DISARMING THE NARCISSISTIC ATTORNEY How to Deal With Not so Nice Opposing Counsel Ann Bittinger, The Bittinger Law Firm, Jacksonville Florida

DISARMINGTHENARCISSISTICATTORNEY
HowtoDealWithNotsoNiceOpposingCounsel
AnnBittinger,TheBittingerLawFirm,JacksonvilleFlorida1
Asindividualsprivilegedtoholdlicensestopracticelaw,wehavetheobligationto
actcollegiallywithotherattorneys.Whenattorneysdonotactcollegially,itisoften
becausetheyputtheirownneedsbeforethoseoftheirclientsandopposingcounsel.
Theactoffocusingonone’sownneedswhileignoringordisdainingothers’needsis
commonlyreferredtoasnarcissism.Thepurposeofthispaperistohelpthereader
understandthenarcissisticattorney,spotexemplificationsoftheirnarcissistic
behaviorandgaintoolsfordisarmingnarcissisticbehaviorinthelegalprofessional
environment.
GreekMythaboutNarcissus.Tolayaninitialfoundationoftheideaofthe
attorneyasanarcissist,thinkoftheGreekmythofNarcissus,themanwhofellin
lovewithhisownreflectionwhilelookingdownuponalake.Hisobsessionwith
himselfultimatelyresultedinhisdeath.Hecouldnotwalkawayfromthewater;his
focuswasonhimself.Sostrongwashisfascinationwithhimselfthathestarvedto
death,unabletowalkawayandleavehisreflectiontogetfood.Thenarcissistic
attorneyislikeNarcissusintwoways.First,hebecomesabsorbedwithhimself,
usuallywithhisworkandhisneedtoreachtheunreachableperfection.Second,he
willdowhateverittakestomaintainhisimage.Heisfocusednotonhisclientorhis
ownsenseofworth,butinsteadontheimageothershaveofhim.
AttorneyasSelfless.Thenotionofattorneyasanalter‐egoorrepresentativeofthe
clientisinthefoundationofthelegalprofession.Itmay,however,beinmanyways
lostintoday’ssociety.Theideaoftheattorneyasadvocateisinjuxtapositionto
thatofthenarcissisticattorney.Asarepresentativeoradvocateoftheclient,the
attorneyispresentingtheviewsandbestargumentfortheclient,consideringthe
lawandtheoutcometothedisputethatwouldsuittheclient.Indeed,theideaof
attorneyasaselflessadvocateismorethananaspirationgoal.InSouthAfrica
attorneysarecalledadvocates;inItaly,advocattos.
Thenarcissisticattorneyisthedirectoppositeoftheattorneyadvocate.Weall
knowthestereotypicalnarcissisticattorney:puffinghischest,braggingabouthis
cases,hisachievementsandatthesametimeinsultinganddeflatingthosearound
him,includingpartners,associatesandeventheclient.Thenarcissisticattorney
mustkeepinflatinghisegoandperceivedpersona,likeaballoon,whilebehavingin
awaythatdeflatesthebehaviorsofthosearoundhim.Manynarcissisticattorneys
arerespectedandadmiredbyothers,atleastonpaper.
