Be Well, 1219 WYBJ, Vol. 42 No. 7. 48

AuthorMaryt L Fredrickson, Ninth Judicial District Court & 307 Yoga LLC Jackson, Wyoming
PositionVol. 42 7 Pg. 48

Be Well

Vol. 42 No. 7 Pg. 48

Wyoming Bar Journal

December, 2019

Happiness: Taking the Bad While Cultivating the Good

Maryt L Fredrickson, Ninth Judicial District Court & 307 Yoga LLC Jackson, Wyoming

Lawyers can be happier. Surveys show broad professional dissatisfaction among attorneys, many of whom struggle for what seems like an elusive work-life balance. Thanks to recent empirical studies, it is also no secret that lawyers have high rates of depression, substance abuse, alcohol dependence, and suicide. Many wellness columns focus on tools to manage the symptoms attorneys experience in the profession, by recommending things like real vacations, nutritious food, better hydration, more exercise, spending time outside, sleeping better, and practicing mindfulness. Less commentary addresses the causes of lawyer unwellness. This month's column identifies some causes of attorney unwellness and then points the field of positive psychology, or the science of happiness, as a vehicle to cultivate more satisfaction despite the jungle of unhappiness.

Some Causes of Attorney Unwellness

Some causes of attorney unwellness can be identified in broad strokes. For example, the practice of law in the United States is most often, by design, an adversarial practice, with two sides working against each other with the goal of using that process to reach the truth and an outcome, at least in theory. In other professions, people tend to work together to solve problems, but in our profession, by design, we often work against each other. Overzealous opposing counsel or parties can exacerbate the inherent stress of the adversarial system.

Another cause of attorney unwellness is compassion fatigue, which refers to the feelings of exhaustion and hopelessness that arise after helping a client go through a difficult part of life. Client management, or lack of client management, is another cause of attorney unwellness, particularly when faced with clients with no boundaries for when to call or email, clients with unreasonable expectations, clients who do not follow advice or instructions, and clients who do not pay their bills.

Financial concerns are another cause of attorney unwellness, in the form of debt loads and our billable-hour business models. Debt loads on those graduating law school are higher now than they were for more seasoned attorneys, leaving our youngest bar members with financial stress...

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