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A Clash of Two Communication Worlds: Lawyers vs. Jurors

Laurie Kuslansky
By: Laurie Kuslansky

Trial Consultants, Trial Presentation, Jury Consulting, Trial Consulting, Juries, Jury Consultants, Psychology

 

attorney jury myers briggs introvert extrovertby Laurie R. Kuslansky, Ph.D.
"ESTJ"
Managing Director, Trial & Jury Consulting
A2L Consulting

Traits descriptive of many lawyers are at cross purposes with traits of the general public serving on juries, worsened by decreased trust in lawyers and their clients.


Introversion and Intuition vs. Extroversion and Sensing

Extensive research has shown that the majority of lawyers prefer Introversion and Intuition vs. the majority of non-lawyer adults, who prefer Extroversion and Sensing (explained more fully below), and that lawyers tend not to be as interpersonally oriented as the general public.[1]

To understand this dichotomy better, below you will find research and findings that show how the mindset and personalities of lawyers and jurors differ to help make litigators more aware of their audience and work toward bridging the gap when it serves them to do so.

For example, The Myers-Briggs Type Indicators test determines people’s personality along 4 dimensions:

1. Extroversion (“E”) v. Introversion (“N”)

2. Sensing (“S”) v. Intuitive (“I”)

Sensing:  making decisions using a sequential, detailed process using facts and logic from the input of our 5 senses, what is present, history, experience, and what is useful;

Intuitive:  using a global process using emotions and constructing patterns placed on that input; enjoy theorizing on possibilities and what is intriguing or different.

3. Thinking (“T”) v. Feeling (“F”)

Thinking:  making decisions impersonally based on logic and what works

Feeling:  using personal values and impact on others, seeking interpersonal harmony. 

Note: Strong thinkers judge strong feelers as wishy-washy and soft-hearted; feelers deem thinkers as cold blooded.

4. Judging (“J”) v. Perceiving “(P”)

Judging: organized who like to resolve ambiguities task-completers

Perceiving:  flexible types who prefer taking information in, starting projects, but not completing them, who prefer keeping options open.


Various practitioners have culled the results into personality types in different ways. A popular, streamlined approach was created by psychologist David Kiersey, yielding 4 “temperaments”:[2]

1)    Guardians (“SJ” Sense/Judgers) talent at managing goods and services, keep things running smoothly.

Key traits: dependable, loyal, hard-working, cautious, traditional and want justice; – needs group membership and responsibility; value stability, security, community; trust hierarchy and authority.  Pay attention to detail. They are “pillars of the community” (Shaub)

2)    Rationals (“NT” Introverted Thinkers) rational, analytical problem solvers.

Key traits: pragmatic, skeptical, self-contained, even-tempered, trust logic, yearn for achievement, prize technology, value expertise and precision in language;  tend to be impersonal.

3)    Idealists (“NF” Introverted/Feelers) On a spiritual journey for self-knowledge and self-improvement, helping and inspiring others.

Key traits: enthusiastic, trust their intuition, giving, trusting and prize romance and kindheartedness. Need a sense of purpose and meaning working toward a greater good.  They value unity, self-actualization and authenticity, prefer cooperative interactions w/focus on ethics and morality.  NF Idealists comprise 31.4 % of female litigators vs. 13.3% of males.[3]

4)    Artisans (“SP” Sensory Perceivers) excel in the arts and value aesthetics.

Key traits: fun-loving, optimistic, focused on the here and now, unconventional, bold, spontaneous, excitable, trust their impulses, want to make a splash, seek stimulation, prize freedom. Like seeing results from action. Their learning style is concrete, random and experiential.

To learn your own temperament for free, you can take The Keirsey Temperament Sorter at http://www.keirsey.com/sorter/personal_page.aspx.

 

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A snapshot of the American public’s opinions: not a pretty picture.

  • The public’s perceptions of lawyers: They aren’t trusted and hold too much sway on things political: 
    • Who has too much power and influence in Washington, D.C.? [4]
      • PACs (88%)
      • Big companies (86%)
      • Political lobbyists (85%)
      • Banks and financial institutions (81%)
      • News media (73%)
      • Drum roll… Trial lawyers (62%) 
  • Trust
    • 68% of 1,002 U.S. adults reported that they would not trust lawyers when asked: "Would you generally trust each of the following types of people to tell the truth, or not?”[5]  If roughly 7 of 10 people distrust lawyers in the public, then on a typical civil jury of 8-10, only 2 or 3 jurors per panel are not jaundiced toward counsel.
       
  • Honesty and ethical standards
     
    • Only 20% rate lawyers as high or very high on honesty and ethical standards (compared to 82% for nurses and 70% for pharmacists and grade-school teachers)[6]
       
      • Who trust lawyers less?
        • Republicans
        • People aged 55 and over
           
  • Trust has declined in 18 of 19 major industries in 2013:[7] 
    • 42% of 2,250 U.S. adults polled in 2013 said they trusted none of the major industries
    • The least trusted industries? Tobacco and oil companies.
    • The greatest decline in trust? Banks and packaged food companies. 
  • Contribution to society[8] 
    • Among 10 occupations surveyed by Pew, lawyers are at the bottom of the list. Only 18% said that lawyers contribute a lot to society; 1/3 said that lawyers contribute not very much or nothing at all. 
  • Alienation toward the government and corporate America is on the rise:[9]
    • 80% of 2,368 U.S. adults polled in 2013 said the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. 
    • The less educated the person, the more alienated they are. 
    • Alienation increases as annual household income decreases, especially under $50,000 
  • Who’s not very happy now in America?[10]  Two out of three U.S. adults, especially:
     
