f/k/a archives . . . real opinions & real haiku

November 9, 2007

great lawyers: pessimist or bi-palettal?

Filed under: Haiku or Senryu,q.s. quickies — David Giacalone @ 2:11 pm

My favorite lawyer-haijin, Roberta Beary [“see “roberta beary’s gems, ” Oct. 9, 2007], sent me an email this morning with the subject “you picked the right profession!” Inside was a copy of “Except in One Career, Our Brains Seem Built for Optimism,” from today’s Wall Street Journal Online (November 9, 2007). I had recently mentioned to Roberta that — given how often I am intrigued by posting at Language Log — I perhaps should have studied linguistics, rather than the law. However, last night, I sent her a link to this LL piece, and wondered whether I could possibly deal with all the b.s. that one also finds in that discipline.

the senior partner
has a senior minute

………………………………………….. by dagosan

The WSJ article tells us that “Yet, in the palette of human temperament, a rose-colored view of the future is the dominant hue, regardless of culture or nationality. Psychologists puzzle over this basic bias for the bright side.” It drew Roberta’s attention, and made her think of her fellow Sicilian curmudgeon, because the “One Career” referred to in the headline is law. Thus, we’re told:

All in all, [Dr. Martin Seligman of the University of Pennsylvania] said, optimists tend to do better in life than their talents alone might suggest.

Except lawyers.

Surveying law students at the University of Virginia, he found that pessimists got better grades, were more likely to make law review and, upon graduation, received better job offers. There was no scientific reason. “In law,” he said, “pessimism is considered prudence.”

My immediate reaction was to remind myself of all the studies that showed how pessimists were far more accurate in their predictions than optimists. Thus, as for the legal profession, I told myself:

Of course the best lawyers are pessimists, you cannot be good at issue-spotting –much less be a useful advisor — unless you can imagine bad things happening.

At that point, however, my “but on the other hand” personality kicked in, and reminded me:

To be truly good at issue-spotting and at giving excellent advice (as a good consigliere must to survive), you need to be able to envision both good and bad outcomes, and all those in between.

Then, I recalled my first bit of public self-analysis (at my high school graduation in 1967), where I confessed to being a “pessimistic optimist” and “loving cynic” — willing to love my country enough to tear things down and rebuild when necessary. (prior post) I have no doubt that having both tendencies (besides driving myself and my loved ones nuts) helped to make me a successful legal adviser in many positions over the years — and often got me to stay up late looking for more supporting precedent the night before a brief was due.

So, maybe pessimism does equal prudence and helps a lawyer (or law student) succeed. But, it seems to me that the full- or bi-palettal lawyer should be even more successful — if he or she remembers to take that little pill every day.

the words of his letter
darker and darker

heatwave sunglassesG
waiting for him to tell me
what i already know

talking divorce
he pours his coffee
then mine

first snow
at every window
a child’s face

beary ……………………….. by Roberta Beary
“heatwave” & “talking divorce” – The Unworn Necklace (2007)
“twilight” – Woodnotes #29; A New Resonance 2

casual Friday
the senior partner
unbuttons his vest

mid-argument –
opposing counsel crosses
her legs

………………………………………….. by dagosan

I must be an optimist. I actually believe the great new service from CatalogChoice.org might work (and improve my life, while saving lots of trees and transportation costs). Here’s how they describe themselves:

“Catalog Choice is a free service that lets you decline paper catalgos you no longer wish to receive. Reduce the amount of unsolicited mail in your mailbox, while helping to preserve the environment.

You can bet that, as soon as I can possibly find a moment of spare time, I shall head over to CatalogChoice and click away all that pesky junk mail. [also see the TreeHugger weblog]

[art by AA] Further proof of rosy-colored attitude: I even checked out the newest edition of Roadrunner Haiku Journal today (November 2007, Vol. VII, 4). There are still far too many psyku and other forms of “tell-ems” for my taste, but here are a pair of interesting new poems from two of our f/k/a Honored Guests:

bird me catch me

……………………………….John Stevenson

the boiling point
a robin’s song

………………………………. by Laryalee Fraser

1 Comment

  1. […] Giacalone of f/k/a offers an interesting rejoinder that suggests a lawyer will be far more effective if he or she expresses both optimism and […]

    Comment by Life At the Bar » Blog Archive » Law, leadership, and the brain — November 14, 2007 @ 11:51 am

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