The Fifth International Positive Psychology Summit 2006 was held October 5-7 in Washington DC.  Dr. Martin Seligman, the Fox Leadership Professor of Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, founded the school of Positive Psychology, which focuses on factors that make for professional and personal success, rather than following the traditional diagnostic model of addressing weaknesses.  There were a number of presentations of interest to lawyers.

Richard Florida, an economist, Hirst Professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, author of the bestseller The Rise of the Creative Class (Basic Books, 2002) and The Flight of the Creative Class (HarperCollins, 2005), was the keynote speaker.  The dramatic results of his research found that highly talented people will overcome financial disincentives to join communities and businesses that promote subjective well-being, such as supporting diversity and encouraging tolerance.  His astonishing findings are that it is the people, the "soul of the city," that drives the production of jobs and financial success, rather than the other way around, as classic economics theory maintained.

These findings fit nicely with the results of David Maister’s survey on the factors that drive financial success in personal services businesses.  Maister asked simply "Are employee attitudes correlated with financial success?"  In his book Practice What You Preach:  What Managers Must Do To Create A High-Achievement Culture, he expands on the results of that survey.  Not only is the answer "yes", but, more importantly, Maister found that it is attitudes that drive financial results and not the other way around.

The message for law firms and law departments is that, in a world of escalating pay raises but ever-increasing movement, the soul of the firm– and how it influences employee attitudes and their sense of well-being– cana be the key to achieving financial success.