Transcript:

CHRIS NEWBOLD:

Hello, Well-Being friends, welcome to The Path to Well-Being in Law Podcast, an initiative of The Institute for Well-Being in Law. I’m your co-host, Chris Newbold, Executive Vice President of ALPS Malpractice Insurance. And, boy, how exciting is it that we’re actually moving into the summer months? I always feel like well-being takes a natural elevated state in the summer months. We’re also coming off of a really exciting Well-Being in Law week, and I’m joined by my co-host, Bree Buchanan. Bree, I’d just love to hear your reflections on, again, a May event that’s really become a foundational element in the well-being horizon, as we think about bringing people together and shining a light on well-being. What were your reflections on this year’s Well-Being Week in Law?

BREE BUCHANAN:

Good morning. Hey, Chris. So that was just… It’s such an amazing event, and it’s really become a signature event for The Institute for Well-Being in Law. This is our second year to do it. We didn’t necessarily have people sign up, but we were able to look at things like the analytics, the people coming to our website, all of that doubled over last year. We had so much energy and excitement around that, and many people involved. We had the actual… the whole week for the Well-Being Week in Law, every day programming. And then this year, we added the after-party, which two weeks later, we did another full week of programming around the different dimensions of well-being for the professionals in this space, the people who are tasked with law firms, with… coming up with well-being programming. That’s really an area that the institute is focused on, and supporting the movement and all the people that are out there that are part of this movement. So, it was a great event. What did you think?

CHRIS:

Yeah, I thought was fantastic, again. One of our goals on the podcast is to build and nurture a national network of well-being advocates. I think one of the great results of the week was just, again, a mobilization an army of folks who are really interested in this particular issue. We would be remiss without recognizing one of our colleagues, Bree, Anne Bradford, and all of the work that she did to really both initiate, and has really been building some significant momentum in building this community through events like Well-Being Week in Law.

BREE:

Absolutely. The community and just the partnerships that she’s helping us create, really valuable.

CHRIS:

I think the folks interested in receiving mailings and communications from the institute, I think went up to like 1,400. Again, just a testament to the number of folks who are really passionate about this issue and want to see it remain at the forefront as we look to improve the profession. So that’s awesome. Let’s move into our podcast today. We’re, again, super excited. We’ve taken a little bit of a pivot. In our first 10 to 12, 15 podcasts, we really focused on some individuals in the movement. We’ve been moving to a little bit of a mini series format. We started with law schools, and now we’re really excited to delve into the intersection of well-being and research, and research into the well-being cause.

There’s been, in a lot of professions, probably a lot more empirical research. We certainly are moving into that space in terms of specifically looking at lawyers, research, well-being, happiness. I know, Bree, we are super excited about our guest today, who’s going to kick off our research miniseries, Larry Krieger from Florida State University. Bree, I know that you’ve known Larry for a lot of years, I’m going to give you the honors of introducing Larry. But we are really excited about our podcast today in the intersection of well-being and the happiness of lawyers, which is, again, something I’ve been really excited to get into.

BREE:

Right. I am delighted Larry is somebody I’ve looked up to and look to as such a real expert in this space ever since I started working in this area, which was 2009. So, let me just give everybody an introduction. Professor Larry Krieger is a widely-recognized expert in lawyer well-being, and particularly, I think, he’s known for his study and work around What Makes Lawyers Happy? And we’ll get to hear more about that. That study, in particular, was research on 6,200 lawyers, and identified the specific factors that are required for lawyer wellness and satisfaction and basically, happiness. The New York Times report article on that study was the most shared article in The Times for the following two days. So a lot of buzz about that when it came out in 2015.

Larry was the founding Chair of the section on balance and legal education for the Association of American Law Schools. He was a litigator for 11 years, so he knows what it’s like to be in the trenches. Part of that was Chief Trial Counsel for the Florida Controller, and he now teaches litigation skills and professionalism at the Florida State University College of Law. He is rightly-so recognized as one of the 25 teachers in the Harvard Press Book, entitled, What the Best Law Teachers Do.

