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Summary: Sometimes an attorney's aggressive behavior can creep into their personal life. Here's what attorneys need to learn since there is no charm school for them.
Aggression is part of the makeup of a successful attorney.
But in some cases, that aggression can overflow its bounds and seep into an attorney’s life away from law.
This is where the trouble begins: It’s fine and good to be aggressive in the law firm or in court.
But at home – if an attorney still has a home with a home life inside it – home is the last place an attorney’s aggression should rear its ugly head.
This is why attorneys could use a few sessions of charm school; they may not be gorgeous to look at once they finish charm school, but their disposition will be a hell of a lot easier to get along with.
Many of us have preconceived notions of what attorneys are, even if some of us actually are attorneys. Attorneys are:
An undying strength while engaged in an argument
An undeniable winner-take-all-attitude – not just about work, but about life as well
While these traits, instincts, genetic makeups – whatever they can be defined as – are considered qualities of a successful attorney, in day-to-day life, being argumentative while also possessing an undeniable winner-take-all attitude can be, let us say, rather overbearing.
To be associated with a person with these aspects to his or her character can make the average nonlegal individual wear out quite quickly. It doesn’t matter who the nonlegal person is, really, be they:
Just casual law office mates.
Sure, people can adjust. They can try to understand that aggression is part of the legal game for a good portion of attorneys. This occurs much in the same way that strict discipline and unmitigated honor are mainstays of a military person whose relations have to deal with their staunch steadfast attitude.
But do attorneys have to carry on this way as well? Do attorneys need to behave in such a way every single bloody moment of the day and night?
Some say no. Some even demand no.
So what’s a successful attorney with the personality of a jackhammer to do?
What else but go to charm school.
Attorneys and Charm School
It’s funny that when a person googles “Attorneys and Charm School,” many of the results are geared toward men and not women (which can open up a whole different gender-specific argument within the legal practice).
Of course, male attorneys aren’t the only gender within the world of law who themselves, as well as their family and loved ones, succumb to law practice aggression. Women attorneys are also subject to the same aggression male attorneys espouse, so the suggestion of charm school for women attorneys isn’t entirely a wasted thought.
But as for now – and for argument’s sake – let’s examine attorney aggression as a gender-neutral phenomenon, and how it can be dealt with a few lessons in charm.
First of all, what is charm school?
Originally intended for women of society, charm or finishing school is designed to make a person a more acceptable, often stellar, member of society.
A finishing school student is able to carry themselves with proper pride and equal parts demureness, politeness and confidence.
While finishing school may have at one time been more popular with old-money landed gentry, these days, charm is charm no matter what social strata or gender a person comes from.
As much as this finishing has traditionally been geared to young girls, there’s little doubt today that all of society couldn’t use some charm in its daily existence. This of course includes the world of law, or at least the participants in the world of law.
The attorney with their gruff, bullying style need not be continuously “on” day in and day out. Attorneys instead need to know how to shut off/shut down their aggression, and with that, become kindler gentler souls when not in the law firm or court room.
They don’t necessarily need to know how to hold a fork, drink from a china coffee cup with the typical pinky finger jutting outward, or to always keep their napkins in their laps as well as:
Speak in a civil tone no matter what the subject is.
Keep company with one or more people without tearing their heads off during a simple discussion.
These are attorneys, after all. Much like the scorpion to the frog, it’s in an attorney’s “nature” to sting an opponent into submission – or death.
Attorneys also know how to impress when the time to impress is upon them. But then again, this is how they are trained. Be polite and charming when new clients arrive on the scene or otherwise be sent off to ponder the future of your job as a lawyer.
The only problem is that bit of charm designed to impress new clients also comes from a place of aggression. The idea to be pleasant, calm, agreeable, etc. is part and parcel to netting the client, even if that means faking it when it comes to charm.
No, the real charm occurs (or should occur) far from the law firm – that is if there’s any charm within our attorney friend, sibling, lover and/or spouse, etc.
So the business suit defines neither the male nor female attorney?
Pray that the business suit does not define the male nor female attorney, because if the business suit did define the attorney, any friendship or relationship with an aggressive attorney will in due time be sorely tested, and in most cases, sadly lost.
The attorney’s aggression, their attention to always winning, their no-quit attitude spills into their drive home along the 405 freeway, or across the court of their weekend pickup basketball games, can be met with the same lack of charm that has heads spinning, or at least shaking morosely, in a legal trial setting.
For the fact is, what many attorneys may not know about themselves is they have been conditioned to behave this way. Sure, the tensions of the job don’t help. But what really causes the lack of charm in many attorneys is the fact that they are educated to be assholes. It’s part and parcel to the legal world.
The only ones who need any regard in the legal business are clients, either new or established, and senior partners, unless the attorney in question is already a senior partner.
If this Jekyll and Hyde scenario is part of your daily existence either with or as an attorney, just remember for others (including you), the business suit does indeed unbutton, zip down, release its clasps.
In short, it’s removable, just in the same way attorneys need to remind themselves they too are removable.
To be certain, it might take some reverse psychological convincing that to be an aggressive jerk isn’t always in the best interest of an attorney and their marriage, friendships, or even work relationships. In all honesty, therapy might be needed, or a nice long vacation that, sure, many lawyers, particularly those who are beginning their legal career, may refute as unneeded. But to be honest, the aggressive lawyer who could use a few sessions of charm school, may really just need time away from the law firm, legal cases, others lawyers and finally, time off from themselves as lawyers.
Really, there is no finishing school for lawyers, but if there were…
… It would explain to the attorney that no matter what they were taught during and after law school, aggression, the lack of quit, the win at all costs attitude, rarely defines the successful attorney except in legal cases.
The truly successful attorney is one who can deal with the pressures of being a high-level associate or a new partner, but just as likely deal with the pressure of being a good father or mother, husband or wife, lover or friend.
If there was a charm school for attorneys, it would supplant the seeing blood attitude law schools like to squeeze into legal students. Charm school would instead replace a lawyer’s aggression with something more balanced and easier to live with for those surrounding the attorney.
But the fact is there is no charm school for attorneys. There is no place where they can be finished off to be strong leaders with not just a profession and/or a household, but a society as well.
Life in the legal world is getting no easier. Pressures to keep a strong legal career going will always buck up against what others believe are much more important responsibilities and tasks than just being a lawyer.
But who’s to say that a lawyer can’t have it both ways; that he or she is not allowed to have their cake and eat it too. It would only seem fair that this would be the case. To arrive home after a long day at the firm and get appreciative hugs and kisses from your family is truly the only outcome we should want or need.
It’s where the real work is, as well as the real payoff. Charm school will only tell you balance, politeness, and an even temper are what one needs to be a strong addition to this life.
But there is no charm school for attorneys. Only the attorney themselves can help themselves.