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									   CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNER                                                                                                     1.800. 973. 1177

Builders and Destroyers
[A. Harrison Barnes]
Obviously, taking pride in your work and enjoying it is important to your overall success and happiness in life. Some people, however, will find fault with
every employer they work for - these “destroyers” will often affect others with their negative views. Beware.

In every organization there are people who           kindred spirits and followers. Such groups           happiness in either their professional or
are positive forces which lead, inspire and          are readily identifiable in most law firms.          personal lives. In the high-stress environ-
build and others who are negative forces                                                                  ment of being a legal professional, it is a very
which criticize, depress and tear down. This         There are, of course, many good reasons for          easy outlook to adopt. Make sure that before
dichotomy can be carried further to cover            criticizing and finding fault with any insti-        you adopt this outlook you know exactly what
virtually any social group. This distinction is      tution. Some of this criticism may also be           you are doing.
so black and white that a cognizable argu-           quite productive. In addition, anyone who is
ment could be made that most people can be           constantly operating under the belief that           A. Recognizing the Role of Psychiatric and
grouped into one category or another. Which          everything is rosy and perfect in their orga-        Depressive Disorders in the Legal Profession
are you? In life, as in work, you will be faced      nization may be operating more under the
with a decision of which group to join and           influence of a delusion, or a very strong dose       It may seem odd to discuss psychiatric
your decision will have a meaningful impact          of antidepressants, than an understanding of         disorders in an article about finding happi-
on your long-term success. Whether or not            reality. If you consider the various aspects of      ness and fulfillment in the legal profession.
your workplace is composed mainly of build-          your life such as your recreational activities,      Notwithstanding, mental illness is something
ers or destroyers will also have a meaning-          your love life and even your family, you will        that affects a lot of people. Since psychiatric
ful impact on your organization’s overall            find that the majority of your concentration         disorders are so prevalent, it is important to
success.                                             is not on these things but on your job. This is      be aware of them. Most builders tend not to
                                                     especially so for most lawyers. Because your         have any psychological issues. Conversely,
The builder vs. destroyer dichotomy is per-          job plays such a fundamental role in your            most destroyers may be quite depressed
haps most apparent in the legal community.           existence, if you do not like your job you are       and suffer from a variety of psychological
Many studies have confirmed that lawyers,            not going to enjoy life.                             problems.
as a group, suffer more from psychologi-
cal problems such as depression than other           Presumably, you want to enjoy your job, and          1. The Role of Depressive Disorders in the
professions. Because the role of a destroyer         because your enjoyment in life is so funda-          Legal Profession
is to criticize, depress and tear down, there        mental to your satisfaction in your work, it
are likely to be a greater number of destroy-        is important to decide whether or not you            One research study surveyed 801 lawyers in
ers in the legal profession than in most other       will. In your job there is going to be constant      the State of Washington and found that 19%
professions.                                         and ongoing temptations to become critical           of the respondents suffered from depres-
                                                     of your organization and adopt a negative            sion and 18% were problem drinkers. (G.A.H.
In your own legal organization-whatever it           attitude. Destroyers will also, directly or not,     Benjamin, E.J. Darling & B.D. Sales, The
may be, there will be people who rarely talk         try and get you to join them in their negativ-       Prevalence of Depression, Alcohol Abuse,
negatively about their organization and seek         ity and constant criticism. This is something        And Cocaine Abuse Among United States
to contribute to it in an ongoing positive way.      you are, of course, free to do. You need to          Lawyers, 13 Journal of Law and Psychiatry
These individuals will have kindred spirits          understand, however, that by joining the             233 (1990)). Because there was a 5% overlap
and followers. Conversely, most legal organi-        negative/destroyer crowd and adopting its            in these groups, close to one third of this
zations have people who are constantly dis-          party line you are not only going to be doing        sample had a significant mental health
satisfied with the organization and their jobs       yourself a disservice, but you will be doing         problem.
and share their feelings with anyone who will        your organization a disservice as well. Few
choose to listen. These people will also have        people who adopt this rationale ever find            Similarly, a Johns Hopkins University study

