Are you fit to supervise? Are you Managing to Manage?

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Disclaimer: LawSkills provides training for the legal industry and does not provide legal advice to members of the public. For help or guidance please seek the services of a qualified practitioner.


Every firm of solicitors, law centre, and certain in-house legal practices in England & Wales must have a principal who is ‘qualified to supervise’ in accordance with Rule 5 Solicitors’ Code of Conduct 2007 – to ensure “the supervision and management of a firm or in-house practice, the maintenance of competence, and the internal business arrangements essential to the proper delivery of services to clients”.

This means that whether you are a sole practitioner or the head of a large team in a big firm you have to be able to show that you have completed the training specified from time to time by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) for this purpose; and must have been entitled to practise as a lawyer for at least 36 months within the last ten years; and must be able to demonstrate this if asked by the SRA.

The training presently specified by the SRA is attendance at or participation in any courses, or programmes of learning, on management skills involving attendance or participation for a minimum of 12 hours. The courses or programmes do not have to be CPD accredited in order to satisfy the requirement. This is not an annual requirement but even so any supervisory and management skills need to be honed from time to time so completing the 12 hour target and focusing on improving areas of weakness and developing your strengths will have a positive impact on your business.

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In the current turbulent market for legal services it pays to treat the need to be able to supervise and manage seriously. To compete with the new entrants to the marketplace needs a law firm which is fit for the purpose. As we all know getting fit is tough and needs a clear set of goals and someone who is passionate about achieving those goals. In other words, achieving success for your firm starts with some self examination and personal development which could produce significant rewards as well as achieving compliance with Rule 5.

To help you embark on this voyage of discovery LawSkills has engaged a consultant to write a series of articles to get you started. Gill Steel.

Part 1 follows:

How understanding MBTI® can help – Part 1 of 5

Whether you are a management novice, an established ‘guru’, or somewhere in between, increasing your levels of self-awareness and taking stock of what works and what doesn’t is an essential skill to hone. Ignore the need to regularly do this and in today’s competitive market you could be endangering your survival. Take to the challenge seriously (though it can be fun as well!) and you will help yourself excel.

In order to undertake this ‘active reflection’, there are many lenses you can look at yourself through, but with over 60 years of research and application behind it, the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI®) remains one of the most popular and trusted. In this series of 5 articles we’ll be looking at the the key areas of insight that the four MBTI® dichotomies can offer you. Knowing your Myers-Briggs Type would be a great help and obtaining feedback from a registered practitioner is recommended, but it isn’t essential. The aim for everyone reading this article, whether a keen advocate for MBTI® or completely new to it, is that it prompts you to stop, reflect, and engage in the level of thinking that leads to a better understanding of who you are, how you best operate, and what it is you bring to your team, practice and clients.

What’s the problem?

How are you managing at the moment? A simple enough question you might say. But it’s a question that perhaps we don’t ask ourselves, or others, enough knowing that the answer is too often a complex one. Whether you are new to the world of management, have been managing for decades, or are responsible only for managing yourself, we can all benefit from a little self-assessment on a regular basis. If ‘assessment’ sounds too much like a formal appraisal, how about the term ‘active reflection’? i.e. reflection that actually leads you to think and behave differently. Whatever you choose to call it, the process of taking stock of how we are doing (or think we might do if we were in new territory), identifying potential areas for improvement, challenging ourselves to continually improve, and also affirming for ourselves those things we believe we do well, is an essential management skill. If we don’t know what we do and don’t do it well, how can we keep competitive or improve?

Is this just about me?

Self assessment can only go so far. A much deeper level of learning takes place when we seek out feedback from others – this is when a facilitated team day can help. Alternatively, simply sitting down with a colleague and going through the different areas can be illuminating – but a word of caution…when requesting feedback we have to be prepared for the possibility that we may not initially like everything we hear!

What tool to use for the job?

Each year approximately 2 million people worldwide discover their Myers-Briggs Type. The 60 years of research and application behind this tool have shown MBTI® to have good levels of reliability (it is consistent in what it shows) and also validity (it does what it claims to do).

What’s behind the name?

Katherine Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers were the mother and daughter team behind the creation of the MBTI®. The original aim of the tool was to allow people to access the ideas of psychological preferences as identified by eminent psychologist, Carl Jung. For more information on the creation of the MBTI® and subsequent research, development and application please visit The Myers & Briggs Foundation website:

How does it help me manage?

MBTI® is concerned with preferences. It doesn’t measure ability or skill but rather seeks to help you discover how you prefer to ‘do life’. Why does this matter? Well, there will often be a noticeable difference, sometimes to others but especially to yourself, when acting ‘in preference’ and when ‘out of preference’.

