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Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of Happiness

The Declaration of Independence-- we all know it (or about it), here in the United States. But what did Thomas Jefferson have in mind, when he wrote the words quoted in the title of this piece? What did the founders have in mind, when they signed the Declaration?

Until recently, I never really thought about it-- but I've thought a lot about it in the last couple weeks and I believe now is precisely the right time to do that. As discussed at some length in the previous blog piece, the state of happiness may be too amorphous to enshrine as a human right, but the pursuit of happiness--that's a horse of a different color.

And to think of wellbeing as an important component in our pursuit of happiness, that is downright radical-- it's also, downright common sensical. Wellbeing in the workplace (of which mindfulness and meditation are critical parts), is no longer something that's "nice to have"-- it has become a "must have". In business parlance, wellbeing has become a matter that, for many, is a matter of compensation-- not merely, a benefit. Workplace wellbeing has become a matter of C-suite level importance-- Managing Partner type stuff, in law firms.

For far too many years, the solution that we lawyers most often resorted to (and still resort to) in addressing a particularly difficult problem, was to throw money at it. Recent pay raises and exaggerated new vacation policies, are only the most recent examples, and you know what? They'll all fail and will be reflected upon ruefully by law firm managers.

The Financial Times recently published a piece quoting the outgoing Managing Partner of Boies Schiller Flexner who stated, "Throwing money at associates is a short-term fix-- they just burn out and leave anyway. The pay rates are unsustainable. I don't think it's the solution".

Is there a solution, and if so, what is it? The sub-title of the article in question (which was part of a Special Report on North American "Innovative Lawyers"), contains a pretty obvious clue: "Firms add wellbeing schemes on top of escalating payouts to combat employee attrition".

Well, what do you know? The "Pursuit of Happiness" promised two hundred years ago in the Declaration of Independence, has finally gained currency with the women and men who are responsible for shaping the legal profession, and been directly connected to wellbeing.

Wellbeing is finally being recognized as fundamental to the state that we all crave and need (even us lawyers) -- happiness!


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