Is happiness is a niche practice?
A couple of nights ago, I played the mega millions with my wife. We discussed what would happen if we won (spoiler alert: we didn’t). She, a dentist, and I, both knew that our respective careers would endure. That was a good sign that the kinds of law I was writing about and considering practicing made me happy.
I recognize that the legal field is so competitive and the legal economy so uncertain that it would be a great privilege to be able to align one’s personal interests with one’s career. The job market for graduating law students is brutal enough that even considering the pursuit of happiness in a legal career must take a backseat to the more urgent priority of securing employment.
Nevertheless, the holiday season might be a particularly apt one for considering the question of the happy lawyer. Is he or she a chimera?
For a student nearing the end of the law school, it can help to start visualizing the kind of career you want. When you find something you think would survive a win in the lottery, you are nearing the right answer. And you’ve given yourself a goal worth pursuing.
Of course, we cannot always be so lucky. School loans and the realities of buying a home, starting a family, etc. make making money important. Sometimes the job you take is the job you can get. But finding a career that is sustainable in the long term seems much easier if you can find a job you like. This becomes quite clear over three years in law school, when you find out how much better you can do in a class when you actually enjoy the subject. Some classes helped me realize the kind of law I did not want to practice.
As hard as it might be to believe for some, there are tax lawyers, M&A lawyers, real estate lawyers, et al. who enjoy their work, and likewise would really not enjoy doing another kind of law. The practice of law is not a monolith.
Unhappy lawyers might share feelings of being underpaid and/or overworked. Many of my friends and family worried when I told them I was going to law school; “aren’t lawyers miserable?” they asked.
But surely there is a spectrum of happiness among lawyers. Those toward the higher end of that range appear to believe their brand of law suits them best. Just as all happy families might be alike (hat tip: Tolstoy), have all happy lawyers found their niche?
Faculty Lounge readers, what say you about the niche/happiness nexus? Have you practiced law in a niche you did not like and then found contentment in another?
Have a great holiday!