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Lowest Paid Lawyers Are the Happiest, Study Shows
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study shows lower paid lawyers happier

Summary: A new study shows that lower paid lawyers are happier than higher paid.

We well know by now that lawyers are unhappy. If they’ve landed work at prestigious firms, they may work well over 60 or 70 hours a week. Not even all these hours count. In some cases, many of the hours aren’t even billable or remunerable, but must be worked anyway. New research suggests that those lawyers lucky to land prestigious jobs at the top firms aren’t the happiest. Of the 6,200 surveyed in a recent study published this week in the George Washington Law Review, it was discovered that high income and partner-track jobs had almost zero correlation between happiness and well-being.


Working public-service jobs held a closer correlation to happiness. Public defenders and Legal Aid attorneys were also less likely to drink alcohol or abuse drugs.

“Law students are famous for busting their buns to make high grades, sometimes at the expense of health and relationships, thinking ‘Later I’ll be happy, because the American dream will be mine,’” said Lawrence S. Krieger, law professor at Florida State University and author of this study. “Nice, except it doesn’t work.”

According to self-determination theory, there are three pillars of happiness, including competence, autonomy, and connection to others. This study was based on this model of human happiness.

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Considering that lawyers live in a dangerous profession, being 3.6 times more likely than other professions to kill themselves, discovering what makes them unhappy, and how to handle it, matters.

It could be more than the long hours and the high expectations. Being a lawyer requires holding a cynical attitude, suspecting the worst of others, but many studies show that an optimistic attitude is healthier for you.

Further, the public loves to hate lawyers, and they are the butt of endless jokes. This collective consciousness that judges them can’t help being felt as invalidating. If a person feels their work isn’t meaningful and important to themselves and the world, they will necessarily be demoralized.


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