83 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 554 (2014-2015)
What Makes Lawyers Happy: A Data-Driven Prescription to Redefine Professional Success

handle is hein.journals/gwlr83 and id is 588 raw text is: 




  What Makes Lawyers Happy?: A Data-

          Driven Prescription to Redefine

                     Professional Success


        Lawrence S. Krieger* with Kennon M. Sheldon, Ph.D.**


                                   ABSTRACT

         This is the first theory-guided empirical research seeking to identify the
     correlates and contributors to the well-being and life satisfaction of lawyers.
     Data from several thousand lawyers in four states provide insights about di-
     verse factors from law school and one's legal career and personal life. Strik-
     ing patterns appear repeatedly in the data and raise serious questions about
     the common  priorities on law school campuses and among lawyers. External
     factors, which are often given the most attention and concern among law stu-
     dents and lawyers (factors oriented towards money and status-such as earn-
     ings, partnership in a law firm, law school debt, class rank, law review
     membership, and  U.S. News & World  Report's law school rankings), showed
     nil to small associations with lawyer well-being. Conversely, the kinds of in-
     ternal and psychological factors shown in previous research to erode in law
     school appear in these data to be the most important contributors to lawyers'
     happiness and satisfaction. These factors constitute the first two of five tiers of
     well-being factors identified in the data, followed by choices regarding family
     and personal life. The external money and status factors constitute the fourth
     tier, and demographic differences were least important.
         Data on lawyers in different practice types and settings demonstrate the
     applied importance of the contrasting internal and external factors. Attorneys
     in large firms and other prestigious positions were not as happy as public
     service attorneys, despite the far better grades and pay of the former group;
     and junior partners in law firms were no happier than senior associates, de-
     spite the greatly enhanced pay and status of the partners. Overall, the data
     also demonstrate that lawyers are very much like other people, notwithstand-
     ing their specialized cognitive training and the common perception that law-
     yers are different from others in fundamental ways.


     * Clinical Professor of Law, Florida State University College of Law.
     ** Professor, Department of Psychological Sciences, University of Missouri (Columbia).
     We particularly appreciate the dedication and focused efforts of the Lawyer Assistance Pro-
gram directors and bar administrators who made this study possible. Special appreciation also
goes to David Shearon, who generously provided his thrivinglawyers.org website for manage-
ment of continuing legal education records related to this study. We thank Sarah Spacht for
research assistance, Hunter Whaley for research assistance and editing suggestions to complete
the draft, Mike Prentice and Mark White for technical assistance with data compilation and
expression, and Jerry Organ and Daisy Floyd for thoughtful comments on an earlier draft. Defi-
ciencies remain the responsibility of the authors.

February 2015 Vol. 83 No. 2


554

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