what is this happiness of which you speak

A wise man once said, “Ask yourself whether you are happy, and you cease to be so.” Lawyers, allegedly an unhappy lot, are asked if they are happy all the time. Vault asks, Am Law asks, and in a roundabout way, so do we.

To date, we’ve received nearly 8,000 responses to our ATL Insider Survey. Among other things, our survey poses this question to law firm lawyers: “If you had the chance to do it all over again, would choose to work for your firm?”

Unsurprisingly, those who answer “yes” tend to highly rate their firms in such areas as compensation, culture, and training. For those that wish they could take a Mulligan when it comes to their choice of employer, the inverse is true. Here is a comparison of ratings scores (on a scale of 1-10) for the various aspects of law firm life, broken out by responses to the “Mulligan” question:

SUBJECT ”Yes” ”No”
Compensation 7.81 5.35
Hours 7.38 4.81
Firm Morale 7.7 3.53
Training 7.45 4.32
Culture and Colleagues 8.56 4.56

Hardly counterintuitive stuff, we know, but it allows us to use the “Mulligan” response as a proxy for overall happiness/satisfaction, as it’s so broadly predictive of the nature of the individual’s assessment of his firm.

Back in April, we shared our survey findings showing that Davis Polk was the top firm when it came to morale (to date, this holds true.) Today, we look at whether there are notable differences regarding satisfaction based on practice area. If we slice our survey data by practice, we find that there certainly are. So after the jump, let’s look at how practice groups stack up against one another in terms of the happiness of its practitioners….

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Our research shows that inner work life has a profound impact on workers’ creativity, productivity, commitment and collegiality. Employees are far more likely to have new ideas on days when they feel happier. Conventional wisdom suggests that pressure enhances performance; our real-time data, however, shows that workers perform better when they are happily engaged in what they do.

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer, authors of The Progress Principle (affiliate link), in a New York Times op-ed piece, Do Happier People Work Harder?

How can you be a happy lawyer?

* Is concern for “privacy” simply a justification for censorship on the internet? Some thoughts from a lawyer for Google. [Peter Fleischer: Privacy...? via Kashmir Hill / Forbes]

* What’s the secret to lawyer happiness? And no, it doesn’t involve illegal drugs or porn stars (Charlie Sheen isn’t a lawyer). [Slaw via Legal Blog Watch]

* Want to start your own law blog? Read this interesting interview with BL1Y (a regular in the ATL comments section). [Lawyerist]

* Superstar criminal defense lawyer John Dowd, the Akin Gump partner who successfully got Monica Goodling (among many other clients) out of legal trouble, offered a rousing defense of Raj Rajaratnam today. [Dealbreaker]

Jonathan Bristol

* Ex-Winston & Strawn partner Jonathan Bristol, former counsel to money manager / fraudster Kenneth Starr, has reached a plea agreement with S.D.N.Y. prosecutors. [New York Law Journal via Summary Judgments]

* Elsewhere in Ken Starr news, it seems that some celebs are getting hit with IRS tax liens as a result of their ties to him. [TaxProf Blog]

* Congratulations to a 3L at Harvard Law School, Nneka Ukpai, who trounced the prosecution at trial and won an acquittal for her client. [Yolanda Young / On Being a Black Lawyer]

* Congratulations to a 3L at NYU Law and future S.D.N.Y. law clerk, Eli Northrup, who belongs to a hip-hop band called Pants Velour — which has, in the words of our tipster, “captured the magic of Charlie Sheen as only music can.” [YouTube]

* This week, A Round Tuit includes a nice round-up of opinions on the Supreme Court’s recent ruling in the Westboro Baptist Church case (Snyder v. Phelps). [Infamy or Praise]


Ed. note: Gretchen Rubin is the author of The Happiness Project. The book has been on the New York Times bestseller list for 15 weeks, ever since its publication (including hitting the #1 spot).

Although she’s now a writer, with a total of five bestselling and/or critically acclaimed books to her name, Rubin started her career as a lawyer. She graduated from Yale Law School, where she served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal, and clerked on the U.S. Supreme Court, for Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. Feel free to check out her blog, follow her on Twitter, or join the Happiness Project Facebook page.

We asked Gretchen Rubin to offer us some happiness advice aimed at a lawyerly audience. Her guest post appears below.

By Gretchen Rubin

A few years ago, I decided to do a happiness project. I spent a year testing the wisdom of the ages, the current scientific studies, and the lessons from popular culture about how to be happier. From my experience, to be happier, it helps to think about the little things in life—and also the big things. Here are some ideas specifically targeted to lawyers:

Tackle the little things: Happiness can seem like a lofty, abstract goal, but a great place to start is with your own body and daily schedule.

Get enough sleep. We adjust to chronic sleep deprivation and don’t realize how much it weighs on us. According to one study, a bad night’s sleep was one of the top two factors that upset people’s daily moods at work (along with tight work deadlines — another problem many lawyers face). It’s tempting to stay up late, especially if that’s the fun part of your day, but the morning comes fast. (Here are some sleep tips.)

Get some exercise—preferably outside. You don’t have to train for a marathon. Just go for a ten-minute walk at lunchtime. People who exercise are healthier, more energetic, think more clearly, sleep better, feel cheerier, and perform better at work. (Here are some tips for sticking to an exercise routine.)

More happiness pointers, after the jump.

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