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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

On Being a Happy Lawyer

It's not new, but it's something that every practicing lawyer should take a few minutes to read:  Patrick Schiltz's article On Being a Happy, Healthy, and Ethical Member of an Unhappy, Unhealthy, and Unethical Profession.

Posted by Kaimi Wenger on April 27, 2005 at 08:33 AM in Article Spotlight | Permalink


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I, unfortunately, will not be able to get to the articles in the imminent future. I have a Moot COurt Competition to run this weekend.

When you ask about bringin up high school stuff, I am uncertain as to what you mean. When you were misusing psychology in a blatant and untrained fashion, absent ever a freshman level intro course, I felt a need to correct you. I did that in law school as well, to both my fellow students and professors. I could be something of an annoyance. I have a background in psychology & theatre before law school was tacked on. I have studied psychopathologies, behavioral development, the classics, and storytelling narratives.

I also would like to request some clarification on your civil law opinion. You focused on the procedural aspects of the law, but have complained about common-law substantive decisions. One of the most significant changes between the two is in terminology. An expectation to reasonable behavior versus a right to be free of interferance.

Posted by: Joel | Apr 29, 2005 9:54:23 AM

As you may have noticed from IP addresses, SupremacyClaus is David Behar, and is a troll not worth responding to. Don't let the noise overwhelm the signal.

Posted by: Anon | Apr 28, 2005 11:22:06 PM

Claus, I can tell you have little training in psychology. Your use of outdated terminology betrays this. Bi-POlar disorder was not being discussed and does not enter into this topic. Depression manifests in different ways and a depressed person can be a high-functioning depressive and continue to work effectively while the rest of life is falling apart for them. I will, however, decline to continue to debate on the psychological issues with you because there is a lack of a basis for the discussion as I noted above.

The Restatements? How is Law a product? Lawyers may provide legal services, but law itself is not a product. Also, I am not certain where you get this 1 to 5% number you bandy about. It was noted above that you are not contributing much in a majority of your posts. You want to bad mouth lawyers, particularly American lawyers. What is your opinion of the civil law system? Is that, in your opinion better? Is the focus on the judge rather than the litigants any better? Does the replacement of reasonable standards of behavior for the right to be free from an afflication make the change palatable for you?

And the study you cited, was controlling for its variables. It appears to have been primarily a self-report study. It was correlational and not caausational so your critique of it is unfounded.

Posted by: Joel | Apr 28, 2005 9:45:18 AM

I don't think what I identified undermine the findings of that study at all. I will admit that I would have preferred some harder psychological data on the measures used. But then again, it was written for lawyers and not psychologists. I was pointing out, not confounds, but underlying reasons for the population difference.

On a similar note, being "sad" for an extended period of time is an actual pathology. It is disthymic disorder. As you noted, we are mammels and we care (probably because of our forebrain but that is a different conversation) but it is not "normal" to be sad for extended periods of time. Acute clinical depression is usually managed in 6 month treatment courses and the criteria for diagnosis is based on the rpevious month. Disthymic disorder has questions about the mood disorder that go back over a more extended period of time. I don't have my DSM with me, but I think it is usually measured over the previous 12-18 months.

While I did not promote exercise as "the" remedy, it has proven benefits for anyone. Aside form the improved physical conditioning, it lowers stress and improves sleep.

Also, I disagree with the major premise of your argument: that the law is a utility product. If you are reading hornbooks for contract law, then you have my condolences. They are rarely worth the time, even when in law school. Lawyers, also, are not the root cause of all social ills, rather people are. The idea of the human condition is old and well worn and yu are likely familiar with it. Lawyers have, at times throughout history, been held in highest esteem and utter disgust and often both at the same time. Shakespeare noted, albeit obliquely and too intelligently for most modenr readers to quote correctly yet, that lawyers are the bedrock of social stability. Absent the lawyers, the society begins to crumble and erode and what passes for civility goes out the window. "Lets kill all the lawyers" is actually a testiment to lawyers utility, not the converse.

