Law School Discussion

Psychopath attorneys

Psychopath attorneys
« on: May 30, 2005, 09:19:54 AM »
Chances are you know several psychopaths.  You sit or sat next to them in your classes.  You work or will work with them in your practice.

In The Sociopath Next Door: The Ruthless Versus the Rest of Us, Harvard professor Martha Stout says that "one in twenty-five of us has no conscience and can do absolutely anything at all without feeling guilty.

Contrary to popular misconception, though a large percentage of murders and rapes are committed by sociopaths, most sociopaths don't commit such crimes.  Most are ostensibly law abiding--because of the legal and social sanctions. A high percentage of them are very smart (often charming too). And a majority of them are strongly attracted to power and so seek professions and authority positions with influence over others--without a desire for the actual responsibility, of course.

When stepping on others benefits them a small amount and costs them nothing, they don't hesitate. Worse, when they can get away with it without repercussion, they make others jump or suffer simply for the sensation of power. (Why not? The harm they cause others doesn't trouble them.)

4% of the population. 1 in 25. More in law than other fields. Pretty shocking, eh? Makes you wonder about those around you doesn't it? As well it should, because that 4% is responsible for a disproportionate share of the needless, intentionally inflicted or callously tolerated, pain and suffering in the world.

The disorder arises in part because of genetics and in part as a result of nurture.  The most popular theory is that it arises from an early attachment disorder.  It's an odd and sad fact that orphaned babies in hospitals die if not handled.  Insufficient physical contact and affectionate/responsive care of a baby's needs inhibits development of certain human qualities--apparently conscience is one of them.

By the way, I would like to stray further from the law and interject here that I think the modern western practice of housing a baby in a separate room and ignoring its cries (a practice only common in a recent fraction of human existence, and still not common practice in most of the world--where sleeping with the baby is still the norm), though endorsed by some modern doctors peddling new parenting concepts such as "teaching the baby to self-soothe" (read: facillitating parent rationalization) is very harmful.  Not only does it cause the baby very real and unnecessary anxiety (throughout evolution abandoned babies were at risk to predators, etc.) and create a lack of trust in their parents, it stunts their development.  Just because lots of other people you know are now isolating their children doesn't mean it's best or even right.  Similarly, the very recent practice of sending babies and toddlers to day care is, though prevalent and in the cases of working mothers often necessary, usually a poor substitute for traditional mother/home care, and may be detrimental.

Note: Sociopathy and psychopathy are synomyms. Modernly, the APA terms it a personality disorder: the Antisocial Personality Disorder.

Re: Psychopath attorneys
« Reply #1 on: May 30, 2005, 03:52:58 PM »
There's a teacher in my school that is rumored to have been a heroin addict in the past .. your typical psychopathic personality case ... they say the herd instinct is obliterated by heroin, and the herd instincts are the ones which control the moral sense ... that professor has an unbeliavable sense of entitlement (despite being sick) and a complete lack of morals

Re: Psychopath attorneys
« Reply #2 on: June 03, 2005, 01:00:59 AM »
... they say the herd instinct is obliterated by heroin, and the herd instincts are the ones which control the moral sense ...

Morality is herd instinct in the individual.
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher (1844 - 1900), The Gay Science, section 116

Re: Psychopath attorneys
« Reply #3 on: June 06, 2005, 06:16:18 AM »
... they say the herd instinct is obliterated by heroin, and the herd instincts are the ones which control the moral sense ...

Morality is herd instinct in the individual.
Friedrich Nietzsche, German philosopher (1844 - 1900), The Gay Science, section 116

Humans evolved in small interconnected groups.  Survival of the individual was dependent on cooperation.  Group prosperity benefited individuals, even determined their survival.  Thus, other-regarding morality benefited the individual.

The serial bully
« Reply #4 on: June 07, 2005, 03:23:52 AM »
How about an Attention-Seeker plus The Wannabe plus The Guru AND The Sociopath?

