How to Be Happy in Your Work

Mary Lynch:

I so appreciated this post over at Legal ED. This semester, I ended my Crim Pro Adjudication class with information from the excellent book The Happy Lawyer. It was a risk since it was my first time teaching this particular course and I was not sure what the students thought of my teaching style…I was elated when a student e-mailed me the following which I post with her permission:

Professor Lynch,

I just stumbled upon this Times article and it reminded me of our brief class discussion about “The Happy Lawyer.” I am pleased to say that Albany Law School, thanks to its incredible alumni connections and location in New York’s powerful Capital Region, has allowed me to dive head-first into the public sector. I could not be any happier— thus far, at least— and figured you’d appreciate a break from reading our exams (while you’re not catching up on VEEP!).

I hope you have a great summer and I will see you in the fall!

Albany Law School
J.D. Candidate, 2016
Executive Vice President, Student Bar Association Senate

This is the kind of e-mail that confirms my instinct that we are obligated to teach what we know to be true about the professional and personal development of lawyers…..

Originally posted on Guile is Good!:

Some lawyers are happy. Don’t take it on faith; the New York times says so. Of course, other lawyers are not.

One Interesting statistic from the study the story relies on is that associates at high end corporate firms are no happier than their less elite classmates. I was not surprised by this news because once I went on a human rights tour of Central America with several young bright young lawyers doing volunteer political asylum work. All of them were from top San Francisco law firms, and not one of them seemed especially happy in his or her work.

Why aren’t young lawyers holding the most sought after jobs happier in their work? The authors of the study suggest the reason is that the day to day experience of working at a big firm does not score high on the three “pillars of self-determination”– competence, autonomy, and connection to…

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Inner Development, Community, Social Justice (Concurrent Session, AALS Conference on Clinical Legal Education)

Last, but not least, in this series highlighting lessons from experts in other disciplines relevant to how to navigate the chaotic “new normal”  in legal education: Thursday’s concurrent session organized by Tennessee’s Paulette Williams:  “A Commitment to Inner Development: Connecting the “New Normal” with Clinics’ Social Justice Mission”.

The session brought  Edward Groody and Timothy Dempsey from the Community Building Institute in Tennessee.  The Institute helps social service and criminal justice organizations become more effective by training participants in community building practices.  Taking an evidence-based approach built on motivational interviewing, trauma-informed care, and pro-social supports, community building is a “highly experiential process that helps participants remove barriers to communication and unlearn unproductive attitudes and behaviors.”

Groody began the session with a detailed overview of a four-stage process for building community:

  • Pseudo-community
  • Chaos
  • Emptying/Letting Go
  • Community

That process adds an important step — emptying/letting go — to Bruce Tuckman’s familiar “forming, storming, norming, performing” model of group formation.  My own interpretation of this additional,  third step is that it provides space for  participants to recognize,  and learn skills to address, the emotional issues that so often get in the way of honest connection with others.

Dempsey then shared powerful stories of how that process helps ex-offenders with post-prison re-entry,  allowing them to move past behavioral responses that may have seemed — and perhaps were — functional in their previous lives, but would block their efforts to move forward.   Or, to put it another way, this step acknowledges that in order to take advantage of education or employment opportunities, people need to let go of fears, resentments or trauma.  This is challenging work that is the foundation of many spiritual traditions, but can help build strong connections with others.

Time constraints prevented Paulette Williams from speaking in detail about how she makes use of this process in her clinical teaching work.  I hope she finds other forums for sharing those experiences and insights.

The insights of this community building process struck me as relevant not only to social justice and clinical legal education work, but also to faculty interactions within our law schools.  From another time and place, I well remember a year when every faculty meeting resulted in controversy, usually about something relatively minor that seemed to be a proxy for other, larger, but unacknowledged issues festering beneath the surface.    I suspect that many faculties are experiencing something similar as they operate  in the  current climate of uncertainty and change, too often getting stuck in the fear those conditions foster.  It’s  difficult for me to imagine applying this model in the typical law school environment.  But successfully moving through the “emptying/letting go” phase, as individuals and a group,  could be oh, so helpful!

Lessons from “Counseling Our Students” (Mini-Plenary at AALS Conference on Clinical Education)

At the recent AALS Conference on Clinical Education two additional sessions provided important insights from experts iin other disciplines on how to operate effectively in the midst of the current period of change in legal education.

