No one likes to think that they are a type, or so a psychologist told Don Draper last night in the latest episode of Mad Men. But, we’re all a type:

  • We all have personal and professional experiences that influence every decision we make, every day;
  • We all receive and digest information differently;
  • We all want what we want, versus what is expected of us.

For years, twelve or so now, I have listened to presentations of corporate counsel talking about what they want from their outside counsel. It rarely changes. I’ve listened to private practice attorneys talk about what they want (usually premium work and more billable hours) from corporate counsel. That never changes. I’ve listened to legal marketers trying to figure out how to get lawyers to interact with clients on the clients’ playing fields, and not the attorneys’. The only thing that changes here are the legal marketers. All kidding aside, over the years it seems to me that the only thing to have really changed in respect to client relations is the technology used to deliver the messages. We have gone from “Out of the Office” pink message pads to voicemail. Then came e-mail, and now text messages. We’ve gone from printed newsletters to PDFs to blogs. But we’re still conveying the same messages. And while the delivery methods have evolved, the senders and receivers of the messages have not. We’re all a personality type. Whether you subscribe to I-Speak (intuiter, thinker, feeler, sensor), Myers-Brigg (extravert/introvert; sensor/intuiter; thinker/feeler; judging/perceiving); DISC (dominance, influence, steadiness, conscientious), or a multitude of other personality systems, the goal is to get one type of person to work and communicate better with another type. All the systems, however, have one thing in common: By better understanding how we personally process and receive information, and by learning how to identify how others do the same, we best communicate and work with one another. The system works for inter-office relations, client teams, attorney/client management, beauty contests, sales calls, etc. Now, back to last night’s Mad Men and our star, Don Draper. While everyone around the conference table grabs a pencil and cookie on cue and begins filling in their bubbles, Don gets up, shakes the psychologist’s hand, apologizes and heads off to his office for a drink. He doesn’t see how understanding himself better will sell more Lucky Strikes. He IS Don Draper, after all. Unfortunately for Don, and for many lawyers, that’s his biggest problem. He cannot see the world through anyone’s perspective other than his own. He has created his world (his own personal sandbox), and everyone must play his game, his way, or get out … and, as we saw in last week’s episode, that goes for clients, too. Unfortunately, this style doesn’t work for the rest of the world (and, really, I don’t think it’s working too well for Don either). For us, I believe by understanding how WE see the world; how WE make decisions; how WE handle stressful situations; how WE prefer to receive, process and deliver information, we can then better understand how our clients and potential clients will do the same. By way of example, I am quite certain that I am as self-absorbed as the next person. It was incredibly enlightening to discover at my first real job after college, that not everyone is an ENTJ like myself, or an intuitor, or a driver. Over the years I have taken many self-assessments during training and coaching sessions. As I have better come to understand myself, I have been able to look at my co-workers in a different light, respecting our personality differences, and differing styles of work. I see how we complement one another, and how, at times, we unknowingly work against one another when we do not compromise our styles. And while some might think the following a form of manipulation, I have found that by understanding the different personality styles and types about me, I can better manage (package) the way I deliver information so that those about me, especially my CLIENTS (who are the attorneys in my firm, and for the most part are thinkers),  can better receive the messages I am trying to convey. Last night Roger Sterling summed it up this way: “It’s a great job … except for one thing … the clients.” I will sum it up like this: “The clients, and all of their differing personality styles and types, make my job great!!” Well, at least it’s never boring.