Wednesday, April 27, 2011

“The Happiness Project” – A Useful Read/Tool for Law Students

I am currently reading Gretchen Rubin’s (a former lawyer) bestseller “The Happiness Project”.  It seems to me that there is some useful advice for law students in her book. 

Her twelve commandments include the following rules that we should encourage law students (and ourselves) to attempt to achieve:

Do it now (procrastination seems to be a trait of many law students)
Be polite and fair
Do what ought to be done

Ms. Rubin also wrote about several “Secrets of Adulthood” which she described as “the lessons I’d learned with some difficulty as I’d grown up”.  Some of them are useful lessons to share with law students preparing to enter the legal profession:

It’s okay to ask for help.
It’s important to be nice to everyone.
If you’re not failing, you’re not trying hard enough.
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

Perhaps if law students did more soul-searching about what really excites them before they graduate, they would find a place where they can enjoy the practice of law.  It should be about fulfillment more than image/prestige/money etc.  The practice of law should not be a field that people leave in order to find fulfillment.  We should continue to encourage our students to be the change they want to see in the profession. 


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I've taught, off and on, for some 20 years. During that time, I've also practiced law and run a thoroughbred racing partnership. The racing game, which is in the process of a painful but necessary downsizing, offers a useful corrective to the rather pollyanna-ish discussion of how to be both happy and a lawyer.

We in the law schools are turning out far too many lawyers who won't ever get decent employment, just as racing for years turned out far too many horses that had no hope of recouping the costs of their breeding and upkeep. The solution for racing: have the market force 30% of breeders out of the business. reduce the number of racing days, add on-track slot machines, and hope that we're approaching a new equilibrium. The solution for law schools: reduce enrollment significantly, and therefore reduce budgets and faculty size, operate more economically, with fewer senior tenured faculty and more adjuncts; and let the market force some (4th tier) schools out of the business. Then, maybe, a greater proportion of our graduates might have a shot at happiness. No matter how we teach them, it's pretty hard to be happy with a $100,000 student loan and no job.

Posted by: Steve Zorn | Apr 27, 2011 2:54:57 PM

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