In 2006, I was writing my book Prepare to Win. In the first chapter I included what I had found on the state of the legal profession:

  • Young lawyers have never been paid more and been less satisfied with their careers.
  • Lawyers are viewed only above advertisers and car salesmen in terms of ethics. (Gallup Annual Survey)
  • Law students graduate with levels of anxiety, hostility and depression three to four times greater than the general population.
  • Lawyers suffer from depression at a rate 3.6 times higher than non-lawyers.
  • Only half of the lawyers who participated in a Rand survey said they’d become lawyers if given a second chance to decide.

I wrote the book when the law firms were doing well and the lawyers working for them were paid well. That all changed in 2008.

I recently went back to see if any of these findings have changed. You will be pleased to know that lawyers have gone up in the Gallup Annual Survey. In the 2013, Honesty/Ethics in Professions survey , our profession is now ranked between newspaper reporters and TV reporters. (I wonder what Walter Cronkite would think of that? I suspect he would think his profession has fallen dramatically.)

In my research for this update, I found a 2009 Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics, article Stemming the Tide of Law Student Depression: What Law Schools Need To Learn from the Science of Positive Psychology. It is a very detailed and scientific article and it  includes many of the studies I referenced in my book.

Ok, you might be wondering: What is positive psychology?  The authors say it is:

Positive psychology is the study of the traits and conditions that lead to human thriving. It is often characterized as the study of happiness, but it is more accurately the study of all positive emotions and character traits, including joy, contentment, gratitude, optimism, and resilience.

Near the end of the article, the authors explain their conclusion this way:

If law school threaten students’ sense of self, the strengths-based approach of positive psychology aims to do just the opposite. Education scholar Edward Anderson put this point as succinctly as possible: “This is the message of the strengths-based approach to student success: Do not try to be someone else. Strive to be the person you really are-fully and completely. This is your best avenue to achieving excellence.

What do you think is the current state of the legal profession?