Power Elite = Total Conceit?

Since I got to law school, the idea of being a member of the ‘power elite’ has been tossed around liberally.  It makes sense in some ways.  I’ve totally already achieved.  I’ve proven I have a brain and know how to use it just by getting into a good school.  And law is one of those prestigious things to study.  But recent events have intruded to make me again aware of how this prestige can turn well-meaning people into…people who aren’t very nice.

To illustrate, I will give a totally unrelated example.  While I was still working as an administrative assistant, I met a man who we will name Mr. Mandolin.  In the course of our conversation together on a variety of interesting and diverse topics, I somewhat self-deprecatingly mentioned my job at that time.  He responded that he knew several admins, and that the job was a ‘necessary’ one, so I shouldn’t sell myself short.  He didn’t quite add that I could be replaced by a barrel of monkeys, but the implication was there.  Something in my face – perhaps the raised eyebrows, or the half-choked laughter – told him I thought he was being less than gentlemanly.  He quickly and angrily exclaimed that he wasn’t blanking conceited, which pretty much ended our conversation.

I’ve been in the real-life working world where people are not nice.  I’ve been in the rush-around-stressful East Coast business environment.  I studied four years as an architecture student.  I’ve been an admin who had to interact with bigwigs.  I think I have a pretty firm handle on pretension and how much egotism is actually warranted and how much I want to interact with swelled heads in my daily and professional life.

I am a realist.  I know that there’s always going to be someone who thinks they’re brighter/better/faster than me.  and I know that sometimes the idealists are the worst of the bunch.  Still, I chose a law school that was more laid back because I knew that’s the kind of environment I want to be in after I actually pass the bar.  I chose a law school with some ideals, so that I would be someplace where everyone knows there’s more to law school than backbiting competition, and that there’s more to the world than law school.  Still, I have this sinking feeling at the moment that perhaps that wasn’t enough.

I was fortunate enough in my last job to be in the kind of working environment I want to inspire and promote in others.  I had a good boss, now I want to be a good boss.  And so far most of my fellow students are the kind of good people I want to work with.  But I can already pick out those who will be less than comfortable to work with, and this worries me.  We still have years left of disillusionment and ideal-crushing stress, so those numbers are only going to increase.  So at the end of that time, am I still going to be the lawyer who realizes some admins are brilliant and that all people deserve respect and that social bonding and genuine care in the workplace increases employee dedication and work effort, or am I going to lose the half-wisdom I’ve so far gained?