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The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the Law [Hardcover]

by Nancy Levit, Douglas O. Linder
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)

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Book Description

July 22, 2010 0195392329 978-0195392326 0
You get good grades in college, pay a small fortune to put yourself through law school, study hard to pass the bar exam, and finally land a high-paying job in a prestigious firm. You're happy, right? Not really. Oh, it beats laying asphalt, but after all your hard work, you expected more from your job. What gives?

The Happy Lawyer examines the causes of dissatisfaction among lawyers, and then charts possible paths to happier and more fulfilling careers in law. Eschewing a one-size-fits-all approach, it shows how maximizing our chances for achieving happiness depends on understanding our own personality types, values, strengths, and interests.

Covering everything from brain chemistry and the science of happiness to the workings of the modern law firm, Nancy Levit and Doug Linder provide invaluable insights for both aspiring and working lawyers. For law students, they offer surprising suggestions for selecting a law school that maximizes your long-term happiness prospects. For those about to embark on a legal career, they tell you what happiness research says about which potential jobs hold the most promise. For working lawyers, they offer a handy toolbox--a set of easily understandable steps--that can boost career happiness. Finally, for firm managers, they offer a range of approaches for remaking a firm into a more satisfying workplace.

Read this book and you will know whether you are more likely to be a happy lawyer at age 30 or age 60, why you can tell a lot about a firm from looking at its walls and windows, whether a 10 percent raise or a new office with a view does more for your happiness, and whether the happiness prospects are better in large or small firms.

No book can guarantee a happier career, but for lawyers of all ages and stripes, The Happy Lawyer may give you your best shot.

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Editorial Reviews


"It's a book that anyone who is--or was--or wants to be--a lawyer (or anyone who knows a lawyer) should read...I'm recommending it to all of my students, and to my friends practicing law, and even to my husband, who prides himself on NOT being a lawyer.

"Well researched, positive, and clearly written, this is an important book for the bar. Essential for lawyers and law students." --Library Journal

"The citing of a poll of American attorneys, in which seven out of ten said that they would choose other careers if they were starting out, might suggest that the law is best avoided. But for those in the profession, solutions are to be found-and they're in The Happy Lawyer. Best to buy it for anyone you think may need it."--The Times

"Solid researchers, the authors provide countless statistics about the state of [lawyers'] happiness and prospects for finding it in the future...With a generation of younger lawyers changing jobs at high rates and the high cost of the turnover, law firms would do well to consider the clearly identifiable factors set forth in this book...How important is it to be happy? If you are curious about the answer or about how to increase the happiness in your life or that of your firm, The Happy Lawyer is a worthwhile read."--The Nebraska Lawyer

"Although law is one of the nation's best paid and most influential occupations, only about half of lawyers report being satisfied with their work. In this insightful and engaging book, Nancy Levit and Douglas Linder explain why. They comprehensively review the growing research on happiness to provide crucial insights about how lawyers can improve the quality of their professional lives. This book should be a required text for every law student, every law firm leader, and every practitioner who wants to find greater fulfillment in a legal career."---Deborah Rhode, Director, Stanford Center on the Legal Profession and author of The Beauty Bias

"In this important, insightful book, Nancy Levit and Douglas Linder have successfully unpacked the mystery of why so many lawyers seem to be living lives of silent desperation. In doing so, they offer many and varied paths to lawyer happiness. The Happy Lawyer's thoughtful analysis and practical prescriptions are a must-read for every lawyer, as well as for anyone considering attending law school."--Greg Castanias, Partner, Jones Day

"This superb work in an invaluable guide for a profession that, sadly, suffers from chronic unhappiness and lack of fulfillment. Like Harold Kushner's Living a Life that Matters and the Dalai Lama's The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, this work offers clear, practical advice that can truly transform a person's life and career."--Robert Klonoff, Dean and Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School

"This new book will become essential reading for law professors advising their students on career paths in this new economy." --Paul M. Secunda, Associate Professor of Law,
Marquette Univ. Law School

About the Author

Nancy Levit, the Curators' and Edward D. Ellison Professor of Law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, is the author of The Gender Line: Men, Women, and the Law.

Douglas O. Linder is the Elmer N. Powell Peer Professor of Law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (July 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195392329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195392326
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
As a lawyer and long-time law professor, I've known far too many lawyers and law students suffering from unhappiness and even depression about their career choice. Law professors Nancy Levit and Douglas Linder have come to the rescue with an excellent, eye-opening book about lawyer happiness, jammed with creative ideas, backed by rock-solid research, for helping lawyers map a path toward greater happiness. It turns out that a lot of research has been done about happiness. Levit and Linder assemble it expertly in a highly readable, thought-provoking package. Many of the research findings are surprising. Did you know that graduates of fourth-tier law schools report the highest degree of happiness? That contrary to people's beliefs, income has only a small correlation to happiness? That the older lawyers get, the happier they become with their jobs and careers? Everyone considering law school should read this book before making their final decision. Everyone already in law school should read this book in plotting their career course. Everyone who is already a lawyer should read it to take stock of their careers with a view toward improving their lives. This is an important book.
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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars better for law students than practicing lawyers August 16, 2010
As a practicing lawyer, I found this book interesting but a little disconnected. I could never quite tell who the target audience was. The beginning of the book is full of statistical information and information about brain chemistry -- the effects of dopamine, seratonin and oxytocin on happiness,nothing specific to the legal field. Then, the book shifts focus and is directed at law students or prospective law students -- how to choose a law school, the importance of peer groups and faculty, how grads from fourth tier schools are often happier than grads from top schools. Then, parts of the book seem to be directed at practicing lawyers and law firm management.

