Why Good Lawyers do Bad Things to Good People

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December 31st, 2008 Leave a comment Go to comments

(Click here for more coverage of Borderline Personality Disorder.)

If you are in the unenviable position of being forced into the abomination that is the US “legal” or “justice” system by a hostile divorce, baseless or harassing lawsuit, or false criminal allegations, perhaps you might wonder why a lawyer would take such a case in the first place.  Some people may be first inclined to believe that only money-grubbing scum lawyers would take such cases.

However, just because a lawyer took a case for a legally abusive client doesn’t mean the lawyer is unethical or is simply willing to work as a hired mercenary, attacking whomever the client pays to attack.  It could be the lawyer believes the client.  Some clients are liars and manipulators and are so very good at it that they can confuse a even a well-intentioned competent lawyer who really does want to do good. 

Lawyers often believe they need to trust and believe in their clients.  The good ones also understand the concept of “trust but verify”, but perhaps are too busy to do that or have other reasons why they might fall into the trap of working for a dishonest, abusive client.  Such clients also tend to tell very distorted, one-sided, and factually inaccurate stories about their plights.  This can be a very effective means for a dishonest client to get emotional sympathy from an attorney.

Particularly dangerous are the clients who are showing behavioral patterns of destructive personality disorders.  They often are highly litigious, willing to file a lawsuit over nearly nothing, unwilling to tell the truth because it would expose that they are on the wrong wide, and wanting to fight to destroy the other party because they are fixated on ruining another person’s life for reasons that may be so minor as to appear to be irrational, insane, or even downright evil to a neutral well-informed observer.  Such a mentally ill client might be willing to spend $20,000 to get the satisfaction of having “a day in court” and sticking it to somebody who might have done some minor wrong, for instance a car accident with $100 damage who “told them off” in public after being attacked and insulted by the abusive mentally ill party. 

William Eddy, noted author, attorney, and social worker, has found that in particular four personality orders show up in a disproportionate number of high-conflict cases, especially those related to family law.  They are Borderline Personality DisorderNarcissistic Personality DisorderAntisocial Personality Disorder, and Histrionic Personality Disorder.  Eddy has written a number of books on the topic of “high conflict personalities” and “blamers” in court litigation.  He has also co-founded the High Conflict Institute to help educate those in the legal profession to understand how mental illness presents particularly difficult problems in litigation.

Among the books he has written, High Conflict People in Legal Disputes stands out as an introductory guide to how personality disorders drive legal conflict.  It is general-purpose, covering introductory psychology of personality disorders and case examples in family and civil law courts.  This book is highly recommended for lawyers, judges, litigants, and therapists.

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