(Expand post for image.) That’s the response from sixty participants in a CLE ppresentation I made last week At a presentation in January, 55% of MCLE administrators from around the country also agreed that a lack of lawyer commitment, energy, and engagement is at the route of most poor lawyering. These are the folks who manage the requirement that attorneys attend continuing legal education! And yet, probably 85% of all CLE is aimed at increasing knowledge. Another 10-12% is oriented toward skills. That leaves somewhere around 3-5% focused on any sort of affective component to good lawyering, and almost all of that is either stress-relief or substance abuse.
Lawyers are significantly more depressed than the population as a whole and than other professions. They are significantly less happy than than other professionals. Depression and unhappiness equal low commitment, low energy, and low engagement. Today we know ways to help individuals increase their experience of positive emotions, positive thought patterns, and positive relationships. These changes are necessary for increased commitment, energy, and engagement. If, as the CLE participants and administrators above believed, lack of commitment, energy, and engagement is a significant source of poor lawyering, MCLE should support the most promising pathways to improvement.
Further, other people matter. The norms, customs, and culture of the organizations in which we are situated shape our experience of the world. Individual change and growth is significantly more difficult if the institutions around the individual are actively hindering change and growth. CLE focused at improving commitment, energy, and engagement may be best delivered within the context where those qualities must manifest: the firm, corporate law department, or government agency. Thus, CLE programs that focus on the application of positive psychology within the structure of the firm, department, or agency should be preferred, not prohibited. “In-house” programming is not accredited in many states. At least in the context of programs aimed at commitment, energy, and engagement, those prohibitions should be reconsidered.
Positive psychology and positive organizational studies offer pathways for individuals and organizations to move toward more commitment, energy, and engagement.