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Attorneys Develop Big Egos, Ruining Their Happiness
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Summary: Attorneys often end up with egos that are too large for happiness to be maintained in their careers and lives.

When law students first begin school, they are just starting out so their values and sense of self are still intact. Once these students are graduating from law school, their egos and values are changing. In Harrison Barnes article, “Why Your Ego Is Making You Unhappy Practicing Law and with Your Life,” he explores the struggle attorneys face and why they don’t need to over their values.


Fellow lawyer and psychologist Andy Benjamin explains that law school graduates start focusing on external values like status and competition. He said, “We have seven very strong studies that show this twists people’s psyches and they come out of law school significantly impaired, with depression, anxiety and hostility.”

Professors Lawrence Krieger and Kennon Sheldon point out in their paper “What Makes Lawyers Happy?” that “The psychological factors seen to erode during law school are the very factors most important for the well-being of lawyers. The factors most emphasized in law schools – grades, honors and potential career income – have nil to modest bearing on lawyer well-being.”

The professors continued, “A marked increase in depression, negative mood and physical symptoms, with corresponding decreases in positive affect and life satisfaction,” were evident after students began law school.

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Law school graduates and attorneys begin to measure their worth on how they compare to others. Attorneys wind up in a cycle of endless unhappiness because they never feel like they are as good as others. These negative feelings dictate their decisions and the directions they take in their career, which often lead to substance abuse problems as a way of coping and mental health problems as the result.

Everyone has an ego but letting it get too big can cause problems in one’s career. Unfortunately, the best attorneys often have the biggest egos. They may end up being good at their job but that does not mean they are happy or enjoy what they do. Maintaining a healthy ego will allow for a clear perspective on your career and life.

While it is true that surrounding yourself with those with high standards and goals similar to your own will raise your standards and chances of success, allowing your definition of success to be made by using others causes problems. Attorneys fall into a way of thinking that only those working at the biggest law firms and getting paid the most money are the successful attorneys. They further reinforce this belief by treating each other based on their status.

Attorneys need to remember that they are different. While there is a lot at stake, even a small mistake can derail their current career path, there are a lot of options. Working in a smaller market can often turn out to be more profitable than working in large markets in big cities where the cost of living and taxes are higher. Attorneys in smaller markets can develop large books of business that can sustain their practice for longer. There is nothing wrong with working in a large market but too often attorneys stay longer than needed, thinking it is the only option if they want to be successful.

Do you think attorneys have egos that are too big or do they need big egos to survive? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about what attorneys need to do to be happy, read these articles:




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