What is Fanning His Temper?

A brilliant attorney's nasty behavior could cost him his career, unless I can get to the bottom of it.


fanning-temperBill, a managing partner of a prominent local law firm, frequently used me as a psychiatric consultant for the firm’s personnel issues. So I wasn’t surprised to get a call from him about his partner, Steve. We had spoken about Steve several times in just the past year. This time, Bill sounded desperate. 

“He’s finally done it,” Bill said. “I just have two questions for you. First, what the hell is wrong with him? And second, can it be fixed? If not, he’ll have to leave the firm. We’ve had enough.”

Brilliant, demanding, and aggressive, Steve had been terrifying associates and support staff for as long as anyone could remember. He was kept on because he brought in lots of work and because he was a valuable mentor. 

This time, the problem was something Steve had done outside the office. Running late for court, he had run a red light. When he saw flashing blue lights in his rearview mirror, he just drove faster, stopping only when another police car pulled in front of him. Officers approached his car, one with his weapon drawn. Steve, who handled a good deal of litigation for the city, immediately began yelling at them. 

“Don’t you know who I am?” he demanded to know. “I’m the guy the mayor turns to for legal advice when you clowns get yourselves into trouble. What the f--- are you stopping me for? I’m due in court.” One of the officers tersely explained the illegality of running the red light, reckless driving, speeding, and failing to stop. Steve took the ticket and drove off, cursing and vowing to get the officer fired.

Word of the encounter quickly spread. Confronted by Bill, Steve admitted that he had mouthed off to the police officers, but claimed that he had every right to do so. Bill told Steve he needed to take two weeks off and get a psychiatric evaluation, or lose his job. That’s when Bill called me.


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