at what your personality type might be) – there’s no objective phenomenon.

    The results are too often influenced by cultural memes and the questions are too ambiguous i.e. “are you often late for appointments”, “do you like parties” etc.

    Everyone uses both sensing and intuition to gather and store info and thinking and feeling to make decisions.

    • The point of the MBTI isn’t to label you and limit your options. It’s simply a tool to give insight. Most people I know find that it illuminates some things they already knew about themselves, and helps them see themselves in a more positive way. And just because you prefer certain defaults doesn’t mean you can’t or don’t use different skills or approaches in some situations. I tend pretty strongly toward P, for example, but I certainly have my J moments. The J side is just not what I use as a first resort.

      But if MBTI doesn’t work for you, don’t use it.

      If I had to guess, I’d say you’re pretty far on the end of the S end of the spectrum, though. ;D

  21. I found this brilliant since I am an INFP as well. I learned more about my type the first year of law school. I took a hefty hit leaving after year 1 yet I know I would rather be 130k in debt as a professor than a lawyer any day of the week. There is an intellectual appeal the brings idealistic people to law. I think a professor in a behavioral science is one of the most suitable careers from INFP’s who want something prestigious. I know some other types like ISFP would find the journey a poor fit as well.

  22. I think the MBTI is awsome. I’m tested out twice as an ENFP, and it just helped me to recognize that I wasn’t the sole defective freak my corporate PG made me think I was – I was a type, there were others like me, and I was totally in the wrong area and firm.

    I’m not in a perfect situation now but a better one, and while I don’t give the MBTI the force of law it did help me by allowing me to think about skills/preferences etc. and realize that I’m not the only person in the world with my attributes (and shit, you’d have thought that I was in that first group – everyone very I_TJ, depressive, uncommunicative, cold, overly focused on commas and the font used on folders, ignorant of the wider world and uninterested in learning about it…. UGH).

  23. I’m an INFP attorney (13 years) who was previously a rehabilitation counselor for 11 years. I’m very strong on NFP and just over the line on E/I with a 12 pts E and 17 pts I.

    I disliked law school but I found my own satisfying niche in the practice of law. Appellate law is my favorite area. I enjoy research and writing out arguments for briefs. Searching for the perfect case is like a treasure hunt. I’ve always preferred writing to speaking. I also draft wills, trusts, and contracts for clients and do some probate and guardianship matters. I do go to court from time to time for contested matters but that is my least favorite activity. I always prepare well but I find the experience draining. I would rather mediate than litigate.

    There are some compromises with any career. I sometimes miss the deep satisfaction in my former career from helping a disabled person achieve his/her vocational goal. However, my law career has met some of my need for intellectual challenges. Satisfaction now comes with well-written arguments and good case outcomes.

    It is not easy being an INFP in the law field but it is possible.

    Maggie

    • I’m so glad you find a good niche for yourself. Thanks for sharing with us! There are lots of NFP and NF readers here, and I’m sure this comment gives them hope for staying in law.

  24. Pingback: Lawyer personality | UnfailingWordMinistries

  25. INFP here as well…have been in a several year crisis in late 20’s trying to figure out a better career. I originally went into corporate IT and I think it is a horrible fit. I would say the law culture would also be a horrible fit. It isn’t like we couldn’t do the work, anybody can train themselves to do the work, so I think a few posters aren’t putting that together. They see a fit as, oh you can do the work. It is more of, the large corp and businesses environment is completely against the ideals of most INFP’s.

    Having the grades to do so, doesn’t mean anything. Many people who are smart, have the grades to pursue any career they would possibly want. A smart INFP will have a particularly hard problem narrowing down these careers, as INFP’s need a job that is WAY more than a career. They need to feel that every action they do lines up with their personal values. This goes for relationships, personal activities, product purchases, and of course, what most people spend 40-50 hours a week doing.

    • titio says:

      “I originally went into corporate IT and I think it is a horrible fit. I would say the law culture would also be a horrible fit. It isn’t like we couldn’t do the work, anybody can train themselves to do the work, so I think a few posters aren’t putting that together.”

      No, the work in law really is difficult and is a pain. At least for me. Particularly the legal writing and analysis. Just not my thing.

      IT, on the other hand, would be relatively easy.

      For me, the problem with IT is the reputation of the people who work in IT. Kind of like being an engineer.

      Since in the United States, job = social status = identity, I would much rather be considered a lawyer than I would want to be considered an engineer/IT person. Which is part of the reason I’m in law in the first place.

