August 19, 2018

Archives for February 18, 2013

Are Lawyers Unhappy? (Part 3)

rhodes

This is Part 3 of a series of articles on lawyer happiness. Click here to read Part 1 and click here to read Part 2.

Is law school to blame?

Some people think so. They propose reforms to give future lawyers a more “realistic” view of what they’re in for, both in school and after. They think full disclosure will make the profession happier.

By contrast, a 2007 study found that roughly 80% of lawyers are happy with law school. That’s the same percentage that says they like working in the law. So why fix law school if it ain’t broke?

How about you? What were you and your fellow students like the first day of law school, and then at the year’s end? During second year? Third? From my personal experience, I’d have to say yes, something happened to us, all right. What was it?

In one study, law professor Larry Krieger and psychologist Kennon Sheldon found that entering law students are as well-adjusted as other postgraduates, but become less so as they go on. They suggest this is because we become increasingly less internally motivated and instead shift our focus to external measures of success and status – things like grades, class rank, admission to competitive clerkships, getting into law journal, etc.

In other words, we get knocked off center – we lose touch with our core values, the things we believe are most important in life. Our values motivate us, give us purpose and meaning. There’s an intrinsic reward to aligning our behavior with them. Lose that alignment, and we suffer. When we lose our values, we lose our joy.

Maybe we went to law school to right wrongs, or because we were attracted to certain intellectual pursuits, or because we were after a desired economic lifestyle. So far so good, but when we shift our focus to extrinsic factors, we put our happiness at the mercy of things and people we can’t control, which is why we eventually take positions we can’t own, say yes to jobs we don’t want, or work for clients we don’t like or for causes we don’t believe in. We think that makes us professionals, but unless our actions align with an internal value that supports them (e.g., we defend the unpopular client out of a sense of justice), these things take a toll.

Of course, it’s possible we went to law school for all the “wrong” reasons – family expectations, misguided advice from authority figures, etc. That’s another matter entirely, but regardless why we went, if we already graduated, reforming law school isn’t going to help us.

What is? We can start by getting back in touch with our core values. And then we’ll need to find the courage to act consistently with them. Thankfully the law is a big profession, and there’s room for us in it, with our values fully intact.

To be continued…

After 20+ years in private practice, Kevin Rhodes recently gave himself the title “Change Guru” to describe his work helping individuals and organizations to make transformative changes. He leads lead workshops on that topic for a variety of audiences, including the CBA’s Job Search and Career Transitions Support Group. Check out his website at http://kevin-rhodes.com/.

Tenth Circuit: Summary Judgment for 42 U.S.C. § 1983 Defendants Affirmed Because Lawyer Failed to Address Qualified Immunity Claim

The Tenth Circuit published its opinion in Smith v. McCord on Friday, February 15, 2013. The court sua sponte decided to publish the Order and Judgment it previously entered in this case on January 29, 2013. There are no substantive changes to the opinion.

The plaintiff, John Smith, a 75 year-old man, was assaulted by Las Cruces police and then arrested after questioning why they were in his front yard. Smith sued the officers under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for using excessive force in the arrest. But when the officers moved for summary judgment claiming qualified immunity, Mr. Smith’s attorney did not respond to the qualified immunity claim. Because plaintiff failed to meet his burden of showing the defendant violated a constitutional right and that the “infringed right at issue was clearly established at the time of the allegedly unlawful activity such that a reasonable law enforcement officer would have known that his or her challenged conduct was illegal,” the district court had no choice but to grant summary judgment for the defendants. The Tenth Circuit affirmed, after pointing out that it was unfortunate that the plaintiff was bound by his lawyer’s actions.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 2/15/13

On Friday, February 15, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and six unpublished opinions.

United States v. Nichols

Newsom v. Ottawa County Board of Comm’rs

United States v. Pluma

Hyatt v. Rudek

United States v. Bell

Nature’s Sunshine Products v. Sunrider Corp.

No case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 2/14/13

On Thursday, February 14, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued no published opinions and five unpublished opinions.

United States v. White

Boehm v. Astrue

Houck v. Ball

Benson v. Hartford Life and Accident Insurance Company

Ryan v. Department of the Air Force

No case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

Tenth Circuit: Unpublished Opinions, 2/13/13

On Wednesday, February 13, 2013, the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued one published opinion and six unpublished opinions.

United States v. Jones

Zaring v. Davis

McEntire v. Federated Investment Management

Brushwood v. Franklin

Wilson v. City of Lafayette

United States v. Carrera-Diaz

No case summaries are provided for unpublished opinions. However, published opinions are summarized and provided by Legal Connection.

