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by Vault Law Editors | September 24, 2009


Yesterday’s WSJ Law Blog published the first part of Ashby Jones’ interview of writer and recovering lawyer Gretchen Rubin. Rubin, a former Supreme Court clerk and Yale law grad, recently spent a year doing “everything I could think of that I’d heard could promote happiness” and is now publishing the fruits of her research in The Happiness Project. While not exactly groundbreaking, some of her insights about lawyers and unhappiness do ring true:

Clueless ambition may not be the best reason to go to law school

GR: There’s whole notion of “drift” that I think a lot of people fall into with law school. They don’t decide, necessarily, to go to law school, but they drift into it, really for lack of a better idea.

I thought, as long as they keep giving me gold stars to put on my forehead, I’ll keep trying to get them. As long as they give me bars to jump over, I’ll jump over them.

WSJ: What are your thoughts on lawyer unhappiness at law firms?

GR: I think the main one is the one I referred to earlier—that people don’t go into it mindfully. They didn’t choose to be there. …. [I]f you’d rather be doing something else and you’re stuck in a law firm, you’re liable to be unhappy.

WSJ: I’ve always thought that law school lures a lot of people who are highly ambitious, but don’t exactly know how to channel that ambition. It’s a weird mixture of highly driven and sort of clueless.

GR: I think that’s right. And then, after you take on all this debt, you’re stuck there and don’t have control over your life. When you don’t have control, it can be an unhappy feeling.

A few words of advice for lawyers who now feel stuck

Get more sleep: “sleep is really a key to happiness.”

Join a club: “Starting or joining a group is a very efficient way to maintain relationships, and they’re very efficient engines of happiness.”

Stay tuned for tidbits from Part II.

- posted by vera


Filed Under: Law