Are You Known as the In-House Jerk?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 03, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

If someone said you were a born lawyer, it probably was not a compliment.

The general perception of lawyers is not that great. We're arrogant, aggressive jerks.

At least that's what he said. Attorney Stephen Williams said it's something that every in-house counsel has to strive to avoid. After all, lawyers affect culture.


Williams, writing for Above the Law, said he sometimes calls out other lawyers for how they interact with non-legal peers. In-house lawyers, in particular, "walk a fine line between being a meaningful resource and the office menace."

"But try as we may, sometimes our egos get the better of us and our aggressiveness and arrogance begin to shine through," he said.

Williams related his personal experience, but offered no real explanation for the phenomenon. Could it be that lawyers are hard-wired that way? Or does the law make us like that?

It certainly is a chicken-or-the-egg question. In the business world, it boils down to corporate culture.

Corporate Culture

Uber is an uber-example. After a law firm released a report on sexual harassment and gender bias at the company, the founder resigned because of a corporate culture gone wrong.

Recode, reporting on the investigation by Covington & Burling, said Uber had a "frequently chaotic and hostile work environment without adequate systems in place to ensure that violations such as sexual harassment and retaliatory behavior were dealt with professionally."

If only the in-house attorneys had reigned in the harassers earlier. Aggressive counsel, some firings and tough talk from the top might have changed things.

Wait, maybe that's how aggressive, arrogant, and egotistical lawyers are made. So sometimes it does pay to be an in-house jerk.

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