Law Practice Magazine
THE INTERNATIONAL ISSUE
Tapping into their collective wisdom of well over a century of practicing law, three seasoned contributors tell us which books they would recommend to guide and inspire those just entering the legal profession.
The Spirit of Liberty
A book that has always served to reassure and inspire me as a lawyer is The Spirit of Liberty by the late, great Judge Learned Hand. The book (first published by Alfred Knopf in 1952) is a compilation of papers and addresses by Judge Hand, who served for more than 40 years on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. His contributions to law are lasting and legendary, and the depth of his scholarship and breadth of his knowledge on countless subjects can well serve as a goal for every lawyer.
I have been practicing law for 62 years, and in my lectures about the law I like to conclude by sharing what I have come to believe are the attributes that every good lawyer should have. A leading attribute I share is this: broad cultural interests. A true correlation exists between a lawyer’s excellence and general knowledge, and Judge Hand remains a shining light in this regard. Remember the unkind caution of Edmund Burke: “Law sharpens the mind by narrowing it.” I suggest that history, the arts, music, drama, poetry, philosophy and all the now-called liberal arts provide breadth and depth to the lawyer’s ability and character. Surely we should all have some acquaintance with Plato, Aristotle, Homer, Shakespeare, Bacon, Milton, Dante, Montaigne and Montesquieu. Surely we should all know as friends the great writers on jurisprudence: Lord Coke, Blackstone, Pollock, Maitland, Cardozo, Holmes and Hand, to name but a few from an illustrious roster.
Brooke Wunnicke, is of counsel to the law firm Hall & Evans in Denver. Coauthor of multiple books on the law, she has received many honors, awards and national recognition for her years of service to the legal profession.
You Just Don't Understand
Those who want to advance in the legal profession need to be able to communicate effectively with colleagues, clients, opposing counsel, judges and juries and beyond. All young lawyers should seek out early and often any resource that will help them to develop the communication skills that are critical to making their points to others. Deborah Tannen’s You Just Don’t Understand: Men and Women in Conversation (Harper, 2001) is one of those resources.
We all know that men and women do things differently, but Tannen helps to explain why. Moreover, she provides readers with the knowledge necessary to find a common language that will increase the likelihood of effective communication. For example, Tannen writes that based on cues they receive from the world almost the moment they enter it, men and women seek to accomplish different conversational goals. Women engage in “rapport talk,” meaning they use words and a style intended to create a rapport that will help to develop good relations for all involved. Men, however, use “report talk,” meaning the point of communication is to provide and receive information. Obviously, describing gender differences in communication involves serious generalizations. However, a better understanding of how many members of the opposite sex approach conversation can help young professionals immensely in determining how to present information. In other words, You Just Don’t Understand is helpful to achieving the goal of “knowing your audience.”
Linda Kornfeld, is Managing Partner of Dickstein Shapiro’s Los Angeles office and a partner in the Insurance Coverage Practice, where she conducts an active trial and appellate practice.
The Trusted Advisor
The theme of The Trusted Advisor (Free Press, 2000) is that the key to professional success is not just technical mastery of one’s discipline, but also the ability to work with clients in a way that earns their trust and gains their confidence. This book is a seminal treatise on the subject of trust.
Most, if not all, young lawyers starting out as new associates in established firms want to get ahead as fast as they can. Freshly minted from a competitive law school environment, they typically think being the best lawyer is all about mastering the law. Authors David Maister, Charles H. Green and Robert M. Galford write this:
“Then comes that crucial career transition, from technician to full professional, from content expert to advisor. As technicians, our task is to provide information, analyses, research, content and even recommendations. All of these are basically tasks performed out of the client’s presence. In contrast, our task as advisors is an ‘in-person,’ ‘in-contact’ challenge to help the client see things anew or to make a decision. This requires a complete change of skills and mind-sets.”
Lawyers who make this career transition, achieving the status of trusted advisor, know the meaning of true professionalism and, unlike so many of their colleagues, really enjoy the practice of law. For young lawyers starting out, there’s no book I’d recommend more highly than this one.
Ed Post, is the pseudonym of the Editor of Blawg Review, a weekly carnival of the best law blogs presented on a different host’s blog every Monday. Ed was a young lawyer himself, almost 30 years ago
Reading Minds invites sage professionals to recommend favorite books on a chosen topic. If you are looking for books on a particular topic, or have a book you'd like to share, contact Stephanie West Allen, firstname.lastname@example.org.