lukegilman.com : The Blawgraphy
Life of a Law Student, University of Houston Law Center

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Please note: I'm no longer updating this particular blog, but keep it around for archival purposes. Visit me at the current blog at www.lukegilman.com

Are lawyers born or made narcissistic?

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.

Turley presents A Lawyer’s Guide to Fatherhood

Fakamura sent me Jonathan Turley’s excellent A lawyer’s guide to fatherhood in USA Today.

Fatherhood is the one job that you can get without the slightest degree of experience, knowledge or talent (despite what you may hear to the contrary on Father’s Day). For that reason, when a friend had his first child recently, I quickly rattled off the most important things that I have learned as the father of three boys and a girl: Don’t wear white shirts while changing boys (they consider it a type of canvas); the easiest way to extract material from noses is a hot bath (except for cheese sticks); always check your briefcase for toy guns before entering a courthouse; and always check the children for captive animals before leaving a forest.

But the most important lesson is that all children are born with an innate sense of the law. Indeed, when the Framers spoke of natural rights, they might have hit on the same discovery in their own children. You can actually track your kids’ development by the legal arguments they make. Take it from me, the best way to prepare for parenting is to take a law course at your community college.

A sampling….

Takings. The Constitution prohibits the taking of property without compensation by the government. Within their first two years, all children embrace this principle with a vengeance. Parents learn they must compensate for any item removed: a toy for the car keys; a cracker for the 12-inch butcher knife.

Contracts. By 3, negotiating with kids is like working with little Teamsters on a labor contract. Bring a sandwich truck to the site; it becomes part of the contract. Likewise, once a parent buys a scone at Starbucks or allows cartoons in the morning, it is part of an unwritten but enforceable contract. This develops into a form of collective bargaining with the addition of another sibling: Any benefit to one is instantly an expected benefit to the other. Break the contract and you’ll face work stoppages, unending protests and even sabotage that ranges from spilled milk to items in the trash can.

Cruel and unusual punishment. By 3, children have defined what they view as cruel and unusual punishment. Denials of favorite foods or toys are considered to be measures that “shock the conscience” and require immediate redress.

For more continue reading: A lawyer’s guide to fatherhood

Skiing in Breckenridge

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We’re up in Breckenridge this week. My main goal will be to leave without torting anyone. Who knew ski law was an up and coming practice area?

Reading over the Break

Part of my winter break re-socialization process is to catch up on some blessedly non-legal related reading.

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    Blind Side, Michael Lewis – Lewis takes a relatively obscure position in football, left tackle, and traces it’s evolution from just another lineman to one of the most highly paid if still almost invisible skill positions on the field. At the same time he follows the path of Michael Oher, a runaway in one of Memphis’ worst neighborhoods whose physical prowess takes him to a private Christian prep school and on to fame as starting left tackle as Ole Miss. It’s fantastic. I think I’m going to have to try to fit Moneyball in as well, especially since it’s the inspiration for MoneyLaw.

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    Judge Sewall’s Apology, Richard Francis – Francis explores the Salem Witch Trials through the lens of Samuel Sewall, one of the presiding judges of the witch trials who would later walk into Boston’s South Church, recant the guilty verdicts and pray for forgiveness. Francis explores the episode as a catalyst in a shift in thought an ideology in early America and our understanding of good and evil. Excellent. OK, it’s sort of legal related. He was a judge. Note to self – there are some evidentiary issues with invisible spectral phenomena.

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