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Lawyer Personas and How to Work With Them

My last column gave a few tips on preparing for and responding to lawyers’ resistance to new technology. This time around, I’ll write about common lawyer personas – archetypes, if you will – and how to identify and interact with them.

The Brain. “Introverted” is an understatement for these lawyers. They’re rare and highly unique, completely happy to dive face and eyes into the law every day. They rarely interact with, well, anyone, really, preferring to stay in their offices among their books, papers, and databases. They are highly valuable, as their brains are ever-expanding databases of legal knowledge, full of cases and legislative history. They hate having you in their offices (though they don’t hate you.)

How to Work With Them: Don’t, unless you are really quite sure what you are offering will be of use to them. Brains usually have a particular practice niche, and will not want to be interrupted for just anything. For example, they don’t usually manage or mentor people, or delegate, so skip anything to do with HR tools. However, if you think your new tool really will help, use scenarios: what’s a recent matter your Brain has worked on, and how could it have helped? Email may be the best initial approach, followed by one or two office visits.

The Difficult Lawyer. You may want to substitute another word. Most lawyers can, at times, be a challenge. But then, there are the ones that hate everything and will not hesitate to let you know it, in no uncertain terms, loudly. They will hate your approach, your new tool, your emails, everything.

How to Work With them: Gird your loins. The negative feedback is a typical, knee-jerk response; don’t take it at all personally. Confirm with others, after a bruising interaction, that your Difficult Lawyer is, in fact, the Difficult Lawyer – of the office or practice group. Everyone will know. Do your best – get in, get out. However, converted Difficult Lawyers are the best allies! If they like something, others will follow their lead. After the initial office visit, reach out again, saying “Just wanted to check on with you. I know you didn’t love [new tool] when we chatted a few weeks ago. If you’ve had a chance to look at it, I’d love your feedback.” This second interaction can often result in the opposite reaction – warm and positive. I don’t know why, but it does!

The Stoic. Lawyers are overwhelmingly autonomous and not resilient. They are also thinkers. Many, no matter what you say or do, only listen to your spiel, say “thank you” and decline to make any comment, good or bad. My deduction is that they simply do not want to commit to the new tool in any way, until they’ve had a chance to test/use it and/or check with their colleagues. It may feel to you like they are only being polite – which isn’t a bad thing – but they are listening carefully and considering what you’re saying.

How to Work with Them: Understand that a “win” might simply be “This looks interesting. I’ll give it a try.” If you get less than that, ask them to commit to trying the new tool by a certain date, after which you’ll follow up. You want to get Stoics to use your tool, but they are not going to be cheerleaders for it. It is very helpful to have an anecdote about how your tool really helped out one of their colleagues.

The Enthusiasts. These are the lawyers you look forward to visiting. They welcome you to their office, listen actively, ask questions, and are very positive.

How to Work with Them: Enthusiasts aren’t rare, but their positive take on your tool may not translate to adoption. They are everyone’s friend and always agree to work on pilots., etc. This means, over time, they may grow a little weary of actually learning and using all the new shiny things. Be careful about what you ask them to do. However, developing good relationships with them will take you far. Pass on stories about how their leadership or zeal meant something to the implementation or to someone in particular.

Comments

  1. After working with attorneys for over 35 years, I say your descriptions are “spot on.” Thank you! This will help me as head of the IT department.

  2. Dina Eisenberg

    Terrific assessment. Perfect timing as I launch my Delegation Library. Truth is, not matter the archetype, every lawyer needs to be tech savvy and use automation tools to stay profitable and sustainable.

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