« Reply #5 on: June 11, 2005, 05:08:18 PM »
By Jaime Levy Pessin

At a recent conference at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, two presenters started their seminar with some depressing statistics: Lawyers, they said, have extraordinarily high levels of depression, anxiety, stress-related illness, substance-abuse problems and various other mental maladies that might come as no surprise to people who work long hours in an often confrontational job. What's surprising, though, is that the presenters at the National Association for Law Placement convention -- a law professor and a psychologist who acts as a "life coach" for lawyers -- say the problem doesn't start in the grueling work environments. Instead, they said, law schools are pumping out lawyers who come into their careers with depression already taking root and with their priorities out of whack.

In an article published in 2004 in Behavioral Sciences and the Law, Florida State University Law Professor Lawrence S. Krieger, one of the NALP presenters, outlined findings from a study he conducted of 235 FSU law students and 255 students at an unnamed Midwestern law school. Over the course of law school, he found, students' overall well-being went down by 75 percent. Their life satisfaction decreased 58 percent. Depression rose 63 percent, hostility went up 59 percent and obsessive-compulsive behavior increased by 61 percent.

To conduct the study, researchers gave the students an "attitudes and values" survey on their first day of law school. The same students were given three follow-up questionnaires as they continued through law school; the last survey was conducted in November of their third year. In the surveys, students were asked to rate how much in the last month or so they'd experienced certain moods, how well certain statements characterized their lives and also whether they'd had certain physical ailments. The questions were crafted to put a numerical value on the students' moods.

The survey also included questions meant to assess why and how students were motivated: They were asked to write down five law school-related goals and to rate why they were pursuing each goal -- for example, "because of the enjoyment and stimulation that this activity provides you" or "because you would feel ashamed, guilty or anxious if you didn't." Also, they were asked how important it was to have certain things happen in their lives, from having expensive possessions to helping other people improve their lives. Numbers were also attached to these motivations to allow the researchers to track them over time. Finally, they ranked their first, second and third choices from a list of 15 career preferences that included four service jobs and four jobs deemed money-oriented. In selecting those career options, the students were asked to assume that any college loan obligations would be taken care of by their career choices; that way, Krieger said, their choices would reflect their genuine preferences, not their concerns about paying off debt.

The major indicator of what appeared to happen to students during law school, Krieger said, is how their motivations changed. Drawing on work in the field of psychology, Krieger explained that "intrinsic" values and motivations -- such as doing something because a person enjoys it, or because a person wants to develop himself or help the community -- generally lead to satisfaction. "Extrinsic" values and motivations, such as grades, prestige, status or the desire to impress others, can often lead to burnout and disillusionment. Among the law students he studied, intrinsic motivation went down 71 percent by the time they were seeking their first jobs, replaced by extrinsic values and motivations.

In other words, Krieger said, before even starting to practice, law students begin to do things for what psychological theory considers the wrong reasons. "A lot of people say, 'Well, that's who comes to law school. They're already messed up. Who would come except super-competitive Type A's?' " Krieger said at his seminar. In truth, he said, "They came in bright, happy, ready to make a difference. They left depressed, discouraged, wanting to make money and wanting to put their self-esteem back together." Or, in the words of one law student: "I've seen many people go from the highest motivation to sinking so low, so dejected, that they're not even wanting to practice law," said Deepti Sahrawat, a third-year at Chicago-Kent College of Law. She came to law school hoping to do human rights work, but now is aiming for a litigation job, a field she has found enjoyable when she's worked in it. Still, she said: "I did have grandiose notions of what I wanted to do with the law, but those don't exist anymore."

Re: Psychopath attorneys
« Reply #6 on: June 11, 2005, 05:09:35 PM »
What they don't tell you

On a recent Tuesday during exam week at Chicago-Kent, Sahrawat and three of her classmates gathered in the school's lobby after they finished their remedies exam. All were in their third year at law school; only one had a job lined up for after graduation. Joseph Green, who will move to Washington, D.C., after graduation to take a job with an intellectual property firm, said law school was necessarily a competitive environment. "You know you're on a curve, competing against everyone around you," he said. "You want to further your cause, and not anyone else's. "I'm not training to work in a fast-food restaurant," he continued. "I'm training to go into a field where there's stress and competition... You need to know what that feels like."

