Ed. note: This post is by Will Meyerhofer, a former Sullivan & Cromwell attorney turned psychotherapist. He holds degrees from Harvard, NYU Law, and The Hunter College School of Social Work, and he blogs at The People’s Therapist.
There comes a time as a lawyer when you split in two –- an angel and a devil.
The angel wants to do well — as I never tire of explaining, lawyers are pleasers. You want to make partner, earn a million bucks, and be the best attorney in the world. To the angel, the firm is like your high school football team — go Skadden! Rah rah rah!!
The devil, on the other hand, would burn the place to the ground while he toasted marshmallows and sang campfire songs.
The irony is that it’s the law firm itself that turns little angels into devils — just by telling you that’s who you are.
A junior partner at a big firm told me how they did it to him. Two senior partners marched into his office and announced he was slacking off and taking advantage of the firm. It was a mistake, they told him, to make him partner.
In reality, this guy was a pleaser’s pleaser. He worked his ass off to make partner, and talked in all sincerity about his “gratitude to the firm for that honor.” He was as rah-rah as it got.
Unfortunately, none of that meant anything, because the economy sucked, and he wasn’t bringing in business. According to firm logic, that meant he wasn’t trying, he didn’t care –- he was a bad guy.
By the end of his grilling, all he wanted to do was slack off and go home. They’d done it –- turned an angel into the freeloading devil they told him he was….