Thestudyofnarcissismhasevolvedintomorethanjustastudyofapersonality
trait.“Theideathatnarcissismisaconstellationoftraitsthatexistsonacontinuum,
[email protected]
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ratherthanasingle,dichotomousdiagnosislabel(youareorarenotnarcissistic)is
reflectedinplanstojettisonthediagnosisofnarcissisticpersonalitydisorderinthe
forthcomingDSM‐V,thediagnosticmanualforclinicians.”(Kaufman).TheDSM‐V
tablefornarcissisticpersonalitydisordercanbefoundat
http://www.psi.uba.ar/academica/carrerasdegrado/psicologia/sitios_catedras/pra
cticas_profesionales/820_clinica_tr_personalidad_psicosis/material/dsm.pdf
Self‐absorbed,thenarcissisticattorneyappearstobeincharge,buttypicallyisso
focusedonhimselfthathisownsenseofselfisplayedoutinhiswork.Acting
caringorempathetictootherswouldrequireanemotionalconnectionbetweenthe
narcissistandtheother(i.e.theclientortheassociate)andthatconnectioncannot
bemadebecausethenarcissistwillnotallowhimselftotapintohisemotions(orhe
simplydoesn’tknowhow).Doingsowouldexposehimselftoissueswithwhichhe
doesnotwanttodeal.Theworkbecomesnotabouttheclient,butinsteadabout
him.Anotherwin.Anothernotchinhisbelt.Narcissistsareoftencharacterizedas
grandioseandapparentlyomnipotent.(SeeMasterson91).Whilemostattorneys
findafeelingofsuccessandsatisfactioninwinning,thedifferencewithnarcissismis
thatthenarcissisticattorneydoesnotfindself‐satisfactioninsuccess;instead,heor
sheviewsthem“merelyasameansofobtainingadmirationfromothers.”(See
Masterson91).It’snottheactionthat’sbeingpraisedthatisimportant;itisthe
praiseandadmirationthemselvesthatarekeyinthenarcissisticattorney’smind.
“Buthealthypeoplevaluetheseobjectivesfortheirownsakeandnotmerelyasa
meansofobtainingadmirationforothers.”(SeeMasterson91).
Whileitisnotclearthatnarcissiststendtogravitatetothelawratherthanother
professions,orwhetherthelawasaprofessionbreedsnarcissists,oneoverlapping
characteristicofbothlawyersandnarcissistsisanoverwhelmingfocusonone’s
work.(SeeMasterson91).Lawyersasagroupareknownasworkaholics.While
billablehoursandtheworknecessarytoachievepartnershipareindependently
realistic,whatsetsnarcissisticattorneysapartfromothersisadriveforperfection.
SeeMastersonat99‐100:“Thenarcissisttendstobeaworkaholic…andperfect
mirroringfortheworkaholicrequiresthathebesurroundedbyotherworkaholics
sohecanmatchhisdriveandenthusiasmforindustriousness.Ifyouhaveever
workedforabosswhowasaworkaholic,youmayremembertheopenorimplied
pressureonyoutoshowasmuchcommitmenttothejobashedidandthe
disappointmentwhenyoudidn’t.Oneoftengetstheimpressionthatnomatter
whatyoudo,itisn’tgoodenough,andonthoseoccasionswhenitisgoodenough,
thenarcissisticbossmanagestodeflectthecredittohimself.”Masterson99‐100.
Indeed,inthearticleinBusinessInsiderentitled:“ScientificallyProven:Lawyer=
Workaholic=Narcissist”byErinGeigerSmith(March22,2010),theauthorcites
PsychologyTodayarticlesreportingthat“thegrandiosesenseofself‐importance
thatseemstobepresentinepidemicproportionsinoursocietyisrelatedtothe
worstaspectsofworkaholism,sowasperfection.”Theauthorwritesthat“lawfirms
arefilled,toptobottom,withworkaholics”and“itturnsoutworkaholismmightgo
hand‐in‐handwithanotexactlygreattrait(perfectionism)andareallyuglyone
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(narcissism)”.Accordingtothearticle,onecanidentifyanarcissistwhentheperson
says“It’shardformetorelaxwhenI’mnotworking,”citingastudybyTimothyA.
Pychyl,Ph.D.,DirectoroftheCentreforInitiativesinEducationandfacultymember
intheDepartmentofPsychologyatCarletonUniversity(Ottawa,Canada).
AccordingtoPychyl,thedifferencebetweennormalhardworkersandworkaholics
isthesamethingthatdifferentiateshighachieversfromnarcissists:thereason
behindthebehavior.Workaholicsarecompulsiveabouttheirwork,neverableto
getitright,becausetheirworkandselfisnevergoodenough,sotheykeepworking.
