BOOKS BEYOND THE SYLLABUS:
RECOMMENDED PROFESSIONAL READING
Professor Walter A. Effross
Washington College of Law
Although I don't endorse every opinion expressed in them, I suggest that law students
might find the books below, most of which are available in paperback, useful in their
continuing professional development.
The Office Life
Corporations and Business Law- Books
Corporations and Business Law- Periodicals
Law Firms and the Future of the Profession
One Final Item
The Office Life
- Moran, Richard- Never Confuse a Memo with Reality, And
Other Business Lessons Too Simple Not to Know (HarperBusiness 1993)
- Moran, Richard- Beware Those Who Ask for Feedback, And
Other Organizational Constants (HarperBusiness 1994)
- Moran, Richard- Cancel the Meetings, Keep the Doughnuts,
And Other New Morsels of Business Wisdom (HarperBusiness 1995)
- Moran, Richard- Fear No Yellow Stickies (Fireside/Simon
& Schuster 1998)
Each of these small books contains about 360 brief suggestions, as varied as “When
you're working on the computer, save the document you’re working on frequently,”
“Always carry a cheap, thin calculator,” and “Never go to more than two meetings
a day or you will never get anything done.” Each is the kind of thing that a friend
or mentor might tell you an entire story to illustrate. Some of the material you’ll
disagree with and some you’ll think is obvious. But some of Moran’s points you will
probably find to be valuable new material, or at least useful reminders. Highly recommended.
Other books of the same type include:
- Blitzer, Roy- Office Smarts: 252 Tips for Success in
the Workplace (Globe Pequot Press 1994)
- Ireland, Karin- The Job Survival Instruction Book: 365
Tips, Tricks, and Techniques to Stay Employed (Career Press 1994)
- Pollar, Odette- 365 Ways to Simplify Your Work Life
(Dearborn Financial Publishing 1996)
A similar approach to advice on personal financial transactions can be found
- Dunnan, Nancy- Never Call Your Broker on Monday, And
300 Other Financial Lessons You Can’t Afford Not to Know (HarperCollins 1997)
You might also find it useful to keep a dictionary (I recommend
the latest edition of Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary), a recent almanac,
and a road atlas (I recommend the most recent edition of the AAA North American
Road Atlas) in your office. Another good thing to have handy, especially in case
of fast-breaking news, is a small radio.
- 3M Meeting Management Team, How to Run Better Meetings:
A Reference Guide for Managers (McGraw Hill 1979). Covers all aspects of planning
meetings; emphasizes the preparation of effective visual presentations.
- Doyle, Michael and David Strauss- How to Make Meetings
Work (Jove 1976). From the point of view of the person running the meeting.
- Kieffer, George David- The Strategy of Meetings
(Warner Books 1988). Not only how to run meetings but how to participate effectively
- Robert’s Rules of Order
There are available a number of practical guides, some with
helpful charts and diagrams, to the implementation of these procedural rules for
meetings. As a lawyer, you are likely to be involved in governing a meeting, or attending
a meeting that is being governed, according to these rules– in either situation,
a good knowledge of the rules will be invaluable.
- Burnham, Scott- Drafting Contracts, 2nd ed. (Michie
1987). An extremely useful compendium of advice for any lawyer drafting any type
of contract. The first section concerns the substantive law of contracts, including:
offer and acceptance, consideration, indefiniteness, enforceability, capacity, parol
evidence, interpretation, mistake, force majeure, promise and condition, modification
and discharge, warranties, damages, and third parties. The second section addresses
“How the Principles of Drafting Are Exemplified in Contracts” and includes chapters
on: the framework of a contract; operative language; the language of drafting; plain
language; and drafting with a computer.
- Dworsky, Alan L.- The Little Book on Legal Writing (2d
ed.) (1992) (Fred B. Rothman & Co., Littleton, CO 80127). Covers, among other
topics, “Plain English,” “Style,” “Usage [of particular words, “Spelling [of particular
words],” “[Preparing] Case Briefs,” “[How to Refer to] Cases and Courts,” “[How to
Refer to] Names [of Parties],” “Citations,” “Quotations,” “Authority,” “Office Memoranda,”
“Questions Presented,” and “Argument.” 142 pages.
