The other day I was reading an article I found online by Ann Bittinger entitled Disarming the Narcissistic Attorney. It is an insightful essay on how attorneys should deal with other attorneys afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder. However, it really made me think about how sad it is when people facing very real and very serious problems entrust their cases to such attorneys. That is because, as Ms. Bittinger points out, attorneys are supposed to advocate for their clients.
True advocates put the interest of the person for whom they advocate ahead of their own. Thus, when we take a case, the client’s interest comes first. While a self-absorbed attorney often has trouble with this very simple concept, a narcissist finds it impossible. That is because the client and the client’s case are merely vehicles by which the narcissistic lawyer feeds his or her constant need for admiration.
Ms. Bittenger writes, “[t]he narcissistic attorney is the direct opposite of the attorney advocate. We are all familiar with the stereotypical narcissistic attorney: puffing his chest, bragging about his cases, his achievements and at the same time insulting and deflating those around him, including partners, associates and even the client. The narcissistic attorney must keep inflating his ego and perceived persona, like a balloon, while behaving in a way that deflates the behaviors of those around him.”
According to the Mayo Clinic, a narcissistic personality disorder can include these features:
- Having an exaggerated sense of self-importance
- Expecting to be recognized as superior even without achievements that warrant it
- Exaggerating your achievements and talents
- Being preoccupied with fantasies about success, power, brilliance, beauty or the perfect mate
- Believing that you are superior and can only be understood by or associate with equally special people
- Requiring constant admiration
- Having a sense of entitlement
- Expecting special favors and unquestioning compliance with your expectations
- Taking advantage of others to get what you want
- Having an inability or unwillingness to recognize the needs and feelings of others
- Being envious of others and believing others envy you
- Behaving in an arrogant or haughty manner
Do any of the foregoing describe someone you initially admired, or wanted to admire you, only to later despise as their true narcissism became evident? We have all encountered a narcissist and many of us are forced to encounter them everyday for the sake of a paycheck!
When you are trying to select the right attorney, who will truly put your needs ahead of their own, then you should at least make a mental check list to take into the initial conference with the lawyer.
- Does the attorney whom you actually wanted to see, pop into the meeting to be introduced but then leaves you in the hands of other “staff” in the firm to get the details?
- Does the attorney make statements such as, “oh we’ve handled cases just like yours half-a-dozen times successfully” (often asking a member of his or her staff to confirm his or her boast)?
- Does the attorney casually tell you of some “really important” thing (or things) he or she has recently done?
Keeping in mind that a narcissist usually makes an impressive first impression and surrounds himself with only admirers, if everything you see and/or hear is a little over the top with respect to “how great we are” or “how great he or she is,” – you might want to visit a few other attorneys before signing a contract.
Trust is extremely important when it comes to finding the right lawyer. If you genuinely trust the attorney, then others will, too. (That can be really important when it comes to a jury trial.) If you have reservations regarding this …then others will, too. Find a true advocate by trusting your instincts.
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