The Highlands Company Blog

New Career Development Tool for Lawyers

The Highlands Company is set to launch its Ability Battery Lawyer’s Report. The Report is designed to reflect the uniqueness of people who study and practice law. Whether you have just entered the profession or have been practicing for years, this useful tool can help by pointing you towards areas of law practice you are likely to excel in and enjoy. It will also tell you how to draw on your natural abilities to manage your practice, supervise associates and staff, and deliver effective service to your clients.

The Highlands Ability Battery measures your innate abilities; the Lawyer’s Report describes their relevance to you personally. The terms “ability” and “natural abilities” are used to describe the degrees of your natural performance in a variety of work functions, all of which mature in most people at or about age fifteen. Abilities are distinguished from skills, which are defined to mean performance based on ability but enhanced through learning, practice and experience. Your present level of performance – i.e., what you are able to do at this moment – is determined by calling upon the combination of your natural abilities and your skills.

The Battery measures your abilities objectively by requiring you to perform specific tasks called worksamples, not by asking you to describe yourself or by asking you to answer questions about yourself. This approach enables you to know what kinds of tasks come easily to you, and also which tasks are more difficult for you. The speed with which you perform a particular task is one important measure of how easy that task is for you. When a task needs more effort – when the answers do not come quickly – it may be because the ability required is not a strong ability for you. In most worksamples, your speed as well as your success at performing a particular task is measured.

For each worksample, your results are given as percentiles. This means that your results are compared to the results of all persons who have taken the same worksample over the last seven years. Your results provide an objective way to compare how you did on the worksample with how other people have done. If you scored high in one ability as compared to other people, you can conclude that this is a strong ability for you. If you scored low, this will tell you something important about yourself. Keep in mind – it’s not important to have a high score on every worksample; but, it is important to know and understand what each of your scores means for you in the practice of law.

Understanding your scores will help you to identify:

– The practice area and work environment likely to feel most comfortable to you.
– How you learn new information most easily.
– How you solve problems and make decisions.
– How you communicate with others.

Every Lawyer Has a Pattern

Every attorney has a distinct pattern of abilities. There are no “good” patterns or “bad” patterns. Every pattern means that some things will be easy to do or learn others more difficult. Individual reports offer suggestions on specific actions you can take to capitalize on your unique pattern of results and increase your effectiveness as a lawyer throughout your career.

The Ability Battery Lawyer’s Report offers analysis in the following areas…

The Generalist/Specialist Scale describes how people process and take in information, how they communicate with others, and how they respond to and manage such group dynamics as consensus building and loyalty. At one end, Generalists enjoy a variety of interests and projects; at the other end, Specialists like to focus on their own projects and develop their own areas of knowledge. Generalists are drawn to matters which enable them to become involved in every part of a matter and to work through other people; Specialists prefer to contribute to a specific element of the process. Unlike the rest of the population, lawyers often qualify as Specialists – they need to express themselves as individual contributors or experts. This does not mean they are unable to perform as contributors to a team – only that their contributions may be different.

The Extrovert/Introvert Scale shows how you react to the people around you and with whom you work – which contacts energize you and which are draining. It tells how you prefer to think through or process new information. Extroverts enjoy working with others; introverts tend to look inward and like structure in their relationships. Of course, some people fall in the middle of the Introvert‐Extrovert scale and find they need a workplace that provides a combination of activities.

Time Frame Scale illustrates how different lawyers think about and utilize time in planning and managing their responsibilities. How far into the future is the attorney likely to look? What is his or her tolerance for the length of time between a decision and a result? What steps will he or she take if a goal is not reached within the time allotted? While everyone tends towards one of three natural time orientations (immediate, intermediate and long range), successful lawyers know that they have to build skills and methods which enable them to operate in all three. Nothing in a typical lawyer’s profile would suggest an inability to adapt to and perform well in a different style. The process of adapting to a different style becomes a skill that successful lawyers learn over time and use often.

Driving Abilities include Classification; Concept Organization; Idea Productivity; Spatial Relations Theory; and Spatial Relations Visualization. They are very powerful and pressing, and they influence almost every part of a lawyer’s work life. The Driving Abilities are:

Classification (CL), or diagnostic thinking, measures the ability to see a relationship among seemingly unrelated facts or objects – by seeing the relationship easily and quickly, a lawyer is able to “diagnose” a problem in the same way a doctor does. A lawyer with a high classification ranking can see the problems in a new matter almost immediately.

Concept Organization (CO), or analytical thinking, is the ability to solve problems logically and linearly and is used when lawyers write, devise strategy, predict what will happen in the future, or analyze what went wrong when some tactic has failed. Experience has shown that when arranged in patterns or combinations, CL and CO together yield nine distinct and identifiable problem‐solving patterns. Because your job as a lawyer is to confront and solve problems at every turn, it becomes essential to know the pattern which is most natural to you.

Idea Productivity measures the number of new ideas you are able to generate within a given time in response to a set of new and imaginary facts. The quantity of your ideas, not their quality is measured. We assess your capacity for idea generation, your ability to stay focused on one task or idea, and your natural preference for the way in which to respond to new ideas. Some lawyers prefer to articulate and focus on one idea at a time (“focusing”); others prefer brain‐storming sessions in which people are urged to articulate and consider many ideas at once (“brainstorming”).

Spatial Relations Theory (SRT) measures the ability to “see” (conceive) and manipulate three dimensions in space. It is a helpful tool in solving theoretical or abstract problems. Lawyers high in SRT are most satisfied when they can say, “I conceived this,” or “I designed this.” Lawyers with low SRT are most satisfied when they can say, “I did this.”

Spatial Relations Visualization (SRV) demonstrates the ability to visualize and manipulate tangible objects floating in space. People who score high in this ability need to see and feel the results of their work in tangible form. They are most satisfied when they can say, “I built that”, or “I made this.” They will be drawn to practice settings – real estate (transactional), environmental law, patent law, IP, project or asset finance – all of which enable them to point to something tangible as a result of their work. Lawyers who are low in SRV are most satisfied when they can say, “I solved this.” They are exhibiting the tendencies required for work in the service and financial industries.

Learning Channels measure how lawyers take in and process new information best – some read to learn; some listen to learn; some learn through movement; some rely on pictures, charts and graphs; and some depend on their ability to remember and recall numbers. The greater the number of strong learning channels, the greater the need to find new things to learn. Lawyers who have three or more strong learning channels may find that they are ready to move on if the job no longer offers new opportunities to learn. The drive to learn will force lawyers to seek new challenges. If happy with colleagues and the work environment, but unable to find new challenges at work, they may be able to cure their ennui by taking courses in a local college, joining a discussion group, becoming political activists, or volunteering for work with a non‐profit charitable organization. Also, successful lawyers understand that different people learn in different ways. They teach themselves to transmit their instructions and messages to their associates and clients by the most productive means – measured not by their own learning tools, but by the tools of the people they’re communicating with.

Your individualized Ability Battery Lawyer’s Report offers a detailed explanation of your abilities, what they mean for you, and how they relate to your performance as a lawyer. As a vital part of the Highlands experience, a specially trained and certified Highlands Affiliate provides a feedback conference to interpret your results and teach you how to make maximum use of your natural abilities as you face career challenges today and in the future.