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I showed up for my first day of law school with my shiny new case books and 50 pages of perfectly typed notes in hand. I was eager, ready to espouse all of my knowledge about Vosburg v. Putney and, apparently, doomed.
Rather than kicking off the class with a rousing discussion of 19th century shin injuries, the professor climbed on top of his soap box and proceeded to launch into a speech detailing the perils of a career as an attorney. I learned that (1.) my classmates and I would soon become substance addicts and (2.) when self-medication failed to ease the pain, we would probably just off ourselves. It was an uplifting first day.
The inspiring narratives didn’t end there. During the Virginia State Bar swearing-in ceremony, we raised our right hands to take an oath and were simultaneously handed in our left-hands a laminated card to keep on our desks listing the signs of substance abuse. I guess I should just put that next to my diploma?
Do attorneys really lead such a miserable existence? Well, in a word, yes. Attorneys have the highest rate of depression and are almost twice as likely as other Americans to abuse drugs and alcohol. But, it doesn’t have to be this way. We, yes, even practicing attorneys, can make better choices that will allow us to find happiness, or at the very least, to put down the bottle and step away from the ledge. Dan Bowling, faculty at Duke Law School and the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate program in positive psychology, provides the following six suggestions:
It’s tough out there for lawyers and law students, but you can change your outlook on life. Remember, “The answer lies within ourselves. If we can't find peace and happiness there, it's not going to come from the outside.”--Tenzin Palmo (in Tenzin Palmo: Cave in the Snow)
What do you do to maintain happiness against the endless grind of being a lawyer? Let us know in the comments!
If you are struggling with addiction or depression, please find help here.
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