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Nancy Levit, JD – School of Law

Professor Nancy Levit was the speaker for Honors Colloquium on February 29. Professor Levit received a bachelor of arts from Bates College and her J.D. from the University of Kansas. She has imparted her knowledge and understanding of the field of law with the students of the UMKC School of Law for the past 24 years. She is also a member of the UMKC Women’s and Gender Studies faculty. Over the years, Professor Levit has been selected as the Law School’s Outstanding Professor of the Year for the past three years, the Daniel L. Brenner Faculty Publishing Award, and the Elmer P. Pierson Faculty teaching award three times.
Professor Levit’s presentation focused on her book The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the La, which was co-authored Doug Linder. The main emphasis of the book focused on how many lawyer’s are dissatisfied or disappointed with their line of work. To explain the causes for unhappiness among lawyer’s, Professor Levit first defined the three types of happiness: pleasure, a state of contentment or satisfaction, and a sense of having lived well. This final type of happiness is more reflective and is experienced towards the end of one’s life. Professor Levit then went on to list the activities that are voting as producing the most happiness; sex is at the top of the list while working was close to the bottom.
Next Professor Levit showed a chart that listed jobs in order of job satisfaction. Lawyer’s came in towards the middle with 52% of lawyers being very satisfied with their jobs, while clergymen, physical therapists, and firefighters were at the very top of the chart. Professor Levit then described the “Big 6” factors that lead to job satisfaction: aligning the job with your own values or “mattering,” the opportunity for downward comparisons, degree of work-life balances, quality of relationships afforded by the job, opportunities for flow experiences where “time flies by,” and finally, resilience in getting through tough times. All of these elements can be applied not only to the profession of law but to any job one can imagine. Professon Levit’s presentation not only was interesting to future law students but to any student wishing to have a happy and fulfilling career.
-Lexy C.


  1. Peter Pang says:

    On February 29th, Professor Nancy Levit came to Honors Colloquium class to speak about her book The Happy Lawyer: Making a Good Life in the La. I thought it would be only about the work lives for lawyers before the class, but it was about job satisfaction and happiness. It could apply to every occupation. She explained that there were three different types of happiness which were pleasure, the state of satisfaction and the sense of having lived life well. Her funeral example sticks in my head. I always imagine if I can go back to my own funeral and see the reaction of the guests. It is like a transcript of my life. It really makes me think about what my life is for. She mentioned that money did not affect happiness as long as people making over 72,000 a year. Then she said that a person’s happiness is mostly affected by the degree of control within job and his or her relationship with peers. A person tends to be happier if he or she works in a smaller size company and interact with positive coworkers. Ms. Levit made a good point that people are more alike than different. She recommended students not to make decision by rules but by their hearts because people tend to make poor decision by anticipating what can make them happy. As a finance student, I have the same interest as the people who work in wall street-money. I thought that money would be the only tool to measure my success. Ms. Levit’s lecture changed my thought to start job shadowing this summer and see if it is something I really like to do in the future instead of aiming for a big investment company right after graduation.

  2. Emily Oehler says:

    I found Dr. Levit’s presentation very entertaining and motivating. I appreciated her sense of humor which added to her presentation overall. It was nice that she reinstated some important facts when it comes to happiness especially when it comes finding a job that makes the individual happy.

    I found the statements she made about jobs and happiness really related to me personally. I am planning on entering the dental field which like law can be looked as a kind of negative, noncheerful job. I thought the topic suited everyone because the audience was mainly college students trying to figure out what career path they want to go down after graduation.

    I also related to the topic of happiness when it comes to surrounding yourself with other people. As a college student, I know find myself spending a lot of time with new friends I have made and they mostly consist of happy, joyful people that in return makes me feel happy. I agreed with her completely when she said “happiness is contagious”. I also agreed when she talked about people like to matter to other people. One main reason I’m interested in dentistry is because I like to be around people and to me helping people is so rewarding.

    Overall, Dr. Levit’s presentation was a great reminder that being happy is important and there are ways to alter your life to become more happy or find happiness.

  3. Mary Cisetti says:

    I was first captivated by Professor Levit’s discussion when she said, “Being happy in your job is something you should seek out.” As a senior at UMKC’s Bloch School and preparing in enter my career in the next few months, this comment in particular struck me because it is something I have thought a great deal about in the last year or two. In my Microeconomic Analysis class this semester, we have spoken about how in today’s society, we tend to work as a means to an end, while throughout history, that wasn’t always the case. It makes me wonder if this is because in the past, people felt they had a greater degree of control within their job or perhaps had a better work-life balance. These two, among the six factors to a happy career that Professor Levit discussed, I felt were the most pertinent to the career field I am entering. In holding an internship since last June at a marketing firm downtown, I have found the projects the greatest amount of pleasure in projects where I was given a broad outline and then the opportunity to “run” with the project. In being able to use my own creativity, I felt a great degree of control within my task and was happy to go into work on a day to day basis. In addition to this, the degree of work-life balance that I have at the marketing firm is one of the reasons why I love going each day. I look forward to seeking out these two and the other four factors to a happy career as I being my job search in the next couple of weeks.

  4. McKayla Smith says:

    At first, when I heard Professor Levit was discussing how to happy in your career, particularly as a lawyer, I was intrigued. I am planning on going to law school and becoming a Human Rights lawyer, so it was quite relevant to my career. However, I was jaded by the many presentations and articles I had seen and read about “how to be happy”. Oftentimes they are filled with meaningless advice like “focus on what you already have” and other cliches. And, while those things can be generally helpful, I’m a strong believer in being comfortable and content with your current situations, I generally find the information to be dry and pointless in any realistic day to day sense.

    However, I was pleasantly surprised by Professor Levit’s presentation. She was funny and entertaining and she held my attention. Sometimes it can be difficult to focus on a speaker for that duration of time, but even with a topic that could have been bland she kept me attentive and interested for the duration. I felt like her approach to being happy in your career was innovative and original. I really liked how she discussed the benefit of melancholy. I too believe melancholy is extremely important, and I liked how she focused on the levels of happiness and not being happy all the time, as that is unattainable. Also, I felt like her discussion of flow time was very relevant to my life, and work, and how important that actually is. Her presentation was interesting, entertaining, relevant and applicable to many careers.

  5. Kory McEnaney says:

    From Dr. Levit’s presentation, the portion I would like to focus on is the “Big 6: Characteristics affecting Happiness at Work.” Having recently switched jobs from a shift management position to a team member position, I fully agree with Dr. Levit’s observations and thoughts on what causes happiness in the workplace. Leaving a position of authority and moving backwards to a team member position caused the loss of control I had at my other job (in which I worked there for 4+ years). Also, having to work more shifts and earn roughly the same amount of hours as I worked at my previous job, I found it difficult to balance my homework and the work-life balance I had been accustomed to with my previous job. Obviously, being the new employee is always difficult, and my new job is no different. New atmospheres and new people and new management is something to get used to; thus, the quality of relationships offered at this new job was not near the same level as relationships I had built and maintained at my previous job. Furthermore, being accustomed to my previous job and having been an experienced employee and shift manager at my old job provided numerous days of flow experiences. Being the new guy makes everything seem choppy and I would find myself continually looking at the clock wondering when I would get to leave. Lastly, coping with the stress of a new job and working with different people when having been so used to and “in the flow” of my previous job made me realize I was a lot happier at my previous job than my current one. Due to the reasons stated above, I will be returning to my old job next week. I found Dr. Levit’s “Big 6″ very pertinent to my situation and it was a good learning experience to be able to apply them to a current situation.

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