When ‘in preference’ you will probably find yourself:

  • consistently doing something well
  • feeling as if the activity ‘comes naturally’
  • enjoying the experience
  • energised by the experience
  • displaying a certain flair or aptitude

When ‘out of preference’ you may often find yourself:

  • only achieving good results by more sustained effort
  • feeling as if the activity is out of your ‘comfort zone’
  • finding the experience hard work
  • feeling drained by the experience
  • displaying higher levels of stress than when ‘in preference’

Therefore, identifying preference not only has the potential to assist your performance but also to manage your stress levels (the two often being linked of course). Whilst when being both ‘in preference’ and ‘out of preference’ you can achieve good results, the effort required, level of enjoyment and overall standard of work will usually be higher when ‘in preference’. We can go further still, understanding how different preferences affect your approach to your work can help improve your relationships with both colleagues and clients.

With colleagues, you may like to reflect on:

  • How do you relate to those with opposite preferences to yourself?
  • Do you find the relationships difficult at times?
  • Is it hard to understand the point of view of the other person?
  • Or perhaps you have both learnt to acknowledge your differences as not only legitimate but in fact beneficial to you both.

With clients, perhaps you can identify: your preferred communication style and then ask yourself:

  • What is my preferred communication style and is it the same with every client?
  • How would someone of an opposite preference communicate and is there anything I can gain or learn from this different approach?.
  • Do all my clients tend to understand me clearly or is it harder work with some than with others?

In all of this it is not so a much a case of ‘knowing your limits’, but rather a case of identifying how you prefer to work and using this knowledge to the advantage of yourself, your team, your practice.

What are these preferences?

MBTI® Step 1 (there is a Step 2 but it is a lot more in-depth and we’ll come to this another time) seeks to identify what your preference is on 4 dichotomies. These are as follows:

  • Extroversion and Introversion – relates to how you are energised and your preferred ‘world’
  • Sensing and Intuition – concerned with the kind of information you tend to look at/for
  • Thinking and Feeling – to do with how you prefer to make decisions
  • Judging and Perceiving – relates to how you manage/structure the world around you

For the rest of this series, we’ll look at each dichotomy in turn and what this may mean for you and how you manage.

Isn’t this putting me in a box?

No. You can and you do use all preferences. Some people have developed the ability to actively draw upon each preference when the situation encourages it – this is an example of good ‘type development’. In addition, having helped you identify your type, MBTI® does not dictate that you will operate in exactly the same way as everyone else of the same type. We are all unique with different backgrounds, experiences, environments we operate within and how you ‘express your type’ will be unique to you. What MBTI® does is suggest typical or likely responses to given situations that people of a particular type tend to display. The tool also suggests how your particular preferences can be applied to communication, stress management, leadership and management style, project management etc. It is a framework or reference point to work with, not a fixed, prescriptive doctrine that doesn’t allow for individual expression or exception.

Who owns my type?

Your type is yours and yours alone. Whilst it is recommended you discuss your ‘active reflection’ on type with your manager/team, even clients in order to mutually benefit from this shared learning experience, no one has the right to know your type or possess a copy of your MBTI® report (if you acquire one) without your explicit permission. MBTI® is not designed to be used as a recruitment tool (we’re looking at preferences not skills or abilities) and, although it can be a great development tool, employers need to be careful they are not holding a copy of an employee’s MBTI® type on file without the individual’s explicit permission. If you do decide to have a session/s with a registered practitioner they should make this clear from the start.

Which preference is best?

All preferences are equal and all preferences make important and necessary contributions at work. The temptation can be to decide which type you think you would like to be, or the type you believe your manager expects you to be, and to try and fit yourself into this mould. Whilst it is important to manage expectations and show flexibility in your approach, what isn’t advisable is to try and constantly operate ‘out of preference’ – you are unlikely to do this well and it will take a lot of energy which can result in unhealthy levels of stress. It is a better long term strategy to be the best version of the real/natural you by identifying the areas where you could use some additional support or require additional time, and maximising the areas you naturally feel at home and excel. Be mindful also that your particular working environment can emphasise or value some preferences over others which if not managed effectively could result in an individual or organisational type-bias. MBTI® seeks to identify your ‘shoes off self’ – the natural or real you – and work with this. Your personal, team and practice development is likely to have much more positive and lasting results if you’re working with people as they actually are.

Finish where you start

Allow me to finish where I started – whatever your level of management experience a little ‘active reflection’ based around your MBTI® can be a hugely illuminating and beneficial exercise both for yourself as well as your team, practice and clients. Equally, whether you are new to the concept of MBTI® or have been using it for years, we can all benefit from taking stock before moving forward. What do you then do once you have done this? You have the opportunity to do it again. Once the concepts of MBTI® are understood and you have demonstrated to yourself that they can be applied to pretty much any area of management, you will always have this learning at your disposal to use and deepen as and when your circumstances require it.

In the next article we will look at the first MBTI® dichotomy: Extroversion and Introversion.

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