Finally, I got to meet Larry in person when I presented to him in 2018 at CoLAP Meritorious Service Award, which is given, really, for a lifetime distinction in the work that addresses mental health and substance abuse issues in the profession. That is a small introduction to all that Larry has done in this space. So, Larry, welcome. We’re so glad you’re here. I want to ask you a question of what we ask for all of our guests. We start off with asking, what brought you to the well-being movement? We have found that just about for all of our guests, and certainly for all of us who are involved in the institute, there’s some sort of personal life experience, something that drives our passion for this work. So, what can you tell us about your experience? And welcome, Larry.

LARRY KRIEGER:

Well, first, thank you so much. It really is a pleasure and an honor to get to talk to you both, and thank you for the amazing work that you both are doing them and all the people out there. Funny story. So what brought me to it was my first wife, who… way back then, she had actually been dating Mike Love, the lead singer for the Beach Boys, when the Beach Boys learned meditation.

BREE:

Okay.

LARRY:

Remember [inaudible 00:07:27] back in the late ’60s or something. So we’re going back a little ways here. I’ve been around. So I was in law school at the time, actually, I was miserable, and we heard that this meditation teacher, Transcendental Meditation, at the time, was coming to town. And she said, “Oh, let’s go.” And I said [inaudible 00:07:50]. And so she dragged me in there. I thought it was the stupidest thing I ever heard. We walked out, she was glowing. Like, this is fabulous, thought [inaudible 00:07:59], brother. They wanted 35 bucks for you to learn this technique, I thought this is for the birds. So she learned it, and she changed within two weeks. She was a different person.

BREE:

Wow.

LARRY:

So I said, “Okay, I want to learn it, too.” Then it took me months to get into it, because the teacher didn’t come back for three months. So it was just really good luck. It transcended my own ignorance, honestly. And then I was unhappy in law school, and actually quit law school. It took me eight years to get through law school, which I love telling students when they’re discouraged.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

I just didn’t like it. The reason I didn’t like it is everybody there was so unhappy. I had already been in the Air Force through the Vietnam War, and I was a little older and stuff going to law school, and I thought, everybody is so serious. Oh, my God. Nobody’s got their leg shot off.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

I just kept quitting law school, because I just didn’t like being around. It was so serious and negative. So yeah, that was on me. I’ve learned to have better boundaries. But that’s how I got involved. Then when I finally became a lawyer, I noticed how unhappy the lawyers were.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

[inaudible 00:09:14]. Come on, guys. Even the super successful ones were just ramped up, tense, pushy, on edge all the time. Of course, by then I had been meditating for a while, and so I it was keeping me chilled out. I was prosecuting in West Palm. We had the sixth highest crime rate in the country at the time. So it’s not like it was… I was dodging the bullets and avoiding the trenches, like you say. But just, do your job and then go home and have a nice life. So what got me involved was good luck, certainly not my own intelligence, and then just seeing what was going on in front of me.

BREE:

Right, right. Absolutely.

CHRIS:

Well, Larry, you’ve… Certainly, when you look back on your research and scholarship, it now goes back almost 20 years. I know that you’ve been thinking about it even longer than that. In some respects, you’ve been a disruptor in our space before it was even a thing. If you look back on some of your titles, I just I marvel at the fact that you saw so much of this so early, that even though the movement is where it is today, again, you were talking about a two decades ago. Some of your titles included Institutional Denial About the Dark Side of Law, and I think that was published in 2002. Understanding the Negative Effects of Legal Education on Law Students, again, 2002. Does Legal Education Have Undermining Effects on Law Students? 2004. What were you seeing among your students that brought you to engage in this type of research and scholarship?

LARRY:

Yeah, thanks. Let me just say [inaudible 00:10:55] just like me starting meditation and getting a bigger picture on life than what I had up to that point. I got lucky and got this job. I wasn’t looking for a job, I had a marvelous job of chasing Ponzi schemes out of the State of Florida for the state comptroller, like Bree already mentioned. But I just got lucky and got into this job through happenstance, and it gave me time to start thinking. What I saw immediately was… I think I started this job in ’91. I just passed 30 years. Yay. Had a little lunch with the dean, and it was really sweet.

