The Surprising Master Key to Happiness and Satisfaction According to the Lawyer Research.

Author:Krieger, Lawrence
Position:Job Satisfaction

As humans, we all seek happiness every day, and considering the level of intelligence, power, and affluence of lawyers, generally, we really "should" be happy. Still, concerns persist about lawyer distress and related issues, some of them extremely troubling. With recent definitive findings that confirm the problems we share and also point to specific causes and cures, this is absolutely the right time to roll up our sleeves and solve this persistent riddle. Hats off to Florida Bar President Michael Higer for challenging us to collectively figure out our shared issues and take firm steps to do something about them.

After leaving 10 years of enjoyable (and yes, sometimes stressful) litigation practice to teach law, I secured the help of renowned research psychologist Ken Sheldon to investigate the issues of law student and lawyer well-being. Our most recent study included more than 6,200 lawyers and judges (1) in four diverse states. We designed the study to illuminate the core sources of lawyer well-being, and, thereby, to show us the most direct paths to prevent or mitigate attorney distress, depression, or lack of satisfaction in life and work. The patterns that emerged in the findings are hopeful and helpful. They point the way clearly toward increased well-being for any of us, regardless of our current level of happiness. (2)

Based on a body of previous research, the first instinct Dr. Sheldon and I had for investigating the lawyer riddle was simple: We suspected that the common vision of professional success might undermine, rather than promote, happiness and satisfaction. We, therefore, sought to measure the impact (3) on lawyer happiness of common success factors (for example, those providing money, status, recognition, or power). The patterns in the resulting data were stark and sufficiently surprising that they gained national attention. (4) To an extent well beyond what we expected, we could not determine which lawyers in the study were happy or satisfied lawyers based on their higher earnings, more coveted legal positions, partnerships in a medium or large firm, graduation from more elite law schools, participation on a law review, higher grades in law school, and the like. (5) Numerous findings pointed to the same result; I offer two as examples. First, we found that the most successful segment of this large sample, about 1,000 lawyers in the most prestigious positions, were actually less happy than the approximately 1,000 lawyers in much less-coveted public service positions. This was true despite the fact the "prestige" lawyers also had the highest pay and the best law school grades of any lawyer group. Second and perhaps more surprising, junior partners in medium to large firms were neither happier nor...

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