- Strunk, William Jr. and E.B. White- The Elements of
Style, 3d ed. (Macmillan 1979). The classic, applicable to all types of writing.
- Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms (Merriam-Webster)
- Webster’s Dictionary of Synonyms and Antonyms (Smithmark
These books emphasize the distinctions among such “synonyms”
as “law, rule, regulation, precept, statute, ordinance, [and] canon.” I prefer the
Merriam-Webster edition, but the Smithmark Reference one, created in cooperation
with the Merriam-Webster editors, may be easier to find.
- The Merriam-Webster Dictionary of English Usage (Merriam-Webster
Originally published under the title of Webster’s Dictionary
of English Usage, this book presents an alphabetical list of words, expressions,
and grammatical concepts, accompanied by commentary on and examples of preferred
usage. A useful tool and entertaining gift for those who want to write more precisely.
- LeClerq, Terri- Expert Legal Writing (University
of Texas Press 1995). Useful instruction on areas ranging from grammar to organization.
Contains a list of reference books for legal writers.
- Goldstein, Tom and Jethro K. Lieberman- The Lawyer’s
Guide to Writing Well (University of California Press 1989). One of the many
other good books on this topic.
- Dorff, Pat- File. . . Don’t Pile!: A Proven Filing System
for Personal and Professional Use (St. Martin’s Press 1983)
- Dorff, Pat, Edit Fine, and Judith Josephson- File. . .
Don’t Pile! For People Who Write: Handling the Paper Flow in the Workspace or
Home Office (St. Martin’s Press 1994)
Even if you don’t follow the complete system recommended,
the books will give you many good organizational ideas. The first, and the more general,
of these books addresses organization from a homemaker’s perspective. The second,
which is focused on the operations of a professional writer or journalist, may be
more directly useful to you.
- Drucker, Peter- The Effective Executive (HarperBusiness
1966)A classic work by one of the foremost experts on management.
“To be reasonably effective it is not enough for the individual
to be intelligent, to work hard or to be knowledgeable. Effectiveness is something
separate, something different. But to be effective also does not require special
gifts, special aptitude, or special training. Effectiveness as an executive demands
doing certain-- and fairly simple-- things. It consists of a small number
of practices, the practices that are presented and discussed in this book.”
- Gleeson, Kerry- The Personal Efficiency Program: How
to Get Organized to Do More Work in Less Time (John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 1994).
One of the best books that I’ve seen in this category. Gleeson places much emphasis
on doing things as soon as possible, rather than letting them pile up. Easy to say,
but sometimes hard to do.
- Lakein, Alan- How to Get Control of Your Time and Your
Life (Signet 1973). One of the classics in the field. Particularly strong on
how to assign priorities to pending tasks.
- Mayer, Jeffrey- If You Haven’t Got the Time To Do It
Right, When Will You Find The Time to Do It Over? (Simon and Schuster 1990).
A compendium of useful organizational tips.
- Mayer, Jeffrey- Time Management for Dummies (IDG
Books 1995). Repeats some of the material in his earlier book, and adds new advice.
- Ravdin, Linda- “How to Have a Successful Law Practice
and a Life: 61 Ideas” The Practical Lawyer- Vol. 42, No. 1 (January 1996)- p.39.
An article full of advice for the “solo lawyer or small firm practitioner” on organizing
your practice and balancing it with your personal life.
- St. James, Elaine- Simplify Your Life: 100 Ways to Slow
Down and Enjoy the Things That Really Matter (Hyperion 1994) One of the major
books in the life-simplification movement, which, perhaps not coincidentally, gained
prominence about the same time as corporate downsizing did. I personally think that
Ms. St. James makes some good points, although some of her suggestions seem to be
inapplicable, if not downright dangerous, to lawyers. (#9- “Stop Buying Clothes That
Need to be Dry-Cleaned”; #27- “Cancel Your Magazine Subscriptions”; #28- “Stop the
- Savage, Peter- The Safe Travel Book: A Guide for the
International Traveler (Lexington Books 1988- revised and updated 1991). A safety/security
manual intended for the “business-class traveler accompanied by a working companion
or spouse who might never have set foot in a foreign land. The voyage may include
side trips to out-of-the-way places as well as trips to major airports and cities.