So it was a good ways after I had been in law school all those years, and seeing all the unhappiness there. When I got into teaching, I realized nothing has changed. Nothing. And I thought, “Okay, well, I’ve got some time here. I’m going to try to write about it.” Actually, the first article I wrote was in ’99. I’m not on tenure track, so writing all that negative stuff is a little tricky for me, but I figured, honestly, what the hell? I wouldn’t mind going back to being a prosecutor or a lawyer. If they don’t like me, they can just get rid of me, but I’m not going to keep my mouth shut. But the first one I wrote was in ’99, and it was called What We’re Not Telling Law Students – And Lawyers – That They Really Need to Know. In that article, I was just going from my experience, but I was saying we really need to research this. And then shortly after that, just, again, through happenstance, I ran into a fabulous empirical psychologist who was willing to work with me, Ken Sheldon. So, off we went.

BREE:

There you go. I really relate to what you’re saying. I graduated from law school in 1989, and then had the opportunity, about 15 years later, to go back and lead a clinical program there, and it was the same thing. I saw students were still unhappy, stressed out, everything happened around a keg, alcohol flowed through every event. And then actually, when I got to the lawyers Assistance Program and went back to law schools talking, 10 or so years later, it was the same thing, there just hadn’t been any shift.

I want to talk to you a little bit. My experience with you, my first Larry Krieger encounter… When I started working at the Texas Lawyers Assistance Program in 2009, I came across your booklet that spoke to me so loudly, it was The Hidden Sources of Law School Stress, in which you openly wrote about the dark side of the law school experience, and it just rang so true for me. I was so impacted by that. Tell me what it was like during that period of time to write about these things. It’s like sort of the emperor has no clothes, you were going out proclaiming. Just the same truth at the heart of the matter in the profession. How was that received?

LARRY:

Well, good question. That book’s been a thrill for me and me. It turned out that half the law schools in the country and also in Australia and Canada, more than half of them have used the book with their students in bulk. So, that was a thrill. I’m writing a new one now. I’ll explain why I decided to take a new tack. But hopefully, that’ll be out at the end of the summer for fall students, if I’m lucky. The first thing I started doing before I wrote that is I started talking to clinical conferences, because I’m a clinical teacher, I teach litigation skills. And every time I would give a talk on this well-being, I never saw any other talks on it. It’s so wonderful to see the movement now. When I started doing this, it was weird. But rooms would always fill up. There were so many teachers that would say, “This is so important. I wish I’d heard this when I was in law school.” And I would say, “I wish I’d heard it law school.”

BREE:

Me too.

LARRY:

Right. So somebody needed to start saying it. So that was really good. And then our dean of student asked me to give a talk to an early orientation group one summer here, that came pre [inaudible 00:15:49] law school, and I gave this little talk, and it really went well. What I did is I… This is where the booklet came from. I asked them, “So what are you worried about? Let’s list everything you’re worried about on the board, everything you’re afraid of.” And then we’re going to shoot it all down, one at a time. So they listed it on the board, I explained why they shouldn’t stress about it, and then I woke up the next morning [inaudible 00:16:14] you know that was really a lot of good things. And it all came from them, I thought I had to write this down.

So I sent out a little summary to this listserv that I had started by then on humanizing legal education, and people wrote back and said, “Oh, can I use it? Can I use it? Can I use it?” And I said, “Okay, I got to put this into a publication.” So I was already getting a lot of positive feedback from my community, which was the community of people who actually care about the well-being and happiness of… and sanity, really, of law students and lawyers. I’ve learned to focus on the people that are supportive, I just don’t focus on the other people. [crosstalk 00:16:56].

BREE:

Words of wisdom.

