By Mike Mosedale
The Daily Record Newswire
Money can’t buy you happiness but it sure helps with the down payment, right?
Not necessarily. On the contrary — for lawyers — less money seems to equate to more happiness.
At least, that’s the conclusion of a new study published in the Georgetown Law Review, which finds that lawyers working in relatively low paying public-service fields, like public defense or Legal Aid, are more likely to report being happy (and drink less alcohol) than their partner-track counterparts at white shoe firms.
The survey of 6,200 attorneys also found that making partner does not appear to pay off in anything but the literal sense: despite earning 62 percent less money, for instance, junior partners reported identical levels of happiness as senior associates.
What explains the differences?
Lawrence S. Krieger, a law professor at Florida State University who is co-author of the study, tells the New York Times that more prestigious jobs “do not provide feelings of competence, autonomy or connection to others — three pillars of self-determination theory, the psychological model of human happiness on which the study was based.”
The Times story also points to an ever-growing body of research documenting the overall misery of the bar, including studies that have found lawyers suffer from a higher rate of depression than all other surveyed occupations and are 54 percent more likely to commit suicide than non-lawyers.
Patricia Spataro, director of the New York State Lawyer Assistance Program, tells the Times the woes of attorneys may well be rooted less in such oft-cited causes as work-life balance or job stress than something even more inherent to good lawyering: natural pessimism.
“Research shows that an optimistic outlook is good for your mental health,” Spataro is quoted as saying. “But lawyers are trained to always look for the worst-case scenario. They benefit more from being pessimistic, and that takes a toll.”
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