The book was also written with lone women travelers and travelers with children in
mind.” Covers trip planning, documentation, what to take, packing, preflight and
in-flight tips, arrival in a foreign airport and hotel, daily security planning,
checking out, and returning home.
- Scott, Dru- How to Put More Time in Your Life (Signet
1980). A collection of tips, strategies, and techniques for working efficiently
Corporations and Business Law-
- Adler, Bill Jr., and Julie Houghton, America’s Stupidest
Business Decisions: 101 Blunders, Flops & Screwups (William Morrow 1997).
Short, instructive accounts of major business mistakes of well-known companies.
- Bandler- How to Use Financial Statements: A Guide to
Understanding the Numbers (Irwin Professional Publishing 1994). A simple, step-by-step
explanation of financial statements, their uses and interpretation, and the accounting
techniques used in their preparation. 147 pages.
- Barrett, E. Thorpe- Write Your Own Business Contracts:
What Your Attorney Won’t Tell You (The Oasis Press, Grants Pass, Oregon- (541)
479-9464 2nd ed. 1994). “This book consists of a practical discussion of business
contracts interspersed with examples of typical contracts, examples of bad contracts,
and the author’s suggested alternatives. . . . ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ examples are distinguished
. . . . “
- Bradford, C. Steven and Gary Adna Ames- Basic Accounting
Principles for Lawyers (Anderson Publishing 1997). A useful 126-page discussion,
intended to be “interesting and understandable for law students who have no desire
to become accountants. . . This is not a treatise on accounting but a relatively
short introduction to the essentials.”
- Burrough, Bryan and John Helyar- Barbarians at the Gate:
The Fall of RJR Nabisco (Harper & Row 1990). An extraordinary account
of the 1988 fight to control Nabisco, written by two of the Wall Street Journal reporters
who covered these developments. Almost every page has a good story, anecdote, quote,
or other piece of information about corporate law and culture, investment banking,
boardroom battles, management’s fight to retain control of a company, and the role
of lawyers. The major figures in this story (helpfully listed in a four-page introduction
on “The Players”) really come alive in the text.
- Hillman, William C. - Commercial Loan Documentation
(Practising Law Institute- periodically revised). A very straightforward guide to
the language and legalities of commercial (rather than consumer) lending, with much
attention to drafting issues. Chapters include: The Loan Agreement; The Promissory
Note; The Security Agreement; The Financing Statement; Pledges; Real Estate Mortgages;
Special Forms of Collateral; Guaranties; and Subordination Agreements. Should be
of immense value to associates practicing in this area.
- Klein, William A. and John C. Coffee, Jr.- Business
Organization and Finance: Legal and Economic Principles (5th ed.) (Foundation
1993). “The principal objective of this book is to explain, in simple terms but
not simplistically, (a) the basic economic elements and legal principles, as well
as the language, of business organization and finance; (b) the interrelationships
between and among the economic elements and legal principles; and (c) the practical
importance of a basic understanding of those elements, principles, and interrelationships.
. . . [W]e have tried to make it understandable for a person with no background whatsoever
in business, in accounting, in economics, or in law.” Chapters include: The Sole
Proprietor; Partnerships; Corporations; Basic Corporate Investment Devices; and Valuation,
Financial Strategies, and Capital Markets.
- Manning, Bayless and James J. Hanks, Jr.- Legal Capital
(3rd ed.) (Foundation 1990). “[S]pecifically written to be understandable not only
by the accounting maven but by the reader who has no accounting background.” Examines
the development of legal capital doctrine and “addresses the massive body of law
regulating asset contributions by shareholders and asset distributions to them.”
