Tuesday, October 14, 2008

"Professional Felicity" of Lawyers

The Eighth Annual Goldberg Lecture Series will be held on Thursday, October 16, 2008, with Arthur T. Donato, Esq., of Media, PA, presenting on two topics -- "Can Justice Be Found in the USA Patriot Act?" and "The Key to Professional Felicity."

According to Merriam-Webster's online dictionary, "felicity" is a term that derives from the 14th Century, and means:

  • 1 a: the quality or state of being happy; especially : great happiness (felicity)
  • 1 b: an instance of happiness
  • 2: something that causes happiness
  • 3: a pleasing manner or quality especially in art or language (felicity with words)
  • 4: an apt expression
Early in 2008, the Christian Science Monitor published two articles about happiness -- "Actually, happiness isn't within" (01/07/08) by Eric Weiner, and "Yes, you can be happy at work" (01/22/08) by Alexander Kjerulf.

Mr. Weiner writes that "some cultures are simply better at producing happy citizens than others."
The self-help industry has it wrong. Social scientists studying happiness (or subjective well-being, to use the academic term) have found that external factors – quality of government, social interactions and, to an extent, money – determine our happiness more than anything else.

In other words, happiness does not reside inside of you. Happiness is out there. * * *
Among other factors, he links happiness to trust:
Trust of others is another prerequisite for a happy nation, and that is a troubling fact for fans of American happiness.

In 1960, 58 percent of Americans felt most people could be trusted. By the 1990s, only 35 percent held that view.

Indeed, given our economic and military muscle, the US occupies a modest spot on the atlas of bliss. We are not as happy as we are wealthy. * * *
Mr. Kjerulf notes that "[t]he concept of happiness at work is alien to most American workplaces [but it] doesn't have to be that way." He considers the different approaches of most employers in America versus those in Europe, and then advises:

Make no mistake: Happiness at work is on the march. It just seems that many Americans are stuck a little harder in the "work is unpleasant – that's why we get paid to do it" mentality.

So my advice to American managers and employees is this: Make happiness at work your top priority. It will make work more fun, it will make you happier in life, and it will make you more successful.

Blogger Arnie Herz noted these articles, and applied these principles to lawyers in his posting, "The ongoing inquiry into lawyer happiness" (01/24/08), which contained many useful links.
As Sue Shellenbarger (pdf) writes in an article on Lawyers Opening Up About Depression, studies have found that about “19% of lawyers suffer depression at any given time, compared with 6.7% of the population as a whole.”

While some might question the exact correlation between career stresses and depression, it seems that it’s well accepted that the “practice of law, with constant conflict and billing pressures, can take a toll.” * * *
The basic orientation or mindset of lawyers itself can present a problem, according to Martin E. P. Seligman, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, Director of the Positive Psychology Network, and a former President of the American Psychological Association, who wrote an article, "Why Are Lawyers So Unhappy?"

He wrote that "Positive Psychology sees three principal causes of the demoralization among lawyers."
  • First is pessimism, defined not in the colloquial sense (seeing the glass as half empty) but rather as the pessimistic explanatory style. * * *
  • A second psychological factor that demoralizes lawyers, particularly junior ones, is low decision latitude in high-stress situations. Decision latitude refers to the number of choices one has – or, as it turns out, the choices one believes one has – on the job. * * *
  • The deepest of all the psychological factors making lawyers unhappy is that American law is becoming increasingly a win-loss game. * * * American law has similarly migrated from being a practice in which good counsel about justice and fairness was the primary good to being a big business in which billable hours, take-no-prisoners victories, and the bottom line are now the principle ends. * * * [Emphasis added.]
In his authored handout for the second presentation, entitled "Even Happiness Isn't Enough -- The Key to Professional Felicity", Mr. Donato returns to the professional oath that each attorney swore upon bar admission for guidance in practice by individuals.

The presentations will begin at 3:00 pm and last until 5:00 pm at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, at 23 South Second Street, Harrisburg, PA.

The Goldberg Lecture Series in Law was established in 2000 in memory of Harrisburg lawyers Arthur L. Goldberg and Harry B. Goldberg. The annual presentation is sponsored by the Dauphin County Bar Foundation, with the assistance of the Dauphin County Bar Association, 213 North Front Street, Harrisburg, PA 17101. The law firm Goldberg Katzman, P.C. also supports the Goldberg Lecture Series.

Past annual presentations have featured topics of: effective trial court advocacy (2001); wrongful imprisonment (2002); presentation of the complex civil case (2003); the USA Patriot Act (2004); the role of an independent judiciary (2005); practical alternative dispute resolution (2006), and roles & functions of the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office (2007).

Pursuant to Pennsylvania's Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Rules for Lawyers, this program will provide two hours of substantive credit for all participants who attend the entire session. Attendees for the second hour of presentations will receive "ethics" CLE credit. There will be no fee for the session.

To make an attendance reservation, click the graphic above for contact information.

Update: 10/15/08:

For another view about the happiness of lawyers in practice, see: "
Va. Law’s Class of 1990: Happy in their Careers, but Less So in BigLaw" (10/15/08) posted on the American Bar Association Journal's Law News Now by Debra Cassens Weiss:
Reports of unhappy lawyers tell of problems with depression, alcoholism, divorce and suicide. But the reports appear to be exaggerated, if the Virginia School of Law’s 1990 graduating class is any guide.

A study finds the group is largely contented with their careers and their lives, albeit less so if they work for big law firms. The study (PDF) found 81 percent of grads responding to a 2007 survey were satisfied with their decision to become a lawyer, and 86 percent were satisfied with their lives more broadly.

Both men and women reported similar levels of satisfaction. * * *