Likewise,narcissistsneverfeelgoodenoughaboutthemselves,sotheykeep
boastingaboutthemselvesandservingthemselves.Themainsimilarityisthatthey
focusonachievement(whatdoothersthinkofthem,basedontheirachievements)
ratherthanself‐satisfaction.Thetiebetweenworkaholicsandnarcissistsis
important.Pychylwrote:
…I think we see these relations between perfectionism, narcissism and
workaholism because they are all related to a third underlying variable – a
weak sense of self that is plagued with many irrational thoughts (e.g., “I
must be perfect to have worth,” “I must work to have worth.”) and an
overcompensation for this low self-esteem with a paradoxical narcissism
(individuals protect their weak sense of self with an overcompensation that
portrays the self in a grandiose fashion).
In discussing what he coined the “terrible trio of perfectionism, narcissism and
workaholism”, Pychyl wrote in “Don’t Delay”, a blog by Psychology Today magazine:
“I’m particularly fascinated by the negative influences of narcissism and perfectionism in
our lives, as these are traits that seem to be celebrated in many ways in modern American
culture.” (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/don’t-delay/201003/the-personalitythe-workaholic-and-the-issue-self). Pychyl wrote about a study published in a 2010
issue of Personality and Individual Differences by Wayne State University’s Malissa
Clark, Ariel Letchook and Marcie Taylor on the relationship of various personality traits
with workaholism. They studied the correlations between the different traits, and found
that:
 Narcissism was positively related to workaholism overall, as well as the
components of workaholism known as impatience (“I seem to be in a hurry and
racing against the clock”) and compulsion (“It’s hard for me to relax when I’m
not working”).
 The high standards dimension of perfectionism (high expectations of self) was
related to overall workaholism.
 The discrepancy dimension of perfectionism (perceived gap between one’s
performance expectations and self-evaluation of current performance) was a
significant predictor of all components of workaholism.
In describing the impact of the study, Pychyl wrote that the Wayne State authors have
contributed to the literature by demonstrating that narcissism, perfectionism and affect
are related to workaholism.
Pychyl identifies problematic behavior as exemplified in someone who:
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Is unable to stop working and only find value in self through work (workaholism)
Sets unrealistic expectations for our performance (perfectionism) and
Values and pursues power and self-importance to support our grandiose selfconceptions (narcissism).
See “Don’t Delay” blog, 2010. The over the top workaholic tendencies that make
lawyers so great at their jobs means they may also be perfectionists, which is a
narcissistic trait. (http://www.businessinsider.com/20-traits-of-a-narcissist-20130.
Some psychiatrists believe that narcissism is a means of overcompensating for one’s
very-poor self worth. Narcissists, according to this line of thinking, continue to try to
achieve and be perfect as viewed by others in order to mask their feelings of inferiority.
(See, e.g. Masterson 91). “Often [the narcissist] is in a profession that has considerable
narcissistic supplies built right into it. If the narcissist finds the right niche in life, he can
go for years without realizing that his life is empty at its core and that beneath the
narcissistic glitter there is an impaired real self. Acting, modeling, politics and other
professions that are by nature exhibitionistic can be very protective environments for the
narcissist since they offer continuous feedback and keep the narcissist’s balloon well
inflated” (Masterson 201). Perhaps the theatrics and constant feedback of the courtroom
are akin to acting and modeling, with the rulings and judgments substituting for applause.
If you are a partner or associate of a narcissistic attorney, you know he or she expects you
to reinforce his need to be perceived as grandiose. You may think that the goals to which
the narcissistic attorney aspire are superficial and of little real worth, but to the narcissist
those goals mean everything. The problem is that the narcissist has so little self worth
that he needs the constant achievement and praise from others to fill the empty hole of his
ego. If you are new to working with this person, you may have an “Emperor is Wearing
No Clothes” experience. In this setting, all those around the narcissist have been
carefully chosen to fuel the omnipotent persona of the narcissist. One researcher used the
example of General McArthur. “For example, there was a widespread notion among
General Douglas MacArthur’s top staff that his role in post-war Japan was the equivalent
of the Second Coming of Christ. The fact that very few people outside his staff thought
so suggests the very real possibility that MacArthur carefully hand picked his staff to
mirror his own grandiose image of himself and his role in history.” (Masterson 93).
