779 Well-Being and the Practice of Law

Optimistic, happy people outperform their counterparts on almost every measure of job success with the notable exception of one group: lawyers. Psychological research suggests that on the whole pessimists perform better in both law school and private practice. Since research also shows that pessimism can be a predictor of depression and/or lower levels of life satisfaction, this raises a question among academics who study well-being: what do we do about the lawyers? Or is the research insufficient to make such sweeping claims?

This class will examine why the "pursuit of happiness," a phrase written by a lawyer, has proved futile for many members of the legal profession and those aspiring to its ranks.There is considerable data indicating that lawyers and law students suffer from greater rates of depression and anxiety than other professions, along with accompanying social maladies such as substance abuse. There is also considerable evidence of high career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and many others are leaving the profession or performing well below their capability. This seems unfathomable given the high levels of education, affluence, and respect lawyers enjoy (or will enjoy), factors which predict happiness and job satisfaction in other areas of life.

This class will present the research to date on lawyers and happiness. We will examine the scientific data and academic literature on lawyer maladies, while examining holes in the collective wisdom and why the majority of lawyers are quite content. Also, we will analyze what Covid lockdowns, remote learning and practice, etc., have done to the overall happiness of lawyers and law students. We will not ignore the questions of social justice and if different groups experience different levels of well-being in law school and practice. While acknowledging the very real problems of the profession, we will address the question many lawyers and law professors legitimately ask – so what: who said lawyers are supposed to be happy? We will then review simple actions law schools, bar associations, law firms, and individuals can take to improve the collective health of the profession, as well as the productivity and engagement of its individual practitioners. In the course of so doing, will learn the basic well-being measurement tools and practice interventions shown to increase individual happiness. Students will have the opportunity, on a volunteer basis, to take different well-being measurement tools developed at the University of Pennsylvania, where the professor obtained a master’s degree in psychology studying well-being. This is a serious course grounded in the latest science; while there will be fairly intensive reading and writing requirements, they will be within the bounds of a one-credit hour course, and should add to the overall well-being of each student.

Course Areas of Practice
Evaluation Methods
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper
  • Class participation
Degree Requirements
Course Type
  • Lecture
Learning Outcomes
  • Other professional skills needed for competent and ethical participation as a member of the legal profession

Spring 2022

2022
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

779.01 1
  • Reflective Writing
  • Research and/or analytical paper
  • Class participation
Daniel Seymour Bowling III Tu 2:00-3:50 PM 3000

Optimistic, happy people outperform their counterparts on almost every measure of job success with the notable exception of one group: lawyers. Psychological research suggests that on the whole pessimists perform better in both law school and private practice. Since research also shows that pessimism can be a predictor of depression and/or lower levels of life satisfaction, this raises a question among academics who study well-being: what do we do about the lawyers? Or is the research insufficient to make such sweeping claims?

This class will examine why the "pursuit of happiness," a phrase written by a lawyer, has proved futile for many members of the legal profession and those aspiring to its ranks.There is considerable data indicating that lawyers and law students suffer from greater rates of depression and anxiety than other professions, along with accompanying social maladies such as substance abuse. There is also considerable evidence of high career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and many others are leaving the profession or performing well below their capability. This seems unfathomable given the high levels of education, affluence, and respect lawyers enjoy (or will enjoy), factors which predict happiness and job satisfaction in other areas of life.

This class will present the research to date on lawyers and happiness. We will examine the scientific data and academic literature on lawyer maladies, while examining holes in the collective wisdom and why the majority of lawyers are quite content. Also, we will analyze what Covid lockdowns, remote learning and practice, etc., have done to the overall happiness of lawyers and law students. We will not ignore the questions of social justice and if different groups experience different levels of well-being in law school and practice. While acknowledging the very real problems of the profession, we will address the question many lawyers and law professors legitimately ask – so what: who said lawyers are supposed to be happy? We will then review simple actions law schools, bar associations, law firms, and individuals can take to improve the collective health of the profession, as well as the productivity and engagement of its individual practitioners. In the course of so doing, will learn the basic well-being measurement tools and practice interventions shown to increase individual happiness. Students will have the opportunity, on a volunteer basis, to take different well-being measurement tools developed at the University of Pennsylvania, where the professor obtained a master’s degree in psychology studying well-being. This is a serious course grounded in the latest science; while there will be fairly intensive reading and writing requirements, they will be within the bounds of a one-credit hour course, and should add to the overall well-being of each student.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Spring 2021

2021
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

779.01 1 Daniel Seymour Bowling III Tu 4:00 PM-5:50 PM

Optimistic, happy people outperform their counterparts on almost every measure of job success with the notable exception of one group: lawyers. Psychological research suggests that on the whole pessimists perform better in both law school and private practice. Since research also shows that pessimism can be a predictor of depression and/or lower levels of life satisfaction, this raises a question among academics who study well-being: what do we do about the lawyers? Or is the research insufficient to make such sweeping claims?