Although the authors criticize law schools' bias toward large firm placement, the authors, too, seem to focus disproportionately on life in the larger law firms, while encouraging lawyers to follow their passions and choose wisely.

Overall, this is a quick, interesting read, full of data and statistics. I think it would be more useful for a law student or prospective law student than a practicing lawyer.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
By spudrot
The book starts off with an interesting overview on happiness in general. From there, the authors cover law school, happiness as a lawyer and even how a firm can keep its lawyers happy. The target audience for this book should be those considering entering the field of law or those who are currently in law school because the authors provide a realistic picture of what that student or individual will face, and they don't sugarcoat it (and I applaud this fact).

For those who have been practising law for several years, this book will offer little insight to becoming 'the happy lawyer'. Given the high rate of depression and suicide among lawyers, it is no wonder that lawyers are inondated with articles on happiness in law, in addition to receiving (perhaps unsolicited) advice from others in the profession (lawyers love to talk after all). In light of this, 'The Happy Lawyer' fails to provide insight or advice to a practising lawyer who will find any advice given as trite, and any issues or identifiers of unhappiness as being obvious.

It would have been better had the authors chosen to provide more in-depth advice to one group of lawyers, whether this be the private practise lawyer, the senior associate choosing between partnership or in-house, or perhaps the female lawyer in the male dominated private practise.

Each chapter of this book would get a fantastic review as a stand alone article in a legal magazine; this book as a whole, however, covers too much shallow ground unsuccessfully.

If you are considering law or are in law school and want to know what you're getting into - consider this book. Otherwise, my suggestion would be to read books with more indepth coverage on the topic of happiness and fulfillment, and use your analytical skills to apply it to yourself in the legal profession.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Happy Lawyer August 8, 2010
I was a happy lawyer. However, I stumbled onto many of the tips and advice found in this well-researched and revealing book. How nice it would have been to have it available as I was preparing for a career or in the early days as a young lawyer. Unfortunately, many new lawyers are not as lucky as I. This book will eliminate the stumbling for those in law school and many more in the spring of their careers.

A great read and essential for those thinkng about a career in law or those who find themselves disenchanted in their present circumstance.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Keep your eye on the prize December 21, 2010
This book is a godsend not only for law students but also for practicing attorneys. Law students can use the advice contained within to structure a job search toward "happy making" jobs; currently practicing attorneys can similarly use the wisdom of this tome to reevaluate the jobs they are in, or even to help those in power positions to make the job environment more amenable to the happiness needs of attorneys present and future.

As a new but not young lawyer, in what I consider a "happy in spite of myself" field (child abuse and neglect law), I appreciate the suggestions for how to make a current job happier; too often it is easy to become bottlenecked in negativity, and to become a part of the negative. The book speaks of pro bono work, and generally work where an attorney feels he or she is making a difference, as important to the happiness spectrum, and that has been my experience, all through law school and now in practice. Somewhere within every lawyer, or most every lawyer, I am convinced there is a do-gooder dying to get out, and that do-good instinct, when fed and groomed and balanced with practical concerns like being paid, is the key to feeling truly good about the work that we do. This book is good at pointing out the myriad ways that an attorney in any field can achieve some "do gooder happy."

Equally important and well-acknowledged here is the need for some work-life balance. This is an often neglected aspect of lawyering; it gets lip service a lot, but it is not often that a book about pursuing a legal career addresses the issue with such honesty. Big firms are not for everyone, and maybe, as the book indicates, happiness in the form of a balanced life is not just a pipedream - perhaps the job share or part-time career is the way to a happy future.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Front-Line lawyers need not apply
The Happy Lawyer does two things very well. It describes, with a clinical precision, some of the predominant reasons that lawyers tend to be less than satisfied with their chosen... Read more
Published 4 months ago by R. Lee Barrett
5.0 out of 5 stars A handbook for lawyers young and old
A reminder that lawyers the world over have the same challenges. I would recommend this to the in-house as well as the private practitioner.
Published 7 months ago by PJ VELDHUIZEN
1.0 out of 5 stars Load of dishonest rubbish
The authors are both law school professors -- that is, they are people who got law degrees but decided to get out of the business of practicing law (assuming that they ever got... Read more
Published 9 months ago by Harry Palmer
4.0 out of 5 stars Comments
I consider this a good book. The opinions in this book are fair. I would recommend it as well for all people interested in becoming a lawyer.
Published 15 months ago by Federico Mock
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book!
I bought this for my daughter who is going off to college this summer. She has always wanted to be an attorney and she said this book is very insightful and easy to read.
Published 15 months ago by txmom
5.0 out of 5 stars Good gift
Gave as a gift to son in pre-law undergradute university. Good choice for a student finding his way in deciding what kind of law he wants to practice.
Published 17 months ago by Darcy Sloan
4.0 out of 5 stars Great overview of happiness research
The beginning of this book is a huge overview of happiness research, then launches into applying that research among various law related jobs. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Sam Dillon
4.0 out of 5 stars Should be required reading for all pre-law students
If I was independently wealthy, I would buy "The Happy Lawyer" by Levit and Linder for every pre-law student that I've encountered in my career as a pre-law adviser. Read more
Published 23 months ago by P. Cheng
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Stories About Lawyers
The Happy Lawyer contains terrific stories from lawyers in a wide range of careers who have found happiness in the practice of law.
Published 24 months ago by Thad B.
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic Read
This is an incredible and valuable read for attorneys and law students. As a a law student, I am thrilled that I read it before actually practicing. Read more
Published on February 21, 2012 by Katie M. Sarreshteh
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