Professionalism Speaker Encourages Lawyers to Accentuate the Positive

Published: April 9th, 2007

Category: Feature, News

What could be more practical than feeling good about yourself and your own personal life and career?

Lawrence S. Krieger, UF alumnus and keynote speaker for the March 30 Professionalism Symposium, posed this question to judges, lawyers and students attending his presentation on the “Inseparability of Professionalism and Personal Satisfaction in the Practice of Law.”

Krieger (JD 78) is a clinical professor and director of Clinical Externship Programs at Florida State University College of Law who began researching the link between personal wellbeing and professional behavior in the practice of law in 1991, only after he lost the vitality in his own job.

“I went to law school and did very well but was not really happy,” Krieger said. “I was a litigator for 11 years, and while teaching at FSU, observed the same distress and pressure in the law students that I had experienced myself.”

This realization sparked another interest in Krieger who received his B.A. from Princeton University in biology while also having a significant amount of psychological experience— lawyer health and personal satisfaction.

“Everyone in this room has people that hate them and love them,” Krieger said. “So don’t put too much focus on what ‘they’ think. Look at your own self, your own integrity—for the keys to your life and career satisfaction.”

Krieger and his research partner have conducted various studies on human need satisfaction and personal well-being and have found that intrinsic values—including developing one’s self, helping and relating to others—are the key to being a successful professional. Results from this research conducted on students in top-tier and fourth-tier law schools showed that students from the fourth-tier law schools felt more autonomous and respected, which translated into a higher passing rate for the bar and less stress during the first job out of law school.

In fact, this study, which will appear in the prestigious Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin in June, showed that the basic needs of the fourth-tier students were more satisfied than a higher ranked school. Krieger said said the research showed the enormous influence that these psychological factors have on a professional’s performance, vitality and personal well-being—all keys to a successful career.

Professor Krieger served as Chair of the Clinical Section Committee on Externships of the Association of American Law Schools from 1994 to 1998 and has also served as Vice-chair of the Florida Bar Committee on Quality of Life and Career since 1996.

He has been conducting seminars on professional responsibility and professionalism since 1991 and has published booklets for law students on stress, values and career choices that are used at 100 law schools in the United States, Canada, and Australia.

“It is important to focus on the positive side of things and to change your values when something is not right,” Krieger advised. “Every choice we make has consequences, and once you have this kind of information, you can actually choose how your life will be.”

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