Springfield

Not since its pursuit was enshrined in the Declaration of Independence has “happiness” had a bigger cultural moment than now, and not just because of that “room without a roof” earworm. There is a new and rapidly growing science of happiness, a mash-up of economics and psychology sometimes called “hedonics,” which tells us that money can buy happiness, but only to a point. Meanwhile, in corporate America, we witness the emergence of a new C-suite character, the Chief Happiness Officer, who is responsible for employee contentment. Sort of like an HR director, but smiling and magical.

Recently, the U.S. National Bureau of Economic Research released a paper, “Unhappy Cities,” reporting the findings of a major survey asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. The authors, academics from Harvard and the University of British Columbia, found that there are persistent differences in self-reported subjective well-being across U.S. cities and, unsurprisingly, residents of declining cities are less happy than other Americans. (Interestingly, the authors suggest that these unhappy, declining cities were also unhappy during their more prosperous pasts.)

So there are unhappy cities; there are also unhappy (and relatively happier) law schools. When ATL’s own Staci Zaretsky learned that Springfield, Massachusetts — home of her alma mater, the Western New England University School of Law — made the list of unhappiest cities, it came as no surprise: “It’s hard to tell where the local misery ends and that of the law school begins.” Prompted by Staci’s observation, we wondered whether unhappy cities make for unhappy local law students. Or is the law school experience so intense and self-contained that one’s surroundings have little impact? What are law students in the happiest (and unhappiest) cities in the country telling us about their own personal satisfaction?

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Springfield, Massachusetts, is a city that’s home to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and my alma mater, Western New England University School of Law. I had the (dis)pleasure of living in Springfield for five years, and from earthquakes to tornadoes to purse snatchings, I thought that I had seen it all. Boy, was I wrong!

Apparently I escaped the slums of downtown Springfield just in time to avoid a stripper explosion (not an actual stripper explosion; that would be glittery and fabulous). No, as you may have heard over the holiday weekend, there was a massive natural gas explosion in Springfield that leveled a strip club, damaging numerous other buildings in the city’s entertainment district, about two blocks over from my old apartment.

At first, no one knew what could have caused the gas leak that triggered the blast, but now fingers are being pointed every which way. This may sound like a 1L Torts hypothetical, but who’s liable for the explosion?

Did the strippers grind so hard on the pole that they ignited a spark that set the blaze? Did the babies shrieking in the daycare center next door to the strip club (yes, seriously) inspire a childcare worker to light a match and burn that mother down?

Let’s get some insights from our readers on who will be held ultimately responsible for this calamity….

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