  26. I am an INFJ, maybe an INFP.

    I work in the UK and so admittedly, the structure of the legal proffession is quite different. As a paralegal over here, it is more ‘case handler’ than legal assistant. I work in insurance litigation and have done so for a few years, until 2 years ago it was credit hire and uninsured losses, so quite impersonal stuff. But now it’s defending both property damage claims and personal injury claims, running a caseload of around 150 files. In other words, ”the less we pay out, the better”. We take on cases at the initial letter of claim stage and run it all the way, through litigation proceedings to trial if necessary, instructing counsel (Attorney) with our brief to argue the case in court. I work pretty much 9-5, I dont have huge debts, the work is busy, but it doesnt impact on my personal life, the pay is ok but not great, colleagues are nice, most communication to opposing Solicitors for the Claimant is done in writing rather than over the phone in a confrontational manner. In other words, it could be a lot worse.

    I could go on to train to become a solicitor or legal executive…but for years now there has been something stopping me. And it’s down to the growing unease with what I’m doing. It’s grown to such an extent that I can barely face work, I have chronic insomnia and I feel reviled and utterly incompatible with what Im doing. It’s been a career that ive fallen into steadily over time, not one which i had any previous aspirations to be in.

    Why do i hate it so much? 1. The constant arguing and bickering over pedantic points. Admittedly it is mainly by letter, as I have said above, but the point remains that almost every bloody letter is to pick apart the other side’s case, arguing in our client’s favour. It’s such a negative thing to do, to fundementally question and argue over every little point. 2. Linked to the previous point, sceptisism, synisism, ‘picking apart’ and being pedantic are all heavily encouraged. None of these things are positive and I find myself approaching life outside of work in much the same way. I’m already quite a pessimistic person and i really worry that this work is making it worse! 3. The elitism of people employed in the legal field.

    4. This is my main gripe – the fact that what I do is not about right and wrong, is not about coming to the most just outcome, it is about manipulating the law to do the best for your client no matter what. For example, i defend dog bite claims. Sometimes it will involve a child (claimant) who has been heavily disfigured by our client’s dog. By effectively apealing to the Animals Act leglislation, as long as we can show that the keeper of the dog had no prior knowledge of the dog’s propensity to bite….we can often deny liability and get out of paying the claim. But who is to say my client, the owner of the dog, is telling the truth? The same applies to escape of water (property damage) claims, or injuries at work, or any number of claims. Moreover, many claims on both sides are either abandoned, or paid, simply for the sake of proportionality. Then you have claimant’s who you simply know are exagerrating whiplash claims…but there’s nothing you can do about it, because it’s so hard to prove they are lying. But regardless, the solicitor has to pursue their claim in the client’s best interests. I could go on and on about the small injustices i see every single day. I am starting to feel so passionately about it, that I’m coming close to just quitting my job. Unfortunately all my experience since university has been in law and insurance claims handling. In the economic downturn, securing alternative, even very low paid work in a different sector is very very difficult.

    5. The endless paperwork, reams of background reading, medical records etc.

    6. It seems to me that the people in my company who enjoy the work most…are those who like WINNING. They gain great satisfaction from being right, from writing a clever, snotty reply to the opposing solicitors. Unfortunately i do not, i just see it as arguing for the sake of arguing. I want a just and fair solution to a claim, not ”doing the best for my client no matter what”.

    7. The often vile, underhand and scheming tactics employed in litigation.It’s all about giving your opponant enough rope to hang themselves, not disclosing evidence which may harm your client’s case, ommitting certain facts in witness statements, timing attacks well, pitching offers of settlement in a clever way. Put simply, i hate deception, scheming.

    Anyway, apologies for the ramble! Just needed to get my thoughts out there.

  27. The claims adjuster in our office (plaintiff’s office) seems to enjoy working more for the plaintiff’s side than the defendant’s side (which is where he was before).

    You could try working for the other side and see if that makes you fell a little better.

    Also, you don’t have to really read the letters from the other side. You can kind of skim them and then throw them into the file. Nothing says you have to respond to them or pay much attention to them.

    I generally feel better when I basically ignore whatever the oppsing side is saying.

  28. Thanks JP, I had wondered about doing Claimant work, but typically, most jobs here at the moment are in personal injury. And injury is just rife with Claimants who exaggerate and lie. I see it every day and if for instance i was doing RTA PI work, exaggerating whiplash claims is pretty much standard. Representing those clients would make me feel equally as uneasy as doing Defendant!