This class will examine why the "pursuit of happiness," a phrase written by a lawyer, has proved futile for many members of the legal profession and those aspiring to its ranks.There is considerable data (that predates the current economic crisis) indicating that lawyers and law students suffer from greater rates of depression and anxiety than other professions, along with accompanying social maladies such as substance abuse. There is also considerable evidence of high career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and many others are leaving the profession or performing well below their capability. This seems unfathomable given the high levels of education, affluence, and respect lawyers enjoy (or will enjoy), factors which predict happiness and job satisfaction in other areas of life.
This class will present the research to date on lawyers and happiness. We will examine the scientific data and academic literature on lawyer maladies, while examining holes in the collective wisdom and why the majority of lawyers are quite content. While acknowledging the very real problems of the profession, we will address the question many lawyers and law professors legitimately ask – so what: who said lawyers are supposed to be happy? We will then review simple actions law schools, bar associations, law firms, and individuals can take to improve the collective health of the profession, as well as the productivity and engagement of its individual practitioners. In the course of so doing, will learn the basic well-being measurement tools and practice interventions shown to increase individual happiness. This is a serious course grounded in the latest science; while there will be fairly intensive reading and writing requirements, they will be within the bounds of a one-credit hour course, and should add to the overall well-being of each student.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Spring 2020

2020
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

779.01 1 Daniel Seymour Bowling III Tu 4:00PM - 5:50PM 4042

Optimistic, happy people outperform their counterparts on almost every measure of job success with the notable exception of one group: lawyers. Psychological research suggests that on the whole pessimists perform better in both law school and private practice. Since research also shows that pessimism can be a predictor of depression and/or lower levels of life satisfaction, this raises a question among academics who study well-being: what do we do about the lawyers? Or is the research insufficient to make such sweeping claims?

This class will examine why the "pursuit of happiness," a phrase written by a lawyer, has proved futile for many members of the legal profession and those aspiring to its ranks.There is considerable data (that predates the current economic crisis) indicating that lawyers and law students suffer from greater rates of depression and anxiety than other professions, along with accompanying social maladies such as substance abuse. There is also considerable evidence of high career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and many others are leaving the profession or performing well below their capability. This seems unfathomable given the high levels of education, affluence, and respect lawyers enjoy (or will enjoy), factors which predict happiness and job satisfaction in other areas of life.
This class will present the research to date on lawyers and happiness. We will examine the scientific data and academic literature on lawyer maladies, while examining holes in the collective wisdom and why the majority of lawyers are quite content. While acknowledging the very real problems of the profession, we will address the question many lawyers and law professors legitimately ask – so what: who said lawyers are supposed to be happy? We will then review simple actions law schools, bar associations, law firms, and individuals can take to improve the collective health of the profession, as well as the productivity and engagement of its individual practitioners. In the course of so doing, will learn the basic well-being measurement tools and practice interventions shown to increase individual happiness. This is a serious course grounded in the latest science; while there will be fairly intensive reading and writing requirements, they will be within the bounds of a one-credit hour course, and should add to the overall well-being of each student.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Spring 2019

2019
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

779.01 1 Daniel Seymour Bowling III Tu 4:00-5:50 PM 4042

Optimistic, happy people outperform their counterparts on almost every measure of job success with the notable exception of one group: lawyers. Psychological research suggests that on the whole pessimists perform better in both law school and private practice. Since research also shows that pessimism can be a predictor of depression and/or lower levels of life satisfaction, this raises a question among academics who study well-being: what do we do about the lawyers? Or is the research insufficient to make such sweeping claims?

This class will examine why the "pursuit of happiness," a phrase written by a lawyer, has proved futile for many members of the legal profession and those aspiring to its ranks.There is considerable data (that predates the current economic crisis) indicating that lawyers and law students suffer from greater rates of depression and anxiety than other professions, along with accompanying social maladies such as substance abuse. There is also considerable evidence of high career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and many others are leaving the profession or performing well below their capability. This seems unfathomable given the high levels of education, affluence, and respect lawyers enjoy (or will enjoy), factors which predict happiness and job satisfaction in other areas of life.
This class will present the research to date on lawyers and happiness. We will examine the scientific data and academic literature on lawyer maladies, while examining holes in the collective wisdom and why the majority of lawyers are quite content. While acknowledging the very real problems of the profession, we will address the question many lawyers and law professors legitimately ask – so what: who said lawyers are supposed to be happy? We will then review simple actions law schools, bar associations, law firms, and individuals can take to improve the collective health of the profession, as well as the productivity and engagement of its individual practitioners. In the course of so doing, will learn the basic well-being measurement tools and practice interventions shown to increase individual happiness. This is a serious course grounded in the latest science; while there will be fairly intensive reading and writing requirements, they will be within the bounds of a one-credit hour course, and should add to the overall well-being of each student.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Spring 2018

2018
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

779.01 1 Daniel Seymour Bowling III Tu 4:00-5:50 PM 4042
Optimistic, happy people outperform their counterparts on almost every measure of job success with the notable exception of one group: lawyers. Psychological research suggests that on the whole pessimists perform better in both law school and private practice. Since research also shows that pessimism can be a predictor of depression and/or lower levels of life satisfaction, this raises a question among academics who study well-being: what do we do about the lawyers? Or is the research insufficient to make such sweeping claims?