CHRIS:

Well, Larry, obviously, we’re shifting a little bit in the podcast here to a three-part series focusing on research, and we just would really enjoy focusing now on your 2015 seminal work that really helped set the stage for the entire well-being movement. Your work, What Makes Lawyers Happy? A Data-Driven Prescription to Redefine Professional Success Redefine Professional Success was really at the forefront. It was a large research project that you conducted with Ken Sheldon. Tell us about the survey, what inspired you to do it, who you surveyed, just setting the stage for what you ultimately found.

LARRY:

Sure, Thanks, Chris. That came out so well, too. I was shocked at how well… After we publish that, I had a lot of people from different journals and the press [inaudible 00:17:54] and they asked me if there are any surprises in there. Really, the main surprise was that we were right. Everything we predicted came out, and even stronger than I would have imagined. I really encourage folks who are listening to this, take a look at this study, because there’s a graph in there of the results, and you can see it in a picture. It’s so striking. It’s on SSRN, Social Science Research Network, ssrn.com, and it’s called What Makes Lawyers Happy?. But what came out of it was that success does not make lawyers happy. That’s why The New York Times had such a buzz with it.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

We were actually able to quantify exactly what’s making lawyers happy, and we were able to show, with numbers, it’s not the money, it’s not the partnership, the junior partners were not any happier than the senior associates in the big firms, not even a bit. Even though they were making 70% more money, and they were partners now, nothing changed. The idea came from because we started researching law students before that, and we were in some of those journals you mentioned with the institutional denial and understanding the negative effects, all that business. I wanted to be sure that what we found in law students actually was going in the direction that the studies predicted, and that lawyers were suffering from the same exact problems.

So it really took seven years to get that study done, because I had to get bar associations. Five state bar associations agreed to participate and put their bar members through this survey. I got CLE credit assigned to the lawyers-

BREE:

Wow.

LARRY:

… who were willing do it because it was a long survey. And then one of the states backed out at the last minute, a really big one. So otherwise, we’d have had 10,000 lawyers instead of 6,000, but results would have been identical. But I think they thought it’s going to be too hot politically.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

I think they were afraid that we were going to show what we ended up showing, which is everything that the profession thinks is important, actually isn’t important, other than helping clients, and everything that the profession thinks isn’t important, like spending time with your family and taking care of yourself, actually is important, and those are the things that’s going to make you happy. So, it took years to get that research in but, but we pulled it off.

BREE:

I see it was just sort of… The findings are just bombshell findings for me. I actually printed out, and I’m looking right now at that graph, and it is so incredibly demonstrative. When you’re looking at what really moves the dial on subjective well-being or happiness, are things like autonomy, relatedness, internal motivation, the intrinsic values. So those are long bars on the graph. And then you get to income, class rank, making partner, Law Review, and the bars on that graph drop by like 75% or something. It is just striking visually to see this. Can you talk just briefly a little bit about this divide between the extrinsic and intrinsic values, sort of digging into the secret of happiness?

LARRY:

Yeah, great point. Thanks for bringing that up. I’m actually looking at it. I did a follow-up booklet to that, Hidden Sources of Law School Stress, that extended out to lawyers too, after this study came out. I have a few of those left. I’m trying not to sell them much anymore, and I’ll tell you why at the end here. But it also has that chart in it. It’s called The Hidden Stresses of Law School and Law Practice, because they really are hidden stresses. They’re mis-assumptions. What these bars mean, is basically, that the human connections that we make, if I could put it in a nutshell, the human connections that we make are everything for the happiness of a lawyer or a judge. They are everything. What these buyers stand for is our connection to ourself, autonomy. Really, the way we measure it is integrity or authenticity. Are you a whole person? Are you true to what you say? Do you follow your own values, or are you two-faced? The negative stereotype of lawyers would be anti-autonomy and anti-integrity.

