The New York Times recently covered an excellent study by Lawrence Krieger and Ken Sheldon. I wrote about the study, which analyzes lawyer happiness, when it first appeared.
The research finds that “service” lawyers, who work as public defenders, government lawyers, legal aid attorneys, and in-house counsel to nonprofits, are happier than “prestige” lawyers (those who work primarily for firms with 100 or more lawyers). Based on decades of contact with law graduates, that result does not surprise me.
The article and media coverage, however, downplay a finding that is much more important to our graduates, the profession, and potential clients: The unhappiest lawyers are not the prestige ones. Instead, that dubious honor falls to the “other” lawyers, those who work in smaller law firms “in popular practice areas such as general practice, family law, private criminal defense, and many others not typically associated with either very high earnings or primary public service.” (P. 589)