This class will examine why the "pursuit of happiness," a phrase written by a lawyer, has proved futile for many members of the legal profession and those aspiring to its ranks.There is considerable data (that predates the current economic crisis) indicating that lawyers and law students suffer from greater rates of depression and anxiety than other professions, along with accompanying social maladies such as substance abuse. There is also considerable evidence of high career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and many others are leaving the profession or performing well below their capability. This seems unfathomable given the high levels of education, affluence, and respect lawyers enjoy (or will enjoy), factors which predict happiness and job satisfaction in other areas of life.
This class will present the research to date on lawyers and happiness. We will examine the scientific data and academic literature on lawyer maladies, while examining holes in the collective wisdom and why the majority of lawyers are quite content. While acknowledging the very real problems of the profession, we will address the question many lawyers and law professors legitimately ask – so what: who said lawyers are supposed to be happy? We will then review simple actions law schools, bar associations, law firms, and individuals can take to improve the collective health of the profession, as well as the productivity and engagement of its individual practitioners. In the course of so doing, will learn the basic well-being measurement tools and practice interventions shown to increase individual happiness. This is a serious course grounded in the latest science; while there will be fairly intensive reading and writing requirements, they will be within the bounds of a one-credit hour course, and should add to the overall well-being of each student.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Spring 2017

2017
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

779.01 1 Daniel Seymour Bowling III Tu 3:45-5:45 PM 4042

Optimistic, happy people outperform their counterparts on almost every measure of job success with the notable exception of one group: lawyers. Psychological research suggests that on the whole pessimists perform better in both law school and private practice. Since research also shows that pessimism can be a predictor of depression and/or lower levels of life satisfaction, this raises a question among academics who study well-being: what do we do about the lawyers? Or is the research insufficient to make such sweeping claims?

This class will examine why the "pursuit of happiness," a phrase written by a lawyer, has proved futile for many members of the legal profession and those aspiring to its ranks.There is considerable data (that predates the current economic crisis) indicating that lawyers and law students suffer from greater rates of depression and anxiety than other professions, along with accompanying social maladies such as substance abuse. There is also considerable evidence of high career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and many others are leaving the profession or performing well below their capability. This seems unfathomable given the high levels of education, affluence, and respect lawyers enjoy (or will enjoy), factors which predict happiness and job satisfaction in other areas of life.
This class will present the research to date on lawyers and happiness. We will examine the scientific data and academic literature on lawyer maladies, while examining holes in the collective wisdom and why the majority of lawyers are quite content. While acknowledging the very real problems of the profession, we will address the question many lawyers and law professors legitimately ask – so what: who said lawyers are supposed to be happy? We will then review simple actions law schools, bar associations, law firms, and individuals can take to improve the collective health of the profession, as well as the productivity and engagement of its individual practitioners. In the course of so doing, will learn the basic well-being measurement tools and practice interventions shown to increase individual happiness. This is a serious course grounded in the latest science; while there will be fairly intensive reading and writing requirements, they will be within the bounds of a one-credit hour course, and should add to the overall well-being of each student.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

Spring 2016

2016
Course Number Course Credits Evaluation Method Instructor Meeting Days/Times Room

779.01 1 Daniel Seymour Bowling III Tu 3:45-5:45 PM 3037

Optimistic, happy people outperform their counterparts on almost every measure of job success with the notable exception of one group: lawyers. Psychological research suggests that on the whole pessimists perform better in both law school and private practice. Since research also shows that pessimism can be a predictor of depression and/or lower levels of life satisfaction, this raises a question among academics who study well-being: what do we do about the lawyers? Or is the research insufficient to make such sweeping claims?

This class will examine why the "pursuit of happiness," a phrase written by a lawyer, has proved futile for many members of the legal profession and those aspiring to its ranks.There is considerable data (that predates the current economic crisis) indicating that lawyers and law students suffer from greater rates of depression and anxiety than other professions, along with accompanying social maladies such as substance abuse. There is also considerable evidence of high career dissatisfaction among lawyers, and many others are leaving the profession or performing well below their capability. This seems unfathomable given the high levels of education, affluence, and respect lawyers enjoy (or will enjoy), factors which predict happiness and job satisfaction in other areas of life.
This class will present the research to date on lawyers and happiness. We will examine the scientific data and academic literature on lawyer maladies, while examining holes in the collective wisdom and why the majority of lawyers are quite content. While acknowledging the very real problems of the profession, we will address the question many lawyers and law professors legitimately ask – so what: who said lawyers are supposed to be happy? We will then review simple actions law schools, bar associations, law firms, and individuals can take to improve the collective health of the profession, as well as the productivity and engagement of its individual practitioners. In the course of so doing, will learn the basic well-being measurement tools and practice interventions shown to increase individual happiness. This is a serious course grounded in the latest science; while there will be fairly intensive reading and writing requirements, they will be within the bounds of a one-credit hour course, and should add to the overall well-being of each student.

Pre/Co-requisites
None

*Please note that this information is for planning purposes only, and should not be relied upon for the schedule for a given semester. Faculty leaves and sabbaticals, as well as other curriculum considerations, will sometimes affect when a course may be offered.