That was a symptom of what he frames as an "addiction" to wealth. In 2014, he became famous articulating that meme of addiction to wealth. His The New York Times opinion-editorial went viral. This month he published a book derived from that "For the Love of Money." Here you can order it from Amazon.
That's a Wall Street memoir.
Top players from BigLaw who also recognize they have been addicted won't identify with the money part. Their addiction seems more to be for power.
During a trial I was covering, one of the lawyers told me that had his goal been amassing money, he would have gone to Wall Street. He left it at that. In many large law firms, the PPP is no more than a few million bucks. Peanuts, at least compared to those who, for example, are good at running a hedge fund.
After understanding how Polk describes addiction, I can connect the dots about that lawyer. And many other lawyers, both successful and so so successful, I have dealt with.
They seem obsessed with power, in its broadest sense.
"Power," as journalist Hedrick Smith defines it in "The Power Game," is a tool for getting things done. As lawyers learn to operate within the legal system, they discover many forms of power. Those include the power of the law itself, the power of hard work in researching a case, the power of presentation in negotiation and bench/jury trials, the power of title as in being a partner in a law firm, the power of leveraging fear, and the power of celebrity (which does not necessarily generate a whole lot of money.)
Eventually the experience with what power can accomplish can become an addiction. That may be at the root of why law firms are difficult places to be an associate or staff. It seems to be power-driven. And if you have little power, you are going to be victims of it. It can be an added treat for the powerful to observe your distress.
Meanwhile, as Polk hammers, those who are addicted suffer. That pain, of course, can drive their addiction even more. The powerful in the legal sector can stumble badly and even wind up in prison when their addiction leads them to self-destructive behavior. For that very reason, law schools should have an elective course, "How to Stay Out of Jail."