Chapters 1 through 3 focus directly on relationships. In particular, the relationships with administrative staff and with other attorneys within the firm, both more and less senior. These relationships can impose risk when they become overly friendly or unduly one-sided. Kole provides guidance on how to navigate the hazards, along with a well-timed reminder of the importance of boundaries.
Chapter 4 deals with setting expectations. Clients may expect attorneys to work miracles, and juries may expect a perfect case in which all of their questions are answered by the end of the episode. Kole explains in this chapter that this is not how the law works. Sometimes, a client’s strategies may not be the most effective way to win a case. A jury’s unanswered question may be irrelevant to a legal issue but may affect their deliberations. Accordingly, she sets out strategies for ensuring that reasonable expectations can be set with clients and juries alike.
Chapter 5 deals with the human aspects of law practice, such as how the unexpected death of a coworker can invoke crisis. Kole smartly encourages avoiding knee-jerk reactions when faced with uncertainty. Rather, she suggests that taking a more measured approach can allow those impacted to better cope with the personal and professional consequences. “[T]he best thing you can do is stop and think before you act,” she recommends.
Chapters 6, 9, 10, and 12 deal with practicing law in potentially sticky situations, such as when dealing with difficult or dishonest clients (Chapter 6), emotionally invested clients (Chapter 9), giving clients bad news (Chapter 10), and legal conflicts between clients (Chapter 12). Common across these situations is the client relationship, which can be fraught. Kole preaches honesty, integrity, and—with a wry bit of humor—ensuring that attorneys “confirm your authority” in writing.
The remaining chapters bear titles such as “From the Ridiculous to the Sublime” (Chapter 8) and “Lawyers Behaving Badly” (Chapter 15). Some of these titles provide more insight to the included text than others. Nevertheless, each includes Kole’s personal stories from her days of practicing law that sometimes truly do seem stranger than fiction. These include judicial commentary at the bench on her hairstyle and opposing counsel’s attempt to seat himself at the wrong table at the start of a federal civil jury trial.
Stranger Than Fiction is an enjoyable read. It recognizes that lawyers, too, are fallible human beings, and it encourages us to embrace that status and try to have fun. Seemingly with that in mind, the author has kept the book both brief and engaging, writing with a style that is fluid and unencumbered with extra verbiage. It may leave you hoping for a second volume.