30 Law & Psychol. Rev. 23 (2006)
Cognitive Optimism and Professional Pessimism in the Large-Firm Practice of Law: The Optimistic Associate

handle is hein.journals/lpsyr30 and id is 27 raw text is: COGNITIVE OPTIMISM AND PROFESSIONAL PESSIMISM IN
Catherine Gage O'Grady
In recent years, optimism has enjoyed a heightened respect from so-
phisticated researchers in personality and social psychology The study
of optimism is playing a key role within the emerging field of positive
psychology, a discipline that seeks to explore, understand, and cultivate
human strengths rather than concentrating solely on human weaknesses.2
Empirical evidence demonstrates that people who are optimists are gener-
ally healthier, wealthier, and more successful in almost all endeavors.3
They are less likely to become addicted to harmful substances and are less
likely to become depressed, even when faced with failure or substantial
loss.4  They pursue their ambitions with perseverance and determination
and work to achieve their ambitions despite difficulty or problems.5 Over-
all, in both their personal lives and professional careers, optimists are con-
tent and successful.6
Lawyers are professional pessimists. Clients count on their lawyers to
think in terms of worst-case scenarios and to plan for all possible disas-
*.   Professor of Law, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. I am
grateful for suggestions I received on an earlier draft of this article from Ira Ellman, Jeffrie Murphy,
and Michael Saks.
1.   Christopher Peterson & Tracy A. Steen, Optimistic Explanatory Style, M THE HANDBOOK ON
PosrnvE PSYCHOLOGY 244, 244 (C.R. Snyder & Shane J. Lopez eds., 2002) (noting that while in the
past, optimism has given thoughtful people pause because of connotations of naivet6 and denial, in
recent years, optimism has earned a more respectable stance, even among the sophisticated). Simi-
larly, a related concept-hope-is receiving a great deal of attention in the medical community. See,
2.   Peterson & Steen, supra note 1, at 251. Martin E.P. Seligman of the University of Pennsyl-
vania dubbed the term positive psychology and called for psychology to be as interested in building
the best things in life as it is with repairing the worst. Martin E. P. Seligman & Mihaly Csikszentmi-
halyi, Positive Psychology-An Introduction, 55 AM. PSYCHOLOGIST 5, 5 (Jan. 2000).
3.   See generally MARTIN E. P. SELIGMAN, LEARNED O1TIMISM (1991).
4.   Id.
5.   See Charles S. Carver & Michael F. Scheir, Optnism, THE HANDBOOK ON POSITivE
PSYCHOLOGY, Supra note 1, at 231, 233-37 (discussing studies on optimism and coping and persever-
6.   Id. at 235 (discussing studies on the relationship between optimism and overall psychological

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