There is a silver lining for lawyers in the storm cloud of the legal world’s continuing recession. Lawyers, law students, and people considering law school are paying more attention to what makes them happy. Because law school is no longer a sure road to a financially comfortable life, lawyers, and people contemplating a life in the law, are focusing more than they have since the 1960s on whether they will be happy as lawyers.
How precise are you, how thoughtful, how careful? Without those qualities, diligence and creativity are not sufficient for a happy and successful legal life. Happy lawyers tend to enjoy both creativity and precision. When lawyers only like one or the other, their professional happiness is diminished.
In both my recruiting and consulting work, the last several years have brought more than the usual number of people to me who never wanted to be lawyers. Many of these unfulfilled lawyers leave the profession.
If a lawyer was never enthusiastic about the profession, the recent lack of financial stability in the profession has made him or her inclined to investigate career change.
The happiest lawyers with whom I meet feel that they have what it takes to be a good lawyer. Many are grateful to have survived the continuing legal employment dip, and, remarkably enough, gratitude can make you happier, and happiness can make you more successful. See Flow: The Ultimate State of Human Existence and Gratitude’s Benefits.
As an extension of pursuing a fulfilling career, and not just a full pocket, many practicing lawyers are now remaining lawyers but shifting to a somewhat different type of practice that will make them happy. They seek an environment that makes them feel comfortable, where their natural talents for business can be used. In the last several years, sometimes by necessity, lawyers who are unsure of their future in larger firms have set off on their own. They take enormous pride in procuring clients and business as well as doing a good legal job. I have seen lawyers smile more than they ever did when they become academics or enter their family business. These jobs may not pay as well as what they left, but happiness is also worth something.