Can marketing your practice make you happier?

Mark Powers and Shawn McNalis,
The Daily Record Newswire

There’s been a dramatic shift in how psychologists view happiness. Conventional wisdom holds that if we work hard and apply ourselves, success will follow. And once we are successful, we’ll be happy.

But apparently we’ve had this all wrong. Harvard researcher Shawn Achor, who based his new book, “The Happiness Advantage,” on the findings of over 200 scientific studies, says happiness is the fuel for success – not the result.

His theory is based on studies (many of which were conducted at Harvard) which measured happiness levels in nearly 275,000 people. The studies measured the impact that happiness has on the following areas: marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity and business.

Happy workers are more productive, make better leaders, and receive better performance evaluations and higher pay.

How is this relevant to lawyers? Throughout the book, Achor points to lawyers as one of the unhappiest groups out of all working professionals. He believes extreme stress is an occupational hazard of the profession and says that if you are a lawyer, you are 3.6 times more likely to have a major depressive disorder than the rest of the employed population.

Why? It all starts in law school. The extreme emphasis on critical analysis taught in law school eventually forms a maladaptive thought pattern that is generously rewarded throughout your legal career.

Your finely tuned legal brain gets stuck in a pattern of scanning for and identifying the negative much more than the positive. Constantly exposed to the worst problems, you begin to overestimate their importance and the impact they will have.

Those who can’t monitor and contain this habit (the antidote is to downshift into an attitude of acceptance in your personal life) suffer a generalized sense of pessimism, increased anxiety, a higher likelihood of substance abuse and often poor physical health.

As if this weren’t enough, many lawyers also have to deal with a mounting workload. In today’s economy attorneys are doing the work of two or three people. In order to cope they hunker down, isolate themselves and work harder, effectively eliminating time for social connections.

Unfortunately, says Achor, social isolation is exactly the wrong strategy to employ when under tremendous stress. Socializing actually counters the effects of stress. According to the research, the strongest predictor of overall happiness is the size of a person’s social network, which includes friends, family, community connections and colleagues.

Having strong social bonds is also the strongest predictor of career achievement, occupational success and income. When you have a strong community of others to interact with, they multiply the emotional, intellectual and physical resources you can tap into — all important factors in your eventual success.
Here’s where it becomes interesting. Making and maintaining social ties also lies at the heart of relationship marketing. It is an accepted fact that attorneys who have a large social and business network are beneficiaries of many referrals.

As marketing consultants, we’ve always believed that this alone was sufficient reason to go out and meet new people.

But these studies suggest that the very act of cultivating diverse relationships will not only make your business better, it will help you experience greater feelings of happiness.

For those of you who want to understand this further, there is real science behind this phenomenon. Achor says, “When we make a positive social connection, the pleasure inducing hormone oxcytocin is released into our bloodstream, immediately reducing anxiety and improving concentration and focus. Each social connection we make over time also bolsters our cardiovascular, neuroendocrine and immune systems, so that the more connections we make over time, the better we function.”

Interestingly, this effect is felt throughout the entire spectrum of relationships from the lightest and most superficial to the deepest and most intimate — as long as they are positive. Don’t invest in people who drain you emotionally. (We would extend this advice to include a few of your clients – notice which ones are emotionally draining.)

While marketing may be an inexact science, neuroscience is not. It’s rare to find a scientifically supportable activity that feeds both your well-being and business success at the same time. So the next time you’re trying to convince yourself that marketing is a waste of time, do it to make yourself happier. Those initial feelings of nervousness are more than outweighed by the lifelong benefits of reaching out to others and building a strong social network.

We regularly advise would-be rainmakers to cultivate new habits in order to become better marketers. Consciously making three marketing contacts a week is one of the most popular because it is a simple, easy-to-follow formula. Most of you will forget the details of an elaborate marketing plan a month after you read it, but making three marketing contacts a week is doable.

Even when you’re marketing yourself, it’s important to spend time getting to know people not just for what they can do for you, but how you can help each other. When done right, this effort produces much more than 150 contacts at the end of a year. It adds up to a stronger social and business network that yields not only referrals but a richer sense of community connection, resources and support.


Mark Powers is the president of Atticus, Inc. and co-author of “How Good Attorneys Become Great Rainmakers” and “Time Management for Attorneys.” He facilitates a marketing roundtable program for attorneys requiring a simple, focused approach to attract new clients. He can be reached at or by calling 352-383-0490.

Shawn McNalis is a former Imagineer with Walt Disney Co. She credits her 15-year career with Disney for her creative, collaborative approach to advising attorneys. In partnership with Mark Powers for 12 years, she is a senior practice advisor, curriculum developer and trainer for Atticus. She co-authored “How Good Attorneys Become Great Rainmakers,” “Time Management for Attorneys” and numerous articles for a variety of legal publications.