Probably the greatest benefit from my recent long vacation from work and email is my increased attention span. Thirty-one days away from the on-demand culture of email, phone calls, and the inherent multi-tasking of my typical work day allowed for a concentration span longer than 30 seconds, which meant, among other useful things, that I could actually finish a book. So I did read several fun novels, actually read more than just the headlines of news articles, and watched entire movies without jumping around.
Long time readers will remember that years ago (before my attention deficit disorder became acute) I posted a few book reviews for you all. With my return to sanity and an excellent reference from a colleague, last week I read The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law, which is Mark Herrmann's labor of love. I know it's not news, the book was published in 2006 and probably every lawyer in the world knew about it before I got it last week. But for you newbies who've come into practice since then (as well as those of you who have been in trial since then or otherwise, like me, completely out of the loop most of the time), get your hands on a copy as soon as you can. If you are lucky enough to be reading this before you start at your first law firm job in the next few, all the better. You have time to read now, which you won't have once you start working.
If you (like me) find it hard to read an entire book and just want the most important pieces, the chapters on How to Fail as an Associate and The Curmudgeonly Secretary are indispensable. Mark Herrmann is not kidding nor is he being sarcastic. Every word is true, and you should assume that every partner you work for and every secretary you work with has exactly the same perspective on your work.
As a not-so-new lawyer, I felt abundant vindication in those two chapters as well. I wish I could hand a copy of the book to every young lawyer I know, so that they will realize that I'm not the only one that goes ballistic about typos, unclear thinking (and writing) and that tendency of young lawyers to leave the hard questions to their supervisors.
Even though the Guide focuses on a litigation associate's daily tasks, transactional lawyers can learn quite a lot from it, and the advice on how to write a memo applies equally across practice areas.
The only place where I beg to differ is the advice on how to Dress for Success. You've seen my views on that elsewhere in this blog; after you read his chapter we can have a book club discussion comparing and contrasting where his views diverge from mine.
So, let me know when you'd like to meet for the next book club meeting. You know where to find me.