Institutional Denial About the Dark Side of Law School, and Fresh Empirical Guidance for Constructively Breaking the Silence
Lawrence S. Krieger
Florida State University College of Law
Journal of Legal Education, Vol. 52, 2002
In the day-to-day business of legal education there is remarkably little evidence that we are aware of the unhealthy-unhappy lawyer and law student problems now commonly reported. In this article I briefly review empirical and anecdotal evidence of the "dark side" of law school and the profession. I then discuss the process of denial within law school faculties, and identify various failing paradigms at the heart of legal education. As counterpoint, I describe recent psychological research on the components of happiness and life satisfaction in general populations, focusing particularly on questions of personal goals, values, and motivation. I suggest that this research provides an objective framework for understanding the reported problems in legal settings, and thus can lead to constructive discussion and intervention within law schools. I also summarize a recent study of new law students that supports the thesis that paradigms within legal education and the profession promote dissatisfaction by encouraging unhealthy goals and values. I conclude by suggesting individual and collective faculty approaches to the stated problems and to our tendency to avoid their discussion.
Date posted: October 21, 2002
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