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   CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNER                                                                                                1. 800. 973.1177

found that of 28 occupations that could be          feeling state while in the other.                  In discussing the destroyer mentality, it is
compared in a statistically valid manner, law-                                                         important to realize the way it may define an
yers were most likely to suffer from depres-        When the idealized person finally disappoints      individual inside the legal profession and the
sion and more than 3.6 times more likely than       (as we all do, sooner or later) the borderline     group as a whole. Discussed below are the
average to do so. (W.W. Eaton, J.C. Anthony,        must drastically restructure his one-dimen-        effect of an individual destroyer mentality and
W. Mandel & R. Garrison, Occupations and the        sional conceptionalization. Either the idol is     that of a group destroyer mentality. Recog-
Prevalence of Major Depressive Disorder, 32         banished to the dungeon, or the borderline         nizing both is essential for your long-term
Journal of Occupational Medicine 1079 (1980)).      banishes himself in order to preserve the all-     success in the legal profession.
The same study concluded that the legal envi-       good image of the other person.
ronment is particularly conducive to stress-                                                           1. The Individual Destroyer Mentality
related disorders due to the stress it produces     Splitting is intended to shield the BP from a
and other factors such as work complexity and       barrage of contradictory feelings and images       Whether it is because they are depressed, suf-
the amount of work attorneys have to do.            and from the anxiety of trying to reconcile        fer from a borderline personality or have sim-
                                                    those images. But splitting often achieves the     ply adopted the views of other negative people
While these statistics may not seem all that        opposite effect. The frays in the BP’s person-     inside an organization, there are individual
significant-or even applicable to you-they are      ality become rips, and the sense of his own        destroyers inside every legal environment.
something you need to understand if you work        identity and the identity of others shifts even
in the legal profession. These are the people       more dramatically and frequently.                  When most of us start our first job we do so
you work with -regardless of your role in the                                                          with a fair amount of enthusiasm. We are
profession. Because so many attorneys are           In my role as a legal recruiter, I am constantly   working in the legal profession for many rea-
suffering from mental difficulties, try as you      speaking with people who have held a number        sons. Some of these reasons may include:
may, you will have a very difficult time avoid-     of jobs over a short period of time. In each job
ing people who are depressed in your legal          this person takes, they entered the position       Because we enjoy solving the problems of
career.                                             with an idolized vision of the employer. Then,     others;
                                                    as always, something occurs which makes            Because the income is good;
2. The Borderline Personality in the Legal          them hate the employer, and they then feel         Because the job represents security for us;
Profession                                          an urgent need to find a new employer. This        Because the work is viewed by society as
                                                    pattern will repeat itself as many times as a      prestigious;
In the book I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me, the         new employer is willing to hire the person. In     Because we believe our particular organiza-
psychiatrist Jerry Kreisman, M.D., defines in       personal life, this same characteristic may        tion is highly valued in our community, state
layman’s terms the borderline personality dis-      manifest itself in someone who moves from          or country;
order. Since approximately 2% of the general        one romantic relationship to another and           Because the organization may offer us the op-
population suffers from this disorder, one can      another and another. The process is never          portunity for advancement;
only surmise that lawyers have a much higher        ending.                                            Because we like the people inside the organi-
incidence of this:                                                                                     zation;
The world of a BP, like that of a child, is split   B. The Destroyers                                  Because we like the area of the country in
into heroes and villains. A child emotionally,                                                         which the organization is located;
the BP cannot tolerate human inconsistencies        In understanding the role of destroyers, it is     Because we like the particular type of work we
and ambiguities; he cannot reconcile anoth-         important to understand the importance of          are doing;
er’s good and bad qualities into a constant         work to your day to day happiness. When we         Because it is the best job we can get;
coherent understanding of another person. At        look to the neurotic and severely troubled         Because we were competitive with someone
any particular moment, one is either Good or        in this society, we most often are looking at      else who got a job at the organization and felt
EVIL. There is no in-between; no gray area....      those who do not work. Whether it be the           we needed to work there too in order to prove
people are idolized one day; totally devalued       poor beggar, the lunatic, the rich man’s son,      something;
and dismissed the next.                             or even the common criminal-most of these          Because we believe we will do better in the job
                                                    people can be defined by an inability to work.     than in any other job;
Normal people are ambivalent and can experi-        The right to and ability to work is often bound    Because we admire certain people inside the
ence two contradictory states at one time; BPs      up in happiness and the denial of work is often    organization; or,
shift back and forth, entirely unaware of one       defined by a troubled psyche.                      Because we believe the people inside the

