Summary: The seriousness of this topic is far greater than I am even letting on. While this topic has gone unexplored in the legal profession, it is very real and something that affects countless attorneys, especially the ones who appear strongest on paper coming out of law school..
- Many young attorneys can suffer from a conceited belief of themselves.
- They in fact become narcissists.
- While confidence and a demand for respect are much-needed attributes in law, self-congratulatory behavior is not welcomed.
- Such behavior, in fact, can destroy a young attorney’s career.
The word narcissism comes from the character made famous by the Greek poet Ovid, Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. In the story, Echo falls in love with Narcissus and gets rejected. The story makes clear that Narcissus is only able to love himself and not others. Conversely, Echo completely loses herself in her love for Narcissus and has no sense of self at all. At the end of the story, Narcissus tells Echo, “I would die before I give you power over me.” Echo responds, “I give you power over me.” Both Narcissus and Echo die because their love is unattainable. Many of us cannot find a balance between ourselves and others.
One of the greatest problems facing young associates inside law firms is what I call Narcissistic Entitlement Syndrome (“NES”). Attorneys who suffer from NES often very quickly find themselves out of jobs, whether they quit, are fired, or simply move among employers to deal with the false sense of entitlement that accompanies this disorder. I need to be clear that this narcissistic personality, in my opinion, is an extremely serious subject and something I believe probably at least 10% of the associates in large and prestigious law firms suffer from NES. This is a disorder that causes a sense of entitlement, and I see it virtually every week in my conversations with attorneys. These symptoms of narcissism will cause problems in your career.
Narcissism Entitlement Syndrome (NES) Definition
NES, in its shortest form, can be defined as an attorney being inwardly focused and oblivious to the people and organizations around him/her that he/she is supposed to serve. I link the concepts of narcissism and entitlement in this syndrome because the sense of entitlement most often has narcissistic undertones. Attorneys with NES see themselves as special, believe they should have whatever they want regardless of the feelings of others, and continually inflate themselves while putting others down. You might be wondering what a narcissistic personality disorder is or what some of the narcissistic personality disorder symptoms are. There are five major characteristics that attorneys with NES often have.
First, because they have a narcissist personality, they are generally preoccupied with fantasies of limitless brilliance, power, and success. While this may be something that many attorneys have, the attorney with NES will generally be quite consumed with these fantasies. Advancement and achievement are extremely important to them, and they envision the environment around them as one where they should be the center of others’ attention due to their achievements.
Second, attorneys with NES generally have an exaggerated sense of self-importance that is not commensurate with their actual level of achievement. They expect to be recognized as superior to others without a corresponding level of achievement. An attorney with NES will also generally exaggerate his/her achievements to others. Indeed, attorneys with NES like to speak about their achievements (and do) quite frequently. As a product of these fantasies, the attorney will often show a very arrogant attitude. The attorney with NES believes he/she is special and should only associate and work for other high-status people and institutions.
This article first appeared “Narcissistic Entitlement Syndrome among Attorneys: Why Narcissism Destroys Young Attorney Careers “ on BCG Attorney Search also on Powershow.
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