Are Lawyers More Inclined to Be Narcissists?

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Summary: Are lawyers more inclined to be narcissists? Read this article to find out.
Are Lawyers More Inclined to be Narcissists
  • Successful lawyers are generally known for their confidence and ambitious nature.
  • Narcissists are also known to be extremely confident and therefore successful in business most of the time.
  • There are overlapping characteristics between narcissists and lawyers, but what exactly does that mean for lawyers?
Most of you are probably familiar with the age-old tale of Narcissus. Narcissus is a character in Greek mythology that could not love anyone else because in seeing his own reflection in a pool of water ends up falling in love with himself. Unable to focus on anything else but his reflection, he avoids disturbing his image in the slightest, refuses to drink the water from the lake and eventually dies of thirst.

Does this story sound familiar? Perhaps it reminds you of that ONE friend, or of your ex? All jokes aside, narcissism is a common phenomenon especially in the millennial culture of “selfies” and instant validation and gratification. However, it is clear from its roots in Greek mythology that narcissism knows no age. But does it correlate at all with one’s chosen profession? And with lawyers specifically?
All lawyers possess particular characteristics that enable them to be successful in their careers. Is “narcissism” one of those?
What Makes a Narcissist?
The word narcissist is thrown around so often that it is hard to know what the exact definition of one is. According to Merriam-Webster, narcissists fall under two descriptors:
A: An extremely self-centered person who has an exaggerated sense of self-importance
B: A person who is overly concerned with his or her physical appearance
The second description is probably the more common definition; one that people associate with the term. However, that description only scratches the surface. If researched further, “narcissism” is not limited to excessive self-admiration and an inflation of the ego, but in it’s most extreme form is classified as an actual disorder: Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). Those who possess this disorder essentially lack empathy and find it hard to do anything unless it is to their benefit in some way.
According to Psychology Today, there are certain symptoms associated with those that possess the disorder and if an individual possesses five or more of these symptoms, they are identified as a narcissist:
  • Exaggerates own importance
  • Is preoccupied with fantasies of success, power, beauty, intelligence or ideal romance
  • Believes he/she is special and can only be understood by other special people or institutions
  • Requires constant attention and admiration from others
  • Has unreasonable expectations of favorable treatment
  • Takes advantage of others to reach his or her own goals
  • Disregards the feelings of others, lacks empathy
  • Is often envious of others or believes other people are envious of him or her
  • Shows arrogant behaviors and attitude
Of course, like with anything, there is a scale on how strongly an individual could possess the characteristics above. Now let us examine the general personality traits of a lawyer.
What Makes a Lawyer?
It obviously takes a certain personality to fill the position of a lawyer. The image that probably pops up for most people are scenes of overly confident, angry lawyers screaming at the jury, demanding justice for their client and doing whatever it takes to win their case. This can be attributed to the numerous TV shows about the law. Thank you “Law and Order.”
Although not completely inaccurate, there are several other characteristics that have been observed amongst the most successful lawyers. Some of these traits include a healthy dose of confidence, the ability to mask weakness in the courtroom, excellent people skills and charisma and exceptional judgment, creativity, communication, and analytical skills.
Narcissists, however self-seeking and manipulative, are usually extremely charismatic and excellent at masking these negative qualities about themselves to the general public. They are also extremely strategic with their words and actions, and because they have such an overly inflated view of themselves, they emit a sense of power and invincibility. All of these qualities are very similar to the characteristics and/or qualities successful lawyers possess—you can see where the correlation between narcissists and lawyers can be brought up to question.
The Continuum of Narcissism
As mentioned before, there is a range of narcissism—from exhibiting a few narcissistic qualities to having a narcissistic personality type to having full-blown Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD).
Exhibiting a few narcissistic qualities throughout one’s lifetime is actually fairly common and normal. There is even such a thing as “healthy narcissism,” which is, in other words, a healthy sense of self and desire for attention and admiration.
NPD is the absolute extreme of narcissism and is usually diagnosed through a clinical evaluation. At this degree of narcissism, an individual’s personality functioning is impaired and there is a severe lack of empathy.
So What Are the Stats?
According to Pdan.org, approximately 6.2% of the population has Narcissistic Personality Disorder. An article by Psychology Today examined if there was a gender discrepancy in those who have NPD and found that males are in fact more prone to narcissism. This conclusion comes from the research that psychologist Emily Grijalva and her team conducted in 2015, in which she and her team examined data from more than half-million adults studied from 1990 to 2013.
So why are males more narcissistic than females?
One main factor lies in the traditional gender roles. Historically, it is far more acceptable and even encouraged for males to show authority and entitlement (especially in the workplace) than females. Males are also respected and rewarded for showing more dominance and aggression, whereas females are shamed for the same behavior.
Why is it important to note that males are more prone to narcissism?
Because a major element that needs to be considered is the gender statistics amongst lawyers. The 2018 ABA National Lawyer Population Survey followed a 10-year trend in lawyer demographics from 2008 to 2018 and there have consistently been more males than females in the profession.
Based on the above research, there are more than a few qualities that overlap between successful lawyers and narcissists. Individuals in both categories are both well suited for leadership roles and know how to maneuver situations towards their desired outcome. However, despite plenty of similarities, there is no direct link between narcissism and lawyers. The gender statistics taken by ABA Journal are important to take into consideration as well as the scale of narcissism which an individual possesses, if there is a sense of narcissism even present. For example, one may have a couple of narcissistic characteristics, but that does not necessarily make them a narcissist. So yes, there is a higher inclination for a lawyer to be a narcissist, but fear not, not everyone is.
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