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Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Are lawyers born or made narcissistic?

By: Luke Gilman | Other Posts by
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I’ve been developing a theory for a concern of mine over the past few months that I may try to develop here on the blog. My concern is this – are lawyers self-selecting narcissists or do we become that way as part of our indoctrination into the profession? I knew this was a somewhat narcissistic and self-obsessed profession when I decided to go to law school. What I had assumed going into it was that this was a self-selection problem – that a lot of
people go to law school because they want the power and prestige associated (rightly or wrongly) with the profession. I’ve been in law school for almost two years now and I for a variety of reasons now tend to think that while self-selection is part of it, the study of law itself breeds narcissism and rewards self-obsessed behavior as part of the dominant image of the legal process and ‘learning to think like a lawyer.’

I’ll leave that assertion to stand on its own for now. Hopefully I’ll have the time to come back and delve into the details, but a talk by psychologist Daniel Goleman, from the TED conference, entitled Why aren’t we all Good Samaritans? spurred my thinking along a little on this.


Daniel Goleman @ the TED Conference

One of Goleman’s points is that there is no correlation between IQ and empathy. He describes a visit his brother-in-law made to interview the Santa Cruz Strangler, a serial killer with a 160 point IQ, who when asked how he could kill his victims in such an intimate way responded, “If I felt their distress I could not have done it. I had to turn that part of me off.”

I was struck by the notion that much of “becoming a lawyer” in terms of learning to think and reason in an abstract, disinterested and objective manner is uncomfortably close to “turning that part of ourselves off.”

While I’m certainly NOT advocating the injection of touchy-feely new age-y-ness, I’m nevertheless a bit horrified by the thought that were nurturing our sociopathic tendencies and wonder if there isn’t a middle path.

More later.

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One Response

  1. Lawfrog says:

    Susan Daicoff has done some interesting work on the topic of lawyers and how we differ from the general population in our thought patterns, what draws us to law school and the profession, etc.

    http://www.fcsl.edu/faculty/daicoff/law.htm

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