- Posner, Richard A. and Kenneth E. Scott- Economics of
Corporation Law and Securities Regulation (Little, Brown 1980). Judge (then-Professor)
Posner and Professor Scott collected and edited a number of scholarly articles that
interpret corporate and securities law through an economic analysis. Chapters include:
The Theory of the Firm, The Economics of the Corporate Firm, The Corporation’s Social
Responsibility, Fiduciary Law and “Competition in Laxity,” Insider Trading, Modern
Finance Theory and the Efficient Market Hypothesis, and others. Rewarding, but not
- Romano, Roberta- Foundations of Corporate Law (Oxford
1993). “This book of readings seeks to provide an accessible introduction to the
enduring policy debates in corporate law as well as the intuition for the fundamental
economic concepts of the new learning that informs the debates. In addition, a concerted
effort has been made to provide a realistic sense of the institutional landscape,
which is foreign to many students, by extensive referencing of the burgeoning empirical
research on corporate governance.” Professor Romano selected and edited some of the
leading recent scholarship on such topics as: theories of the firm and of capital
markets; limited liability and the corporation; state competition for corporate charters;
the structure of corporate laws; financing the corporation; boards of directors and
fiduciary duties; shareholder voting rights; the market for corporate control; takeover
defenses; and securities regulation.
- Siviglia, Peter- Exercises in Commercial Transactions
(Carolina Academic Press 1995). Questions, and proposed solutions, concerning
the drafting of a variety of agreements, including employment contracts, shareholder
agreements, and partnership agreements.
Corporations and Business Law-
- New York Times (on Mondays, Business Section focuses
on High Technology issues)
- Wall Street Journal
- Washington Post “Washington Business” Section (especially
- Business Law Today (magazine) & Business
Lawyer (law review) (both published by the Business Law Section of the American
- Business Week
- Fortune (focuses on management issues)
- National Law Journal (weekly; reviews developments
in all areas of law)
Note that every spring Fortune, Forbes and Business Week
publish lists of the most successful companies, as well as articles that interpreting
the year’s trends as reflected in these lists.
- Allison, G. Burgess- The Lawyer’s Guide to the Internet
(ABA 1995). A fantastic guide to the Internet, assuming no computer knowledge. Includes
extensive lists of law-related material available through the Internet.
- NetGuide Publishing LLC, Surf Less Find More: Law
(Summer 1999). A handy, relatively inexpensive, spiral-bound pamphlet listing Web
addresses for: MegaLaw Sites; Finding Experts; Finding Firms/Attorneys; Federal Law
Resources; State Law Resources; Practice Areas; and General Internet Research.The
company is located at: Box 525, 267 Kentlands Boulevard, Gaithersburg, MD 20878,
or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Rose, Lance- NetLaw: Your Rights in the On-Line World
(Osborne 1995). One of the best single-volume guides to emerging issues in the law
Whatever application programs you use, I suggest that you keep handy one or more
books that explain in depth and in an understandable way the operation of the programs’
- A useful and inexpensive computer magazine is Smart
Computing in Plain English (formerly PC Novice.) Each monthly issue contains
articles on Windows, computers and their components and peripherals, Internet and
Web use, and tips for using popular computer programs. (1-800-733-3809)
- Carnegie, Dale- How to Stop Worrying and Start Living
(Pocket 1944). By the author of How to Make Friends and Influence People.
Practical and popularized advice on dealing with the timeless problem of stress,
though now somewhat dated in its examples and context. Includes such chapters as,
“Four Good Working Habits That Will Help Prevent Fatigue and Worry.” Might help you
- Csikszentmihalyi, Mihaly- Flow: The Psychology of Optimal
Experience (Harper & Row 1990). Explores “the concept of flow-- the state
in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter;
the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost,
for the sheer sake of doing it.” Aims, in this context, “to present examples of how
life can be made more enjoyable, ordered in the framework of a theory, for readers
to reflect upon and from which they may then draw their own conclusions.”
