It seems like nearly every day there’s a steady drip drip drip of lawyer-related stories telling us how terrible we are. Yesterday, we learned that we basically suck at having emotions or understanding that other people have emotions, a failing that can lead to increased malpractice claims, so that’s fun. Today, we find out that we are also really good at being psychopaths.

[R]esearch found lawyers landed second only to CEOs in the number of psychopaths in their ranks, and it certainly makes sense that some lawyers (say, litigators) would benefit from the ability to turn on the charm and lie without conscience.

Dutton also interviewed a successful psychopathic lawyer who, chillingly, said, “Deep inside me there’s a serial killer lurking somewhere. But I keep him amused with cocaine, Formula One, booty calls, and coruscating cross-examination.”

Don’t we all?

It seems unfair, if we are going to be amoral monsters, that we can’t knock CEOs out of that top spot. Given that nice people are leaving the profession in droves while anti-social jerks stick around, we should be able to topple CEOs from their first-place perch quite soon.


  1. Sam Glover says:

    Psychopath or not, “coruscating cross-examination” is a pretty great phrase.

  2. cvonbaeyer says:

    So does the profession attract psychopaths are create them? If the nice lawyers are leaving the profession after being attracted to it then one is led to believe that the profession creates psychopaths. In which case, perhaps it is time we change the way we practice.

  3. Walker says:

    Law cannot “create” psychopaths; rather, law rewards psychopaths that try it, and they outcompete non-psychopaths, who flee or self-medicate with drugs/drink or figure out how to insulate themselves from damage the psychopaths do.

    It is likely that law is inordinately attractive to psychopaths and a disproportionate number are attracted to law, because if offers an excellent skills match for the psychopathic personality profile: you often get to exercise great power over people, you are rewarded for ignoring their concerns and feelings and focusing solely on your (client’s?) objectives, and the more deftly you can get them to trust you and believe that you are a neutral/fair person, the more you can profit from them.

  4. Kevin Baldwin says:

    Hmm . . . its seems to me that this type of self-flagellation comes from those who really do not enjoy the practice of law. As a fairly well adjusted litigator who represents plaintiffs in civil rights and discrimination cases (ie employees and workers) I love my career. I truly enjoy being a lawyer and all it has given me and all the profession has to offer. Deceit by lawyers? Much like deceit by salesmen. What makes it psychopathic to try and sell an idea as opposed to a car or vacuum? Are criminal defense lawyers psychopaths? No, they represent their clients to the best of their ability and ensure that there is no rush to judgement and the government must meet its burden and which DNA has demonstrated can be injustice run amok. I find many of these articles silly excuses for people who wanted to be lawyers for all the wrong reasons — glamour, power, money etc. . . . .to explain why they are unhappy in a profession they can practice but that does not fulfill them. If you don’t like it . . . get out. If you engage in behaviors detrimental to the profession b/c it isn’t for you . . .then get out. . . . leave to us who enjoy the law and being lawyers . . .

    • Sam Glover says:

      The statement “research found lawyers landed second only to CEOs in the number of psychopaths in their ranks” isn’t self-flagellation; it’s a fact. And it is an interesting one. What is it about law practice that attracts so many psychopaths? And if that’s a problem (it probably is), how can we encourage them to find another line of work?

  5. Brian Danielson says:

    I thought the psychopaths become prosecutors who hide behind absolute immunity

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