Is there a simple psychological explanation for the need some lawyers have to behave like bullies? When my lawyer friends and I spot a bully, we talk jokingly about how he was probably pushed around on the playground as a kid--now, armed with a law license, he's getting back at the world. So the bully screams at other lawyers in the same way an older child might try to reduce a younger one to tears. You get the sense that if you don't do exactly as he wants, he'll take all his toys and move to another sandbox.
Any advantage that can be gained by being a bully is temporary, at best, which might explain why I haven't encountered too many lawyer-bullies in my career. It also makes me wonder why this week I found myself acting like a bully during a conversation with another lawyer. I wasn't sleep-deprived, which is usually the explanation when I get into a shouting match with another lawyer. Instead, I was exasperated. I was fed up with some of the moves the other side had been making in the case. But this was no excuse to shout. Besides, the things I was exasperated about were not all that shocking.
The lawyer I was shouting at didn't shout back, which is one of the best lines of defense when dealing with a bully. The next day, I talked to the lawyer again and he was as friendly toward me as ever. We didn't discuss my brief tirade. But I remembered it, and I felt like a show-off. I felt like I had been drawing attention to myself the day before for no purpose other than to be noticed.
Maybe this explains the behavior of bullies: the bully is, at his core, the sort of person who has no right to draw attention to himself but who does it anyway. He's a braggart with no reason to brag. Though everyone around him would rather just pretend he doesn't exist, he makes this impossible. He demands to be noticed. And he's mean about it too.
Next time, I promise to do better.