Lawyer Egos

When writing the post about “It ain’t bragging if it is true,” I paused for a minute thinking about how a high impression of oneself – a big ego – is necessary in some settings. Mick Jagger would not be strutting his stuff in front of thousands of people if he didn’t have the ego to give him the confidence to do so. In our daily world as trial consultants the “performers” we see are trial lawyers. I know some trial lawyers who think they are rock stars, and perhaps some are in another life, but we also know many people believe lawyers have “big egos” or are, said in a negative way, “arrogant.” While we have met a few attorneys who fit the “arrogant” description well, most of the attorneys who are our clients have that side to them, but they demonstrate a bit more humility when interacting with us. Whether they do or not, the point of this post is to note that having a big ego is critical to the job the lawyers have to do – putting themselves in front of a judge, a jury of 6 to 12 people, and a venire of sometimes hundreds of people, talking to all of these audiences, and doing their job in an excellent way to seek the best outcome for their clients. These things are not for the faint of heart! It takes internal self confidence to do these things and that internal confidence may well manifest itself as arrogance to some. But, caution is in order in that when that self confidence does cross into arrogance; when this happens, the attorney’s likability decreases. Self effacing behaviors and other efforts to humanize oneself are in order. Again, being a high self monitor, thereby being able to tell when one is in danger of crossing the arrogance line, is a big personality plus. The bottom line to those who think lawyers have a big ego is, they do, usually, with good reason. Said another way, you wouldn’t want to hire a lawyer who did not have a big ego. One can hope, however, that the lawyer knows how to balance the ego with humility – they do not all possess that ability. Some never will.

Although my job working for lawyers with big egos can sometimes be challenging, it also provides me with many fun experiences. When I am in the presence of attorneys who have over sized egos, I search for ways to find common ground, as a way to foster rapport with them so that they will know I can be trusted to help them on their big case. It also helps that I have as much, if not more, expertise in my chosen field as they do in the legal arena! When I first meet a client with an oversized ego, I usually conduct myself as if I have never heard of “Mr. Big Shot,” often, I ask mundane questions about education and trial experience. In that I am more highly educated than any attorney (unless he or she has a Ph.D. in addition to a law degree), it is rather easy to establish myself as “Dr. Big Shot” within a short time of encountering someone who is overly fond of himself. (I will digress for a moment to state that almost all of my clients are men. The few women attorneys on whose cases I have consulted have not exhibited the type of self love that is the topic of this post.) Nonetheless, and education and professional credentials aside, there are some attorneys who take far more credit than they deserve for their victories in court; these attorneys will never be more impressed with anyone than themselves. However, as David mentioned, the vast majority of our clients have big egos but these big egos are part of what has made them a huge success. I have met few people in my life who possess the skills, not to mention the desire, to work as a trial lawyer. There are many attorneys who practice in areas unrelated to trial law, for example, probate or real estate. It does not take a big ego to handle a will or a real estate closing, but putting everything on the line for a plaintiff who has little chance of winning multi millions in a lawsuit against a behemoth organization, well, that’s only for the select few attorneys with the self confidence to do what it takes to prevail. It is these attorneys who are Magnus’ clients. In fact, I will go as far as saying no attorney lacking self confidence has ever hired Magnus; all of our clients excel within their area of expertise, which fosters their high opinion of themselves. So, the next time someone faults a high powered attorney for having a big ego, I hope the people reading this post will say to themselves, “Well, of course. How else could this attorney have the courage to perform such a demanding job?” Just like anything else, having a different perspective on things often aids our understanding of it.

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