• Many young attorneys can suffer from a conceited belief of themselves.
  • They in fact become narcissists.
  • While confidence and a demand for respect are much-needed attributes in law, self-congratulatory behavior is not welcomed.
  • Such behavior, in fact, can destroy a young attorney’s career.

The word narcissism comes from the character made famous by the Greek poet Ovid, Narcissus, who fell in love with his own reflection. In the story, Echo falls in love with Narcissus and gets rejected. The story makes clear that Narcissus is only able to love himself and not others. Conversely, Echo completely loses herself in her love for Narcissus and has no sense of self at all. At the end of the story, Narcissus tells Echo, "I would die before I give you power over me." Echo responds, "I give you power over me." Both Narcissus and Echo die because their love is unattainable. Many of us cannot find a balance between ourselves and others.

Narcissistic entitlement syndrome
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

One of the greatest problems facing young associates inside law firms is what I call Narcissistic Entitlement Syndrome ("NES"). Attorneys who suffer from NES often very quickly find themselves out of jobs, whether they quit, are fired, or simply move among employers to deal with the false sense of entitlement that accompanies this disorder. I need to be clear that this narcissistic personality, in my opinion, is an extremely serious subject and something I believe probably at least 10% of the associates in large and prestigious law firms suffer from NES. This is a disorder that causes a sense of entitlement, and I see it virtually every week in my conversations with attorneys. These symptoms of narcissism will cause problems in your career.

This article (a) defines NES and its symptoms and (b) explores the effects of the Entitlement Syndrome on your career.

A. Narcissism Entitlement Syndrome (NES) Definition