Sunday, March 4, 2007

Still More Lawyer Unhappiness Or Lack Thereof: Adding to the Book List

Posted by Alan Childress

Jeff has helpfully re-raised the question whether anecdotal accounts of young lawyer unhappiness, or even statistical measures of relative satisfaction, state a universal attitude -- or are more or less an individual 383542_smileysentiment projected onto an entire demograph or the profession itself.  The effort to frankly discuss not only the substantive issue but also the scholarship of it has been picked up by such noteworthies as Robert Ambrogi here at Legal Blog Watch, who cleverly wrote [and linked to Jeff at SSRN]:

Are lawyers unhappy?  From a scholarly perspective, one might think the question is right up there with, "Do dogs bite?" and "Is grass green?"  But thanks to Jeffrey M. Lipshaw at Legal Profession Blog, we learn that legal scholars are examining the evidence -- and coming to different conclusions.

And also Stephanie West Allen at idealawg, who here likens the cacophony of lawyer malaise as possibly the clucks of Chicken Little:

85477_14302769I am glad to see that more critical thinking is being applied to the question of lawyer unhappiness. I have long been skeptical about the widespread and dire conclusion that the lawyer sky is falling.  Discussion is what is needed; it continues in the blogosphere.

We had previously posted abstracts and links to useful, recent studies by Zaring and Henderson, and earlier Dinovitzer and Garth, on young lawyers and job satisfaction.

Other bloggers, including John Steele and David McGowan (and excellent commenters) over at LegalEthicsForum, have cited Jeff's review essay and are asking the useful 'canons' question:  What are the right books and articles to read to get an informed or entertained picture of young lawyers in big law firms?  They and their readers list everything from fiction to chi-squared empirical studies.  On that list, I added my comment that John Jay Osborn, Jr.'s The Associates (1979) is a less-known classic and fun read of biglaw life among young Hart-like idealists; it's a worthy successor to his iconic The Paper Chase.  I love the part about a firm's fuming insistence on using an upside-down ampersand in its name.  But the ending, without giving away too much, does not necessarily indict the idea or ideal of practicing law in one's young years.  Anyway, very good writing, for a robot pimp.  Or a law professor.

One could add to the list a fairly recent book of interviews and observations regarding beginning lawyers that were094067556001 so dissatisfied with law practice that they simply got out.  That is Deborah Arron's Running from the Law:  Why Good Lawyers Are Getting Out of the Legal Profession (3d ed. 2003).  Also consider the more spirtually-driven but positive-to-law book by Steven Keeva (then an editor for the ABA Journal) called Transforming Practices:  Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life (2001), which Booklist termed an "important book for practicing and would-be lawyers and a healthy antidote for law-bashing laypersons."  Not necessarily about biglaw practice -- but not all doom, gloom, and "golden handcuffs" either.

Abstracts Highlights - Academic Articles on the Legal Profession, Blogging, Law & Society, Lipshaw | Permalink

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A good book showing that there's nothing new under the sun with respect to unhappy lawyers is Louis Auchincloss's "Powers of Attorney" (1963).

Posted by: Frank Snyder | Mar 5, 2007 5:21:48 AM

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