    Dont get me wrong, there are things I do appreciate about the work. It’s fairly interesting, it’s intellectually stimulating, 1 case in 50 it can be very satisfying representing clients you know are right and know need defending. Seeing those cases pan out in your fabour can be great. There isnt much phone work, there is no ”direct” arguing as its all done back office by letter. Some of the investigation work is interesting. I hate maths and like written disciplines, so law is certainly more appealing than something like accounting etc. There are plenty of jobs in claims, I have lots of experience in it, the hours are ok, I like working in an office with co workers. So like i said, it could be so much worse…

    But the way law is applied, the nature of litigation, it just grinds me down. Im naturally so averse to conflict, I dont CARE about the bloody petty arguments over such small points, Im lazy, I like to get things done quickly, I have no interest in the nitty gritty tactics in litigation but just want to get things out the way and off my desk. I find legal research boring. I sometimes get led by emotions when settling claims, almost trying to find a way to compensate the Claimant! rather than winning for my insurer client, id rather see a fair and just outcome, I feel guilty about wriggling out of claims on a technicality.

    Does it sound like there’s hope for me? Ive been desperately trying to convince myself for months now, but ive not been able to.

    Im really torn between making the best of it, ”getting by” but always having deep rooted moral issues with it, or taking a leap of faith to greener grass, which may not be green at all.

    Any advice would be much appreciated, thanks.

    Dave

  29. I find this website to be very helpful. I have always wanted to be a lawyer. Well, as I went to school full-time, I also worked as a Paralegal at a personal injury law firm. I have now completed my Bachelor’s program and I am currently still employed at the same law firm, this is now going on six years. I’ve realized that every morning I wake up to enter an office filled with endless paperwork and aggravating clients.

    For the last year I have been contemplating whether or not to go to law school. The thought of me sitting at an office eight hours a day for the rest of my life gets me nauseated. So, as I sit here, pretending to work, I find myself trying to search for a plan B..something that I will hopefully enjoy and possibly be good at!..My personality type is ENFJ. If you have any suggestions or guidance, I could really use it.. Thanks!

    • Hi Jessica,
      Thanks for stopping by! NFs have a hard time with law, because they tend to be “can’t we all just get along?” types; they don’t like arguing for the sake of arguing, as NTs often do. Law is dominated by NTs. (see my post http://leavinglaw.wordpress.com/2010/12/08/the-other-key-lawyer-personality-trait-think-dont-feel/) With an E, along with the NF, you’re going to feel much more at home in an environment where you interact with people often, and can use your preference for knowing through feeling, rather than knowing through logic. If you Google careers and ENFJ, I’m sure you’ll get a good list to get you started.

  30. I did the test twice and both times I came up ESFP with some variation in the extroverted and perception columns. I found it insightful to some of my strengths and weaknesses which are bad and good for practicing law — mostly bad I think though. I do agree that although I like the analysis part of it, I often find it tedious and boring and get ADD. And as time goes on I get less and less good with deadlines. Perhaps its time for something else just what is the question.

  31. I’m an INFP. Laid off a while back from a small law office, so looking for a new position. I was very conflicted about law practice. On the one hand, I loved the research and writing. I enjoyed structuring arguments for new legal issues, and I find I can be quite a strong advocate on paper. However, I am an almost complete introvert and tend to avoid conflict in real life–so I practically hyperventilated every time I had to interact with real human opponents. Did a lot of transactional law (especially real estate) which suited me better, as the goal is not to destroy the other fellow but to make sure everyone goes home reasonably satisfied with the outcome.

    What really bothered me most was the number of Type A individuals I dealt with. My husband is very Type A, and I can barely stand him sometimes– working day in and day out with hypercritical, histrionic, domineering personalities totally destroyed my equilibrium. I used to sit in the car and fight back the tears before going to work… and again on the way home…alas.

    I’m not sure yet what the ideal field would be for me. I’d really like a more collegial atmosphere in my next position. I’ve also realized that, as much as I enjoy the mental challenge of research, what I actually NEED is to work with my hands on a regular basis– if I have to spend more than a few days without making/fixing/building something, I find I can’t focus on more intellectual pursuits. (Is that weird? My husband says it’s like I’m addicted to making stuff. He may be right.) I hope to find a job that either lets me use my creative/artistic skills directly or leaves me at least some free time to tinker around.

