Friday, March 21, 2014

Public Service Jobs Make Happier Lawyers

The Mission of the Appalachian School of Law Sets up Grads for Happier Lives

A new study reported today in the ABA Journal Law News Now reports that money and prestigious jobs obtained after graduating from a higher ranked school do not lead to happier lives as lawyers. 
The survey measured lawyers’ “subjective well-being,” a combination of life satisfaction and mood. More than 7,800 bar members in four states responded to the survey; the study focused on about 6,200 who provided complete data and said they worked as lawyers, judges or in related positions. 
The survey found that lawyers in “prestige” jobs, who had the highest grades and incomes, aren’t as happy as lawyers working in public-service jobs for substantially lower pay. Judges, however, were happiest of all. 
“Prestige” jobs included lawyers working in firms of more than 100 lawyers and those working in areas such as corporate, tax, patent, securities, estate-planning and plaintiff’s tort law. Public-service lawyers included legal-aid lawyers, prosecutors, public defenders, government lawyers and in-house lawyers for nonprofits.

The study also found:
  • Married lawyers were happier than others, as were lawyers with children.
  • There was “an almost meaningless correlation” between lawyer well-being and graduating from a higher-tier law school.
  • Those who exercised regularly reported greater well-being than others. Practicing yoga and tai chi, however, was not related to well-being.
The study concludes:
These data consistently indicate that a happy life as a lawyer is much less about grades, affluence, and prestige than about finding work that is interesting, engaging, personally meaningful, and is focused on providing needed help to others. . . . 
The data therefore also indicate that the tendency of law students and young lawyers to place prestige or financial concerns before their desires to "make a difference" or serve the good of others will undermine their ongoing happiness in life.

These findings are very good news for graduates of ASL.  As I have noted in other posts, ASL's mission emphasizes community service, public service, and leadership

As my series on distinguished alumni shows, many of our grads quickly assume public service positions designed to help others and make a difference.   


  1. Thanks for the link. He's gotten the number very wrong, and I have suggested that our Dean provide accurate information to him.