So…..where was I? Ah, yes – we have some really good information about lawyers and the kinds of temperament categories they tend to fall into. Larry Richard’s huge study of lawyers and psychological type gave us a ton of insight. The first interesting bit is that, while about 30-35% of the general population falls into the SP Artisan temperament, only 9.1% of lawyers fall into this category – definitely the smallest percentage. This makes sense when you think about it – as lawyers really aren’t encouraged to go-go-go and live for the moment. While being quick on your feet and able to put out the fire is a valuable trait for a lawyer, it is much more valuable to be prepared. The next least likely temperament you are likely to find among lawyers is the NF Idealist. Studies have shown that Idealists experience the highest drop-out rate in law school. The intense adversarial world of litigation (the meat and potatoes of legal practice for the last 40 years) makes the profession quite uncongenial for the Idealist lawyer or law student. Richard found that 14.7% of lawyers were Idealists, about the same percentage as in the general population. (Teaser alert!: There are way, w-a-y, more Idealists in the Collaborative Lawyer sample – see below.) The next most common temperament among lawyers today is the SJ Guardian – the conservative, pillar of the community, who is preoccupied with everyone doing the right thing. Of the 16 personality types, the one with the greatest presence (17.8% of the total) is one of the 4 Guardian types (ISTJ). Fully 35% of the lawyer population are Guardians. I would suggest that this temperament reflected the prevailing approach to work and life of the lawyer community in an earlier era, before the “law as a business” crew came into prominence about 40 years ago. This also pretty much tracks the number of folks in the general population, in which 40-45% (by far the greatest percentage) are Guardians. Finally, the NT Rational accounts for 41.2% of Larry Richard’s lawyer study population. This makes sense! Lawyers are focused on the outcome, are encouraged from their first class in law school (and throughout their careers) to be logical, dispassionate and technically brilliant. In any battle between the head and the heart with these people, Head Wins. Every time. What is particularly striking is that in the general population, only 5-10% are Rationals. I’ll leave it to you to ponder the significance of such a huge majority of lawyers tending toward a temperament that a meager part of the general public shares. Now, here is where Collaborative Lawyers are such an anomoly.
In the early Spring, I conducted a Myers-Briggs workshop for members of the Puget Sound collaborative community. Lawyers, mental health professionals and financial specialists all took part – yet the vast majority of this group (22 of 32) were lawyers. Each person completed the Myers Briggs Type Indicator Self Scoring Instrument. Of this group, not-a-one demonstrated an SP Artisan or SJ Guardian temperament. Of the 22 lawyers, only 5 demonstrated the NT Rational temperament that is so dominant among lawyers nationally and 17 of the total (77%) were NF Idealists. Given that the general lawyers population is comprised of only 14.7% Idealists, this difference is pretty amazing. (I realize our sample size was rather low, but still…….this difference is, well, ponderable.)
So what can we make of this? Well, for starters, it explains the intensity and passion with which most collaborative lawyers embraced this form of practice. The damage inflicted by conventional litigated divorce would be of particular distress (both professionally and personally) to people who tended towards an NF Idealist temperament. My observation is that a great number of Idealist lawyers are terribly unfulfilled with their profession. Anyone who responds to the phrase “law as a healing profession” will find the aggressive, adversarial, “my client over all, regardless of the damage to others” ethos of today’s legal world very disheartening, indeed. When collaborative law came around, you can imagine it seeming like an oasis for the NF Idealist family lawyer community.
Also, an approach to conflict resolution that seeks to address the interests of all is quintessentially NF. The collaborative Participation Agreement, in which peoples’ good faith forms an explicit cornerstone is, again, characteristic of NF law practice. When we tell our clients that we expect them to bring their best selves to this challenging process – and that we will help them be their best selves – we are acting as Idealist lawyers. In many ways, Collaborative Practice provides a home for many exceptional, caring people who might otherwise have drifted away from this wonderful profession – which provides so much opportunity to do good without harming others.
Small wonder that 77% of the lawyers (and a similar percentage of financial experts and (of course) mental health people) within our collaborative community are drawn to the Idealist temperament.