“Frequently, their staffs are overworked and expected to produce perfect or near-perfect
results. The narcissistic leader or boss elicits martyr-like devotion from others by
manipulating their desire to be part of his achievements.” (Masterson 99).
In addition to identifying narcissistic behavior by the lawyer’s grandiosity, another
characteristic to look for is lack of emotional attachment. Narcissistic attorneys don’t
care about the client’s underlying needs or reasons. Regarding the narcissistic attorney, it
is interesting to interpose the psychologists’ analyses of narcissists as emotionally
detached from their work and lives with the early work of Harvard Law School Professor
Lani Guinier and fellow researchers and writers in the thread of research that emerged as
Guinier’s book Becoming Gentlemen. In the University of Pennsylvania Law Review
article entitled “Becoming Gentlemen: Women’s Experiences At One Ivy League Law
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School,” Guinier and her team described the term “gentlemen” as the expectation held
by professors and leaders of Ivy League law schools for how lawyers should act:
We use the term "gentlemen" throughout this Article to evoke the
traditional values of legal education, including its mission to train the
legal minds of detached, dispassionate advocates. For the purpose of
this Article, the term gentlemen describes the lawyer's role as a
neutral, unemotional, but courteous advocate for a client's interest.
(emphasis added). (Co-authors Lani Guinier, Michelle Fine and Jane Balin, with Ann
Bartow and Deborah Lee Stachel). Volume 43, November 1994. Indeed the article’s
summary of interviews with law students about gender and race issues include a number
of accounts of individuals feeling forced in law school to become less “emotional” about
issues and arguments. Instead, the article reports students said they became more
dependent on logic and analytic thinking.
I changed so much. I used to be a much more compassionate person,
much more tolerant of different choices, in terms of lifestyle, in terms
of personality. I just feel like law school has put huge blinders on my
eyes.
Guinier at 50. Indeed, the DSM-V diagnostic handbook for clinicians includes the lack
of empathy as an impairment in interpersonal functioning that is an indicator for
narcissistic personality disorder: “ Empathy: Impaired ability to recognize or identify
with the feelings and needs of others.”
Another trait that identifies narcissistic attorneys is their sense of entitlement. This,
however, may oftentimes be difficult to spot. One of the paradoxes of narcissism is that
the narcissist may be suave and charming, as well as highly accomplished. “Therein lies
one of the many paradoxes of narcissism and the primary reason narcissists are so
difficult to identify and understand. If they were just jerks, they would be easy to avoid.
The fact that they are entertaining and exciting as well as aggressive and manipulative
makes them compelling in the real world and as subjects of psychological scrutiny.”
“How to Spot a Narcissist,” Psychology Today, by Scott Barry Kaufman, July 5, 2011.
HowtoSpotaNarcissisticAttorney.Narcissisticbehaviorisoftendifficulttospot.
Anarcissist’sactionsanddemeanorareeasilymisread.Ifthenarcissistswere
blatantabusivejerks,normalattorneyswouldnotgetcaughtupontheirgamesof
self‐esteembuildingandbashing.Oftennarcissistsareentertainingandexciting
andhaveachievedmuch,soit’snaturaltowanttobearoundthemortobefriendly
andgenerouswhenworkingasopposingcounselwiththem.
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Youwillbeverysuccessfulindealingwithnarcissisticopposingcounselifyouhone
yourabilitiestospotnarcissisticbehavior.Beforeyoucandisarmthenarcissistic
attorney,youfirstmustdiscernnarcissisticbehavior.2
 Yourealizeafterthefactthatyouarebeingmanipulatedinagreeingtothings
duringanegotiationorinassignmentofwork.Youmightgetyourclientto
concedeapointinadeal,relyingonapromisefromopposingcounsel,but
thenopposingcounseldoesn’tdeliver.