Wednesday;s Mini-Plenary on Counseling Our Students In the New Normal included an inspiring guest speaker who was even more impressive as a listener.

Moderated by Mercer’s Tim Floyd, the session began with a helpful overview of the current state of the job market (bottom line:  recovering, slowly) by Abraham Pollack, GW’s  Professional Development dean. But the centerpiece of the session was Carolyn McKanders, Co-Director and Director or Organizational Culture, Thinking Collaborative and, not incidentally, mother of Tennessee’s Karla McKanders,

Carolyn brilliantly demonstrated “cognitive coaching” (check out the app!) in an unscripted coaching session that allowed Mary Lynch (yes, that Mary Lynch,  Editor of this blog) to expand  her acting career into improv. The session was designed to help Mary think through her goals and approaches in counseling students on career development in an environment where predictable and linear career tracks are no longer the norm.

After the role play Carolyn summarized three keys to cognitive coaching:  pausing, paraphrasing and posing questions (with a rising inflection that communicates curiosity and openness, not control or credibility).  The beauty of this approach is that it helps the individual “self-monitor, self-analyze, and self-evaluate“.

The session certainly reinforced three lessons that clinicians should know; after all, a foundational goal of clinical legal education is fostering reflection, and most of us teach interviewing and counseling, at least to some extent.

  • First, the power of listening.  In a world of fast talking, sometimes monologue-happy, often living-in-our-heads law professors, so easy for this lesson to “go missing”  if we ruminate worriedly, trying to cope with the new normal in faculty and committee meetings and informal conversations.
  • Second, the value of paraphrasing for understanding to ensure accurate communication.
  • And finally, the importance of  founding our questions on authentic curiosity — listening in order to understand, not to counter an argument.

In a constantly changing world, where so many verities are in play, it’s too easy for us to get stuck in fear and suspicion.  Though the stated rationale for the mini-plenary was to help us counsel students, for me it spoke at least as powerfully to how we can most effectively interact  with our colleagues.  And, perhaps, “counsel” ourselves.

In the next, and final post of this series, I’ll discuss a Thursday concurrent that linked “inner development” with community building and social justice.


It is interesting that of all the professional schools domains, from business, to law, to medicine, to design, to engineering and more, legal education seems to be particularly unexcited with the prospect of turning out lawyers. Why is that? It might have something to do with the straddling of the law school between the higher education academy and the trade school.   It is clear, from just rereading what I wrote that the term “trade school” carries baggage with it and likely serving as such is not an attractive idea to many. Thus, we teach students to think critically, but not necessarily the mundane, routinized activities of lawyers. Yet, the actions and performance of lawyers are both important and must coalesce with the thinking agenda. Also, acting or performing without integrity would be more than a distraction, but even a dereliction of duty. So turning out lawyers should be a positive outcome from day #1 of law school – and the practicality of lawyering should be held in high esteem as well as the sometimes disconnected critical thinking.

But what do lawyers make? This question is usually associated with money, but I like it because it also allows for an answer regarding relationships. Lawyers make the rule of law in society, fair processes, dispute resolution more likely and less violent, people who are discriminated against have a way to stand up for their rights, and generally make the our systems function. Lastly, of course, lawyers often make a difference to others. So while lawyers often make nothing tangible, lawyering remains a noble profession that ought to be viewed that way by the academy. The legal education process provides a training and background that offers the tools to navigate the system and help us work together in greater harmony. In an era of uncertainty and volatility, we need competent, community-minded lawyers who operate with integrity.

Disruptive Innovation and the Future of Legal Education — Clay Christensen Institute’s Michelle Weise to Deliver Address at AALS Clinical Conference

As legal education faces new challenges in preparing students for law practice and rethinking the lawyer’s role in society, this year’s AALS Clinical Conference, “Leading the New Normal: Clinical Education at the Forefront of Change,” will focus on the central questions: What is the New Normal? How Should Clinicians Respond to the New Normal? What is the Future of the New Normal?

I am excited to introduce Michele Weise, a Senior Research Fellow at the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation (CCI), as the speaker for the third theme.  A former Fulbright Scholar and graduate of Harvard and Stanford, Michelle Weise served as the Vice President of Academic Affairs for Fidelis Education, a professor at Skidmore College, and an instructor at Stanford.

