Collaborative Lawyers – A Different Type Indeed (Part I)

There’s been loads written about lawyers and psychological type.   Larry Richard did a landmark study in the early 90’s that became his doctoral dissertation all about lawyers and psychological type.   It has even been the subject of  many Law Review Articles (a place you’d expect only to see hyper technical discussions of the law for lawyers).

There are 4 pairs of preferences and 16 combinations.  We have many ways to slice the same orange.  Most important for this post – David Keirsey devised 4 overall temperaments from these combinations.  You can explore his ideas and take his Keirsey Temperament Sorter here

Since the ancient Greeks, philosophers and psychologists have grouped people into categories that, over time, are remarkably similar.  Keirsey’s Temperaments offer a wonderful window into this world of observation.  The combination of the practical, down-to-earth Sensing preference with the flexible, play-it-as it lays Perceiving preference brings us the SP Artisan.  (Reading some of the links above will give some concise background of these preferences.)   The combination of this same Sensing preference with the organized, results-oriented Judging preference brings us the SJ Guardian.  Combining the ever-inquisitive, speculating Intuitive preference with the logical, “how does it all fit together” Thinking preference results in the NT Rational.  Finally, the same meaning-seeking Intuition preference, when combined with the empathic, personal values-driven Feeling prerence results in the NF Idealist.

Let’s take a close look at each of these:

The SP Artisan lives for today.  As Keirsey says, “Artisans are most at home in the real world of solid objects that can be made and manipulated, and of real-life events that can be experienced in the here and now.”  Artisan’s “go for it,” whatever their “it” may be, and resist limitations and rules if they stand in the way.  Artisans are likely to have winning personalities and can be excellent at enjoying life.  They’re not big cogitators.  Elvis and FDR are representative Artisans in their different fields.  About 30-35% of the general population tend toward the Artisan temperament.

The NF  Idealist values values.  Supporting others to deepen their personal growth and well-being are ardent pursuits of the Idealist.  Keirsey says that , “Idealists dream of creating harmonious, even caring personal relations, and they have a unique talent for helping people get along with each other and work together for the good of all.”

Idealists base their self image on empathy, authenticity and benevolence.  They tend to hold themselves to quite a high standard of personal integrity.   Representative Idealists include Mohandas Ghandi and Oprah Winfrey.  About 15 – 20% of the general population tend toward the Idealist temperament.

The SJ Guardian is the pillar of whatever community they may find themselves a part of.  Reliable, steady, realistic and stalwart, Guardians find their greatest value in being an integral part of a greater whole.  As Keirsey notes, ” if there’s a job to be done, they can be counted on to put their shoulder to the wheel. Guardians also believe in law and order, and sometimes worry that respect for authority, even a fundamental sense of right and wrong, is being lost.”   Guardians tend to trust authority and are comfortable in a leadership role.  They tend to be conservative, in that change can make them uneasy.

  Representative Guardians are George Washington and actor James Stewart, in his many iconic roles from Mr. Smith going to Washington to George Bailey in Its a Wonderful Life.  About 40-45% of the population tend toward the Guardian temperament.


 Finally, the NT Rational is the pragmatic, ingenious seeker of knowledge and accomplishment.  If there is one word that characterizes the goal of the Rational, it is competence.   As Keirsey says, “They are rigorously logical and fiercely independent in their thinking — are indeed skeptical of all ideas, even their own — and they believe they can overcome any obstacle with their will power. Often they are seen as cold and distant, but this is really the absorbed concentration they give to whatever problem they’re working on.”   Rationals may see themselves – and others will see them – as technicians.  Precision – in thinking and language – is highly valued.

Bill Gates and Thomas Jefferson are quintissential Rationals.  Approximately 5 – 10% of the general population tend toward the Rational temperament.

As we will see in the next post, the array of these different temperaments in the legal population and in the collaborative law community may speak volumes about who lawyers are – and the kinds of people who have struck out along the path of Collaborative Law.