So that’s the number one factor, are you well-connected with yourself? And who is, in modern society? What is ourself, even? [inaudible 00:23:00]. And then the next one’s obvious, relatedness to other people. Are you closely connected with other people? Not are you around them? Not, do you tell them what to do? But do you feel a close intimate connection with them? The third one and the fourth one have to do with work, do you feel competent at your work, and are you motivated to do your work because you care about it? In other words, is-

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

… are you connected to it? Not just, are you doing it to pay the bills, but does it give you meaning and purpose in your life? Does it give you joy? So those are the top four, and then autonomy, support, relationship to supervisor. So those are the things. They’re way up there as far as predicting well-being. If you don’t have those, you’re not going to be happy.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

These numbers are so huge. And then when you get down to made partner, like I said, it’s .00. It had no effect on the lawyers, at all, being on Law Review, what all the law students get the most depressed about. .00 and for the layers, it had no effect. Income is very modest, it’s .19. These others are .65.

BREE:

I mean, you just turned it all on its head, Larry. First, when I would see these, I would think I… I would question the validity of the study, almost, because it’s so striking against what we’re taught and inculcated to believe. But it’s a huge set of people that you surveyed, so I’m a believer. It also resonates with me. There’s what we’ve been told, but it resonates with me because it’s my lived experience. I believe it, because that’s… what I experienced is true, what you found. So, anyway.

LARRY:

Yeah, thanks for that. If you look at scriptures since time began, in any culture, whatever, they all say the same thing.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

Right?

BREE:

Yeah.

LARRY:

All the music that sells tons and all the movies that are so popular, it’s all about love, not money. We actually did a factor analysis. Again, I got lucky. My brother’s a math genius, PhD type neuroscience person, and when he saw these results, he said, “Oh, you should do a factor analysis.” I said, “What’s a factor analysis?” He said, “Well, tell Ken Sheldon. He’ll know.” You can see I’ve been led by the nose all the way through my life in this. So we did a factor analysis, [inaudible 00:25:35] in a nutshell, looks at all these top factors for well-being and what my brother said, and it turned out to be true. So those are so big and so close in numbers, that it’s going to turn out that they’re really saying the same thing. They’re not actually five different things, they’re going to be one. One thing that’s more fundamental.

So Sheldon, it took them five minutes when I emailed him, and he said, “Yeah, he’s right. There is one thing that’s accounting for most of this variability in all of them.” He said, “Good luck. Now you have to figure out what it is. I’m just a psychologist, you’re the lawyer, because Matthew won’t tell you that.” Over the years, I did, I think, figure it out, and I’ve already explained it to you, it’s the feeling of connectedness. I tried to think, what is it that makes me feel good when I tell the truth, or when I do what I think is important to me, or when I hug someone, or when I do work that matters, or when I look at a sunset and I feel joy? What is it that they all have in common? It’s feeling connected to life. More or life?

So I think that’s the key to everything going forward, is how do we get lawyers to think bigger, make the box bigger. Because the box we grew up with, that we assumed was going to work does not work. This research shows it so clearly with numbers. We have to get outside that box and think bigger for ourselves.

CHRIS:

Larry, you’ve obviously studied this in the context of lawyers, but I just… It’s hard not to think about this and say what you’ve learned about lawyers is really the fact that we are human beings before we are lawyers, and if we take care of ourselves and the relationship and the connectedness… In your study, you talk about what a profile of a happy lawyer is. You could probably replace that with a profile of what a happy person is, and it’s going to be equally applicable.

LARRY:

No question. Actually, that’s how we set up the study, is we had all these hypotheses based on research on “normal people”, or regular people, not lawyers. That’s how we had set up our studies of law students to start with, is using self-determination theory, which had never really been tested on lawyers. That’s what I meant when I said, I was just surprised how well it all bore out. These numbers are enormous. Correlations with happiness for each of these factors is like two thirds of a perfect correlation. If you have any one of those five, you’re way up there already. But if you’re missing any one of the five, you’re really missing a lot. So, yeah.

Actually, toward the end of the study itself, again, on ssrn.com, I talk about how lawyers are normal people. This is exactly what we would get with normal people. I got to say, I’m a little bit proud about this study because I don’t think there’s another one that quantifies it like this. This was a another bold step. Once we were getting these results, I asked Ken, I said, “Sir, is there any way we can actually measure these out, not just with P values, which is a probability?” Because they were all highly significant, so they all looked the same. But to show which ones are the strongest. He said, “Yeah, there’s these Pearson correlations, these standardized correlation.” So he sent me some articles to read about that. And I said, “Let’s do that.” That’s how you actually get these numbers.

