05 Apr Why Being Introverted Helps Me Be A Better Lawyer
We live in an extroverted world and introversion is often seen as a weakness. Only in the past couple of years have I realized that introversion is not a character flaw, but a valuable trait, especially as a transactional lawyer. Sure, it creates problems in many areas – networking, marketing and having to explain why Iwould rather correspond by email rather than over the phone – but I think being an introvert helps me be a better lawyer.
Technological developments over the past several decades have made being an introvert more difficult. The internet has opened up the world, giving access to people and groups not previously available. These developments have also accelerated time. The internet is rife with databases full of information instantaneously available. Computer programs draft contracts using complex algorithms with access to millions of contracts and do it in a fraction of the amount of time and at a fraction of the cost of a human being. Email and smart phones allow for 24/7 access, and, in fact, seems to have created an expectation of around the clock attention (who hasn’t bought something on Amazon at 3 in the morning).
All of this is difficult for me as an introvert. I do not believe in instant answers – it goes against my nature. I need time to gather information, to consider an issue thoroughly, to think it through, look at it from differing perspectives, and just roll it around in my head. I need to consider it in the context of my experiences over the years, what I have seen go right and wrong, what approach works best, discovering issues that are not instantly apparent (as those are usually the most important issues). I learned that it was best to put a draft in a drawer for a day or two and come back to it because having a fresh perspective resulted in a better document. I still see the value in doing so and although the desk drawer has become an Outlook folder and a day or two has been compressed into a couple of hours – I still do it – because I think it results in a better solution. But my deliberative approach is in a fight with “the need for speed.”
When I was younger, I thought the key to becoming a better lawyer would be increasing my legal knowledge. Having done this for almost 25 years now, I have concluded that gaining experience is a much bigger component of being a better lawyer because experience leads to wisdom (which is much different than intelligence). Sure, I know a lot more “law” than I did right out of school, but the real improvement in my abilities stems from my experience (both positive and negative), which has made me be a wiser and a better counselor. These “intangible” skills are what help me succeed – I have been around the block and I anticipate what is likely to happen. I understand the fear of the unknown faced by a client who is selling her business for the first time – and it is this understanding that makes me a better counselor. My wisdom has improved because of my introversion – because I take the time to consider things, to engage in a thoughtful process of analysis, to look at an issue from multiple perspectives and use my prior experiences. I not only enjoy the process, but the process itself energizes me.
I know that snap decisions may be required, but I believe they are to be avoided if possible and most can be, especially as my experience allows me to anticipate the issues that require decisive action. I know this frustrates many when they ask a question and I say “Let me noodle on that a while.” But there is a method to my madness because a deliberative process allows for a greater consideration of the issues in play, leading to a more informed decision. Of course, there are decisions that must be made immediately, and I will answer according, but in my experience, it is best to take some time.
There is a move towards further acceleration of decisions – as evidenced by the growth of artificial intelligence and computers performing due diligence reviews of thousands of documents or that “drafting” contracts through the application of mathematical formulas to immense databases of contract terms. This is a wonderful development providing clients with the benefit of more efficiency – but poses a problem that many have not considered – the fact that the increased speed often comes at the cost of the application of experience and wisdom, which comes from doing that due diligence review, reading hundreds of contracts and thinking about why a provision should be included in a contract or omitted, and how other parties respond to those provisions in differing contexts. That is how I learned – and I wouldn’t be the lawyer I am today without doing the “grunt” work. My fear is that if the next generation of lawyers, accountants and business people do not have to read these contracts, do the grunt work, slog through hundreds of pages of boilerplate because a computer does it for them – how will they learn, how will they gain experience, wisdom? If the computer drafts a completely one-side contract without considering that the counter party is vital to the business and may be offended by the terms of the contract, is that a good thing?
Think about our math skills – have they improved following the introduction of the calculator? Arguably, yes – because we have a tool enabling better, more consistent results – but, in becoming reliant on the calculator do to the work, have most of us lost an understanding of the underlying method to get to the solution? My worry is that we are losing sight of that in many other areas. I still remember my home phone number from when I was a kid – but if I lost my phone today, I don’t think I could call anyone because I no longer know anyone’s phone number – my smart phone keeps track of that for me – as well as my calendar. Without my map application, I wonder sometimes whether I could find my way to any place. These new tools make my life better in so many ways, but they also pose risks. If I lose my phone, I would be in a desert, unable to contact anyone because I don’t know their numbers – and I don’t want to be faced with that situation in other important aspects of my life – such as helping my clients make informed decisions.
I am embracing my introversion. I know that it has its “cons” (and I will work on minimizing those), but the positive aspects of being an introvert in the context of being a transactional attorney far outweigh the negatives.
So, next time you get understandably frustrated with someone wanting to take some time to consider an issue, to be deliberative, to gather more information, to contemplate alternative perspectives, take a minute to consider the benefits of that delay because it will likely result in a better outcome.