- Frankl, Victor- Man’s Search for Meaning (Pocket
Books/Simon & Schuster 1959). This unusual book contains three parts: a harrowing
account of the author’s experiences in a concentration camp, a discussion of the
psychotherapeutic school of “logotherapy” that he subsequently founded, and an essay
on retaining one’s optimism while recognizing suffering in the world. In a foreword,
Frankl notes that when he wrote the book in 1945 he had “wanted simply to convey
to the reader by way of a concrete example that life holds a potential meaning under
any conditions, even the most miserable ones.” He sums up his philosophy:
“Don’t aim at success– the more you aim at it and make it
a target, the more you are going to miss it. For success, like happiness, cannot
be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side-effect of one’s
personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one’s
surrender to a person other than oneself. Happiness must happen, and the same holds
for success: you have to let it happen by not caring about it. I want you to listen
to what your conscience commands you to do and go on to carry it out to the best
of your knowledge. Then you will live to see that in the long run– the long run,
I say!– success will follow you precisely because you had forgotten to think
- Hyams, Joe- Zen in the Martial Arts (Bantam 1979).
From a journalist, screenwriter, and former student of Bruce Lee, a collection of
anecdotes and reflections whose value extends beyond the martial arts. For example:
“doing nothing can sometimes be more valuable that doing something”; “[i]nstead of
trying to do everything well, do those things perfectly of which you are capable”;
how to do “Zen breathing.”
- A similar account, though heavier on the autobiographical
component, is Chuck Norris’s The Secret Power Within: Zen Solutions to Real Problems
(Little, Brown & Company 1996).
- Kushner, Harold- When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough
(Pocket 1986). By the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People. Examines,
in the context of the Book of Ecclesiastes, “giving your life meaning, feeling that
you have used your time on earth well and not wasted it, and that the world will
be different for your having passed through it. It is a book written by a man arrived
at middle age, telling you some of the things that I know now that I wish I had known
when I was younger.”
- Ringer, Robert- Looking Out for #1 (Ballantine 1977).
A best-seller in its time, this book got a lot of bad press from those who took
its title to indicate that the author was counseling aggressive and unmitigated selfishness.
However, no less an authority on human nature than Ann Landers contributed a blurb
to the cover of the paperback edition. Ringer focuses, through discussions of his
own financial and personal highs and lows, on the virtues of being prepared and self-reliant.
- Ringer, Robert- Million Dollar Habits (Ballantine
1990). Continues the themes of the previous work by identifying, in the context
of Ringer’s own experiences, good habits involving realism, attitudes, perspectives,
living in the present, morality, human relations, simplicity, self-discipline, and
decisiveness. The chapter entitled, “The Present Living Habit” presents five questions
to which “[y[our answers. . . are critical to your ability to live in the present,
as well as to your chances of achieving long-term, positive results”: (1) What Do
I Enjoy?; (2) What Am I Good At?; (3) What Do I Want Out of Life?; (4) What’s the
Price?; and (5) Am I Willing to Pay the Price?
Law Firms and the Future of
- Caplan, Lincoln- Skadden: Power, Money, and the Rise
of a Legal Empire (Farrar Straus Giroux 1993). A detailed profile of the history
and culture of mega-firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom and of its role in
and reaction to the rise in corporate mergers and acquisitions. Chock-full of valuable
lessons, great quotations, and revealing anecdotes. Highly recommended.
- Dorsey, The Force (Random House 1994). This book
“is based on my experiences during a year I lived with a group of top Xerox salespeople
in a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio. . . . I wanted to tell in vivid terms the story of
how a top salesman– along with his team– attains certain goals over the course of
a sales year, and what impact this effort has on the personal lives of the people
involved." Although this book does not directly concern law firms, its discussions
of the psychology of motivation and salesmanship and of the relationship between
professionals and their clients should be instructive.
- Eisler, Kim Isaac- Shark Tank: Greed, Politics, and
the Collapse of Finley Kumble, One of America’s Largest Law Firms (Penguin 1990).
Great lessons, quotations, and anecdotes, but mostly of the “how-not-to” variety.
Eisler’s chronicle of the rapid rise and rapid decline of this firm raises a number
of concerns about law firm culture, legal ethics, and legal professionalism in general.
- Goulden, Joseph C.- The Superlawyers: The Small and
Powerful World of the Great Washington Law Firms (Weybright and Talley 1971).
