Defining Moments: Insights Into the Lawyer's Soul

Vol. 3, No. 4

Melanie Bragg has long enjoyed a reputation as one of Houston’s fiercest attorneys in her representation of children, the elderly, and mentally disadvantaged people.  Her firm, Bragg Law PC, is a general civil firm in Houston, Texas. She also writes and produces legal education programs through Legal Insight, Inc. (founded by Bragg in 1993). Her writing credits include HIPAA for the General Practitioner as well as the upcoming book Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul to be published by the American Bar Association (ABA) flagship division. When she is not writing, Melanie devotes her time to her work as chair of the Book Publications Board of the ABA Solo, Small Firm General Practice Division and sharing ideas with fellow authors.


  • Everyone has an interesting story.
  • You have a lot in common with others: what will you do to reach out to them during this holiday season?
  • How will you finish this year so you can start fresh next year?


Now that my Crosstown Park book signings have started to slow down for the year (I have done 15 events since September 17!) I can commit to wrapping up the book Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul so that I can turn it in to my flagship division editor, Tim Brandhorst. I cannot decide whether to surprise him. I know he will most likely fall over in his chair. He has been so supportive and we both know it is time!

In honor of and in order to achieve my goal to edit the 50 interviews that comprise the book, portions of which I will share with you in this column in the months to come, I went out and bought my first MacBook Air on Monday night. (My old Toshiba laptop cratered. My iPad and iPad Mini won’t cut it for the work ahead.)

As luck would have it, this technological development in my life dovetails into one of my goals for this year, which is to switch over to Mac by the end of the year. So I’m considering it a twofer. The new laptop was necessary for me to disappear and write. Home is such a distraction.

Do you relate to how, when you have an important goal, cleaning out the closets or the garage becomes absolutely necessary? If I stay home to work on Defining Moments I will get hungry, want to watch old episodes of Law & Order: Criminal Intent, will need to take a nap . . . You know—all of the standard procrastination tactics.

Writing about it here in my column and telling the world about my commitment will enhance my ability to become motivated. Editing the interviews is an absolutely fun process: it is just that it is daunting to turn the spoken word into essays. There is so much content! How will I boil it all down? I know that once I get into it and make significant progress, it will be easier. And it is time to get that book out and enjoy the fruits of my hard work. Think about how you self-motivate in order to survive in this ever competitive legal world. Do you have accountability partners and people with whom you share your commitments?

Let me explain what it has been like to interview lawyers for Defining Moments: Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul. First, it has been an awe-inspiring process. There have been many interviews during which we cried. People who told me they had nothing to say ended up saying all kinds of things they did not know they were going to say. Sometimes it was eye-opening—even for them.

What I have learned is that everyone has a story. And everyone’s story is interesting. I also learned that so many of our experiences are similar. We have so much in common. When I interviewed people on the phone, every time I related to what they were saying I raised my hand. I was amazed at how many times my hand went up and how many times I resonated with their story even though we are so different. I also realized that I knew little about the people I interviewed, people I thought I already knew.

What does this tell me? It tells me that we need to do a better job of asking people the right questions in order to elicit the real information about their lives, their stories, their cases. You know lawyers are great communicators—most of us can talk the ears off a billy goat—but how good are we at listening? What do we do to make others comfortable? Are we intimidating in order to make ourselves seem bigger than we really feel? Are we too busy to listen to what people say?

Let’s try this. I give you a challenge. I will do it too. During this holiday season, let’s work on our communication skills by asking some unusual questions to those around us or people we meet at a party or an event. Let’s take the time to listen to the whole story and then find a way to communicate how important the information they imparted was to us.

While this is a good relationship building strategy, I promise you will feel better about yourself. It is impossible to express how important the Defining Moments: Insight into the Lawyer’s Soul interviews have been to me on several levels. I am amazed and in awe of the people with whom I have been working side by side for so many years. There is a new dimension and vulnerability to our friendships. I am so grateful for that benefit of this project.

In the coming issues I will share stories from the book from such ABA legends as past GPSolo Division Chairs and ABA Presidents Bill Ide, Dennis Archer, Robert Grey, and Laurel Bellows; past ABA presidents Bill Robinson and Mike Greco; and GP Division superstars like Hon. Pamila Brown, Hon. Jennifer Rymell (our current chair), John Clark, and many others. Some are more well-known than others, but all are heroes in my mind. I think you will agree.

So my commitment to you is to buckle down this next six weeks and focus on getting the Defining Moments manuscript in so the entire book will be yours next year. In addition, I will learn how to use a Mac computer, a drastic departure from the PC world I have been used to for so long. Staying excited and curious is a gift in life and it adds so much dimension and texture.

Will you share with me a commitment you make to yourself these next six weeks? What do you need to finish up in this year so you can move toward achieving your goals next year?

Will you think of new and different ways to communicate with others during your holiday parties and events? Find out some new things about those around you and amaze yourself at how easy it is to stretch just a little.

I am excited and appreciate you! Happy Holidays! Please share your thoughts, actions, and comments with me too at


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