HB 13-1058: Establishing Guidelines for the Determination of Spousal Maintenance

On January 9, 2013, Rep. Beth McCann introduced HB 13-1058 – Concerning Guidelines for the Determination of Spousal MaintenanceThis summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The bill creates a process, including guidelines as to amount and term, for determining an award for spousal maintenance at temporary or permanent orders in proceedings for dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity filed on or after Jan. 1, 2014.

Key points in the process include:

  • Initial findings of fact concerning each party’s gross income, marital property, financial resources, and reasonable need as established during the marriage;
  • Findings concerning the guideline amount and term of maintenance for marriages of at least three years where the parties’ annual combined gross income does not exceed $240,000; and
  • Factors relating to the appropriate amount and term of maintenance. The bill maintains the overall threshold standard of need contained in current law that the court must consider before entering a maintenance award.

The bill specifies that the maintenance guidelines as to the amount and term of maintenance do not create a presumption. The court maintains discretion to determine the maintenance award after making the required findings and considering all of the provisions of the law. The court must make written or oral findings in support of its maintenance award or a denial of maintenance.

Maintenance orders will be modified pursuant to the existing modification statute.

For dissolution of marriage, legal separation, or declaration of invalidity actions filed on or after Jan. 1, 2014, maintenance awarded at permanent orders may be suspended, reduced, or modified based upon the cohabitation of the recipient spouse when the payor spouse can show that the recipient spouse has maintained a primary residence with another person as a couple for six months after the entry of the initial maintenance order. Maintenance may be reinstated upon the termination of the recipient spouse’s cohabitation with another person, but shall not be reinstated beyond the original maintenance term.

The enactment of Section 1 of the bill does not constitute a substantial and continuing change of circumstances for purposes of modifying existing maintenance orders.

The bill includes provisions for securing maintenance awards and for a party to waive maintenance, accept a reduced amount of maintenance, and to enter into agreements relating to maintenance.

Additionally, the bill defines “gross income” for purposes of applying the maintenance guidelines and for determining maintenance.

Finally, the bill amends the current statute for modification of maintenance by clarifying when maintenance terminates and by creating a presumption of good faith in favor of the payor spouse once he or she reaches full social security retirement age. The bill is assigned to the Judiciary Committee and is scheduled for committee review on Thursday, Feb. 14 at 1:30 p.m.

Since this summary, the bill was amended by the Judiciary Committee and referred for Second Reading by the House Committee of the Whole.

HB 13-1046: Prohibiting Employers from Requiring Employees or Applicants for Employment to Disclose Personal Electronic Communications Usernames and Passwords

On January 9, 2013, Rep. Angela Williams and Sen. Jessie Ulibarri introduced HB 13-1046 – Concerning Employer Access to Personal Information Through Electronic Communication Devices. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

The bill prohibits an employer from requiring an employee or applicant for employment to disclose a user name, password, or other means for accessing a personal account or service through an electronic communications device. This does not include access to nonpersonal accounts or services that provide access to the employer’s internal computer or information systems. The bill also prohibits an employer from discharging, disciplining, penalizing, or refusing to hire an employee or applicant who does not provide access to personal accounts or services.

The bill clarifies that an employer may investigate an employee to ensure compliance with securities or financial law or for suspected unauthorized downloading of proprietary information based on the receipt of information about these activities. Assigned to the Business, Labor, Economic, & Workforce Development Committee.

Since this summary, the bill was amended by the Business, Labor, Economic, & Workforce Development Committee and referred to the Appropriations Committee.

HB 13-1043: Modifying Definition of Deadly Weapon to Include Firearms

On January 9, 2013, Rep. Mike Foote introduced HB 13-1043 – Concerning the Statutory Definition of a Deadly Weapon. This summary is published here courtesy of the Colorado Bar Association’s e-Legislative Report.

Under current law, for the purposes of criminal law, a deadly weapon is defined as a firearm—whether loaded or unloaded; a knife; a bludgeon; or any other weapon, device, instrument, material, or substance—whether animate or inanimate—that in the manner it is used or intended to be used is capable of producing death or serious bodily injury. The bill modifies this definition so that a firearm, whether loaded or unloaded, qualifies as a deadly weapon regardless of the manner in which it is used or intended to be used. On Feb. 7, the Judiciary Committee amended the bill and sent it to the House for consideration on 2nd Reading.

Since this summary, the bill was amended on 2nd Reading Special Order and passed 3rd Reading in the House.