It is quite possible that most people think, when they think of lawyers, that lawyers are extroverts arguing with judges in front of a whole room of people and yelling “You can’t handle the truth!” (reference to the movie “A Few Good Men”, if you’re not up your movie quotes!). It’s probably safe to say that the legal profession has a number of extroverts in it’s community, but I would bet there is quite a few introverts in there.
Raise your hand if you thought extroverts meant outgoing and sociable and introverts meant shy and reserved?
I think it’s a common understanding of these terms and, admittedly, that was my initial understanding also. BUT – not too long ago, someone showed me a fabulous TED talk by Susan Cain entitled “The Power of Introverts”. I watched it and it made me feel “Wow, these are my people”. Susan has also written a book entitled “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” which is on my bookshelf at the ready for a read. Interesting side note, Susan also used to be a corporate lawyer! What Susan’s TED talk and my subsequent reading on the topic made me realise is that I was wrong about what it meant to be an extrovert or introvert. The best way I have come to look at the difference is this:
- extroverts gain their energy and thrive through social interaction and social environments, being around other people
- introverts gain their energy through their own self-reflection, solitary activities and spending time alone or in small close-knit groups of close friends etc.
Whilst many people commonly mistake introversion for shyness, it is important to note that the difference does not come from attributes of the person, but rather the way they process information and experiences; extroverts gaining energy from social gatherings, introverts from quiet and solitary environments and reflection. Think of it like this, you’ve had a rough day at the office. An extrovert may go out with friends, go to a party or some other large social gathering to re-energise. An introvert may retreat to read a book or go fishing. As I learned more about introversion and found myself feeling that these people were speaking and writing about yours truly, I then became so much more self-aware and, as a result, empowered by this knowledge; the knowledge and understanding of these strengths I had and learning strategies about how to manage and/work on my weaknesses. Truly eye-opening stuff. I simply had to get more. So, I kept searching. I then found this book by Heidi Brown called, you guessed it, “The Introverted Lawyer”. Heidi Brown is a Associate Professor and Director of the Legal Writing Program at Brooklyn Law School in the US and was a practising lawyer for many years prior. Heidi has published two books, “The Introverted Lawyer” and “Untangling Fear in Lawyering“. I have bought my eBook version of The Introverted Lawyer and have it on the top of my to-read list (yes, there’s a lengthy list) and I intend on writing further on the topic when I’ve finished the read.
In the interim, I want to share this valuable find and the insights I’ve experienced even since starting on this little self-awareness journey and to openly celebrate these insightful, valuable women who are sharing these learnings with the world: Susan Cain and Heidi Brown. I also want to openly celebrate introversion and to help (in my own little way) dispel the myth that the attributes commonly found among introverts are not weaknesses or negative. That there is untapped and unparalleled potential in the introverts that share our office space and greater legal community. This is particularly important, I feel, for leaders. I feel that leaders should be aware and embrace the knowledge to be gained about these personality differences to help properly and effectively manage their people and teams. Imagine the success that could be achieved in having a leader understand and harness this knowledge and act accordingly. They could draw out the best strengths and support the most paralyzing weaknesses for the good of that team member and the good of the business. Heidi Brown, in all her introverted wisdom, has also published a great article for those among us who are tasked with networking. The idea of networking almost sounds like a dirty word to some introverts, but Heidi’s recent article gives some wonderful tips to help introverted people make networking their own. It’ entitled “Navigating ‘introvert hell’: You don’t have to be hard-charging to be an impactful legal networker”. It’s a really great read. Even if you, yourself, do not identify as an introvert, such great value can be found in your own understanding of introverts purely on the basis that you can then understand more about what makes those around you, who may indeed identify as introverts, tick.
What about you? Do you “know thyself”?
Just one thing to leave you with; there are many incredibly influential, successful and amazing people in the world who identify as introverts.
Rosa Parks. Bill Gates. Eleanor Roosevelt. Abraham Lincoln. Albert Einstein. Barack Obama.
Now, I’m off to find out if reading cases counts as ‘re-energising’ for this little introvert.