Reprinted with permission from the American Bar Association GPSolo eReport.
This article is the third of four installments designed to provide insight into how understanding the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® enables attorneys to become more effective in managing their career, relating to clients, and overseeing their offices.
- What are the key attributes of an attorney with an INTJ personality type?
- How can an INTJ personality type impact an attorney’s career?
- Which traits should an INTJ attorney become conscious of in order to become a better lawyer?
In my first article, I provided an overview of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) and explored how being an introvert or an extrovert can influence an attorney’s approach to career choices and time management. In my second article, I discussed the three lesser-known personality indicators and explained how an attorney’s preference for one over another can significantly impact that attorney’s legal practice. In this article, I will examine my own personality type as an example of how attorneys can become better lawyers and make more informed career choices by gaining a more thorough understanding of their type.
What Are The Key Attributes of an Attorney with an INTJ Personality Type?
In analyzing your type, you first need to know your full Myers-Briggs profile. As stated in my first article, when you take the MBTI® exam from a MBTI®-certified practitioner, you will discover your four personality indicators and the strength of your preference for each indicator based on a scale of 1–30. For example, my full type is an “INTJ,” specifically: Introversion (12), Intuition (7), Thinking (27), and Judging (30). I strongly prefer Thinking and Judging, but my inclinations toward Introversion and Intuition are not as pronounced. INTJs comprise about 1% of the general population.1 Although three of these four INTJ personality indicators, specifically Introversion, Intuition, and Thinking, can be considered minority traits in the general population,2 all four are predominant personality traits for lawyers.3
Once you know your Myers-Briggs profile, then you can research the details. What are the general traits exhibited by your type? For example, “INTJs look to the future rather than the past, and a word which captures the essence of INTJs is builder—a builder of systems and the applier of theoretical models.”4 According to Jessica Butts, author of Live Your Life from the Front Seat, the INTJ type is “The Scientist.” If you are an INTJ, “you have complex visions or perspectives that you are unable to explain with clarity to others” and “you always think about what’s next, or how you could be improving yourself or your situation.”5 Further, “order is important to you,” “you direct action and make decisions,” “you are an impersonal decision maker,” and “you solve problems in a systematic manner.”6 By understanding the traits inherent in your type, you will know your natural strengths. You can use this information to make informed career choices that play into those strengths.
How Can an INTJ Personality Type Affect an Attorney’s Career?
By developing a working knowledge of your personality type, you will be equipped to understand the twists and turns your career has taken and to use this information in making future decisions. Using my career, I will provide three examples:
- As an INTJ, I am natural entrepreneur. “NJs are the entrepreneurs of the world.”7 “Being the most independent of all the types, [INTJs] have a strong need for autonomy . . . .”8 True to type, I have generally felt confined working in settings where I have lacked autonomy, whereas running my own law firm immediately felt as comfortable as a well-worn pair of jeans.
- When I started my law firm in 1999, I decided to develop it as a virtual firm. Although novel at the time, the choice seemed both easy and a natural fit for me. Now I understand how that decision flowed innately from my personality. “INTJs are natural brainstormers, always open to new concepts and, in fact, aggressively seeking them.”9
- I tend to thrive when working nontraditional work hours, including weekends. Although this habit belies the present discourse encouraging work-life balance, I now understand why these work hours seem to fit well with my character. “INTJs usually rise to positions of responsibility, for they work long and hard and are steady in their pursuit of goals, sparing neither time nor effort on their part or that of their colleagues and employees.”10
Which Traits Should an INTJ Attorney Become Conscious of to Become a Better Lawyer?
Each of the 16 MBTI® personality types offers its own unique strengths and weaknesses. As an INTJ, some of my traits can be considered strengths in the legal profession; however, some weaknesses exist as well. For example:
- INTJs need to be especially careful in their work relationships. As stated above, INTJs who manage others need to realize that other personality types may not wish to be driven to “work long and hard.”11 In addition, “colleagues find the INTJ apparently unemotional and, at times, cold and dispassionate.”12 As stated by Karen Sutherland, a Seattle attorney who is also an INTJ, “My biggest take-away from the debriefing I received after the [Myers-Briggs] test was that very few people have the same combination of characteristics as I do, [and] most other people have different needs for information and different communication styles than I do.”
- INTJ attorneys need to be conscious of the need to express an appropriate level of emotion and empathy in their relationships with clients. A key weakness of an INTJ is “dealing with other people’s feelings.”13 As explained by Ms. Sutherland, “I need to remember to address the emotional component of my work. If I get a call from an employer about what to do with an employee’s final paycheck when the employee was just killed in an industrial accident and his widow needs his final paycheck to pay the mortgage, I have to remember to express my concern for his family and ask how his co-workers are doing and not just jump straight to answering the legal question.”
As a mid-career attorney, I truly wish I would have taken the MBTI® exam before attending law school. By doing so, I would have quickly recognized why I did not excel at certain types of legal work, such as very detailed-oriented work involving little autonomy, decision-making, or “big picture” thinking. Further, I would have more readily acknowledged that I did not comfortably thrive in traditional law firm environments, and would have acted sooner to form my own firm. Once you know your full Myers-Briggs profile and the full range of traits that profile represents, you will be able to employ that information to make knowledgeable choices about your working environment and areas of practice, and you also will be better equipped to build on your strengths and proactively address your shortcomings.
1. David Keirsey & Marilyn Bates, Please Understand Me (Del Mar: Prometheus Nemesis Book Co. 1984), at 180.
2. Jessica Butts, Live Your Life from the Front Seat (Kirkland: Legacy One Authors 2015), at 66–67. Note that Introversion is a minority type in that, “we live in an Extroverted world.” Additionally, approximately 75% of men are Thinking types while 75% of women are Feeling types. Id. at 66.
3. Gina Nelson, “Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) Applications in a Law Practice,” 4 GPSolo No. 4, Summer 2008.
4. Please Understand Me, supra note 1, at 180 (emphasis in original).
5. Live Your Life from the Front Seat, supra note 2, at 111.
7. Id. at 80.
8. Please Understand Me, supra note 1, at 183.
9. Id. at 180.
10. Id. at 181.
12. Id. at 182.
13. Live Your Life from the Front Seat, supra note 2, at 112.