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   CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNER                                                                                                 1.800. 973. 1177

organization like us.                              an auto dealership. Besides, we make noth-         working here.”
I am sure you can find many other reasons          ing compared to so and so inside the firm,         I joined because I was competitive with some-
why people may join a particular legal or-         company, etc.”                                     one else who got a job at the organization
ganization. There are certainly just as many       I joined because the job represents security       and felt I needed to work there too in order to
reasons why people leave organizations as          for me;                                            prove something;
reasons they join them. When you join a legal      “There is no security here. So and so was fired    “So and so is a loser. They are not ½ the at-
organization you will generally have several       for absolutely nothing. No one here has any        torney, legal secretary, etc. that you are. Did
reasons for doing so, many of which you will       security at all. Everyone here is unhappy. I       you hear what X said about them?”
share with others inside the organization.         would not be surprised if this place closed any    I joined because I believe I will do better in the
The reasons you choose and give for joining a      day.”                                              job than in any other job;
particular organization are generally reasons      I joined because the firm has a reputation for     “The important thing is whether the right
that are particular to you.                        good work;                                         people here have confidence in you. Are you
                                                   “Did you hear about what happened with client      really sure that is the case?”
Life is quite confusing and because of this        X? I am surprised that a lot of attorneys here     I joined because I admire certain people inside
confusion people generally adopt certain ra-       have not been disbarred yet.”                      the organization; or,
tionales to justify everything they do and their   I joined because the organization is highly        “I heard that so and so is cheating on his wife
outlook towards the world. Certain people          valued in our community, state or country;         with his secretary.”
simply justify their interaction with the world    “The word on the street about this place is not    I joined because I believe the people inside
based upon their way of seeing things. When        really that good.”                                 the organization like me. “It’s good that we at
you join any legal organization, you are going     I joined because the organization may offer us     least have each other.”
to have a certain rationale for doing so that      the opportunity for advancement;
makes you comfortable and feel good about          “Do you know how hard it is to make partner        The individual destroyer does not require
what you are doing.                                here? Even if you make partner, it is not worth    much analysis because you certainly already
                                                   it because X, Y and Z.”                            know who they are in your organization or can
Inside the organization you are joining, there     I joined because I like the people inside the      recognize them just from the brief discus-
are going to be people who do not feel good        organization;                                      sion above. The individual destroyer will often
about their employer. These sorts of people        “How can you possibly like all the people          come to you acting as if they are offering a
are not always easy to spot; however, you          here? You know X, who you thought was your         sympathetic ear and then serve to invalidate
will generally meet them in a relatively short     friend, she said that you were X, etc. You can-    everything that you feel is positive about your
period of time. As you offer your rationale and    not trust anyone here.”                            particular organization. This person is doing
good feelings about the organization, they will    I joined because I like the area of the country    nothing to help you.
have a prepared set of counter-arguments to        the organization is located in;
let you know that things are not as good as        “People may think it is sunny here all the time,   In fact, this particular person would likely be
you want them to seem. Using the above ex-         but most lawyers in other areas of the country     doing the same thing in any organization of
ample, they may offer the following responses      do not take attorneys from here seriously ….       which they were a part. Whatever their criti-
to your positive expressions of happiness with     Or…                                                cisms are, they would likely be present (albeit,
the organization:                                  “How could you ever raise a family in New          in a different form) in any organization. Their
                                                   York, it’s too expensive, crowded, dirty, etc.”    methods may even have a competitive element
I joined because I enjoy solving the problems      I joined because I like the particular type of     because by making you unhappy with your
of others;                                         work we are doing;                                 role-and invalidating the things you like about
“This is busy work. It is better to pay someone    “I bet you thought you were going to get a lot     your job-you may leave the organization and
to solve the problems for you than to be the       more of X type of work when you joined here,       make room for them.
person paid to solve them. Besides, most of        didn’t you? They tell everyone they’ll get that
these clients are dishonest anyway.”               type of work when they join and it never pans      I am certainly not a psychologist or a psy-
I joined because the income is good;               out.”                                              chiatrist so a few observations are all I will
“The pay is okay, but if you look at how much      I joined because it is the best job I can get;     venture to get into here:
money you are making per hour based upon           “Are you kidding? I’m your friend and I can        First, if you are around people who are de-
how many hours you are working, you could          tell you that you can get a much better, higher    pressed they are going to share their feelings
probably make more money selling BMWs in           paying, more prestigious job than you have         with you. They are going to tell you why they