    • INFPs are the “why can’t we all get along” people of the world, so law is a real struggle for them.
      What kinds of things do you enjoy making? It sounds like whatever it is, you need to do it more, not less. Find and follow your strengths is usually the quickest path to happiness.
      Law in its traditional form doesn’t leave a lot of room for innovation. If you are creative, and law itself doesn’t interest you (most of it bored me senseless), then finding something where you can use those creative skills frequently will make you much more fulfilled. Maybe marketing, writing/magazines, or some kind of business in an area you like (a yarn or high-end craft shop? a consulting crafter? why not?)
      Good luck in your journey!

  32. Pingback: Why You Don’t Have Time to Find a New Legal Career, Part 3 « Leaving the Law

  33. Thank you for this site and thread. I am an ENFP. I am just a bit on the E side, and also have I characteristics. In high school, I was quite a debater and as my father was a lawyer, I had my heart bent on becoming a lawyer and working with him. I got a degree in English literature, and went to law school, but deep down, always felt just like your analogy, that they wanted me to wear a size 7 narrow, and I was more a size 10, and wide wide wide….maybe even flipflops might be better. Even in the debate camps at Northwestern University, my eyes always traveled over to the drama club’s activities – so much more color, so much more um., can I say ‘happiness.’ I finished a year and a half of law school, and left (partly because of me, partly exterior factors-fear of law school debt, unsupportive mother, anyway, long story) and got a teaching certificate. I was always escaping to children’s books stores to dream, give my feet a little more room. My income seemed to also come from babysitting rather than law work. Now I teach in Japan, and am happy. I paid the big big student debt, but still wonder whether I made a mistake by jumping ship. I am writing now…like mad…and want to make each book like a case, that will entertain children and adults even after I have been buried. I just always always live with some regret. Did I make the right decision? hmmmm.

    • I can answer this question.

      Yes, you made the right decision.

      Well, with respect to the book writing avocation.

      I can’t speak to the Japan part.

    • Hi Meg,
      Glad to have you here!

      Shockingly, I agree with JP. I think.

      Do you know what the regret is about? Might be useful to figure that out. If it’s just about money or prestige, meh. Could be the P side of your personality, that always looks for the possibilities. Or . . . well I don’t know. There’s a lot of silliness attached to finishing what you start in this culture, never mind if what you started was itself a bad move.

      Good luck with the books. They sound really intriguing!

  34. Thank you from the bottom of my heart Jennifer and Carter! I am going to dig into my mind and find the core reason for the ‘regret.’ You have given a sparkle to the start of my day!

  35. I am in my early 50’s, having graduated from law school roughly 30 years ago. I am an ENFP, and though I worked many years as a lawyer, the only really satisfying law-related jobs I ever had were in teaching legal/paralegal studies at the college level. I have always been very, very good at crafting a winning appellate brief, but I eventually gave it up because it became a little … well… boring! One constant in my life has been my artwork. I found my tribe among the artists; the lawyers all belonged to a very different country. Their values, their competitiveness, were often quite foreign to me. My law degree did give me the opportunity to teach the law–which is something I enjoy immensely. It also let me serve on my city’s cultural council — a volunteer job that was very satisfying. Another volunteer job was parent/teenager mediation. I loved helping people discover their true motivations and feelings and reconcile their differences. I can say that these are probably the best legal situations for ENFPs.

    • Those are some great ideas, Sharon! Thank you for sharing them.

      I’m glad you found your tribe. I know exactly what you mean about feeling that you exist on a different planet from the average lawyer.

  36. I graduated from law school in 2006. I had already known my MBTI type (I am also an INFP) but was dissuaded by friends/family from pursuing an MSW so I went to law school. It took me three tries to pass the bar exam: I am an excellent test-taker, I just hated hated HATED studying for the bar exam. I’ve held several jobs which I am very good at (prosecutor and civil litigator), but keep burning out quickly. Actually, I’ve had a nervous breakdown every 8 or 9 months since passing the bar in early 2008.

    Deep down I know I am not competitive enough to be a lawyer. But I am not sure what else I can do. Right now I am trying out solo practice, and the majority of my cases are custody/divorce. I REALLY dislike that type of law, but like helping people through the emotional trauma of these cases. Everyone who knows me says, “But you’re so GOOD at trial law.” Well, it’s burning me out. I go through periods where I can’t stand even answering the phone.

    So how does an INFP who is “really good at being a lawyer” but knows it will kill her transition into something else?

    • Start taking classes toward an MSW.

      I love these self-answering questions.

      Or your could do social security disability cases. My clients keep thinking I’m their therapist or social worker, so it’s kind of like being a social worker. One downside is that your clients periodically die on you.

