John Lande (Missouri), Introversion, the Legal Profession, and Dispute Resolution:
This article analyzes introversion and discusses the implications of the large proportion of people who are introverted, including many lawyers and other dispute resolution professionals. It relies on two analytical books, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain and The Introverted Lawyer: A Seven-Step Journey Toward Authentically Empowered Advocacy by Brooklyn Law Professor Heidi K. Brown. It also uses insights from two memoirs: Sorry I’m Late, I Didn’t Want to Come: One Introvert’s Year of Saying Yes by Jessica Pan, and Playing with Myself by Randy Rainbow.
There is no agreement about the definition of introversion, but it is a very real phenomenon, even though there isn’t a consistent definition and people may experience and manifest it differently. Introverted people often struggle because of what Susan Cain calls the “extrovert ideal,” which dominates much of Western society. In this context, introversion is viewed as a “second-class personality trait, somewhere between a disappointment and a pathology.” Based on her review of psychological research, she says that introverts can consciously organize their lives to operate at “optimal levels of arousal.”
The memoirs by Jessica Pan and Randy Rainbow offer poignant illustrations of how they became introverted and how they grappled with the difficulties they experienced.
Heidi Brown writes that introverted law students and lawyers are made to feel ashamed as if there is something wrong with them. She writes that good legal practice involves common strengths of introverted lawyers such as empathy, intellectual humility, active listening, fact gathering, researching, analytical thinking, creative problem-solving, legal writing, effective communication, persuasion, and resolving conflicts. To counteract pressures to be extroverted, she recommends a seven-step process including reflection, planning, and action. Her recommendations also are relevant to dispute resolution professionals and law professors. …
The good news is that there are things that introverted people can do to improve our reactions to difficult situations. A first step may be compassionately accepting ourselves as worthy people even though we do not “live up” to the extrovert ideal. We can appreciate our gifts arising our introverted nature. We can try to find or create the “sweet spot” of our own optimal levels and situations for stimulation and interaction with others. We can decide to expand our comfort zones in specific ways through reflection and practice. For example, introverted law students and lawyers can choose to focus on types of practice that don’t require a lot of court appearances, like tax law or estate planning, and also learn to be more comfortable making arguments when needed. We can choose to develop careers focusing on dispute resolution involving careful listening and communication.