Dealing with Crazy Lawyers at Work

Law firms, I am convinced, house one of the highest concentrations of crazymakers of any work environment. There are lots of reasons for this: valuing rainmaking above all else, severely undervaluing how much more productive a positive work environment is, the horrid management skills of most lawyers and their predominant personality type (Meyers-Briggs ISTJ)—those are among my top candidates. Doubtless there are other contributing factors, too. Feel free to chime in about those in the comments!

Sign with crazy machine warning.

Don't you wish crazymakers came with warning labels?

But really, if you work with one, the why of how crazymakers rule the roost matters so much less than the how of dealing with them until you can make good your escape.

But before I get to coping strategies that work, let’s back up for a second and define what a crazymaker is.

Although she talks about it in terms of artistic recovery, Julia Cameron (you know, my idol!) in The Artist’s Way (pp. 46 – 49) hits the nail on the head of several crazymaker traits among lawyers:

  • Crazymakers destroy schedules. Like, your long-awaited vacation, due to the partner’s lack of planning.
  • Crazymakers expect special treatment. You know, the partner whose work is always the most important. Continue reading

4 Networking Tools for Introverted Lawyers

As I’ve posted previously, most of the mass-media networking tips you find are perfect—if you’re an extrovert. And since the general population is between 50% to 75% extrovert, most people can take the typical networking advice—go out to professional meetings, conferences, and the like and chat people up—and do fairly well at it. Not so much for introverts.

Lawyer working on laptop

Lawyers are great at thinking, but often not so much at networking.

When you’re an introvert—as many, many lawyers are, since the typical Myers-Briggs Type Indicator for lawyers is ISTJ—networking is much trickier. You fight yourself to even get to the darned meeting or conference in the first place. And then, you don’t know quite what to do.

So you need to find tools that are more likely to work for you and your inherent personality. In other words, you need networking strategies for the long haul, and that means ones that play to your nature, not require you to act against it. (Going against type can make you seem dumber, according to Psychology Today.) Continue reading

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.