We begin with the premise that the happiest and most fulfilled attorneys are those who live a life of meaning and purpose. While many in the legal profession have achieved this goal, many others are unsatisfied with their career trajectories but feel, for a variety of reasons, that they aren’t empowered to make a change. Unfortunately, study after study finds that many attorneys are stressed and unhappy with their professional lives, and would even leave the law entirely if they could.
The Article argues that these attorneys have a far more dynamic set of options than simply leaving the profession or staying unhappy. It’s not just possible—but, for many attorneys, should be the goal—to merge personal and professional interests to achieve a career filled with meaning and purpose.
The Article goes on to argue that lifelong learning is the path to achieving this goal. As every practitioner knows, law school taught us an analytical framework—how to “think like a lawyer”—which is reinforced in all aspects of legal practice. Relying on those analytical skills, it’s entirely possible to learn new practice areas, write on new topics, and continually evolve to ensure that one’s legal career aligns with personal goals.
We say “continually evolve” because meaning and purpose change over time, so even the most fulfilled attorneys need to make adjustments throughout their careers to hit this mark. While these types of career adjustments certainly may entail significant transitions from one practice area to another, they more commonly entail smaller adjustments to one’s trajectory and current role that are minor in the moment but can have significant impact over time.
The Article concludes with a discussion of the value of failure and rejection to achieving meaningful professional goals, and a reminder that regrets in old age often center on the things we didn’t do rather than the those we did. The goal of this Article is to reinforce to law students and attorneys that they need not sacrifice their values for a job, and it’s entirely possible to combine professional and personal goals in one’s career—and, indeed, doing so may very well lead to a happy and meaningful life.
FINDING HAPPINESS IN THE LAW: LIFELONG LEARNING AS A PATH TO MEANING AND PURPOSE,
63 Santa Clara L. Rev.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.scu.edu/lawreview/vol63/iss1/3