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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Recent Research on Attorney Happiness and Stress

High levels of stress and depression have plagued the legal community for a long time. I have blogged about this problem previously, and today I want to flag two recent articles regarding the happiness and stress of attorneys.

First is a recently-published article by Lawrence Krieger and Kennon Sheldon in the George Washington Law Review. The full version of the article is available here. The New York Times covers the article here. From the Times' summary:

Researchers who surveyed 6,200 lawyers about their jobs and health found that the factors most frequently associated with success in the legal field, such as high income or a partner-track job at a prestigious firm, had almost zero correlation with happiness and well-being. However, lawyers in public-service jobs who made the least money, like public defenders or Legal Aid attorneys, were most likely to report being happy. 
Lawyers in public-service jobs also drank less alcohol than their higher-income peers. And, despite the large gap in affluence, the two groups reported about equal overall satisfaction with their lives.
The next article I want to highlight is a recently-released report commissioned by the Bar Council in the United Kingdom that explores, among other issues, the prevalence of stress in the legal field. The full report is available here. Legal Cheek provides concise (if not overly-dramatic) coverage here.

Both of these articles provide important contributions. The Krieger and Sheldon article is notable for breaking down various levels of stress in different areas of the legal profession. The Bar Council's report highlights the often-neglected problem of stigma against stress itself. Attorneys' jobs are often stressful, and this stress may be compounded by a culture that stigmatizes those who display stress or who seek counseling and treatment for work-related stress.

Hopefully these articles will help highlight some of the problems facing the legal community, and perhaps provide some insight into how attorneys in the most stressful fields may draw on the experiences of those in other fields in order to combat stress and oppression.

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