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Countering Lawyer Unhappiness: Pessimism, Decision Latitude and the Zero-Sum Dilemma

21 Pages Posted: 28 Sep 2000  

Paul R. Verkuil

Cardozo Law School

Martin Seligman

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Psychology

Terry Kang

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: September 2000

Abstract

This article analyzes the by now accepted phenomenon of lawyer depression/pessimism and relates it to psychological literature and studies. The field of positive psychology, championed by Prof. Seligman, offers three causes for demoralization among lawyers: (1) pessimism; (2) low decision latitude and (3) a "zero-sum" mindset. As to the first two, the article posits ways to improve the lawyer's situation, but as to the third, since it involves a confrontation with the adversary model of justice, the application to lawyers is less clear. Thus, we set up the paradox that some degree of lawyer pessimism might be good for society, even if it is bad for the individual lawyer and we conclude by suggesting that non-zero dispute resolution may be of value.

Suggested Citation

Verkuil, Paul R. and Seligman, Martin and Kang, Terry, Countering Lawyer Unhappiness: Pessimism, Decision Latitude and the Zero-Sum Dilemma (September 2000). Cardozo Law School, Public Law Research Paper No. 19. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=241942 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.241942

Paul Verkuil (Contact Author)

Cardozo Law School ( email )

55 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10003
United States
212-790-0310 (Phone)
212-790-0203 (Fax)

Martin Seligman

University of Pennsylvania - Department of Psychology ( email )

3815 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6196
United States

Terry Kang

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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