Money and status – these are the achievements for which lawyers are popularly known to aspire. And, indeed, many do aspire and achieve those things, but they’re not guaranteed to provide happiness; far from it, according to new research that includes data from 6,200 lawyers.
In fact, the research shows that lawyers who are paid the least – those working in public-service jobs – enjoy the highest levels of health and well-being. Meanwhile, partner-track jobs and high income have nearly no correlation to happiness.
“Throughout the history of literature, we’ve been given many examples illustrating the folly of blind ambition,” says Arlene Krieger, a paralegal and literary humorist who authored the novels, “Privileged Attorneys: Las Vegas Style,” an off-kilter look at a family-run law firm, and “Freedom Twice Lost,” which chronicles the failures of the American legal system involving a lawsuit given national attention (www.arlenesbooks.com).
“But lawyers aren’t like most people; they’re sharks, at least that’s what so many jokes and quotes have told us. Any cut-throat lawyer wouldn’t want to tarnish this reputation, which is so valuable in this competitive industry. Like it or not, lawyers are like other people. If you want to be happy in the legal profession, you’ll need more than making partner.”
Want to be happy while working in the legal field? Krieger offers some suggestions.
• Charity: High-powered, high-status attorneys are not as happy as public service attorneys, whose work include law reform organizations and legal services, as well as in government agencies at all levels. That includes educational and public international organizations, charities, private public interest law firms and private law firms performing pro bono work.
“Those legal professionals do the work because they believe in their work,” Krieger says. “It’s not about the money for them; their first form of currency is meaningful work. If you’re rich and unhappy as a lawyer, try some pro bono work, or something along those lines. Or, charity work not related to law may be a nice break for you.”
• Creative outlets: Legal professionals tend to be intelligent, multidimensional people. Given their commitment to their profession, however, many do not cultivate other aspects of their personality.
“I don’t know where I’d be without expressing myself through my writing,” she says. “It lets me exercise what I’m good at, provides catharsis and lets me know that there’s more to life than the legal world.”
• A nurturing environment: Public-service lawyers drink less alcohol than their higher-income peers, according to the research. Ambition and the relentless pursuit of money and status can be stressful, which can drive lawyers – who are known for alcohol consumption – to drink more. Of course, alcohol isn’t a reliable long-term solution for well-being.
“What has given me meaning and support is my family, which provides a loving and nurturing environment at home,” Krieger says. “A reliable support system is tremendously beneficial, but there are other measures you can take if you don’t have a network of loving people. Yoga, meditation and other health measures, such as exercise and nutritious eating, all help you foster a wholesome lifestyle and a more patient attitude.”
About Arlene Krieger
Arlene Krieger’s is the author of numerous books. Her latest “Privileged Attorneys: Las Vegas Style” (www.arlenesbooks.com), proves that lawyers can be funny. Krieger received a Bachelor of Arts degree in sociology from the University of Arizona and a Bachelor of Science in accounting from the University of Baltimore. She now works as a paralegal and accountant. She is also the author of seven published books, including “Little Anthony: My Journey, My Destiny,” which was featured recently on ABC’s “The View.” Little Anthony himself was spotlighted.