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Know Thyself….. Before You Join a Study Group, Look for a Job, or Change Careers [by Cary J. Griffith] What possible relevance could a Delphic Oracle have to the current practice of law? Plenty. “Know thyself” was an inscription carved on the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi in the 6th Century B.C. But judging from some of today’s practical law school curricula, two millennia have done little to tarnish the timeless truth.

More and more law schools are offering

enough so that it only has a 75% re-test reli-

first-year students a rare opportunity to

ability rate. “We also have people read their

learn more about themselves. Why?

MBTI descriptions,” adds Davis. Based on

“Because the difference between the best

their own self-perception and what they read,

lawyers, and leaders, and the rest of us is the

they can clarify their type.

extent of their self-knowledge and knowl-

self assessment use the MBTI. What is the MBTI and How Does it Work? The MBTI is based upon Carl Jung’s notions of psychological types and was first devel-

edge of others,” describes the orientation

So in 17 years, have any first-year law

oped by Isabel Briggs Myers (1897-1979) and

workbook entitled Professionalism Work-

students decided against participating?

her mother, Katharine Cook Briggs. After

shop: Knowledge of Self and Others as a Catalyst to Competence. The workbook was authored by Leary Davis, Professor of Law at Campbell University School of Law. In fact, Campbell is one of a growing number of law schools that provide all first-year law students with a Myers Briggs Type Indicator assessment, and a three-hour seminar that explains the results of that assessment. Davis uses the workbook to help guide students through the nuances of self-assessment.

“Interestingly,” explains Davis, “of over 2,000

answering a number of questions (there are

students who have gone through this work-

no right answers), the results are tabulated

shop since 1988, only one has elected not

so that participants are given a four-letter

to participate in the exercises and thereby

code. The letter codes actually represent

reveal his type.”

one of four opposite types: (1) extraversion/introversion, (2) sensate/intuitive, (3)

From the law schools with whom we spoke,

thinking/feeling, and (4) judging/perceiving.

most students are more than a little inter-

“The various combinations of these prefer-

ested. In large part it’s because we are all

ences result in 16 personality types,” says

curious about who we are, how we fit in the

Consulting Psychologists Press, Inc., which

world, our strengths and weaknesses, and

owns the rights to the instrument. Types are

how we relate to others. But students are

denoted by four letters--for example, ENFP

“We’ve used the Myers Briggs Type Indi-

also interested in how they fit in the profes-

(Extraversion, Intuitive with Feeling and

cator (MBTI) with first year law students


Perceiving)--to represent one’s tendencies

for 17 years,” explains Davis. Campbell is

on the four scales.

somewhat unusual because the MBTI and

Larry Richard, management consultant with

follow-up three-hour seminar are required

Altman Weil and the author of Psychological Type and Job Satisfaction Among Practicing Lawyers in the United States (his Ph.D. dissertation), notes that one of the basic findings of his study was that “feelers are the most dissatisfied [with the practice of law], and perceivers are right up there with them.” But Richard is quick to point out that if you’re a feeler or perceiver, it in no way condemns you to a less-than-satisfying professional life.

as part of first-year-student orientation. All the other law schools we interviewed offer it on an elective basis. “But you don’t want to make people reveal things about themselves they don’t want to,” cautions Davis. “So what we tell them is the results don’t go into their permanent file, and you can decide not to participate. We give them their results, but if they disagree with

Why Do Law Schools Offer Personality Assessment? For the last couple of years, Kevin Campana, Interim Dean of Students at William Mitchell College of Law, has born witness to a phenomenon often repeated throughout America’s law schools. Students in the top 10% of their graduating classes have certain expectations placed upon them. These students are expected to participate in oncampus interviews arranged for the regions’

those results, then the instrument is wrong There are a variety of personality assess-

most prestigious law firms. And if, as is

ment tools available that do everything from

often the case, they’re offered a job, they are

Davis explains to the students that a measur-

measure skills to measuring needs and

expected to take it.

ing instrument like the MBTI is complex

values. Most law schools offering this kind of

and they are right.”


continued on back

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“If you happen to be one of those people

Test Limitations

into. All of the experts with whom we spoke agreed; don’t take the MBTI until you can sit

who get on the treadmill,” notes Campana, “accepting a job at a law firm is predictable.”