    • Disabled
    • Minorities
    • Recent college graduates
    • Political Independents
       
  • The very happy? 
    • Only 1/3, the fewest being Hispanics
    • Slightly more women than men
    • People age 50 or older


A snapshot of lawyers: Brace yourself

  • Corporate/business/commercial lawyers tend to have an “SJ Guardian” temperament.
  • The “Rational temperament (NT)” dominates the litigation practice area and is higher in the legal profession than in the general population.[11]
    • In the practice of law, generally, the NT temperament comprises 41.2 % of the total.
    • When combined with the SJ Guardian, these two temperaments account for 76.2% of the total (NF's are at 14.7% and SP's are at 9.7%).[12]

The findings show that the practice of law draws and nurtures a high percentage of people who prefer order over spontaneity; intellectual challenge over sensuality; maintenance of institutions over change, and pure logic over diplomacy.

Research also indicates a consistent pattern in childhood of personality traits for lawyers:[13]

  • Highly focused on academics
  • Greater need for dominance, leadership and attention
  • Prefer initiating activity
  • Emphasis on reading
  • Have dominant fathers

Concern for emotional suffering and for the feelings of others tended to be less emphasized in the childhood homes of eventual lawyers than in those of dental or social work students.[14]

In contrast, the personality type with the highest law-school drop-out rate (28.1%) and least common in the practice of law (2.7%) is characterized as mainly concerned with people, valuing harmonious human contacts, being friendly, tactful, sympathetic and loyal, enjoying approval and bothered by indifference (known as “ESFJ” based on Myers-Briggs Type Indicator research).[15]
 

What does it all mean?

Assume nothing, including what jurors will or won’t like about you. We encounter brilliant litigators all the time who make cogent, rational, fact-based, legally-driven arguments . . . that fall flat. Such arguments tend to be 2-dimensional, missing the critical third dimension of the human interest story, the personal impact on those involved and on the jury.  Without the third dimension relying more on interpersonal skills, the lawyers end up largely arguing to themselves and persuading no one else, or as some say, are “drunk on their own wine.” Like writing an original novel that is kept in the nightstand, a case presentation that has no audience has questionable value.

Start by finding out where you fall along these dimensions so you know what separates you from relating better to jurors, if anything. As Oscar Wilde said, “To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance.” Understand the strengths of your native personality, and take inventory of aspects that might work against you in court, considering the snapshot of the American public and its preferences, distrusts and beliefs. Some of them will likely end up on your jury and you need them on your side.

Change is difficult, if not impossible for some.  As the research indicates, in fact, lawyers particularly prefer to maintain institutions as they are, rather than seek change, which may sound odd, considering that you may assume you do seek change by virtue of your practice.  Nevertheless, the change at issue here is not outside in the world, but internal. No doubt, many litigators have the gifts of charm and are greatly skilled interpersonally. If you are one of them: Mazel Tov.  If not, remember that just one change can have ripple effects and returns that multiply, so keep reading:

Other articles on A2L Consulting's site related to psychology and courtroom communication skills:

 

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[1] Larry Richard, How Your Personality Affects Your Practice-The Lawyer Types, 79 A.B.A. J., July 1993, pp.75-78.

[2] Keirsey, David and Bates, Marilyn. Please Understand Me: Character and Temperament Types.  (1984). Prometheus Nemesis Book Co: U.S.

[3]  Richard, Lawrence, Psychological Type and Job Satisfaction Among Practicing Lawyers, 29 Capital U.L.Rev. 979 (2002).

[4] The Harris Poll®: PACs, Big Companies, Lobbyists, and Banks and Financial Institutions Seen by Strong Majorities as Having Too Much Power and Influence in DC (May 29,2012) at http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris%20Poll%2045%20-%20Power%20and%20Influence_5%2029%2012.pdf

[5] The Harris Poll®: Doctors and Teachers Most Trusted Among 22 Occupations and Professions: Fewer Adults Trust the President to Tell the Truth, Harris Poll # 61, August 8, 2006

[6] Gallup®: U.S. Views on Honesty and Ethical Standards in Professions (Dec. 16, 2013) at http://www.gallup.com/poll/166298/honesty-ethics-rating-clergy-slides-new-low.aspx

[7] The Harris Poll®: Americans Less Likely to Say 18 of 19 Industries are Honest and Trustworthy This Year (Dec. 12, 2013) at http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris%20Poll%2096%20-%202013%20Industry%20Regulation_12.12.2013.pdf

[9] The Harris Poll® : Alienation Index Climbs Again as Two-Thirds of Americans Feel Alienated at http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris%20Poll%2081%20-%20Alienation%20Index_11.12.13.pdf

[10]  The Harris Poll: ®  Are You Happy? It May Depend on Age, Race/Ethnicity and Other Factors at http://www.harrisinteractive.com/vault/Harris%20Poll%2030%20-%20Happiness%20Index_5.30.13.pdf

[11] Shaub, Joseph. Lawyers and Their Psychological Types at http://josephshaub.com/pdfs/sfl_oa16.pdf

[12] Ibid.

[13] Daicoff, Susan S. Lawyer, Know Thyself: A Psychological Analysis of Personality Strengths and Weaknesses. American Psychological Association: Wash., D.C. (2004) ISBN 978-1-4338-1484-6 at http://www.amazon.com/Lawyer-Know-Thyself-Psychological-Personality/dp/159147096

[14] Ibid.

[15] Shaub, Joseph. The Lawyer’s Personality at http://www.shaublaw.com/pdfs/sfl_oa5.pdf

 

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