In 2014, Ms. Weise co-authored a book with Clayton Christensen, titled Hire Education: Mastery, Modularization, and the Workforce Revolution, about how online competency-based education will revolutionize the workforce and disrupt higher education. Ms. Weise’s commentaries and research have been featured in a number of publications such as The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, Bloomberg Businessweek, The Boston Globe, Inside HigherEd, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and USA Today.

The Clay Christensen Institute, ranked in the Thinkers 50 in 2013, is the world’s leading think tank on disruptive innovation. “Disruptive innovation” takes a problem, applies a different set of values to solve the problem, and creates a new market that ultimately overtakes an existing market. Recently, CCI has studied how changes in technology or business models impact industries such as education and health care.

Michele Weise is one of the three main speakers at the conference.  In her talk, Ms. Weise will help the audience to understand the theory of disruption and how it relates not only to our own role as clinical professors, but also to outside changes impacting legal education. We see clinical education itself as a form of “disruptive innovation” within the legal academy. Our values and methods now stand ready to overtake and profoundly transform legal education, creating a “new normal.” At the same time, we face the prospect that other innovations (in technology and in law practice) will disrupt us, our schools and legal education as a whole. As part of a focus on the “new normal,” we see a strong need to assess how onrushing innovations in technology and practice will transform our clinics and our schools. I believe that, as a speaker, Michelle Weise offers an important opportunity and perspective for the clinical community and by extension, the legal academy.

Speaking personally, as a student of the CCI’s theories for the last few years, I have found it very helpful to have a broader framework in which to analyze what is happening in legal education. Indeed, my recent article, No Path But One, is grounded in the theories of the CCI, as is another piece on which I am currently working. Others in the legal academy are also applying the CCI’s disruption theory ideas to legal education. See:

At this critical time in legal education, I think it is important for the legal academy to understand the “why” behind the changes that are happening around us. Ms. Weise will help us as we begin to understand why higher education is changing and provoke us all to think about how we can prepare for the coming years.

The AALS conference will take place in Rancho Mirage, CA from May 3-7, 2015. Registration for the conference can be found here.

I hope to see you there!

Becoming a Lawyer – Still a Promising Career Path according to wallethub

Since the downturn of the economy and restructuring of the profession, most news about law schools boiled down to

However, a new ranking lists Attorney as one of the top four promising careers for millenials. The study compared 109 different types of entry-level jobs based on 11 key metrics, ranging from starting salaries to industry growth rate.

For more details you can find the report here.   Perhaps the new image can be:

Best Practices in Counseling? Ethical Practices in Counseling?

This morning, on the WBUR (Boston) radio station, a criminal trial professor (from New York) was discussing the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, recently convicted of the bombing of the Boston Marathon two years ago, with hosts Margery Eagan and Jim Braude.

As you may be aware, the punishment phase of the case began today – the question is whether Tsarnaev will get the death penalty or life in prison. The hosts asked whether the defense would be able to argue, to mitigate the punishment and try to avoid the death penalty for their client, that the older brother, Tamerlan, who died in a police shootout (and after being run over by his brother!), was the one truly behind the bombing — essentially that Dzhokhar was “under the influence” of his brother.

The lawyer being interviewed was asked whether, if Dzhokhar doesn’t want to use that defense, but rather considers his brother to be a hero in avenging US aggression overseas (comments he scrawled in ink and blood on the tarp covering the boat in which he hid before being arrested), could Dzhokhar deny his lawyers permission to use that defense theory. The lawyer said that it is clear that he could not forbid his lawyers from arguing that, and opined that these were merely “trial” tactics that are not in the client’s control, but rather in the hands of the lawyers.

I was frustrated that the radio show was not taking calls, as I was eager to dispute that conclusion, and to point out that this type of lawyering is far different from that which we in the clinical community practice as we guide our students through the principles of client-centered lawyering. It was anathema to me to hear the role of the client completely discounted.

Criminal law is not my expertise, but it made me wonder whether my assumptions about clinical teaching don’t apply in criminal and/or death penalty clinics. In a death penalty case, after conviction, at the sentencing stage, does the defendant lose the right to control his/her defense? I’m eager to hear the views of those teaching criminal clinics.


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