Theses Doctoral

Learning from Experience to Build Psychological Capital: A Journey to Wellbeing among Big Law Partners

Rosen, Diane

The purpose of this qualitative, modified exploratory case study was to explore how and the extent to which (i) Big Law partners describe their experience of their careers with respect to the PsyCap capacities of Hope, Self-Efficacy, Resilience, Optimism (HERO) and the informal learning opportunities for developing PsyCap in Big Law; and (ii) Big Law firms support and/or inhibit learning pathways for their attorneys to build professional competencies and PsyCap. Data was collected from in-depth interviews with 14 Big Law partners who completed demographic and PCQ12 questionnaires, and publicly available information about participants law firms. Three key findings emerged:

1. Participants experience high levels of PsyCap that are related to, emerge from, and are supported by learning from varied and numerous experiences in the context of law practice over the course of their legal careers.
2. As reported by participants, their experience of PsyCap has internally- and externally-oriented dimensions that align with the core competencies they identify as contributing to successful law practice and HERO.
3. Structural and economic changes in Big Law over time have both inhibited and supported the development, and impacted the availability, of meaningful opportunities for, junior lawyers to learn from experience and build PsyCap.

Two analytic categories framed the analysis, synthesis, and interpretation of the data:

1. The internally- and externally-oriented dimensions of learning from experience and building PsyCap and how they are interconnected and mutually reinforcing (based on Findings 1 and 2).
2. The conditions and opportunities that support lawyer professional development and the extent to which Big Law today provides a robust learning environment for lawyers (based on Finding 3).

Three key conclusions were drawn from the findings and analysis:

1. As lawyer competencies expand through a cumulation and processing of experiences, so too does the potential to build PsyCap to navigate a career toward SWB.
2. Big Law firms have capacity to provide excellent learning opportunities for lawyers, replete with autonomy and support, to cultivate and harness their competencies.
3. In the wake of the Pandemic, which has caused Big Law to accommodate flexible work options, there is a unique opportunity to recalibrate to prioritize a learning culture and environment that produces excellent lawyers in a more holistic workplace that values excellence and people.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Organization and Leadership
Thesis Advisors
Marsick, Victoria J.
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
February 15, 2023