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Personality goes a long way

Personality goes a long way

A FIVE-year study of lawyers’ personalities at a major firm has confirmed that many are extroverts with a bent for logical thinking.These findings are perhaps not surprising, but the Institute…

A FIVE-year study of lawyers’ personalities at a major firm has confirmed that many are extroverts with a bent for logical thinking.

These findings are perhaps not surprising, but the Institute of Knowledge Development (IKD), which conducted the study, said understanding your personality type can help lawyers in their interactions with clients, as well as their firm to understand their staff better and whether they have a good mix of personnel.

IKD used the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) to test the personality types of 250 lawyers at its law firm affiliate, Freehills, from 2000 to 2005 and found a two-for-one dominance of “thinkers” over “feelers”. There were also relatively fewer “introverts” and “perceivers” among the group.

MBTI has four basic scales to measure personality types: extroversion versus introversion, sensing versus intuition, thinking versus feeling, and judging versus perceiving. Following questionnaires, the preferences of those being profiled are combined to create a four-letter set that describes their personality type.

Despite the preponderance of “thinkers” at the firm, Jil Toovey, a director of IKD, said the results indicate that Freehills is “recruiting and retaining a diverse range of personality preferences”, which she said is important as the strengths of different personality types will complement each other.

Toovey said MBTI would make a useful tool for firms to assess whether they are recruiting and retaining a good mix of personalities within the firm. However, she said firms cannot actually use the MBTI types to select new recruits. “It is unethical to do that according to MBTI theory.”

On a personal level, Toovey said MBTI is a useful tool “that can enable individuals to understand whether their natural preference is for details or the big picture, for the immediate or the future, for closure or for options”.

‘They are then more able to move consciously between both and provide clients advice with the level of commerciality they require.”

IKD said knowledge of their MBTI preferences would also help lawyers improve their communication styles with colleagues and clients.

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