Cognitive Optimism and Professional Pessimism in the Large-Firm Practice of Law: The Optimistic Associate

Law & Psychology Review, Vol. 30, p. 23, 2006

33 Pages Posted: 16 Jul 2009  

Catherine Gage O'Grady

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law

Date Written: 2006

Abstract

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.

Keywords: Psychology, optimism, pessimism

Suggested Citation

O'Grady, Catherine Gage, Cognitive Optimism and Professional Pessimism in the Large-Firm Practice of Law: The Optimistic Associate (2006). Law & Psychology Review, Vol. 30, p. 23, 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1434560

Catherine Gage O'Grady (Contact Author)

University of Arizona - James E. Rogers College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 210176
Tucson, AZ 85721-0176
United States
520-626-3135 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://law2.arizona.edu/faculty/facultyprofile.cfm?facultyid=743

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