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Can Narcissism Become Too Destructive for Attorneys?
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Summary: Young attorneys are prone to developing a dangerous attitude full of narcissism and entitlement, ruining their chances of a long career.

Narcissistic Entitlement Syndrome (NES) is common among young attorneys. Narcissism is a physiological condition where individuals are excessively self-centered, according to Psychology Today. Quite often narcissism coincides with an entitlement problem, or the expectation of special treatment. Harrison Barnes explains in “Narcissistic Entitlement Syndrome among Attorneys: Why Narcissism Destroys Young Attorney Careers” why the syndrome is so common but damaging to an attorney’s future success.


Barnes defines NES as “an attorney being inwardly focused and oblivious to the people and organizations around him/her that he/she is supposed to serve.” He further adds, “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.”

There are a number of reasons that NES is a problem. Someone with this kind of personality has fantasies of extreme brilliance, success, and power. While most attorneys have goals like this, letting those dreams take over reality causes disruptions to their work. They start to let these dreams of what their career will become and their assumptions of what it should become take priority over what they actually need to be doing to make their dreams reality.

Attorneys with NES also develop an exaggerated sense of self-importance that does not match their level of importance and achievement. They expect recognition for their work, even if it is just bare minimum level work. They will exaggerate their achievements to others and do this frequently. This arrogant behavior shows in how they talk and present themselves to others.

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A third reason that NES ruins careers is that those with the condition lack empathy and are unwilling to consider the feelings and needs of others. They don’t hesitate to take advantage of others in order to get where they want. With this kind of behavior NES attorneys will try to manipulate others into their service.

Other reasons include envy and excessive admiration. All of these motivations and behaviors create an attorney that is not willing to put in the actual work that new associates must do to work up in their career. When others criticize their work or don’t give them the level of recognition that they feel they deserve, they may react in rage or isolation. This leads to the attorney either being fired or leaving for another firm.

Barnes believes that narcissism turns into a problem because “The attorney with NES will not confront his weaknesses due to the fact that to do so would interfere with his sense of self.” These kinds of attorneys are in the service of themselves when they should be in the service of their employer and clients. It generally takes an attorney 10-15 years after law school to work up to a point in a law firm where they can demand respect from others. To be able to last this long, attorneys cannot let their NES overpower and get in the way.

Do you think narcissism is a positive or negative trait for an attorney? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below.

To learn more about what else ruins an attorneys career, read these articles:



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