University of British Columbia

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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‘Out of balance’ is a type of balance, when you think about it.

ATL reader opinion was sharply divided over that recent law firm partner “Hang in There Baby/This Too Shall Pass” email. You’ll recall that the partner was seeking to reassure her younger colleagues who face the challenge of balancing the demands of the Biglaw grind against those of motherhood. Her message: eventually things will be better.

Only a few years ago, when the author was a new mother, she found herself “in the fetal position (ed. note: see what she did there?) on the kitchen floor so completely spent that honest to God I did know how I could get through another day.” Things improved; now the partner can promise her younger counterparts that “one day in the future,” when the kids1 can talk and brush their own teeth, “you will bake a pie and wear clean pants.” In between all-nighters prepping for trial, of course. While some found solace in this message, others found it to be cold comfort at best.

Let’s put aside whether one thinks the partner’s advice is uplifting or risible. For the sake of argument, if the legal profession — specifically law firms — is truly trying to foster the advancement of women attorneys, we can all stipulate that the effort is thus far a failure. What is going on when a fit of despair on the kitchen floor is such a “relatable” thing?

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Paul Bergrin

* Paul Bergrin wants to represent himself in his racketeering case. They say that a man who represents himself has a fool for a client, but that’s not the case when you’re considered the Baddest Lawyer in the History of Jersey. [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* Hordes of Biglaw lawyers couldn’t stop the DOJ from trying to block the AT&T/T-Mobile merger. New antitrust issues abound, like “higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products.” They already have a monopoly on crappy coverage. [Am Law Daily]

* The truth? You can’t handle the truth! That, or you don’t really care about it when it comes to Barry Bonds. The big-headed baseball MVP will not face a retrial on his perjury charges. [CNN]

* Sasan Ansari, a convicted killer in Canada, will return to the University of British Columbia to complete law school. Good luck with your character and fitness evaluation, eh? [Vancouver Sun]

Jessica Beagley

* Jessica Beagley managed to avoid jail time at sentencing. Come on, judge, you could’ve at least given her a taste of her own medicine: hot sauce and a cold shower. [WSJ Law Blog]

* BitTorrent porn? On my grandma’s computer? It’s more likely than you think. After this California granny scolded Steele Hansmeier, the lawsuit against her was dropped. She mailed the firm a Werther’s Original in thanks. [Huffington Post]

* Nudity first, names later. I like this sheriff deputy’s alleged style. A girl in Utah is suing over a roadside traffic rendezvous that she says turned into an illegal strip search. [Standard-Examiner]