The new book DRIVE: The Surprising Truth about What Motivates Us contains a lot of useful perspectives along with research data. By Daniel Pink, it's a must-have-on-the-bookshelf for every business, including law firms.
In Chapter 4 "Autonomy," Pink discusses the three reasons lawyers are so miserable. You can read about them yourself on pages 98-99. Here is my summary of what Pink has derived from the research and perspectives of social scientists:
- The attitude of pessimism makes for better lawyers but is bad for individual well-being. If lawyers don't start off as pessimists they quickly learn the edge it brings them professionally.
- Law is usually a zero-sum game. One party loses, the other party wins. Most other lines of work are positive-sum. Everyone seems to get something.
- Lawyers have plenty of responsibility but little autonomy or decision-making ability. This is made worse by the requirement of most law firms to track time spent on project. The result is that lawyers begin to focus more on input versus solution. This diminished autonomy begins in law school.
If law firms want to do more with less, they will find it productive for learn about and embrace Pink's findings in DRIVE.