 Theopposingcounseliswittyanddisplaysbraggadocio,whichfeelscordial
atfirst,buttheempathyandmutualitythatissupposedtofollowtheinitial
discussionsneverhappens.Forexample,atfirstthenarcissisticopposing
counselmaycomplimentyouinfrontofhisorherclientandmakejokesand
sayhowgreatbothofyouare.Theremaybealotofego‐strokinginaninitial
meetingbetweenclientsandtheirattorneys,bothsidestogether.Butonce
youareonthephonealonewithopposingcounsel,allcordialityisgone,like
theinitialmeetingneverhappened.
 “Narcissistswillbethrilledtohearthatasagrouptheyareratedasmore
attractiveandlikablethaneveryoneelseatfirstappearance.”SeeKaufman’s
PsychologyTodayarticle.
 Anarcissisticopposingcounselwilllosetheircharmifthreatened.Theyget
angrywhenrejected.Thisisthemostimportantissuetoavoidasan
attorneyworkingwithanarcissisticattorney,sodoyourbesttokeep
supportingtheirgrandiosesenseofself.Theyoftenturnrejectionofanissue
thatyouarenegotiatingintorejectionofthemselvespersonally,andthen
theyattackyoubecausetheyfeelthreatenedpersonally.Ifthenegotiation
aboutafactorpartofatransaction(likeprice,duties,indemnity,etc.)
suddenlyturnsintoadiscussionoftheopposingcounsel’sbehavior,that’sa
goodindicationthattheopposingcounselisanarcissist.
 Ifyouhearalotofbraggingoveralongperiodoftime,that’sprobablya
narcissisticattorneyspeaking.Iftheyareconstantlyrefocusingthe
conversationbackonthemselvesandallthedealstheyhavewoninthepast,
iftheyaremakingexaggeratedhandmovements,andelevatevoicevolume,
butthenyouseetheireyesglazingoverwhenyouspeak,youareprobably
workingwithnarcissisticopposingcounsel.
 Theysimultaneouslydevalueothersevenastheyneedothers’admiration.
Thisistheparadoxofthenarcissisticattorney–theywillinsultyou(“You’ll
neverfindsupportinthelawforthatposition”)atthesametimethatthey
2Manyofthefollowingbulletpointsarebasedonandadaptedtothelegalsettingfromasuccinctand
easytounderstandarticleinPsychologyTodayentitled“HowtoSpotaNarcissist.”
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wantyouradmiration.SeeRobertEmmons’writingspublishedin1984for
moreinformationaboutthisparadox.

Theyarepronetoexaggeratetheirexperienceandabilities,becausethat’s
howtheyfeelvalued.Youwillseethisplayoutinthelegalsettingwhenthe
opposingcounselsaystheyhavedonethisdealfivetimespreviouslyand
couldcompletethisintheirsleep.Youaskhimtousehisprevious
documentsasatemplateforyourcurrentsettlementortransaction,though,
andhedeclines.

Yourclienttellsyoutheotherside’sattorneytoldthemyouarebeing
obstructionist.Thisisprobablyhappeningbecauseyouaredoingagoodjob
foryourclient,whichthenarcissisticopposingcounselistakingpersonally,
makeshimfeelbadabouthimself,andthenattacksyoubackpersonally
insteadoffocusingonthedealandlawathand.Becausehisorhersenseof
self‐worthcomesfromhissenseofworkandaccomplishment,ifyouare
keepinghimfromaccomplishingwhathewants(i.e.,gettingwhathisclient
wantsinthenegotiation),hewilltakeitpersonallyandrespondwitha
personalattackofyou.
Opposingcounselgetsoverlydefensiveandattacksyou,personally,outof
theblue:“I’llpracticethewayIwant.Youpracticethewayyouwant”isa
frequentmantraofanarcissisticattorney.
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Excessivenamedroppinghappens.Thenarcissisticattorneyhassuchapoor
senseofselfthathefeelsimprovedself‐worthbytalkingaboutthehigh‐
statuspeopleheknowsandworkswith.