Obviously dated now, but an interesting profile of “some of the more interesting
and important Washington Lawyers and their firms– what they’ve done, what they (and
others) think of themselves, how they go about their business, what impact they’ve
had upon our national life, the challenge they face from the newly powerful public-interest
- Greene, Robert M.- Making Partner: A Guide for Law Firm
Associates (ABA 1992). A short and straightforward collection of advice on how
to manage your career as an associate. Recommends finding out about your firm’s structure
and operation, organizing your time and projects, staying informed of current legal
developments (“Knowledge is your stock in trade.”), and taking time for a personal
life. One unusual feature is an appendix on a “To-Do List for the Partnership Sweepstakes,”
with a year-by year set of recommendations for associates.
- Kronman, Anthony- The Lost Lawyer: Failing Ideals of
the Legal Profession (Harvard University Press 1993). By the Dean of Yale Law
School. Designed “to make the ideal of the lawyer statesman fresh and appealing to
a contemporary audience. . . by explaining, in new but simple terms, the timeless
value of the virtue that it honors and the crucial role this virtue plays in the
practice of law.” Describes “the intellectual and institutional forces that are now
arrayed against the ideal of the lawyer-statesman and that together have caused its
- Linowitz, Sol- The Betrayed Profession: Lawyering at
the End of the Twentieth Century (Charles Scribner’s Sons 1994). An attempt
“to set forth with accuracy and honesty what I have seen going on in the practice
of law for over five decades and to offer some suggestions as to how we lawyers might
rekindle pride in our profession and restore the practice of law to the respected
position it once occupied.”
- Pollock, Ellen- Turks and Brahmins (American Lawyer
Books/Simon & Schuster 1990). A fascinating chronicle of New York law firm Milbank,
Tweed’s “awakening: how a group of close-knit men fought [in the mid-1980's] to keep
their business afloat. . . . The firm’s client base was expanded. The lockstep compensation
system was modified so that big business producers could be adequately compensated.
Rainmakers were lured away from other firms. . . . The partners were forced to rethink
their never-before-questioned belief that partnership was for life. . . . These decisions
were based mostly on financial realities, with scarcely a nod to the loyalties that
had long glued the partnership together.” Pollock carefully portrays the way in which
the firm’s culture changed to accommodate these new realities.
- Fadiman, Clifton- The Lifetime Reading Plan (World
Publishing Company 1960). (May be available in a newer edition) Brief profiles of
100 classics of Western literature, many of which you may already have read. The
author notes that “This is not in any absolute sense a list of the ‘best books.’
There are no ‘best books.’” But it’s an interesting start.
In this vein, you might also enjoy:
- Adler, Mortimer- The Great Ideas: A Lexicon of Modern
Thought (Macmillan). From the chairman of the Board of Editors of the Encyclopedia
Britannica, essays on the development of 102 “great ideas” (such as “War and Peace,”
“Love,” “God,” and “Truth”) through the masterworks of Western literature.
- Denby, David- Great Books: My Adventures With Homer,
Rousseau, Woolf, and Other Indestructible Writers of the Western World (Simon
& Schuster 1996). From the former film critic for New York magazine, a chronicle
of how “[i]n the fall of 1991, thirty years after entering Columbia University for
the first time, I went back to school and sat with eighteen-year-olds and read the
same books that they read” in the university’s famous Literature, Humanities and
Contemporary Civilization courses. “This book is an account of my year as a second-time
student. I have written it the way it happened to me, as a journey sometimes perilous,
sometimes serene, and as an introduction to the great stories and momentous ideas
I consumed with such hunger in middle age.”
- Eastman, Arthur, et al- The Norton Anthology of Poetry
(W.W. Norton & Co. Inc. 1970-new edition recently issued) The best of Chaucer,
Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, Wordsworth, Dickinson, and many others.
- Bradbury, Ray- Dandelion Wine (Bantam 1957). A
sparkling novel about time, change, memory, freedom, and their place in the life
of 12-year-old Douglas Spaulding, growing up in the fictional Greentown, Illinois
in the summer of 1928. Not science fiction at all, but more like a form of poetry.