While Richard identified prevalent MBTI types

down with a knowledgeable professional who

But many of these top students don’t really

in different practice areas and Campbell and

can explain your results.

know much about the day-to-day aspects of

William Mitchell both highlight some of those

practicing law. “They don’t have a good idea

findings in their orientations, the experts

The professionals with whom we spoke

of what law firm life is like,” explains Campa-

with whom we spoke warned against the use

agreed with the advice we found on one

na. “Or they may come to dislike a particular

of MBTI types to select careers. “Anyone,

MBTI site (Personality Pathways): “Before

law firm and its values. This is the reality of

regardless of their type, can be involved in a

taking our informal online personality test

it. It’s just one of the reasons there’s a large

field,” comments Martha M. Peters, Director

(aka Cognitive Style Inventory) to verify your

turnover of associates in the big firms.”

of the Academic Achievement Program for

Myers-Briggs personality type, know that the

the University of Iowa Law School. Ms. Peters

best way to understand your personality or

The William Mitchell College of Law knows

co-authored a book with her husband, Don

psychological type is to take an official MBTI

about this phenomenon because after one or

C. Peters, Law Professor at the University of

( Myers-Briggs Type Indicator ) instrument

two years in practice, many of these young

Florida Law School, tentatively entitled: Pa-

from a professional who has met the stan-

lawyers return to the College’s career coun-

per Chasing Types: Individualizing Law Study with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (CAPT: Jan/Feb 2005).

ter the test.”

seling office as alumni seeking placement assistance. They are dissatisfied with private

Are There Other Self-Assessment Tools?

practice and come back to school to get help finding more meaningful jobs.

dards necessary to be ‘qualified’ to adminis-

Ms. Peters believes success is not related to personality type, and that all practice areas

While the MBTI is perhaps one of the best

benefit from diversity.

known and most widely disseminated assess-

vices, have taken a two-pronged approach.

“The MBTI is a sophisticated instrument and

variations on the overall theme of learning

The first involves creating curricula that

can help law students and lawyers become

more about yourself and others.

leverages experienced legal professionals

aware of their own mental-processing

who teach law students about the practical

tendencies and the ways that their thinking

“For purposes of determining fits with the

realities of law firm practice. The other is to

approaches will be different from those of

profession,” notes Leary Davis, “the CISS

assist law students with the mercurial pro-

some professors, students, clients, lawyers,

(Campbell Interests and Skills Survey, by

cess of getting to know themselves; who they

and judges,” explains Ms. Peters. “The MBTI

David Campbell) is probably most helpful…

are, and how they react to the world, their

provides information that helps anyone know

We also often use the DiSC and FIRO-B to

strengths, weaknesses, and perhaps most

themselves better. People can read about

measure needs, Rokeach to talk about values

importantly, how those might be manifested

their types and think, ‘in spite of my desire to

systems, and the Change Style Indicator to

in the legal workplace.

be a lawyer or a particular type of lawyer, I

measure attitudes toward change.”

To address the problem, Campana and Dana Bartocci, Associate Director of Career Ser-

ments, there are plenty of others that offer

shouldn’t, because my type is not highly rep“We started doing Myers Briggs assessments

resented in this career area,’ but that would

These tests all offer law school professors,

with students and alumni coming in to look

be a travesty. Often it is those people whose

counselors, and others a number of addi-

for work,” says Bartocci. Much like the pro-

types are least represented in an area that

tional self-assessment tools.

cess at Campbell, the seminar involves tak-

bring the most to it.”

ing the assessment and then sitting through a three-hour seminar that explains those

In the final analysis, psychology tools like the How to Take Personality Inventory Tests?

results and places them in the context of the

MBTI can provide law students and lawyers with invaluable insight into how they study

profession. For example, Bartocci can share

Curious about who you are and what it

statistics like “34% of female litigators are I”

means, particularly with regard to how you

gate the rocky shoals of everything from law

[have a preference toward introversion], and

make career-life decisions? Before rush-

school study groups to firm politics to the

“almost half of all tax and estate attorneys

ing out to the Internet and finding an online


are ISTs [display a preference toward intro-

version of the MBTI (or any of the other well-

version, sensate and thinking types].

known personality inventory assessments),

But the MBTI does not the lawyer make.

make sure you know what you’re getting

Although you may express personal prefer-


and work. They can help professionals navi-



ences that appear to doom you as a litigator, desire and fire in the belly-two other aspects of knowing thyself-are two other characteristics that enable most of us to do just about anything.


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Know Thyself..... Before You Join a Study Group, Look for a Job, or Change Careers  

What possible relevance could a Delphic Oracle have to the current practice of law. Law schools offer first-year students a rare opportunity...