Liferevolvesaroundthem.Insteadofleavingavoicemailsaying“If
sometimebetween2‐4worksforyou,callthenandI’llbeavailable.I’lltell
mysecretarytoexpectacallfromyouthen.”Theysay:“At9IhaveX,and
10,IhaveYandat1IhaveZ,soIdon’treallyknowwhenwecantalk.I’lltry
tofindtimeforyou.”Narcissism‐by‐Itinerary,Iliketocallit.

Opposingcounselisbelittling.Ifyouhearthingslike“youtypetheredlines
thatwediscussed”(ordersgiven)or“youaskyourclientbeforeIaskmine”
thenopposingcounselmaybeassigningmenialtaskstoyou.Thisis
narcissisticbecauseheorsheisgivinganordertopeer,asopposedtoasking
youifyouwouldagreetodothetask,andbecausetheyaremenialtasks.Ifit
wassomethinghewouldgainfameandappreciationfor,hewoulddoit,orat
leasttakecreditforit.
Onceyouhavebecomeadeptatdiscerningthenarcissisticattorney,youcanthen
disarmhimorher.Disarmingisimportantnotjustbecausetheirbehavioris
offensiveandwrongfromanemotionalorsocialstandpoint.Itisimportantbecause
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ifyouaredrawnintotheringandlaceupyourglovestoboxafewroundswiththe
narcissisticattorney,youareprobablyonyourwaytoviolatingtherulesof
professionalismofthejurisdictioninwhichyoupractice.
RulesofProfessionalismViolatedbyNarcissisticActionsofAttorneys–A
SampleofVariousJurisdictions.
ABARulesofProfessionalConduct,Preamble,ALawyer’sResponsibilities:
 Theseprinciplesincludethelawyer’sobligationtozealouslyprotectand
pursueaclient’slegitimateinterests,withintheboundsofthelaw,while
maintainingaprofessional,courteousandcivilattitudetowardallpersons
involvedinthelegalsystem.
 Alawyershouldusethelaw’sproceduresonlyforlegitimatepurposesand
nottoharassandintimidateothers.
 Alawyerisalsoguidedbypersonalconscienceandtheapprobationof
professionalpeers…toexemplifythelegalprofession’sidealsofpublic
service.
 Alawyer’sresponsibilitiesasarepresentativeofclients,anofficerofthelegal
systemandapubliccitizenareusuallyharmonious.
OathofAdmissiontotheFloridaBar:
• “Toopposingpartiesandtheircounsel,Ipledge…civility,notonlyincourt,
butalsoinallwrittenandoralcommunications.”
• “Iwillabstainfromalloffensivepersonality…”
FloridaGuidelinesforProfessionalConduct:
• “Alawyershouldbecourteousandcivilinallprofessionaldealingswith
otherpersons.Lawyersshouldactinacivilmannerregardlessoftheill
feelingsthattheirclientsmayhavetowardothers.Lawyerscandisagree
withoutbeingdisagreeable.Effectiveandzealousrepresentationdoesnot
requireantagonisticoracrimoniousbehavior…Lawyersshouldavoidvulgar
language,disparagingremarksoracrimonytowardothercounsel,partiesor
witnesses.”
• Communicationwithadversaries:
• “Counselalwaysshouldbecivilandcourteousincommunicatingwith
anadversary,whetherinwritingororally.
• Trialconductandcourtroomdecorum:
• “Alawyeralwaysshouldinteractwithparties,counsel,…with
courtesyandcivility,andshouldavoidundignifiedordiscourteous
conduct.”
TheTexasLawyersCreed:
• “Theabusivetacticsrangefromlackofcivilitytooutrighthostilityand
obstructionism.…Thelawyerswhouseabusivetacticsinsteadofbeingpart
ofthesolutionhavebecomepartoftheproblem.Thedesireforrespectand
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•
•
•
•
confidencebylawyersfromthepublicshouldprovidethemembersofour
professionwiththenecessaryincentivetoattainthehighestdegreeofethical
andprofessionalconduct.”