    • JP’s idea isn’t bad at all–why not an MSW? Or there’s always life coaching–lots of teaching opportunities in it, and less training.

      INFPs are Idealists. What are your ideals around? Once you discern that, it might be easier to see your path. Be specific. “Helping people” is a start, but “helping women traumatized by abusive relationships” will give you more of an idea what to do next, if you see what I mean.

      • You are absolutely right! I live in a very rural area, but there is an MSW program and a part-online MA in counseling program offered nearby. I will look into both options. Coaching is not something that had ever crossed my mind, but I did a little research about it and it sounds like a perfect career for me!
        How do I go about discerning my ideals? I suppose this is the time to get my journal out to write it through.
        Funny thing is that here i am feeling impossibly stuck and I think about the things I’ve done (whether as a bartender, office manager at mental health agency or as a prosecutor) that have made me deeply satisfied and it is getting people unstuck from a bad point in their lives, whether abusive relationship, drug problem, or career impasse. This is a start.

  37. I am surprised to find out that most lawyers are ISTJs. I am an ISTJ lawyer and I do not think law is a good fit for me. I can understand that the detail-oriented aspects of law would be good for ISTJs like me, but I find that I don’t enjoy the politics, the adversarial nature of the field, or the isolation and boredom. (Yes, I am definitely an introvert and I still find law too isolating!) Since the ISTJ type tends to be very traditional, logical, and interested in security/stability, it might be that many ISTJs choose law as a career but don’t necessarily enjoy it.

    • Renee, that’s an excellent point about ISTJs liking tradition and stability and hence their attraction to law.

      It might be helpful for you to explore precisely what bores you and what interests you. ISTJs tend to like the more regulatory kinds of law, because those frequently require close attention to detail, more so than litigation or employment law, for example. Stuff like tax, alcohol, and other code-compliance kinds of law might be a better fit. If you’re in a big firm, you’ve likely got yourself surround by a bunch of NTs, which could drive you bonkers. Of the 6 predominant MBTI types in law, the only “S”s are ISTJs. Hence the politics that wear you down.

      Remember too that Introverted is about where you get your energy, from your internal thinking rather than thinking through stuff out loud with others (which is Extraverted). It’s not about shy v. gregarious, necessarily. Maybe you could look into more activities that connect you with living, breathing people, either at professional networking stuff or something else that isn’t work-related at all.

    • You make an interesting point but I am not sure that I fully concur. ISTJs who choose law in support of their personal preference for tradition, logic, and stability will enjoy it because of the match between career and personal preferece. On the other hand if an ISTJ were to choose an acting career, such an ISTJ will hate it because of the mismatch in personality and career requirement. Typically, acting calls for imaginative and creative people whereas law calls for ISTJs who are more traditional, logical, and stable. I’d love to hear your thoughts whether you concur, non-concure, or tentative…

  38. Pingback: How Did I Get To Be an Unhappy Lawyer? Part 2 « Leaving the Law

  39. Hi leavinglaw,

    My MBTI type seems to change over time: I’ve got ENTJ, ENFJ, INFJ, and ESFJ from different and same MBTI tests online and the paper ones. (In the order of the oldest result to the most recent, being ESFJ).

    Are any of these types suitable for lawyering? according to another post of yours, ENTJ is, but what about others? Even if your personality type does not fit into traditional lawyering, how about pursuing a career in alternatives to legal practices?

    I went to university thinking that I’d be a teacher, but switched to law, and now, I am a first-year law student, more interested in areas of solicitor types of work, policy, public administration, or teaching.

  40. I think it’s funny (in a cruel kind of way) how so many NF types are sucked into the law field. Most of you have like making arguments, are logical thinkers, and have good analytical skills along with great social skills. This can be, in part, attributed to the TV/Movie glamorization of lawyers.
    While N/F types can be successful (key word here is successful, not particularly happy) in law, it is naturally more suited towards the sensing and especially thinking types. It may surprise some of you that the personality (according to the MBTI) most suited to law, especially big law, share the same personality of those that excel in accounting.
    In the end it’s the serious, straight to the point, no-bull personality that is most comfortable with the day to day happenings of a lawyer, not the outspoken and especially not the Fe dominant personalities that “feel” that law is the right path to take. It’s very contradicting.

