- Both personality types are integral parts of the judicial system, and each comes with potential benefits and drawbacks.
Walking into any law firm or legal office in America, you will find a combination of introverted and extroverted attorneys, contrary to the pop culture representation of the extroverted attorney archetype fighting it out in the courtroom. For some, the job’s public speaking and advocacy arena is what draws them in and excites them, while for others, nothing compares to the writing and research completed behind the scenes and well outside of a courtroom.
Both personality types are integral parts of the judicial system, and each comes with potential benefits and drawbacks. These are some tips and tricks on being successful from two attorneys who identify on one side of the scale or the other whether you consider yourself an extrovert or introvert.
Living life as an extrovert can be both a blessing and a curse. Although extroverted traits can vary from person to person, we tend to be naturally sociable and action oriented. We often describe extroverts as outgoing, friendly, and cheerful. In other words, we are usually a hit at parties but not at the library. On the downside, extroverts are also known to act before thinking and can be a bit overbearing at times. Understanding and leveraging these traits is critical in all aspects of your practice.
Due to our outgoing nature, extroverts tend to be very open individuals willing to share their thoughts and feelings with others. This can be a huge benefit when working with a member of the judiciary. Sharing information about your client and your theory of the case with the judge, when appropriate, can help humanize your client and make your arguments more understandable. Moreover, judges can often come across as intimidating, even to an extrovert. At the end of the day, they are just people who likely started in a similar position to you. Taking the time to open up to them about your case and yourself respectfully can help break through those challenging dynamics and benefit your rapport with them.
Extroverts tend to be sociable, enjoy being around other people, and are often natural talkers and skilled conversationalists. Take advantage of this natural skill by calling up or meeting with opposing counsel to discuss some of the key issues in a case. If you think it would be appropriate, consider meeting somewhere like a coffee shop outside of a formal legal setting, which will allow both of you to let down your guard. Although it is unlikely that you will be able to resolve every issue between your clients, discussing the case will give you an opportunity to develop a working relationship with them and make negotiating or litigating a little easier for all parties. After all, you will likely be seeing the same attorneys from matter to matter throughout your career. Developing a rapport with them early on can elevate your practice for years to come.
Extroverts are energized by interacting with others. It is no surprise then that they prefer to solve problems and work through issues by discussing them. This trait is beneficial for lawyers in many different situations, but especially when working with clients. When engaging new clients, take time to sit down with them, whether in person or virtually, and discuss their situation. As a lawyer, it can be easy to rush to a legal solution; however, sometimes an open discussion with your client regarding the issue can help them gain a new perspective on the problem or develop solutions short of lengthy and time-consuming proceedings or litigation.
A critical component of any legal practice is a skilled and helpful staff. A positive relationship between an attorney and staff is the key to a successful and enjoyable legal career. After all, the reality is that you will almost certainly spend more time with your staff during a workday than you do with your own family. As an extrovert, you should leverage your friendly and approachable personality to be someone that staff members feel comfortable approaching with concerns or challenges. In a society where attorneys are often viewed as aloof and difficult to work with, being welcoming and courteous to the staff in your practice will benefit you, your clients, and your organization. This applies to both your own personal staff, but also staff for other attorneys and judicial staff. These individuals are often treated tersely, at best, by those they interact with and being friendly while working with them can make a real difference in anyone’s day.
As an introvert, I usually find myself reveling in the pre-courtroom time. The preparation, strategy, and behind-the-scenes work is exciting and fulfilling for many introverts. Getting the chance to finally test my work in the courtroom doesn’t quite drain me in the same manner as small talk or networking. For many introverts, being in front of a judge, duking matters out in a courtroom or conference room is the culmination of fruitful alone time, rather than a taxing interaction that many introverts may worry the interaction presents.
With that in mind, my interactions with the judiciary and opposing counsel are shaped by my introversion in a way that I’ve learned to cut to the chase. Despite needing alone time to charge my batteries, I find the longest ways to say the smallest things. Knowing this about myself, I actively try to render down conversations to what is needed, to avoid hitting the wall before we get to the meat of the interaction. I ask myself regularly, am I saying this just to say this, to avoid oversharing and under-connecting. With this skill, introverts can ensure they take care of their own energy, while also making sure they get all necessary and important information across to the parties that need it, and to be diligent in their representation.
Although the judiciary and opposing counsel are integral parts of the system, it is important for introverts to remember that they are ultimately working toward a final goal for a client, in whatever form. In the Air Force JAG Corps, we serve at the pleasure of commanders as well as airmen. We advise commanders on criminal justice matters and the left and right boundaries of discipline. Both active duty and retired service members are entitled to free legal assistance, provided on base and remotely. Each category of clients has unique needs, but as an introverted attorney, the approach is similar. A good amount of my energy is poured into maintaining a comfortable conversation, encouraging the client to be forthcoming and honest in the meeting. As a result, I find that preparation is key to providing the best legal advice possible. Effective screening, anticipating the clients’ needs, and preparing a road map for every meeting helps me provide the legal advice airmen need and deserve. This applies to any client, whether an individual or a large organization or corporation.
As an introvert, I find intense conversations draining. The energy I have is usually reserved for court, clients, and opposing counsel; the interactions required for my work. I never want to leave my paralegals or the staff I work with the dregs of my attention, so I’ve slowly developed some methods to connect with them that work even on the days I’m “peopled out.” Leaving a note on someone’s desk with something that I appreciate about them or walking around to quickly pass out candy are easy ways to connect with people when I don’t have the capacity for a full conversation. Small gestures aside, being intentional about reserving time for meaningful conversation is the most practical way to connect with people, despite a draining day. For each kind of case that I carry, I work with a different paralegal. We set aside time for a team sync, which provides time to discuss the case. Those team syncs often turn into conversations about our personal hobbies and goals while fitting in case planning as well. Those meetings are scheduled in the calendar, allowing me to reserve the necessary energy.
No personality type should ever feel that they cannot be involved in legal practice. Extroverts and introverts can both be successful in any aspect of the legal field they choose. The formula for success is utilizing advice from others not only in the legal sense but also in learning skills for understanding your own personality.