Because you can’t really compare… Bree, you mentioned, you can’t really compare how much money you make with how close you feel to your children. They’re on two different scales, one’s in dollars, and one is in subjective warm and fuzzy feelings. So we were able to do those comparisons and show, for example, that earning more money is a .19 correlation with happiness, whereas having integrity, what we’re always pushing lawyers about, is a .66. It’s three and a half times as strong. We had to do that with the mathematical conversion into standard. So he was able to do that. Like you said, Bree, I expected to get just hammered once this study came out by people saying, this is garbage, and your methodology is garbage and this and that.

Haven’t had a single complaint about it, I think partly because every single thing we looked at in the study… And there’s probably 50 or 60 correlations in here that people will be interested in like, what about having children? What about being married or a long term relationship? What about how many vacation days you take? What about how big a city you live in? What about the rank of your law school? We were able to compare all those, and everything came out consistently. So each of the findings confirmed each of the other findings.

BREE:

Right.

CHRIS:

Larry, first of all, you should be proud of your study. Again, I think it was more, ultimately, reaffirming than anything else, what many of us suspected. So, hey, let’s take time to take a quick break. We certainly want to come back after the break and talk about implications of the study, some advice that you have, and then where you’re going on the research front from here. So let’s take a short break, and we’ll be right back.

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CHRIS:

Okay. Welcome back to the podcast. We have Larry Krieger here, who published a seminal study, What Makes Lawyers Happy?. Larry, I’m curious, if you had an audience of a group of big law CEOs, HR officers, based on what you’ve learned, what words of advice would you give to them about having and nurturing successful lawyers? Because obviously, successful lawyers are the key to a successful firm and are, I think, the foundation of, ultimately, serving society as problem solvers. What advice would you have?

LARRY:

It’d probably be what I’m telling you two. You’re CEOs of your organization. [inaudible 00:32:42] being proud of the study. I’m really smiling here so big while I’m talking to you all, because I’m really happy that it came out the way it did. It’s wonderful, because I think it’s helpful for people, if they take a look at it. I’ve already intimated what I would want to tell people, is we have to think bigger. Look, when I went to law school, this all started for me. I guess I was somewhat instrumental in getting it going in other circles and in legal education in particular. It started for me because I came with a different perspective. I came from outside the legal perspective.

I had gone to college, I’d gone into the military, I’d seen some serious life-threatening situations, and some soldiers who didn’t make it that I was transporting here and there. I lived in different countries. I not only took meditation, but I actually taught meditation. So I came with an outside-the-box perspective. And then when I came to law school, I said, “Oh, this box is too small. We have to think bigger. People are not coming to law school expecting to be happy. You’ve got to think bigger about your life.” It was like a merit badge to be so stressed and stay up and be studying and having big circles on your eyes. I don’t even want to be around this. This is just bad thinking.

The more powerful you are, the more you know what it takes to be happy, usually. Now, that may not be true in our political system anymore. Those people are not happy, I don’t care what party you’re in. But as you become more successful, you should be becoming more happy. If you’re not happy, you’re not successful. There are great quotes from great philosophers that happiness is the highest form of success, and that has to be true. So first of all, I would tell CEOs, and I also tell law students the same thing, the highest form of success you can have is to really be deeply, consistently happy. If something sad happens, be sad, be in touch with your feelings.

Everything you’re doing, you went to law school, why? To become happy. You’re making money. Why? To make you happy. You got married. Why? So you’d be happy. You had children. Why? Right? You’re going to retire. Why? You’ll be happier. Everything is for that, but we put it aside and get lost in the details.

BREE:

I want to ask you about your current research, and we’ll make sure we have time to talk about that. It sounds like you’re doing a bit of a pivot in your focus. Tell us about that.

