ABA Journal



The Legal Field Attracts Psychopaths, Author Says; Not That There Is Anything Wrong with That

Nov 13, 2012, 11:30 am CST


I think it is highly unclear whether the profession "attracts" or actually "makes" psychopaths. Back in the late 80's there was a study (University of Arizona, I think) that concluded students tended to become hostile and paranoid in law school. When you take the products of the law school process, and slap a bunch of them in law firms where they have long strings of 80-hour weeks, without much sleep or sunlight, sooner or later, you should expect psychopathic behavior to surface. If it goes on for a period of years, some will eventually become partners, and then, Managing Partners (and there you have it).

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 13, 1:16 pm CST

Kevin Dutton used psychopathy to sensationalize his book and thus maximize sales. It's ridiculous. Of course successful people have some of the traits psychopaths have; psychopaths are people, too. Dutton's books probably never would have sold without the sensationalistic link to psychopathy.

The difference between successful people and psychopaths is ETHICS: psychopaths have none. Therefore all the other similarities Dutton points out don't count. There are countless other similarities and identities between psychopaths and successful people: e.g., their mouths are perpendicular to their noses, they have cilia on their lungs, they wear shoes on their feet, they blink, etc., etc. I wouldn't spend a penny on this rectal orifice's book.

By CHRISTIE WAGNER on 2012 11 13, 3:42 pm CST

To B. McLeod's Posting #1 on Nov 13, 2012 7:16 AM CST: I agree that it's"unclear" whether the law attracts or makes psychopaths. I would further venture that it is indisputable that any protracted sleepless and stress--be it because one is a prison inmate, under deadline of a demanding job, cramming for final exams in high school or college, whatever--is conducive to making a person "hostile and paranoid". Author Kevin Dutton is moronically stating the obvious. What a pity that he wasted so much paper on such drivel.

By CHRISTIE WAGNER on 2012 11 13, 3:49 pm CST

Gee #2 & #3, I thought Dutton was complementing us. I was disappointed dentists didn’t make the list.

By Dentist / Attorney on 2012 11 13, 4:05 pm CST

How is it that "spy" did not make the list, and that "clergy person" did not top it?

By AndytheLawyer on 2012 11 13, 4:45 pm CST

@5 I think it's simply a matter of those groups not stepping up to represent themselves in the survey. Clearly they would have done very well (or poorly, depending on your view).

By Myself on 2012 11 13, 8:14 pm CST

And remember, Ted Bundy attended the University of Puget Sound law school (but did not graduate).

By PhillyGirl on 2012 11 13, 11:44 pm CST

# 1 should also include hedge fund managers.

By BMF on 2012 11 14, 2:43 am CST

Wow It's all coming together now. And I thought that I was crazy .....and that all those persons employed in the court/ legal profession were actually goood honest and sane gosh geee wiz wally Those individuals that commit frauds upon the courts by officers of the courts, obstructions of justice and violence in aid of racketeering are truly nature. natural born and government paid psychopaths. What a revelation. At least thats the begining to understanding the complete lack of empathy to human suffering that's caused by unlawful governmental legal conduct that is so much perpetrated upon America' socially unaccepted classes of people...the poor the uneducated the under, non ,a nd misrepresented, legally. in United States territory. Remember people psychopaths and their psychopatic behaivior spawn and spread psychopathic behaivior. A psychopath with clout and impunity in today's current society usually gets away with it..leaving in it's wake thousands of voiceless victims of theser days one of those victims or more will turn psychopathic themselves then we all better watch out for the pschopathic wrath of injustice and unequal protection under the laws. Such is the true spawner of terrorism since time immemorial.

By Phillip Inkel on 2012 11 14, 10:59 pm CST

loved #1,#2 and #3. i have experienced a few psycopath's in my career. some might have even made it to the bench by now. the first hurdle to treatment is admiting you have a problem. i am happy to admit that I am a passive psychopath :)

By Peter the Psychopath on 2012 11 16, 12:52 am CST

Just to clarify post #9 I know that the majority of people employed in the legal profession are good and honest and that those that do engage in corruption, graft and dishonesty are a finite group that with good work by Justice will be an element of the future past. In addition I would like to add that in no way do I condone terrorism in any fashion. Both post 9 and 11 are intended for Law enforcement to read and take action upon, because, if what I am saying is true and by my perception it is and demonstrateable with ample evidence, then Connecticut's Courts, in part, both State and Federal, are broken, rendered useless to myself, family and others similarly situated, and are truly dangerous to all of us. Litigating racketeers that act with impunity and governmental concealment that are psychopaths are dangerous to the fabric of the Nation, interstate trade and commerce and the public health of The United States of America. These accusations or reports do come with names, dates, criminal acts with specifics and particulars. I f there is anyone out there reading this that is fearless and would like to help expose and remedy the reported continuing situation....that is my real name google it and you will find my contact info and more.

