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My MBTI® Experience in Law Practice Organization: Judging vs. Perception

March 28, 2024

By Frank Natter

The “Odd Couple” – Oscar and Felix – showcases the ego clash between those preferring an orderly lifestyle, and those preferring a flexible lifestyle.

A neatly dressed client, arriving on time, sits in front of my desk unconsciously organizing what they can reach, “Oh, I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean…” In Myers-Briggs Personality terms, this client may be indicating a preference for Judging, expressed in an orderly lifestyle, tending to automatically organize what they even unconsciously consider disorganized.

A casually dressed client arrives late, explaining, “I’m so sorry, I’m running late, so many things to do, so little time!” This client may be indicating a preference for Perception expressed in a flexible lifestyle often tending toward procrastination.

My MBTI® Educational Research with Isabel Myers and Mary McCaulley

Both nature (genetics) and nurture (life experience) appear to influence our conscious and unconscious, preferred and non-preferred, Attitudes: Extraversion or Introversion and Functions: Sensing or Intuition and Thinking or Feeling, as described by Psychiatrist Carl G. Jung in his book, “Psychological Types” (1925). Jung’s work was adapted for practical application by Isabel Myers and her mother, Katherine Briggs, who added the Attitudes of Judging or Perception to their Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, MBTI®. As FSU project director for Florida Gov. Ruben Askew’s Task Force on Disruptive Youth, I worked with Isabel Myers and her associate, UF Psychologist Mary McCaulley, using the MBTI® for educational research.

“Know Thyself” Only I Know Me! Only You Know You!

“I only tell you that which you yourselves do know,” Isabel Myers quoted Shakespeare’s Mark Antony, as Jung found only the dreamer can interpret their dream. Isabel called her personality sorter an “indicator” offering a language of personality type preferences to aid our personal journey to know our-selves – NOT a “test” to determine our personality type – that is our job! Isabel Myers made this request of me, “Frank, ask people who do not agree with their MBTI® Personality Type Profile, to toss it in a waste basket.” Personality is a lifelong process of developing interdependent conscious preferred, and less conscious nonpreferred “shadow,” patterns of behavior, a development of skills described in general terms below.

Law Practice: Determining Preference for JUDGING Order Skills or Flexible PERCEPTION Skills:

Personality preference is similar to being right-handed or left-handed. We develop more skill with the hand we use most, using our other hand as needed. Myers suggests greater skill with the Personality Type preferences we use more often = less skill with nonpreferred preferences we use less often. Equal use of left and right hands, or both type preferences = less skill in both hands and in both preferences. In other words, if we had two lights, one light flashes when we are using Judging, the other light flashes when we are using Perception, the lights cannot flash at the same time. The light flashing more often, when we are not deliberately using our Judging, or our Perception, indicates our preference.

If we prefer JUDGING, we use J-skills more; if we prefer PERCEPTION we use J-skills less:

J-Skills

Make Decisions

Working to do lists

Meeting Deadlines

If we prefer PERCEPTION, we use P-skills more; if we prefer JUDGING, we use P-skills less:

P-Skills

Collect Information

Hoping to do lists

Needing Deadlines

Law Practice: JUDGING Order Skills vs. Flexible PERCEPTION Skills:

J-Skills LAWYER: If you prefer using your orderly Judging skills, as about 63% of U.S. lawyers, you use your nonpreferred flexible Perception skills as needed, but you cannot use both at the same time. The more time using your orderly Judging organization skills = less time using your flexible Perception skills. You spend time using your non-preferred flexible Perception skills to inform, adjust and achieve your preferred Judging order.

J-Skills CLIENT: Preferring orderly Judging, as about 55% of U.S. population, a client demands legal action to enforce order with restitution for loss. Losing confidence in preferred Judging order allows nonpreferred flexible Perception to arouse fears of disorder. Legal counsel may find client defiant. Encouraging client’s confidence in preferred Judging order, step-by-step, provides an opportunity for adjusting to circumstances.

P-Skills LAWYER: If you prefer using flexible Perception skills, as about 37% of U.S. lawyers, you can use your nonpreferred orderly Judging skills as needed, but you cannot use both at the same time. The more time spent using your flexible Perception skills = less time using your orderly Judging skills. You use your nonpreferred orderly Judging skills to inform-organize-focus your preferred flexible Perception skills to stay on track.

P-Skills CLIENT: Preferring Flexible Perception, as about 45% of U.S. population, a client arrives in confusion and disarray fearing impending harm. Losing confidence in preferred adaptable Perception allows your non-preferred orderly Judging to focus on the dangers of being disorganized.

Legal counsel may find client resists organizing. Encouraging client’s confidence in preferred adaptable Perception may encourage cooperation.

Adjunct Teaching During Law Practice: My Preferred Flexible Perception Skills vs. NonPreferred JUDGING Order Skills:

I have a preference for Perception that motivates flexibility in my choice of teaching methods. It seemed to me that students in my community college Business Law class would achieve better learning results if they were actively engaged, rather than listening to a lecture; they agreed. During class, we simulated a trial using the textbook as an evidence source. The students responded well, word spread, and fellow faculty made an appointment with my law office. With their students requesting the active experiential learning in my class, they asked me to “just lecture” and take the pressure off them. Finally, after class, as I walked to my car, the college Provost walked toward me. Indicating his preference for Judging order in defense of “his” status quo. He demanded to know, “What does a trial have to do with business law!” To my “Are you serious?” response, he insisted, “Students are merely empty vessels, and your job is to fill those vessels.”

Law Practice: My Preferred Flexible Perception Skills vs. Non-Preferred JUDGING Order Skills:

My preference for flexible Perception puts me at odds with the majority of my fellow lawyers, who prefer orderly Judging, my nonpreferred “shadow.” A father phones my law office fearing that his son faces 25 years in prison after his public defender recommended that he plead guilty to improperly touching his underage teen daughter, while he was under the influence of alcohol, in deep grief at the death of his wife, the daughter’s mother. His son, claiming to see something, threatens to tell unless father lets him use drugs. Father says “No way!” and is arrested the next day.

In a pre-trial conference, I present a written psychiatrist’s evaluation explaining the circumstances and concluding that my client is not a pedophile. The judge, expressing a strong Psychological Type preference for Judging, immediately jumps to the conclusion that my client is guilty, “Mr. Natter, your client is an unrepentant pedophile! I’m going to put him under the jail.”

“Your honor, this is a pre-trial conference, are you denying my client a presumption of innocence until proven guilty?”

The assistant state attorney immediately proceeds to pile on additional charges not appearing in written form. As a lawyer, with a strong preference for flexible Perception, it was clear that my client needed an alternate route to a just result.

In addition to a psychiatrist, I started him in treatment with a licensed mental health counselor. I later learned that she had served as a member of the Juvenile Board. The daughter, placed with out-of state relatives, insisted she understood the circumstances and did not want to leave her father. The counselor agreed with the psychiatrist’s report; we requested a recommendation from the Juvenile Board. A meeting was arranged with client, his attorney, mental health counselor, and prosecutor. An agreement was reached to withhold adjudication, place the father on five-year probation with ongoing counseling, and telephone, but no in-person, contact with daughter until she reaches the age of 18. The client completes probation, remarries, buys a home, daughter returns, son continues education off drugs, and, finally, father dies in loving arms.

Frank Natter, J.D., Law with courses in Counseling, Higher Education, and Social Psychology, M.S. in Speech Communication, with coursework in Law and Political Science, FSU., is a 47 year member of The Florida Bar, with service on the Bar ‘s Professional Stress Committee, which became the Quality of Life and Career Committee.