LARRY:

I think is that the research is so helpful, it will challenge people. Because they may think, “Oh, my gosh, I’ve spent all my time doing this, and now I need to shift.” You just need to make an internal shift, keep doing what you’re doing, because you’re good at it, but stop thinking that winning or being the greatest is going to make you happy. Just keep doing it because you’re good at it and you’re competent at it, and you can help people. That will make you happy. So it’s this connectedness to self, to others, and to purpose that shows up in the study as being so strong for making people happy. If you don’t have it, you’re simply not going to be happy. That’s what these numbers mean.

So once we get there and we accept that, then I started thinking, “Well, how can I really teach my litigation students? Because they’re stressed out, they’re trying to learn this high pressure stuff, and they’re going to lose lots of cases, just like I did. And I need to get them ready for that.” So I started thinking, “Well, what’s the most important connection that we could have?” And it comes right from that factor analysis, it’s really our connection to life. Our connection to life. When we first got this research, and then the analysis, I thought, “Well, what’s the difference between me feeling well-connected to you and caring about you guys, and the difference with me making lots of money and feeling well-connected to my money?” Why isn’t that so satisfying? The answer is, there’s no life in it. There’s no life in it.

I mentioned this to my minister, my little church I go to, and he told me this great quote from Thomas Merton, that love is an intensification of life. Love is an intensification of life, a wholeness. I looked it up. And I realized, yeah, that’s what’s making these lawyers happy. They’re connecting with their own self, which is life, they’re connecting with the life of other people that they care about. So life is connecting to life and reverberating back and forth. In my slideshows, in my PowerPoints, I use an image of a power cord that’s plugging in at both ends, and you see electricity going. That’s our life. So the more you plug into life and connect to it, the happier you’re going to be.

So that’s one big piece of it. I’m trying to actually get Ken to do another study with me on spirituality and religion, showing that people who feel connected to whatever they believe, might be God or a higher authority, or this or that, if they feel connected and close to it, they’re happier people than if they feel a fear of it, or like it’s judgmental and this and that. So far I haven’t got him there, but I will. I’ll keep after him. But I think there’s another area of science now that’s so important for lawyers, which is the old power of positive thinking from the 1950s, Norman Vincent Peale. But it’s turning out to be scientifically really true. Epigenetics, neuroscience, neurobiology, biochemistry.

There’s a huge body of science now that when you think positively, you feel good, and when you think negatively or you have a negative belief, you feel bad. You can think of the optimism and pessimism research. Same thing. Optimist is just somebody with a mindset that everything is good, even if it sucks. “I got a flat tire. Well, that sucks, but I’ll go have a cup of coffee. I got AAA. I’m lucky, I’ll call AAA. I’ll call and tell them I’m going to be late,” and they’re fine. Whereas a pessimist has the same flat tire, but has a different mindset and decides now life sucks. Not just this sucks, but life sucks, I suck, and it’s never going to get better.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

So it’s the exact same flat tire, it’s the exact same client that got convicted of a DUI or got custody, whatever it is, but people frame it in different ways. The way they frame it makes about a 2,000-point difference in your biochemistry. 2,000 different chemicals in your brain and your body, depending on if you have a positive thought or a negative thought. And then that structures how you feel, how you work, how much inflammation you have, whether you’re depressed, whether you age, or stay young, and whether you get the raise and the promotion or not, because people actually like being around you, and so forth. So really pushing that now, that people, we need to basically… We have two big things we need to do. First of all, we need to locate our life, and we need to connect to it. Of course, this is a lot of mindfulness and meditation stuff. But that first research shows how important it is to find life in what you’re doing. If it doesn’t have life, don’t do it. [inaudible 00:41:01]. And then both inside and outside. And then the second thing is manage your thoughts proactively. We’re so smart, but we have a tendency to think negatively. [inaudible 00:41:16] pessimistic way of thinking what can go wrong?

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

So I’m really coming around, and I’m going to write a paper on this, it’s coming pretty soon, about, first of all, work-life balance, real quick. I’ll spend just a minute on each of these, because I know we’re getting close on our time. Work-life balance is great. I don’t think it’s worked. The reason it hasn’t worked is because nobody’s finding life. We’re saying we shouldn’t be working all the time, let’s have more life, but nobody really understands what life is. It’s not going out on the golf course and getting aggravated.

