Cognitive Optimism and Professional Pessimism in the Large-Firm Practice of Law: The Optimistic Associate
Catherine Gage O'Grady
University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law
Law & Psychology Review, Vol. 30, p. 23, 2006
This Article looks at the new associate's work environment through the lens of positive psychology's optimism and pessimism principles. His work, and the work of numerous others in learned optimism, demonstrates that a pessimistic person can learn to be an optimistic person, if that would be useful to her, by learning the set of cognitive skills employed by the optimist and using those skills consciously. Applying Seligman's explanatory style factors to the law school examination, a prudent/pessimist student would be more likely to dwell on future occurrences of a problem (stability), examine far-reaching consequences of an event rather than limiting it (globality), and mercilessly try to ascertain blame for the situation (internality). An associate who consciously chooses to apply learned optimism techniques when reviewing a poor showing on a billable hours ranking would attempt first to identify and then to challenge her habitual pessimistic explanations. Knowing this provides a pessimistic associate with a realistic, and optimistic, explanation for a senior partner's conduct. A selective use of positive psychology's learned optimism principles may be useful to these professional pessimists as they transition from law school to the large-firm practice of law.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 33
Keywords: Psychology, optimism, pessimism
Date posted: July 16, 2009