Recently, The Wall Street Journal and Carolyn Elefant at reported on a landmark study by the Gallup Poll of 100,826 working adults which examined how occupation affects happiness. In the study, business owners outranked 10 other occupational groups on a composite measure of six criteria of contentment, including emotional and physical health, job satisfaction, healthy behavior, access to basic needs and self-reports of overall life quality.

“Despite the recession, it still pays to be your own boss,” said the editor-in-chief of the Gallup Poll study. Psychologists say that the findings reflect the importance of being free to choose the work you do and how you do it, the way you manage your time, and the way you respond to adversity. Regardless of occupational field, the study suggests that seeking out enjoyable work and finding a way to do it on your own terms, with some control over both the process and the outcome, is likely for most people to fuel satisfaction and contentment.

I don’t think that the Gallup study included lawyers who own their law practices, but I believe the findings apply to the legal profession as well. And my belief is based upon personal experience. I started by own law firm in 1993, and right from the start my personal satisfaction with the law while working in my own law firm was much higher than it ever had been before I became self-employed. When you’re self-employed, you have control over the direction of the law firm.  You make your own decisions about how to meet the challenges of self-employment, and nothing happens unless you make it happen. If you make the right decisions, the firm thrives, and you see the results of your decisions directly. Likewise, if you’re wrong, reality quickly gives you feedback and you suffer the consequences. Although I’ve always worked extremely long hours, I found self-employment to be personally very satisfying from day one. I think that the Gallup study is digging into some of the underlying reasons for that personal satisfaction.

In recent years, the personal satisfaction I’ve felt with my own law practice has expressed itself in new ways, including the creation of this law blog. But blogging seems to be getting dangerous, as seen in this article about the 216% increase in libel lawsuits filed against bloggers in the past 3 years.  A potential lawsuit resulting from blogging activities is the latest challenge to confront those lawyers who own their law practices. Meeting the challenge is what makes practicing law in your own firm very satisfying, and fun.