“Alawyerowesopposingcounsel,intheconductoflegaltransactionsandthe
pursuitoflitigation,courtesy,candor,cooperationandscrupulous
observanceofallagreementsandmutualunderstandings.Illfeelings
betweenclientsshallnotinfluencealawyer’sconduct,attitudeordemeanor
towardopposingcounsel.Alawyershallnotengageinunprofessional
conductinretaliationagainstotherunprofessionalconduct.”
“Icandisagreewithoutbeingdisagreeable.Irecognizethateffective
representationdoesnotrequireantagonisticorobnoxiousbehavior.”
“Iwillnot,withoutgoodcause,attributebadmotivesorunethicalconductto
opposingcounselnorbringtheprofessionalintodisreputebyunfounded
accusationsofimpropriety.
“Iwillabstainfromanyallusiontopersonalpeculiaritiesoridiosyncrasiesof
opposingcounsel.”
CaliforniaAttorneyGuidelinesofCivilityandProfessionalism:
• “Anattorneyshouldnotmakeadhominemattacksonopposingcounsel.”
• appealingtofeelingsorprejudicesratherthanintellect
• markedbyorbeinganattackonanopponent'scharacterratherthan
byananswertothecontentionsmade
• Section14:Conductincourt:“Anattorneyshouldrefrainfrom
conductthatinappropriatelydemeansanotherperson.”
• “Iwillabstainfromrude,disruptive,disrespectful,andabusivebehavior,and
willactwithdignity,decency,courtesyandcandorwithopposingcounsel.
(Attorney’spledge).
• Actingcourteouslytowardopposingcounsel’ssecretaries,clerksandother
officestaff,andnevertakingoutfrustrationwithopposingcounselorsuch
individuals.
Alabama:StandardsforProfessionalConduct:
• “Alawyer’sconductshouldbecharacterizedatalltimesbypersonalcourtesy
andprofessionalintegrityinthefullestsenseofthoseterms.”
• “Conductthatmaybecharacterizedasuncivil,abrasive,abusive,hostileor
obstructiveimpedesthefundamentalgoalofresolvingdisputesrationally,
peacefully,andefficiently.”
• “Wewillpracticeourprofessionwithacontinuingawarenessthatourroleis
toadvancethelegitimateinterestsofourclients.”
• “Iwillshakehandswiththeopposingcounselatthecloseofadversarial
proceedingsandwillrefrainfromengaginginanyconductwhichengenders
disrespect.
DisarmingTactics–HowtoGetAlongwithNot‐so‐NiceOpposingCounsel.
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Onceyouidentifybehaviorthatisnarcissistic,youwillwanttoaddressitfor
purposesofyourprofessionalobligations,andyoursanity.Ihaveutilizedsomeof
these“JediMindTricks”toachievemyclients’objectiveswhenworkingwitha
narcissisticattorney.Althoughsomemaybealittleself‐deprecating(itmaybeall
youcandotocomplimenttheattorneywhojustthrewyouunderthebus),butifyou
canstandbackandwatchyourapproachwork,thatcanbegratifying,oratleast
relieving.
1. Letthemthinknotonlythattheywon,butthattheybeatyou.Nurturetheir
ego.Givecompliments.Whentheycomebackwithconcessionssay“Wow!
Youmusthavemovedmountains!”
2. Givethemsomethingtobragabout.
3. Donotexcludethenarcissisticattorney,fromdiscussions,collaborative
occasionsorevenprofessional/socialsettings.Theyactaggressivelyin
responsetosocialandprofessionalexclusion.Besuretoccthemonemails,
andinvitethemtoparticipateinyourprofessionalactivities.
4. Donotthreatentheirlowself‐esteem.Ifyouridicule,theywillbecomehurt
andthenoffensive.Becarefulwithcomments.Becarefulwithnounsand
pronouns:“Yourclientisinthewronghere”or“TheHospital’spositiondoes
notsupportthelaw”willbemuchmoresuccessfulthan“Youareinthe
wrong.”Separateopposingcounselfromhisorherclientwhenspeaking
aboutthesituationyouarehandling.Ifthecommentissomewhatnegative
orcritical,attributeittotheopposingcounsel’sclient,nottoopposing
counsel.
