Practice of Law

How to Be a Happier Lawyer


The following is a guest blog post from Susan Joan Davidson, a Dispute Resolution Specialist in Berkeley, CA. Susan specializes in real estate, business, family, and personal coaching on conflict avoidance, arbitration, mediation, and facilitation.

Most lawyers reach a point when they wonder: Am I spending more time stressed and miserable than I am challenged and fulfilled? We’ve been trained to win at all costs, but even when we succeed, we still remember what we did wrong. Self-evaluation has its place, but the adage “We are velcro for criticism and Teflon for praise” is no more true than in the legal profession. There are ways to make even small changes in our professional lives that will bring happiness into focus and allow tension to recede into the background.

Here are four simple steps you can insert into every hour at work. They’re drawn from disciplines as diverse as legal philosophy, Judeo-Christian values, and Buddhist contemplative practice.

  1. Feel more virtuous. When your ethics are clear and simple and you adhere to them to the best of your ability, you can access your states of happiness more easily. When you have been honest and kind, ethical and sensitive, you will know that you are worthy of happiness.
  2. Appreciate yourself for being ethical. Throughout your day, take a moment to acknowledge your ethical behavior. Praise yourself. Say it a second time. Repeat kind messages about yourself as often as you can. Replay virtuous conversations in your mind. Reread notes or emails of appreciation from others and write some to yourself.
  3. Commend yourself for kindness. When you have kind words for staff or make an extra effort with a client or an associate, note that kind behavior and appreciate yourself for it. As you remember and reinforce your best qualities, you will like yourself more and feel happier.
  4. Practice gratitude. Make a commitment to build moments of appreciation and gratitude throughout your day. For example, at the end of each phone call or email, take a deep breath and note what you feel good about. As psychologist Robert Emmons argues in his book Thanks!, gratitude enhances our sense of self-worth while at the same time strengthening social ties. Expressing gratitude, he found in his studies, increases the happiness of both giver and receiver.

Happiness is right here inside of you. Identify what is kind and wonderful and worthy about you and bring these ideas to mind. As you appreciate yourself, your mood improves. You discover that colleagues and clients respond to changes in your facial expressions, body language, and thoughtfulness. You’re cultivating a feedback loop that reinforces your happiness and the happiness of those around you.

© The Regents of the University of California, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Add your comment to the blog post

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s