From the Bookshelf: The Happy Lawyer

On Monday, I resolved to stop procrastinating and finish this book.  It’s not that this book is boring, but not all chapters are relevant to every reader.  Therefore, I recommend you make use of the table of contents and read those chapters that interest you most.  This book first explains why some lawyers are unhappy, and then suggests individual and institutional changes that would increase lawyer happiness.  It is a very valuable resource because it leads the reader through exercises designed to get you thinking about your life and values in the big picture, as opposed to focusing on just your career and what that should look like.  I encourage you to check out this title at the Annex, KF 300.L48 2010.  Spoiler alert: I am going to mention some of the most interesting and/or useful portions of the book after the jump in case you don’t want to read the whole thing, but are interested in the topic.

The Interesting/Useful

  • p. 35: This book includes a lot of psychological research related to happiness.  One finding that I found particularly interesting is that there is a correlation between pessimism and success in law school.
  • pp. 109-111: If you’re looking for a quick checklist of ways to become a happier lawyer, you can find that here.
  • pp. 125-126: “You can easily get sucked into believing that success and meaning can only be found in attaining a top ten percent grade point average, making Law Review, and having a full dance card for on-campus interviews.  If you let these extrinsic markers of achievement define you, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness.”
  • pp. 145-146: The authors suggest making a Venn Diagram to see where your meaning, pleasure, and strengths intersect.  This is ideally what you want in a career.  How do you figure out your strengths?  They recommend the Strengths Test on the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness site.
  • pp. 147-149: Answer the questionnaire to develop a statement of what you want your career path to look like.
  • p. 152:  What kinds of questions should you ask at informational interviews?  “Ask them what the most satisfying parts of their jobs are, what aspects cause them the greatest stress or anxiety, what training they found most useful for their practice area, and whether they think their experiences are typical for that type of work.”
  • Chapter 7 is comprised of short anecdotes from lawyers about meaningful experiences.
  • pp. 225-226: You’re not necessarily going to find the right fit on your first try.  If you find you’re not in the right place, don’t be afraid to make a change.  “You’ll have company.  Eighty-five percent of lawyers change jobs at least once during their careers.”

I hope you find this resource useful as you journey to be The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law.