How to Feed a Lawyer (and Other Irreverent Observations from the Legal Underground)

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David Giacalone

The legal profession might attract bullies, because it offers more opportunities than most fields to use bullying tactics under the guise of "zealous" advocacy -- with many clients even hoping that their lawyer will shame the opposition (an act "pit-bully"?).

I'm not sure that the issue is one merely of wanting to be noticed, but surely that is one aspect of the emotional issues that might lead to bullying, which seems to involve the lack of self-esteem in one fashion or the other. I'm always ashamed of myself when I engage in bullying, in person or online. Learning how to "intervene" before it starts seems like a very worthwhile goal.

I just did a quick Google search on bullying, and found an interesting article from the UK, where workplace bullying is illegal -- see Dysfunctional Workplace, which describes how bullying harms the bottomline as well as the victims. It reminds me that the lawyer who tries to bully other lawyers is very likely to do it even more frequently with his or her staff. Improving Emotional Quotients to prevent bullying is certainly a good goal at home, the school and at work.

Also, see
Bully in sight How to predict, resist, challenge and combat workplace bullying
Overcoming the silence and denial by which abuse thrives
, by Tim Field.


"It reminds me that the lawyer who tries to bully other lawyers is very likely to do it even more frequently with his or her staff," David writes above. While I obviously have no idea how my adversaries who acted like bullies treated their associates and staff, my lomg time senior partner, Lord of the Combover, was a mean spirited bully in the office -- it seemed that he got pleasure out of humiliating people -- but a respectful gentleman with adversaries. Lawyers from other firms when they found out I worked for him would always say what an old fashioned gentleman lawyer he was -- tough but not difficult. Why he was such a bastard in the office is a mystery, but no kidding around, I really think it had to do with a combination of low self esteen and and exaggerated sense of his own importance.

A lot of lawyers who act like bullies are terrible lawyers, and the bluster is to cover up that they have no idea what they're talking about. But quite a few are very good, or at least smart. I also have to add that in my experience the biggest bullies I dealt with, both the dumb and the smart kind, were plaintiffs lawyers. But I will concede that defense lawyers would usually have no cause to show that side of themselves to me, so I guess there are probably plenty of them out there on the side of truth and justice and the, you know, American way -- which lately, at least on the foreign policy front, is all about bullying.

David Giacalone

Re: the psychology of bullies: If you haven't checked out Al Gore's statement in The New Yorker on George W. Bush as a Bully, click here

Jim Husen

The factors underlying abusive lawyers are probably no different than those informing more or less pathological social conduct in non-lawyers. What makes it so galling is the increased expense and difficulty bully lawyers create by their lack of respect for others while practicing law.


As a lawyer that is considered a "bully", I would like to point out that we make a lot more money that way and it's nice to be able to have things that we could not otherwise were we not bullies.


Let's look at the real targets of bully lawyers -- not other lawyers or even staff -- it's those they oppose. The law provides a venue for someone with bullying tendencies, which we all have, to attack and harm in ways that truly should be illegal. Get yourself involved in a family law case and you'll quickly see how rewarded a bully lawyer can be by our system and just how much damage they can do. There one in my town that is notorious, and yet you will not find a negative would about her on the web anywhere. Now that's intimidation. The tragedy is it is all considered legal. You actually have more rights in some ways if you are accused of a crime than you do if you are involved, even in an ancillary way, in a lawsuit. Contempt if you do do not comply, privacy -- what privacy?, freedom to speak freely to others -- gag order, freedom not to testify -- sorry you have to or be in contempt.

Dorothy Dixon

I know about lawyers who are bullies. I am an 85 year old widow who was taken advantage of by four devil stepchildren and their evil bully lawyer who was nothing more than a liar. I was forced to spend three horrible hours in a deposition where I was accused of all sorts of evil behavior that he and his clients would have engaged in --- not me. My own lawyer was simply a Judas who sold me for whatever he could get, and the judge was the same. They never considered my husband's will which provided for me. Where is justice for all of us, especially seniors.


I definitely think the legal profession attracts bullies. I sometimes wonder how lawyers live with themselves considering some of the people they have to represent. They must be sociopaths who don't feel anything considering some of the liars and distasteful people/companies they have to represent.

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