Community + Relationships

How Being Too Much of a Lawyer Can Ruin Your Relationships


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  • Some of the qualities that make you a good lawyer can make you a bit difficult to have a personal relationship with
  • Traits like competitiveness and laser-sharp attention to detail can quickly become annoying when expressed in a non-work setting
  • Make a conscious effort to leave your intense work behaviors at the office

As a lawyer, most likely you’re ambitious, analytical, and have excellent judgment.

You’re a hard worker, determined to succeed, poised, and intelligent. People look up to you, or they will someday soon.

You probably also have a lot of irritating habits and personality traits. Don’t be offended—it’s basically a side effect of the career. And we’re here to help, not to criticize. So let’s take a look at how you might be getting under the skin of your friends and loved ones and some small changes you can make to improve.

  • Excessive drinking

First, a caveat: Being an overly enthusiastic social drinker or sloppy drunk is not the same thing as having a drinking problem or being an alcoholic. To help you understand the difference, read this article. If you think you might have a drinking problem, please contact the National Drug Helpline. That said, it is not a secret that lawyers have a well-known reputation as work-hard, play-hard types. Drinking to celebrate winning a case or when networking is often an integral part of a firm’s culture.

Now that we’ve covered that, let’s talk about obnoxious drunks. After a few too many, they get loud, clumsy, maybe a little handsey … none of this is attractive. Fortunately, there’s a simple solution. Ready?

The solution is … drink less. Crazy, right? There’s actually a pretty simple, mathematical approach: Figure out the point at which you start to get tipsy and have one less drink than that. If you know that you start feeling the urge to sing a little Patsy Cline or show off what you learned in salsa class when you’re in an Irish pub somewhere in the middle of drink three, you need to cap it at two.

See? Super simple. If that’s not an easy solution for you, please refer to paragraph one of this section.

  • Being a know-it-all

In this line of work—especially in the courtroom—confidence is important, but there’s a fine line between being confident in what you know and simply being a know-it-all. At that point, you’ve veered into the field of arrogance and condescension. And that’s when you start to turn people off, whether they’re colleagues, friends, or your loved ones. Yes, it’s annoying when someone uses “quid pro quo” incorrectly, or says that the First Amendment protects hate speech, but you know what’s more annoying? The guy who decides to lecture half the bar on Constitutional details over a pitcher of lager. Or worse, the gal who yammers on about how everything happening on the screen is wrong while binge-watching “How to Get Away with Murder.” If you want anyone to sit next to you and watch anything with you in the future, definitely keep the pedantry to a minimum.

Can you think of a time when you went into know-it-all lawyer mode in a casual setting? What was the reaction from the people you were with?
  • Being a workaholic

You know what’s really irritating? Being canceled on, stood up, or sitting around at home waiting for your significant other to show up.

You can be the most reliable lawyer at the office and be incredibly unreliable in your personal life—canceling dates, missing out on family holidays, running late—and it’s probably because you’re being bored to tears over document review until God-knows-what hour of the night. It’s not your fault; work-life balance is basically non-existent at some firms. But it’s what you signed on for. Before that person who swiped right on you gets in deep, however, you might want to warn them that you don’t exactly work a 9 to 5 schedule, and be honest about what that means for making plans.

  • Super-competitive

Unfettered competitiveness is not a super-attractive quality. Yes, it’s essential in the courtroom and when you’re trying to beat out other associates to move up the ranks on the road to partnership, but not so much when you’re supposed to be just having fun with friends and family.

Your career is dependent on your ability to win arguments. Remember, though, that you don’t always have to win at home. Focus on finding the fun in the playing, not in the winning.

  • Irritating attention to detail

Have you ever gone out for brunch, ordered eggs over medium, then sent them back because they were a little too much on the over-easy or over-hard side? Or maybe you and your partner are trying to Marie Kondo your apartment, and you just can’t help pointing out that socks are meant to be folded in thirds, not in half? There’s detail oriented and then there’s anal retentive. It will not only help your relationships to learn how to let some of the little things go, but you might be surprised by how freeing it might feel for you.

  • Lack of empathy

Your job, while incredibly complicated, boils down to a simple concept: To achieve victory for your client. Sometimes this means having to tear a witness apart during a deposition or a cross. Your heart may be telling you the witness deserves kindness, but your job in that moment isn’t to be kind. You were probably taught to avoid getting emotionally involved in your cases. And for work, that’s great. Eventually, however, this can catch up with you in your personal life. Being able to view facts dispassionately is a great skill to have, but when you bring this attitude into your personal relationships, your loved ones might start to experience this attitude as a lack of empathy. This is basically the punchline of about 70 percent of all those lawyer jokes.

Learn how to leave work at the office. Take a moment to decompress and shift into personal mode before you inflict your more abrasive lawyer personality traits on friends and family. They’ll appreciate the effort, and you’ll also most likely find interactions more positive.