Posted by: Joel | Apr 27, 2005 5:02:27 PM

I use exercise as one example because I pay attention to it, I could also have used cooking. But on the exercise note, I don't necessarily think that the lack of exercise is creating overweight attorneys. As the article noted, a decrease in appetitite is also common, and coffee increases your metabolism allowing you to burn more calories than otherwise when stationary. I just know that there are a lot with high goals and plans that, alas, fall into the ever common trough of not following through on the exercise. Time being a major factor here. My personal observations, worth at best face validity, come from the previous year of clerking and observing the attorneys at oral argument there.

I knew more people in Law School who tried to keep a light exercise program as stress relief who have let it slip post-law school then I know of those who kept it going. But, again, we are on anecdotal evidence at best.

As for Professors, anecdotally, they appear to be in better shape then the private practice fellows. My father is included in this group I observe and he is in better shape than I am at twice my age.

Posted by: Joel | Apr 27, 2005 1:16:28 PM

Joel, just a thought on the last comment you made viz. physical exercise. I wonder about the comment simply based on my law firm's anecdotal experience; my law firm is full of overachieving types (khhte.com will evidence this more than I feel comfortable doing) and yet I can't think of a partner or associate who is even close to obese, notwithstanding the level of work typically expected at this DC firm. Maybe we're not hiring fat lawyers at the front end, but I find this unusual. Come to think of it, Harvard Law School's faculty, which probably has as a high an over-achiever ratio as my firm (average Scotus clerk per population sample may be a useful proxy), if not higher, also doesn't have too many overweight people. I wonder if there's any relation there...obsessive types?
So I guess I wonder if those looking for quick fixes are a different sample than the ones I seem familiar with. Just curious.

Posted by: Dan Markel | Apr 27, 2005 1:07:40 PM

I will first note that I am one of the lucky Government Attorneys and managed to avoid the Big Firm draw thus far.

Two interesting comments off the top of my head from reading the article. First, Schiltz touches on the self-selection of the legal profession. Simply put, if you want to be a lawyer the odds are that youare either a Type A or a Type A+ personality. These types are more prone to hypertension and other maladies to begin with and react poorly to stress levels compared to Type B or B+. Then, we legal-types look for careers that are stressful. We look for the challenge. How many law school friends did you have who said they were looking for the easy job? I can't think of any of mine, honestly. So we tend to compound our propensity to be high strung with stressful jobs. Not a healthy choice.

Second, on a similar note, lawyers are, by and large, smarter than the average bear. Quite simply, the IQ of the attorney population has a higher avergae than that of the general population. There are some studies, though I am loathe to find them right now, that found a correlative link between intelligence and depression or similar pathologies. So on the second hand, we self-select by means of intelligence while being high-strung.

I think that the description of lawyers who generally do not enjoy their life is fairly accurate. When looking at physical exercise (one of my 'extracurriculars'), lawyers who are in the big firms seem to downplay the importance of the exercise. First, with the extra money, plastic surgery or other quick-fix answers are out there to feel good about themselves. Secondly, wealth is, as noted in the article, a powerful factor in attraction often as significant as overall health. But if I keep going, I will get into an ethological overview of developmental and social psychology.

Thanks for posting that. I had not read it before.

Posted by: Joel | Apr 27, 2005 12:30:50 PM


Your schtick is apparently sometimes humorous to some people. As for myself, I can't say that I find your antics particularly amusing.

This blog is run by law professors. We have widely divergent substantive beliefs, but I'll go out on a limb and say that we, as a group, believe that the law exists and can and should be applied by courts in many instances, and that some beneficial version or versions of the rule of law (and we doubtless differ on details) can be a useful component of our society.

You apparently feel otherwise. Why, then, do you feel obliged to comment in a forum where your remarks -- "all social ills are caused by the lawyer"; "there are no benefits [of lawyers]"; etc -- are clearly beyond the pale?

You, sir, are what is known in internet parlance as "a troll." There are numerous internet fora where it is perfectly acceptable to advance crackpot theories about lawyers. This is not one of them.

I've pointed to Schiltz's article because it raises serious issues about quality of life as a practicing attorney. I welcome any on-point comments.

Posted by: Kaimi | Apr 27, 2005 10:50:05 AM

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