5. Usethatmiraculous“hold”button(whenangerstrikes).Ifthenarcissistic
attorneystartsatirade,simplysay“someonejustenteredmyofficeandI’m
goingtohavetoputourcall(not“you”but“ourcall”)onholdforafew
moments.Don’twaitforhisconsent,justdoit.Allowthepowerofsilenceto
workfor30secondsoracoupleminutes.Iremembertakinganunexpected
callonmycellphonefromanot‐so‐niceopposingcounselwhileIwas
driving.Whenhestartedraisinghisvoice,Isimplyputthephonedownon
thepassengerseatforabout30seconds.WhenIpickeditbackup,Ifound
thathewasstilltalking,soIputitbackdownagain.WhenIpickeditbackup
again,therewassilence.Iaskedifhewasstillthereandtoldhimitwouldbe
bestifIcalledhimbacklater.
6. TrytomakeyourissueNOTaboutthem.Again,besuretousethebest
pronoun.Don’tuse“you”.Use“yourclient,”“ourcall,”“ourneedtoreacha
solution.”
a. Todepersonalizeasituationasitbecomescontentious,Ioftenusea
metaphorofaniceberg.Isaysomethinglike”“Whenclientsarethis
“stuck”it’sbecausetheyareviewingthingsthroughdifferent
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paradigms.Yourclientseesthisasadisruptiveemployeeissueofa
lower‐paidemployeewhoyoucanletgowithasmallseverance
agreement.Myclientseesthisasawhistleblowersituationthatis
worthhundredsofthousandsofdollars.Theseparadigmsarelike
icebergs,hugeandsolid,butdriftingintoeachotherandunableto
movefurtherontheirpaths.Ifwecantalkaboutthisinawaythat
takesusoutsideofthoseconflictingparadigms,Ithinkwecanmove
along.”
b. De‐personalizetheargumenttheytookpersonally.
7. Humoroftendrivesthenarcissistaway.Trynottolaughoutloudif
somethingtheysaysoundsridiculous.Thenarcissisticattorneywillthink
youarelaughingathimpersonally.Mastersonat96:“Hisomnipotenceand
grandiosityarenotjokingmatters.”Similarly,sharingajokemeans
admittinghisvulnerability.Normallyusedasameansofdistancingor
lighteningasubject,jokingarounddoesn’treallyworkwithnarcissists.
8. Thelastandmostimportanttipfordisarmingthenarcissisticattorneyisto
knowyourowntriggers.Whatisitthattheydothatmakesyourheartrace
andadrenalineflow?There’sacartoonthatsays“Iactuallydon’tneedto
controlmyanger.Everyonearoundmeneedstocontroltheirhabitof
pissingmeoff.”That’sfunnybutpoignantintermsofknowingtriggersthat
narcissistspull.
Inclosing,it’simportanttobeabletounderstandthatthisbehaviorismorethan
justmeanness.Narcissisttraitscandevelopinto(ormayalreadybe)fullfledged
NarcissisticPersonalityDisorder.It’simportantasattorneystobeabletoidentify
theconnectionbetweenworkaholism,perfectionismandnarcissism,andtobeable
torealizetheimpactthatthesetraitsmayhaveonourprofession’sobligationstoact
withcivility.
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OtherSources:
Masterson,JamesF.,M.D.;TheSearchfortheRealSelf:UnmaskingPersonality
DisordersofourAge,TheFreePress:1998.
Brown,NinaW.,Ed.D,LPC;ChildrenoftheSelf‐Absorbed;aGrown‐Up’sGuideto
GettingOverNarcissisticParents,NewHarbingerPublications,Inc.:2008.
Behary,Wendy,LCSW;DisarmingtheNarcissist;Surviving&ThrivingwiththeSelf‐
Absorbed,RaincoatBooks:2008.
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