Latitude is a participating sponsor of Vanderbilt Law School’s upcoming Summit on Law and Innovation (SoLI). In this blog post, which originally was published on the SoLI website, Candice Reed explains why Latitude is interested in breaking down silos and building connections among the legal industry.
When I was at Penn, studying positive psychology, I had a professor who claimed to know the “one thing” (for all you Billy Crystal fans out there). Chris Peterson, the renowned psychologist who spent the latter part of his career studying character strengths and teaching others the secret to happiness, was fond of saying (repeatedly) that “other people matter.” They matter to our health, our longevity, our success and our enjoyment of life and work.
Yet, as lawyers, we routinely silo ourselves away from other people – we hoard work because we want the billable hours, we fear if we ask questions we may seem weak, we search for answers on a computer and shut our office doors to avoid interruptions, we call into meetings rather than show up in person and we eat lunch at our desks. We trick ourselves into thinking that these practices make us better lawyers . . . more efficient, more focused, more productive. But in reality, they are making most lawyers miserable.
A recent study found that lawyers are the loneliest professionals in the country, resulting in decreased job satisfaction, fewer promotions, and more frequent job changes. Further, loneliness is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself. As University of Pennsylvania management professor Sigal Barsade explains, when you are lonely you become hypervigilant to social threats and lose your social skills, which often causes you to avoid social interaction and makes you less collaborative (thus repeating the cycle of loneliness).
Lawyers are no longer congregating in the public square, chatting about a recent case or deal over blue plate specials at the local diner. Many of us are holed away within the four walls of our office with our eyes locked on a computer screen most of the day, and this social isolation is resulting in wellbeing issues like substance abuse, depression and even suicide. It’s also hurting productivity and profits, as attorneys are less engaged with their work and find it easy to forget why they went to law school in the first place. For most of us, it was to help others — remember that feeling?
It is time for all of us in the legal industry to work together for our own sakes, as well as the betterment of the profession and the clients we seek to serve. So how do we break the cycle? How do we encourage interaction among exhausted lawyers, who even if they wanted to are simply too tired to socialize at the end of a seemingly never-ending day? How do we break the cycle of isolation and loneliness and rebuild a culture of connection and collaboration?
At Latitude, we are in the business of building connections and cultivating positive relationships among legal professionals to increase their wellbeing and engagement with the practice of law. We connect great attorneys who want to practice law differently with great clients who have a need. We believe that smart, creative and engaged professionals can accomplish more working together than working in isolation. We believe that technology is a great tool, but like any tool, its value is determined by the person wielding it. We believe that wisdom (that uniquely human characteristic that combines knowledge with heart) is more valuable than data alone. We believe that change comes from sincere people working together to try something new . . . that law can be practiced in a different, more rewarding way . . . and that above all, other people matter.