In Pursuit of Happiness
by David C. Anderson
2016-2017 OCBA President
Happiness is found in community. And those people with the most community are the happiest. Our bar association does many things, but above all else, it is a community. It’s a community where we can ask our neighbors (i.e., fellow lawyers) for help. We can rely on our neighbors. We eat together. We participate together. We become friends. We become our best selves. Even when there is no money in it, we work together to help the less fortunate. And from time to time, we may even listen to music and dance together. The OCBA is a vibrant community and we’re glad that you’re a part of it.
This was the theme of my speech at the OCBA Annual Meeting on June 2, 2016, which was held at the Centerpoint Marriott hotel. As many of you know, Judge Hala Jarbou was kind enough to swear me in as the OCBA’s 84th president and Judge Nanci Grant graciously administered the Lawyer’s Oath to all bar members in attendance. If you weren’t there, we hope you’ll join us next year.
This bar year, we’re going to focus on financial and structural issues facing the bar association.* Over the last 10-plus years, our costs have continued to rise while our revenue has remained stagnant. Therefore, our main focus this year will be making sure that our resources are used appropriately to ensure through good governance that the bar association is here for years to come. In order to do that effectively, it is important to understand the OCBA’s true value proposition. Participation in the bar association is a powerful antidote to some of the more caustic aspects of practicing law. Stated simply, the bar’s value proposition is that participation in our bar community will make you happier.
There’s evidence to support the premise that community leads to happiness. I wouldn’t dare stand in front of hundreds of lawyers at the Annual Meeting and make that statement without it. Most notably, the Harvard Study of Adult Development tracked 724 men for 75 years, from the time they were very young men to all the way into old age, to study what really keeps people happy and healthy. It is the longest study of its kind. Those 724 men comprised two groups. The first group consisted of sophomores at Harvard College. The second group was made up of young men from Boston’s poorest neighborhoods. The researchers personally interviewed each of the men, year after year. The men became factory workers, lawyers, bricklayers, doctors, and one became President of the United States. Some climbed the social ladder from the bottom all the way to the very top, and others went in the opposite direction. What the researchers discovered was that people who are more socially connected to family, friends and community are happier, physically healthier and live longer than people who are less well connected.
Many young (and not-so-young) lawyers believe that going after fame, wealth and high achievement are the keys to a good life. But this study and others like it have shown that the people who fare best are the people who lean into relationships with family, with friends and with community. The beauty of the bar association is that it gives you numerous and varied opportunities to grow your network so that you may be more successful; but more importantly, it also allows you to be part of a community that will ultimately make you happier. If you are not already participating in our bar association, I urge you to get involved. Come pursue happiness.
Thank you for the privilege of representing our community this year as its president. I am honored to serve and looking forward to a great bar year.
*Please stymie your yawn and keep reading. It gets better.