By Phillip Inkel on 2012 11 16, 1:22 pm CST

As in most professions, some of our bretheren took the legal path and others chose the psychopath.

By NOW JERRY BROWN on 2012 11 16, 1:24 pm CST

Now Jerry Brown that was very good. Your comment made me laugh.

By Phillip Inkel on 2012 11 16, 1:32 pm CST

"CEOs and lawyers are among the professions with the most psychopaths—evidence that psychopathic traits aren’t all bad," could have just as easily ended "evidence that psychopathic traits are all bad."

This is silly nonsense.

His next book should focus on authors.

By TimT on 2012 11 16, 1:48 pm CST

Don't be drankin the haterade. Who do you want taking your case? Someone who is going to worry about how the other side feels, or someone who is going to get the job done?

I do love it that both my and my husbands avocations are highly psychopathic. He gets to carry a deadly weapon and use it, so I guess I'm glad that I'm more likely to be psychopathic than he is.

Give the psychopaths a little love.

By Psycho Law Mom on 2012 11 16, 2:27 pm CST

To be clear psychopaths are people too. I do not discriminate against anyone. I f a psychopath can get his or her job done while staying within the bounds of the law then more power to them. Personally I am looking for someone or entity that will just git errr done.

By Phillip Inkel on 2012 11 16, 2:33 pm CST

Politician didn't make the list?!!! What a joke.

By T on 2012 11 16, 2:33 pm CST

Passive psychopathy, how very endearing:-)

By Heather Esq. on 2012 11 16, 2:50 pm CST

I'll stick to the classic that's available for free:

By Random Guy on 2012 11 16, 3:25 pm CST

@#13--Thank You

By NOW JERRY BROWN on 2012 11 16, 3:37 pm CST

This is news? What next? An article on some author's claim that fish swim?

By VAstly Amused on 2012 11 16, 3:51 pm CST

McLeod @1, you left off: "and then some even become judges. The world is better equipped to handle the rest." Christie Wagner @ 2, I agree with you, and I apologize to all for my adding to this author's publicity campaign by commenting. Of course, publicity-stunt inclined authors did not make the list. This is not news, and certainly not science, but just more pop- psychology or psuedo-psychiatry connected to a publicity campaign to sell books. Commentators: these were supposedly the results of an undoubtedly trusty "on-line survey." Of who, psychpaths? Those who responded to the on-line survey probably thought they were exercising a little "ability to manipulate or wield control over" the professions listed, which should put "survey responders" at the top of the list. Freud would have loved this author.

By Realist on 2012 11 16, 4:23 pm CST

Many shrinks use "psychopath" and "sociopath" interchangeably. Sociopaths range from people with their hands in mom's (or their client's) wallet to genocidal maniacs. Sociopaths are born without conscience, can't understand "ethics," are totally self-absorbed and self-centered and even as they are rotting in prison for their sins against society, they spend most of their time trying to get others to feel sorry for them. There is no cure, no drugs, no talking therapies, nothing except a lobotomy or death. Now that's my kinda lawyer!

By Master Thespian on 2012 11 16, 5:17 pm CST

The other unwelcome, unprofitable trait of a psychopath, sociopath or just plain narcissist is the lack of empathy; Any of these types who develop empathy will find that all the other areas of dysfunction eventually present themselves to be dealt with because it's impossible to be unethical if you're empathetic, etc. I am speaking from experience....not the pscyopath part just the plain old everyday American Christian narcissist.

By Nancy Wolfen on 2012 11 16, 5:29 pm CST

CEOs and lawyers are both fields heavy with psychopaths? Guess it's a good thing we haven't elected anyone with both those credentials as President recently.

By R on 2012 11 16, 5:29 pm CST

As the victim of a psychopath lawyer, I thank the author for alerting the rest of us. Really, y'all ought to come with a visible label. "Impression management" sucks.

By Olivia LaRosa on 2012 11 16, 5:36 pm CST

How did he manage to omit generals?

By former JAG officer on 2012 11 16, 6:28 pm CST

The list seems highly suspect to me. Isn't it common knowledge that the least sane people are the ones that take up psychology as a profession?

By Melanie Vliet on 2012 11 16, 6:34 pm CST

B. McLeod, I get what you're saying but your question raises the further question of whether psychopaths are created by nature or nurture, i.e. are they born psychopathic or does their environment make them that way? And one could argue that while the environment creates them, perhaps some people are more prone to becoming psychopaths.

By Amy on 2012 11 16, 6:39 pm CST

I attended a top-tier school. Seemed to me that most of the arseholes were that way when they got there.

By Olivia LaRosa on 2012 11 16, 7:04 pm CST

@2 Ethics? There are some attorneys who have none. Read some Bar disciplinary proceedings.

By Henry Legere on 2012 11 16, 7:09 pm CST

@21 and @27 You made my afternoon. Still laughing!

