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Why Are Lawyers So Bitchy?

Law books on a Shelf by umjanedoan

I caught myself feeling really bitchy last week. It was a busy morning and I was headed to a breakfast meeting. I pushed the button to open the garage door. The motor whirled for a second and then stopped after opening the door only a few inches. A closer look revealed a broken spring. I went back into the house, postponed my meeting, and called a repair service. When the guy came out he started asking questions about the sound the door made and the condition of the track. I impatiently answered his questions while thinking “Just fix it!” I don’t care what sound the door makes; I just want it to go up and down when I push the button.

I’m my own boss, so if I’m not happy, it’s my own fault. My internal monologue inspired me to ponder what makes lawyers so bitchy. I immediately thought of one of my law school internships at a big law firm. My office neighbor was a brilliant but demanding woman. I was glad someone warned me that it was common for her to cut people off mid-sentence. When she heard the information she needed, she didn’t want you to speak anymore. Once I understood this, her behavior never offended me. It was just how she operated. She would tell me what argument she was trying to make and would send me off to find case law that supported it. When I gave her the information she needed, she wanted me out of her office. I had fixed her problem so she didn’t need me anymore. The benefit of doing projects for her was I never had to write a memo; she just wanted a copy of the case with the pertinent section highlighted.

Apparently sometimes she would call the office to complain about poor service in her cell phone. There was nothing her secretary could do to fix the situation, but she would go through the motions to humor her.

My reflections have led me to the acceptance that a lot of lawyers are controlling over-achievers. We were the people in high school you loved during group projects. We didn’t trust you to pull your weight and we knew we could it better, so we did all the work. We don’t like unexpected changes; our lives are too busy. We’re over-scheduled and work on tight deadlines. We don’t go with the flow. On the upside, we don’t intend to be mean or jerks, and usually we’re not. We just know what we want and we ask for it without any fluffy fanfare.

In general, we prefer to do things ourselves. We hate having to rely on others. When I have to hire someone to do something I can’t do, I’m grateful for their service, but I want them in and out of my house as fast as possible. I don’t like disruptions to my productive groove and quiet solitude.

Are lawyers going to stop being bitchy? No, not even solo practitioners like me. It’s a masochistic affliction I accept and try not to inflict it upon anyone else. And don’t think that only women can be bitchy lawyers because I’m female and the example I used is also a woman. Male lawyers can be just as bitchy.

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  1. Sherry says:

    “We didn’t trust you to pull your weight and we knew we could it better, so we did all the work.” LOL!!!! Truth!

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Overachievers hated group work because we did everything and the slackers loved it because they did nothing and got A’s.

  2. Ben Cannon says:

    That’s one way to look at it. The other way is that secretary was lazy and inept:


    (Entrepreneurs share most of these traits. Fact: the world of janitors and wage earners is carried on the shoulders of the over-achievers, leaders, CEOs, (most)lawyers, and risk-takers.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Thanks Ben. I agree that willingness to take risks is a big part of being progressive.

  3. Watergate says:

    “We just know what we want and we ask for it without any fluffy fanfare.” Really? This is the same profession that came with “party of the first part” and “Plaintiff, by and through undersigned counsel, as and for its Complaint in this matter, alleges, avers and …”

    It sounds more like you have identified a self-absorption among members of the profession where they just don’t care about other people, except to the extent those other people can be useful — either to provide a useful case citation, or to fix a garage door. Once their usefulness has come to an end, “I want them in and out of my house as fast as possible.”

    Humans are often self-absorbed. It is something to be avoided, not defended, especially on the grounds that you are a lawyer. There is no right to treat other people poorly because you are smart or good at your job. We should expect the same human decency from “over-achievers” as from lesser humans who aren’t lawyers.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      Ahhh! Excessive legaleze that no one understands! I try to avoid that type of verbiage whenever possible – I like my clients to understand what they’re signing.

      I think you’re right in that lawyers’, and probably other professionals’, bitchiness is due to a level of self-absorption. I think it’s based on having too much to do and too little time. In most cases, everyone who has the bitchy inner monologue needs to be respectful and polite. But we don’t dawdle with extra niceties. If you’re at my house to fix my garage door, I don’t want to get into a 15-minute conversation about how your day is going. I will be polite and grateful for your service, and I will let you do your job and I will get back to doing mine as soon as you don’t need me for instructions or information.

      1. Ben Cannon says:

        There’s also a large push towards “Plain English” in pleadings. It’s an interesting time to be in law.

        Lawyers *on the daily* deal with the most important things in their clients’ lives. (Has to be, or they wouldn’t pay you $600/hr to talk about the weather!)

        However, that does not mean that matters lawyers deal with are the *only* important things in the world.

        (again, substitute “Lawyers” here for every occupation I listed in my post above)

  4. Watergate says:

    “But we don’t dawdle with extra niceties.” I don’t know “we” is in that sentence, but all of us should dawdle, a bit, with extra niceties — unless the house is on fire and we need to get out. If you mean “we” as lawyers, I’ve known many lawyers in my 20+ years of practice, and most of them aren’t too busy to dawdle a bit. The ones who see niceties as unworthy of their precious time are self-absorped twerps who would be the same way regardless of profession or available time.

    There is an entire world of people who have interesting things to share, and deciding that they aren’t worth talking to because you are a busy lawyer is, at best, unfortunate. The house is usually not on fire. Take a moment to interact with other humans. It isn’t about being busy, it’s about understanding that you aren’t the only person in the world who is interesting. In this economy, the next person that comes to fix something at your house might be a lawyer who hasn’t found a place to practice and needs to feed his or her family in the meantime.

    You may share a role model with me, namely the Harvey Keitel character from Pulp Fiction, the Wolf. Even the Wolf paused, literally, to smell the coffee.

    1. Ruth Carter says:

      I agree – there are lots of interesting people out there. I wish my scheduled allowed more time to talk to people about what makes them interesting. I hope your schedule does.

      Until that happens for me, I’m grateful for events like Ignite that gives people a forum to share their passions. I hope there’s an Ignite in your area. It seems like something you’d really enjoy.

    2. Ben Cannon says:

      Watergate, sometimes, the house is on fire and we need to get out – i.e. a pleading is due in 4 hours and if not filed today the entire case will be dismissed, and the client will not recover against their insurance company for the fire that destroyed her house…

      But I see your point. Mine is that it’s important to have the ability to exclude the world and focus on work (it’ll make you rich), and to be able to turn that off like a switch (or it’ll drive you bananas).