• By nature, lawyers are perfectionists.
  • That makes them expect perfection from themselves and others.
  • Keep reading to see why perfection is hard to achieve and why attorneys expect perfection from those around them.

The first job I ever had was as an asphalt contractor in Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Grosse Pointe is an area of about 25,000 people that is socially stratified between middle class and very wealthy people. The city is built along the shores of Lake St. Claire. The wealthiest families tend to live along the lake. As you move away from the lake the houses get smaller and smaller until you arrive in Detroit—which is very poor.

Why the Best Attorneys Are So Hard on Themselves and Others: Being a Great Attorney Requires that You Be Extremely Judgemental and Critical

Asphalt cracks in the winter in cold climates, which causes it to break up and look bad, so each year people from all wealth brackets were happy to have me work on their driveways. This was a source of income that kept me busy all summer. I generally would start my summers working on the larger lakefront homes and move inland as the summer progressed.

After several years, I started to notice some patterns.
 
A. Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes

First, I would make the most money and have the least stress doing the work for the people on the “poorer streets” farthest from the lake. The less wealthy people would not bargain about the cost as much, were less critical, paid faster and were easier to work with. Moreover, they generally were very nice people and easy to work with. They would also make decisions about doing the work quite quickly—the same day I came around trying to sell them the work.

In contrast, working for the wealthiest people with mansions was very unpleasant. They would take a long time to decide whether or not to have the work done. They would ask for references. They would bargain the price down to a level where I did not make much money. They would micromanage the projects. They were highly critical of the work when it was being done and after. They would bargain about the price after the work was done. They would withhold payment for inconsequential reasons. They would complain and itemize their complaints about inconsequential things in writing. All in all, they were extremely difficult to work with and I rarely made much money despite the giant sizes of the jobs. The wealthy people would crush my self-esteem and they were extremely good at it.