BREE:

Wow.

LARRY:

It’s not spending lots of time drinking. That’s not life. It’s like, you have to find your life, and then you have to express it to other people, and you have to find it in them, and let them express it to you. So it really involves going deeper inside taking care of your health, and being mindful and finding life. So I’ve been teaching law students and others, taking just simple meditation practices to do that. And then the second key thing is manage your thoughts proactively. The other sort of talisman we have besides work-life balance that I think is not working well is stress management. Stress management is way better than stress mismanagement, or unmanagement. But stress management, as a talisman, presumes we’re going to be stressed. Why do we have to be stressed? To me, that’s dumb thinking. You’ve got to think bigger than that.

I actually just did a survey, it was just a random one, no IRB approval, but it’s not going to be published, just to prove the point. I want Ken to research this with me, as well. I sampled a bunch of law students, one, two and three hours, just asking them, what did you think law school would be like? That’s all. Give me one word. What did you think law school would be like before you started, and what do you think law practice will be like now? One or two words. So they had no bias [inaudible 00:43:34]. 70% of them said stress, burnout, anxiety. That’s the mindset, even coming into law school.

BREE:

Right.

LARRY:

What this new research says, if that’s what you expect, that is what you’ll get. In other words, when you get a big assignment, now it’s all about, I’m so stressed. I was telling my wife this morning, and then I’ll close here, I’m going to get to talk to Bree and Chris today, and hopefully, some lawyers. I could be all stressed about this. I have so much work to do, I don’t have time [inaudible 00:44:06]. Or I can say, this is a wonderful opportunity. It’s going to be the same talk, either way. What you think it’s going to be determines those 1,000 positive or 1,000 negative chemicals flushing through your body and your brain for the rest of the day.

So we have to learn to be positive about it, and so we got to get rid of stress management. I would call it thought management, belief management. Just stop looking at the hours of stress. One other quick note. We do have a study that’s going to probably be published in about six months, we’re just submitting it in the next week or so, that shows that it’s not actually the long hours that’s making lawyers unhappy. It’s not the long hours, it’s the wrong work. People who like their work, they work more hours, they actually enjoy it. And the people don’t like their work, when they… they’re just as unhappy whether they’re working long hours or not.

So, we need to shift our focus on to find life inside yourself, embrace it, be grateful for it, connect to others, share your life, and think bigger, expect to be happy. Don’t expect to be stressed. Because if you expect to be happy and start every day like that, you’re going to be happy. Is garbage going to come up? Sure. People come to you because you’re a lawyer, they have problems, if you’re in that practice. Well, okay. So, let’s help them with their problems as much as we can, and then let’s go home happy. If we didn’t fix them, it wasn’t our problem, it was their problem. So we have to have that boundary there and appreciate ourselves.

BREE:

Larry, thank you so much. It’s such a joy to hear you speak, and your point of view when you’re thinking about these things. Again, going back to… really just confirms, I think, what I know and what we all know in our gut, in our heart about what makes life worth living. So thank you for that. It’s a bit revolutionary, and we need you right now, we need thought leaders like you, and so I’m really excited to hear and read your studies that are coming out. I commend everybody, and I’m going to… We’ll make sure that there’s a link in the transcript of our podcast. But do take a look at the study, What Makes Lawyers Happy?: A Data-Driven Prescription to Redefine Professional Success. Again, it is really the work that kicked the current well-being movement off, and launched many other research projects that came from that. I’ve always thought that it is not…

I think our listeners can hear that you are not ego-based, you’re humble man. So there was not a lot of promotion of this study. I’ve really felt passionate about… In kicking off this series on research in this area, we had to start with you, because you are the Godfather of this area, Larry. So thank you so much, and we will be back in the next couple of weeks with other researchers to shed light on, what is the cutting edge thinking in this area? Chris, thank you too, for being here today, and take care everyone. We’ll talk to you very soon.

CHRIS:

Thank you.

 

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