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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Stressed in the Greatest Job in the World

Whenever people ask me whether I like what I do for a living, I invariably respond: "Being a law professor is the greatest job in the world." 

And I really mean it.  What with the ability to satisfy intellectual curiosity by engaging in scholarship and interacting with wonderful colleagues, to teach and interact with students, to have flexible work days and lots of vacation time to spend with family, to be in an academic environment, it really is a hard gig to beat (especially compared to billable large law firm life).

Yet, I and so many of my fellow law professors seem really stressed out.  Do we as Type A personalities not know how to relax (this from a guy who take his computer on family vacations so he can blog) and no matter the job we would be equally stressed out?   Or is it something about the nature of what we do for a living, which even though it is a great job, very much causes stress (even with worrying about getting tenure put to one side).

Well, think about that while I am frantically trying to prepare for teaching labor law in a hour or so.  Of course, after that I need to worry about what I'm going to have for lunch, and then . . . .

Posted by Workplace Prof on August 30, 2006 at 10:28 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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I read somewhere that today having no free time and being busy is considered a proxy for being important and successful. So naturally, people learn the value of this signal and emulate it. The other explanation is that there is so much information in the modern academic universe that there is always more to read and to know. That is stressful.

Posted by: Bart Motes | Aug 30, 2006 12:12:03 PM

Getting a law prof job requires being an academic overachiever; faculties are filled with overachievers. So we keep on overachieving, or at least trying to, and trying to do that is stressful.

At the same time, I don't think it's stressful after the first 5 years. Looking around at my colleagues, for the most part they are not stressed out about anything work-related.

Posted by: lawprof | Aug 30, 2006 12:05:56 PM

Per your post on Workplace Prof blog, at least workplace stress has fewer adverse health effets on professionals than non-professionals.

More seriously, this is a great job but some parts of it are stressful. The teaching part of it is an enormous amount of work the first few times you teach a class (something profs -- and even "prawfs" -- don't talk about enough, I think). The scholarship part is stressful both in the writing (is it ever "good enough"?) and submission/acceptance process. And all this is assuming nothing major is going wrong (big faculty splits, students not liking you).

Also, let's face it: law profs, at least at the start of their careers, are usually "Type A" personalities, at least in the "ambitious and perfectionist" sense.

In sum, just because whatever you're working on right now COULD be better, don't worry about it ... too much.

Posted by: Joseph Slater | Aug 30, 2006 11:24:22 AM

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