Others, though, felt law school had a more dismal effect on them. "I walked into this place knowing I wasn't going to be a law review student," said Chris Fischer, 45, who has wanted to be a lawyer since she was five years old. She's hoping to land a job as a public defender. "The toughest lesson in the world is to know that sometimes your best isn't good enough. "I have nowhere near the level of hope that I had when I first started," she said. "That's not to say I regret my experience or have changed my plans. I think 'resigned' is the word." Nearly 30 years after Scott Turow published One L, the chronicle of his arduous journey through the first year of Harvard Law School, it seems only a handful of things have changed about the sometimes unhealthy pressures students face in law schools.

"Law school does its best to promote those feelings," Turow, a litigation partner in Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, said in a recent interview. "There's one exam at the end of the year: That's the best possible way to increase student anxiety." Turow's not the only one who's noticed. Sharon Dolovich, now a law professor at UCLA, wrote a note for the Harvard Law Review in 1998, while she was a student there. In it, she described how the entire structure of law school -- from posting the list of those who make law review to teaching that it's necessary to argue both sides of a point, regardless of one's personal opinion -- works to destabilize students. "Graduates are by no means broken, but their sense of agency has been sorely undermined," she wrote in her Harvard Law Review note. "In general, they no longer view themselves as capable of having an impact on the world, much less setting it on fire."

Her experience as a professor hasn't changed her perception of that process. "Every semester, I ask students in my ethics class to write short reflective papers; I ask them to reflect on their experiences with legal education," she said. "I am always struck by how many papers reflect the same experiences I had... I don't know if it's as intense, because UCLA is a happier place than Harvard, but many people are experiencing these feelings very strongly." Administrators, professors and students agree law schools' grading curves and minimum GPAs can create intense competition among students, who say they get barely any feedback from professors along the way. The result can be demoralizing and lays the groundwork for the mental-health problems that students are exhibiting.

Re: Psychopath attorneys
« Reply #7 on: June 11, 2005, 05:10:15 PM »
Another point worth noting: Ellen Ostrow, the psychologist who presented with Krieger at the NALP conference, referred to a study rating the optimism and pessimism levels found in various groups of people -- athletes, salespeople, insurance agents. In most groups, optimism correlated to success. But the opposite was true for law students. "One of the things you learn in law school is that to not foresee the risk ... makes you a bad lawyer," Ostrow said. "The last thing you'd want is someone representing you who wasn't going to look for loopholes in the contract before you sign it." But, she continued, "Making unemotional, rational analysis of things is a tool. It shouldn't be a way of life." Legal education, and eventually legal practice, doesn't necessarily make that distinction, and that can undermine law students' and lawyers' mental health.

It's not just students at the most elite law schools feeling the pressure: At FSU, which is ranked 56th in US News & World Report's 2006 law school listings, "the students say their experience is similar, except there's no guarantee of a high-paying job," Krieger said. The students at Chicago-Kent agreed. "Law school just dejects you," said Sahrawat, 29, who was a consultant before attending law school. "You put in a lot of work. When it pays off, it's great, but when it doesn't pay off, it's gut-wrenchingly awful."

Sowing the seeds

Although there's no research that shows directly that law students' depression spills over into their practices, there is evidence that lawyers are grappling with the same sorts of mental health issues. A Johns Hopkins study in 1990 showed that lawyers suffered from major depressive disorder at a rate more than three times higher than non-lawyers who shared their key sociodemographic traits. The same year, a study of Washington state lawyers showed that 18 percent of them were "problem drinkers," more than twice the alcohol abuse rates for adults in the United States. In 1991, a study of North Carolina lawyers showed that more than 25 percent of them experienced physical symptoms of extreme anxiety at least three times per month. "Most legal workplaces don't talk about this because it's touchy-feely," Ostrow said. "But we're talking about retention, productivity and lower health-care costs."

