Institutional Denial About the Dark Side of Law School, and Fresh Empirical Guidance for Constructively Breaking the Silence
Posted: 21 Oct 2002
Date Written: September 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.
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