Lawyer, are you having fun yet? Here´s how you can find flow instead:

von Marion Ehmann

Do you recognize yourself in the statement that lawyers are mostly pessimists? Several social scientists have studied this peculiar phenomenon. It´s peculiar because pessimism not only makes you unhappy, it also keeps you from being successful in most professions. Unless you are a lawyer. The famous Martin Seligman (one of the founding fathers of the positive psychology movement) stated: “There is one glaring exception: pessimists do better at law.” For most people, a pessimistic outlook can lead to depression; for lawyers, it´s a contributor to success (which of course does not make us immune against depression).

To me, it is no surprise that we lawyers are pessimistic and that this contributes to us being successful in our profession. After all, we roll up our sleeves and get to work mostly when the sh** has already hit the fan: disputes, divorce, crime, authorities making dawn raids etc. Even when we are not doing that, we are thinking of all the possible ways said sh** could hit the fan: When a commercial lawyer drafts a shareholder agreement for co-workers starting a business together, she thinks about how and where to litigate when they start to quarrel. When a family lawyer advises a starry-eyed couple of soon-to-be-newlyweds on a prenuptial agreement, he thinks about their divorce. When an in-house lawyer implements a compliance program for her company, she is thinking of anti-corruption agencies investigating the company. It´s quite hard to have fun on the job when your job requires that mind-set.

That´s probably the reason why many lawyers get this incredulous look on their faces when you ask them whether they are having fun. Former Harvard Business School professor and leading professional services firm consultant David Maister has explored this in his book “True Professionalism” ...

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