By Born this way! on 2012 11 16, 7:55 pm CST

Oh, dear... I am a lawyer and a CEO, who also sometimes performs duties of a salesperson. I fit three positions on this list! My family got to keep me on pills then...

By Anna Gray on 2012 11 16, 10:47 pm CST

The nonsense that NPR and the ABA promotes... What next? Scientology? "Mindfulness" the trait of a psychopath? So the Buddha and the Dalai Lama were psychopaths? (except for the ruthlessness part)

Excuse me? Last I checked, "ruthlessness" requires "action."

Looks like this little Oxford researcher is doubling up on dundancy.

By Tom Youngjohn on 2012 11 17, 12:46 am CST

Or, your ex could be named "Ruth." I actually heard of a guy who took his girlfriend, Ruth, out for a drive in his convertible. He hit a bump at 80 m.p.h. and drove on ruthlessly.

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 17, 7:11 am CST

Politicians are not on the list?

By silencedogood on 2012 11 18, 4:08 pm CST

Hmmmm: All fish swim. I swim. Therefore, I am fish. I think we covered that type of false reasoning in my freshman year. Or, was that kindergarten?

However, from a marketing perspective, how can you loose with a book that attributes psychopathic characteristics to CEOs and lawyers? That's about as risky as selling lollypops at a Telly Sevalas look-alike convention.

The theory seems as informative and enlightening as a daytime talk show. Nevertheless, they're not printing a book so much as they're printing money. People like their bubble gum -- especially when they can chew on CEOs and lawyers.

By wdm on 2012 11 19, 6:06 pm CST

I recently worked for one (4 years) as an in-house attorney so I can totally believe it. I think unbridled power contributes to the psychopathic tendencies...the sense that you’re untouchable so why act sane. "Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely."

By D. Baker on 2012 11 19, 6:30 pm CST

You may be right. I may be crazy. I just might be the lunatic you will want to hire as your attorney. LOL with apologies to Billy Joel

By Peter E. Ryba on 2012 11 19, 11:55 pm CST

I see the psychopaths getting a bit edgy here...

By Olivia LaRosa on 2012 11 20, 4:28 am CST


By Tom Youngjohn on 2012 11 20, 4:32 am CST

Psychopaths are bad no matter where they are found. We are fools to tolerate them, let alone promote them in any capacity in our society.

By LawLOL on 2012 11 20, 8:23 pm CST

The CIA requires them and could not operate otherwise. You want them on that wall; you need them on that wall. (You just hope they don't show up for tea).

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 21, 3:17 am CST

May I suggest another plan? Let them populate Australia, move all the non-psychopaths in Australia to another continent, and let the psychos duke it out among themselves away from the rest of us hard-working family types. I am sick of them messing up the planet for the rest of us. Apologies to Australians; it's just the first solution that comes to mind.

By Olivia LaRosa on 2012 11 21, 3:32 am CST

Kind of a reversal of the times when the psychopaths were sending everyone else to Australia, and keeping England for themselves.

By B. McLeod on 2012 11 21, 6:09 am CST

Now that's damn funny. I read The Fatal Shore. It's the dreadul story of Australia's unfortunate colonists. Thus my courtesy to our Aussie sisters and brothers.

By Olivia LaRosa on 2012 11 21, 7:37 am CST

What a ridiculous postulate. The author provides no basis for the statement and just throws it out there as if it must be true since he said it. I have no empirical data either but I am not trying to sell a book either and I can say from personal experience (I am an attorney) that when I completed undergraduate studies I wanted to be a psychologist. I was attracted to this field simply because I had left a corporation as a manager and no longer wanted to have employees below me. I began to interview teaching and practicing psychologists to learn about graduate studies and my possible new career. I found the psychologists to be far more troubled than the people who I envisioned putting on my couch. The more psychologists I interviewed the more sure I became that I did not want to join the ranks of these nuts. It occurred to me that many of them seemed to have aspired to the field in search of their own answers, most of which seemed unanswered and unresolved. To make a long story shorter, I shifted gears, became a lawyer, and have found my colleagues to be pretty good people. In general, they like to win, but seem far more grounded than the shrinks. You keep the psychologists, I will stick with the lawyers any day.

By Greg on 2012 11 21, 10:33 pm CST

RJon Robins • I totally buy the premise of this book. It takes a certain ability to detach oneself from all the doubters, naysayers, losers and leaches in order to learn how to do what must be done to build an "above average" law practice.

Because too many of the lawyers who have settled for just having an average law practice, they have too many excuses and seem a little bit too determined sometimes, to justify the results they've settled for by discouraging we, the highly entrepreneurial, ambitious minority who are determined to build an above-average and dare I say an extraordinary law firm business.

Are you willing to live for a year the way the average lawyers won't, so at you can live the rest of your life the way the average lawyers can't ? If you said "YES!" then congratulations, they'll probably want to label you as a psychopath and far worse! Welcome. Please reach out to me and introduce yourself :-)

By RJon Robins on 2012 11 23, 2:56 pm CST

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