Law school administrators don't deny that some of their schools' institutional hardships can put immense pressure on their students and cause depression, low self-esteem and the other kinds of demoralization that Krieger identified. "We get students who tended to be outstanding performers," said Stephen Sowle, Chicago-Kent's assistant dean for academic administration and student affairs. "All of a sudden, some portion of the group is necessarily getting grades they've never gotten before. It leads to anger, self-doubt." Cliff Zimmerman, dean of students at Northwestern University School of Law, agreed: "It's a very rigorous and demanding curriculum, and it tends to allow for the worst things to happen, particularly if there aren't any proactive measures by law schools to alleviate or reduce the impact of the stressors in legal education," he said.

Chicago-Kent will be starting that conversation next fall, when entering students will receive a copy of a pamphlet Krieger wrote, outlining the pitfalls that students tend to encounter in law school and discussing the statistics related to law student and lawyer depression. "One of the things we can do is, from the outset, just try to alert students there are these issues," Sowle said, adding that the school also offers workshops to students throughout the year to help them adjust to their new surroundings. Optional seminars on note-taking and what to expect on the first set of law school exams help guide students through their first year. Northwestern goes further, extending the discussion of law school depression and anxiety to include professors. In fact, Krieger noted the school is one of a handful of places taking meaningful steps to make their environments a little less harmful to students' mental health.

Zimmerman said his school's approach has many parts: Before the academic year begins, new teachers attend a session to learn about techniques beyond the Socratic method, which has been alternately praised for teaching students to think on their feet and criticized as unnecessarily brutal. Professors who teach classes to first-year students are required to give some form of assessment prior to the final, whether it's a graded midterm or just a practice exam with model answers. Once the school year gets underway, Zimmerman said, many professors incorporate collaborative learning into their courses, asking students to work together on projects or presentations. By the time on-campus interviews come around at the beginning of their second year, students remain unranked within their classes, and they receive interviews through a lottery system; employers cannot screen students based on their grade point averages. The University of Chicago uses a similar lottery system to alleviate the pressure of finding a job without having scored straight A's. "That's the tone of our community," Zimmerman of Northwestern said. "Students are working in groups or teams; they're not stratified. They're not fighting over interviews. It makes it much easier for people to help each other."

Get used to it

Sowle said most law schools aren't going to change the basic educational structures that put pressure on students, or even incorporate some the techniques Northwestern uses. He pointed to the grading curve. "Most law schools don't really have any alternative to it," he said. "The elite law schools can get away with it, but Kent, a second-tier school, would be doing a disservice to students if we didn't have some way of doing class rank." Other changes, like consistently smaller classes, just aren't economically feasible. "It's not as if universities are looking around for ways to waste money," Turow said. "It's hard, when law students leave to $125,000 a year. Claims that it's a harsh experience tend to fall on deaf ears."

Still, Krieger said, more schools should be implementing low-cost changes. "It's like there's no problem," he said. "If you look at law school bulletins and brochures, it's like everybody's happy and it's a wonderful place. Students need to be told: 'This is going to be difficult for you. You're used to being at the top, and our grading system doesn't allow everyone to be at the top.' Come out of denial, so when it happens, students don't internalize it and feel like they're in the wrong place. "We're all smart. We have all these resources, but none of them are going to these problems in the profession," Krieger continued. "Pumping out depressed, confused and poorly motivated graduates is not going to help society."

How about an Attention-Seeker plus The Wannabe plus The Guru AND The Sociopath?

The Bully is the worst of all!

Re: Psychopath attorneys
« Reply #9 on: July 07, 2005, 07:25:07 PM »
I had a professor that exhibited the exact and same symptoms this serial bully does! But go ahead and make her and the faculty believe he's really sick!