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   CAREER COUNSELOR’S CORNER                                                                                                 1.800. 973. 1177

are depressed and unhappy.                        outnumber those who truly believe in the            organization believes they are also destroyers,
                                                  organization. A good argument can be made           that organization will do its best to rid itself
Second, if you spend your time associating and    that most failed law firms failed because they      of them as well. The organization has to do
fraternizing with depressed people you will       had too many destroyers. For example, firms         this because its very well-being depends upon
very soon come to see the world as they do:       like Finley Kumble and others ran into serious      doing so.
as a depressing place. Because most of your       trouble when they began hiring partners ag-
conversations with these people will be in a      gressively at the lateral level. Because most       If there is one point of this article it is this:
professional setting, much of the depression      of these partners [presumably] were unhappy         do not become a destroyer. The second point
they speak about will likely be attributed to     with their existing organizations when they         is: do your best to distance yourself from
where you work.                                   moved to these firms, a good argument can           destroyers. The destroyer will do you harm
                                                  be made that the law firms hired too many           in both how you feel about your job and, by
Third, because humans are social animals,         “destroyers.” The ongoing success of firms          extension, how your employer thinks of you
you will likely agree with these people, sympa-   like Wachtel Lipton Rosen & Katz, Latham            as well.
thize with them and hence be granted by them      & Watkins and others, it can be argued, is a
the privilege of continual association.           result of not hiring destroyers at an aggres-       There are a lot of unhappy people in the legal
                                                  sive level laterally. Similarly, the problems of    profession and your objective should be to not
Fourth, over time, you may become quite like      some firms can be attributed to the merger          become one of them or associate with them.
these people with respect to your outlook on      of a firm of unhappy destroyer lawyers with         Because work is such an essential compo-
your organization.                                another.                                            nent of life, if you allow others to make you
                                                                                                      unhappy in your job, you will not only become
Fifth, your performance and enthusiasm for        The point is this: once the individual destroy-     unhappy in your job-but in your life as well.
your job will decrease and you will begin to      ers have a certain critical mass, the group de-     Realize that no organization-and I mean no
feel depressed about your job.                    stroyer mentality will take over. At that point,    organization-is perfect or ideal and do your
                                                  the organization is in serious trouble.             best to find the positives and ignore the
Sixth, you will begin looking for a new job and                                                       negatives and you will do just fine. In order to
then move on to another organization where        C. Conclusions                                      succeed in a legal environment, you must be
the perceived problems with the organization                                                          constantly perceived as a builder and not a
do not exist.                                     Healthy legal organizations do their best           destroyer. Once someone adopts the outlook
                                                  not to hire destroyers in the first place and       of a destroyer, no matter how far they look
Seventh, this same cycle may continue to          to recognize destroyers for what they are.          they may never find an environment they are
repeat itself over and over again with each       Nevertheless, because destroyers are often          happy with.
successive employer.                              difficult to recognize-and their methods may
The above analysis may sound quite extreme.       be subtle-destroyers inevitably become part of
However, scarcely a day goes by in my job as a    any legal organization. The job of any healthy
legal recruiter where I do not see this sort of   organization is to flush out destroyers so that
pattern being played out in some form or an-      the organization can function effectively and
other in the careers of the attorneys and oth-    the people working there will be happy. Once
ers I speak with. Depression and criticism of     identified, a good legal organization will try to
an organization is contagious and the people      change the views of a destroyer. If the organi-
who are constantly finding fault with their       zation cannot change the views of a destroyer,
organizations do cause the organization harm,     it will do its best to ensure that they leave.
and also harm the careers of those around
them who adopt their views-no matter how          What a destroyer inevitably leaves behind
benign a series of gripes may at first appear.    are other people who have been persuaded
                                                  to adopt a similar destructive point of view
2. The Group Destroyer Mentality                  and outlook towards the organization. Good
                                                  legal organizations are not stupid. They will
In order for a law firm or any legal orga-        remember who the destroyer associated
nization to succeed, the destroyers cannot        with closely and watch these people. If the


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