  41. Pingback: How Money Saps Lawyers’ Creativity « Leaving the Law

  42. Considering that this blog entry was made years ago, but I just wanted to say this. You guys really need to learn the functions of the types. You don’t change type over time unless you’ve had some serious trauma and types like INTP and INFP are completely different, it’s not so much a case of ‘sometimes I feel more than I think’. Everyone has a thinking function and everyone has a feeling function. But yeah. My type, ENTP, is also known as the ‘lawyer type’ sometimes because we are fond of arguing and debate. But an ENTP with a poorly developed introverted sensing (Si) function isn’t going to get very far in the business, I’m not going into law, I’m going into games design, so I might be completely wrong on this, but I assume that lawyers will have to learn various facts and such before going into court? An ENTP with a poorly developed Si’s not going to be able to overpower the extroverted intuition (Ne) which naturally pulls us away from things we get bored of, hence why we (and ENFPs) are pretty well known for not sticking to our plans. Like it was said earlier, we do love to argue and consider it a sport, but that’s not going to be enough for us to enjoy it as a whole. To be a good lawyer an ENTP would need a very, very keen interest in law to keep focused on it or they’d get bored and would realise that they’ve wasted a good portion of their life and are now tens of thousands in debt (not that we’re known for being good with money, but even we known this is ridiculous.)

    As for the actual courtroom part of the job, we’d excel at that. We’re fast thinkers and thanks to have Ne as our dominant function and introverted thinking as our auxillery function, we can think of a come back just as quickly as we can talk (which is pretty fast) and we’re pretty good at telling when people are trying to dupe us. Those things being taken into consideration, we are potentially good lawyers; provided that we’ve not done it on a whim and are serious about choosing this career path and are able to develop our Si.

    Also; if you’re curious about what type you probably are (sites that give results in an, i.e. S – 56% N – 43% format should be avoided; they’re over simplifying it and completely ignoring the Jungian cognitive functions, which are actually pretty important and prone to mistyping. My ENFJ friend usually comes up on them as an ISFJ, but trust me, she is painfully ENFJ, but I digress–) you should do a cognitive functions test. :) As you get older you’ll develop your other functions more, which is why those tests might make you look like you’re changing type, but like I said, your type is set out from an eraly age– and when I say early, I mean your dominant function will probably show up around age 2/3 and your auxillery function will show up from anytime between them and when you’re about 13. It doesn’t change. At all.

    Now I’m just gonna fly out since this is a blog about law and stuff and I don’t know much about it other than obscure historical ones that make me laugh. Later.

  43. “Let’s just say God had a sense of humor when she packed me off to law school.” I am sick of this notion that G-d is female; she probably typed that only to make that point.

    • I’m generally pretty good at off the wall blog commentary, but even I have a hard time figuring out what made you post that particular comment on this particular blog.

  44. This site is a great resource, and I’ve really enjoyed the posts and your responses. I’m an INFP adult student studying Anthropology/Sociology because nothing else seemed interesting. My family are all teachers, which I run from as fast as I can even though I’d be good at it. I get bored extremely quickly and hate repetitive work. I always rank as INFP when I do the MBTI but I also have an agressive, competitive streak when the environment is something I enjoy.

    I am tempted by Law….. Academic law study seems fascinating. I know I would hate biglaw with a vengeance, but I am enamored with animal law, particularly cruelty litigation as this would be work that aligns with my values. I’m not a radical animal rights activist, nor a vegan, so I wonder if the law school environment (fellow students raving about rights) would be too confrontational for me. I’m searching for flexible, challenging, and values-oriented work that ultimately makes a postivie social difference.

  45. Pingback: Lawyer personality types on the Myers-Briggs test « Hwang, Esq.

  46. I usually do not leave many responses, however i did a few searching and wound up here The
    Lawyer Personality | Leaving the Law. And I actually do
    have 2 questions for you if you usually do not mind. Could it be only
    me or does it look like a few of these remarks come across like they are left by brain dead individuals?
    :-P And, if you are writing on additional online social
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    Would you make a list of the complete urls of your community sites like your linkedin profile, Facebook page or twitter feed?

  47. I’m not sure the place you’re getting your info, but great topic.
    I needs to spend a while finding out much more or figuring out more.
    Thanks for great information I used to be
    looking for this info for my mission.

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  49. It’s been several months since anyone has written a comment on this blog. I don’t know if it’s still active, but if so I’d like a little bit of advice. I just started law school and I’m an ENTP, have been my entire life. E- 100% N-38% T-75% P-22%. I think I want to go into corporate law, but everyone I talk to has only negative things to say about it. It seems they all burn out within five years and never seem to get anywhere or really become as successful as they set out. I suppose I’m just looking for a little bit of guidance about whether corporate law is a good choice, or if I should be looking elsewhere.

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