One of my personal favorites.
- Carroll, Lewis (Martin Gardner, ed.) - The Annotated
Alice (Random House 1960). Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass,
accompanied by informative notes on the logical and historical references of Carroll’s
droll prose and poetry. His logical absurdities may help you to look at situations
and statutes in a new way.
- Grove, Andrew- Only the Paranoid Survive (Currency/Doubleday
1996). An extraordinary and thought-provoking analysis by the Chairman of the Board
and former Chief Executive Officer of Intel, of how to recognize and react to “strategic
inflection points” that affect your industry, company, or career. In a sense, Grove
elaborates on Kenny Rogers’ famous lyrics in “The Gambler”: “You’ve got to know when
to hold ‘em/ Know when to fold ‘em/ Know when to walk away/ Know when to run . .
.” Although the examples generally concern Intel’s experiences with technological
changes in the computer industry, the last chapter, which specifically addresses
“Career Inflection Points,” is certainly very relevant to lawyers. You might find
this chapter alone worth the price of the entire book.
- Hesse, Herman- The Glass Bead Game (Magister
Ludi) (1943). In the original German, Das Glasperlenspiel) Various translations
available, including one by Theodore Ziolkowski, published by Henry Holt and Company
in 1969. An account of an elite monastic subculture, Castalia, whose adepts weave
together concepts from any and all disciplines in the “playing” of the most comprehensive
intellectual enterprise imaginable.In the words of a Master player to a young initiate,
“Perhaps you yourself have notions about the Glass Bead
Game, expecting more of it than it will give you, or perhaps the reverse. There is
no doubt that the Game has its dangers. For that very reason we love it; only the
weak are sent out on paths without perils. But never forget what I have told you
so often: our mission is to recognize contraries for what they are: first of all
as contraries, but then as opposite poles of a unity. Such is the nature of the Glass
Bead Game. . . .
“Each of us is merely one human being. . . But each of us should be on the way toward
perfection, should be striving to reach the center, not the periphery. Remember this:
one can be a strict logician or grammarian, and at the same time full of imagination
and music. One can be a musician or Glass Bead Game player and at the same time wholly
devoted to rule and order. The kind of person we want to develop, the kind of person
we aim to become, would at any time be able to exchange his discipline or art for
any other. He would infuse the Glass Bead Game with crystalline logic, and grammar
with creative imagination.”
- Kaufman, Andrew L.- Cardozo (Harvard University
Press 1998). An impressively well-researched biography by a scholar who concludes
that the judge (b.1870-d.1938) “enhanced his fame with a memorable literary style
and a personal kindness, courtesy, and gentleness that led many to describe him in
later life as a saint. Cardozo was no saint, though, for his life included the toughness
of his many years as an ambitious lawyer, and his character contained such human
failings as vanity and prejudice; however, he was a good man with extraordinary talents.
. . . Cardozo helped to modernize the law and to provide a structure for other judges
to modernize it further; he illuminated the tradition and craft of judging; and he
practiced that vocation supremely well.” Find out the true story behind Palsgraf,
Meinhard v. Salmon, and other casebook classics.
- Kelly, Kevin- Out of Control (Addison Wesley 1994).
The author, who is also the Executive Editor of Wired magazine, discusses
in great and fascinating detail his thesis that “the more mechanical we make our
fabricated environment, the more biological it will eventually have to be if it is
to work at all. Our future is technological; but it will not be a world of gray steel.
Rather, our technological future is headed toward a neo-biological civilization.”
Includes chapters on “network economics,” “e-money,” “artificial evolution,” and
“post-Darwinism.” A great companion to Waldrop’s Complexity (see below).
- Kelly, Kevin- New Rules for the New Economy: 10 Radical
Strategies for a Connected World (Viking 1998). An extension of many of the
ideas in Out of Control to the operation of business in the age of the Internet.
Published in October 1998 and certain to be on the “must reading” list of many managers
- Merton, (Father) Thomas- The Way of Chuang Tzu (Penguin
1965). A poetic rendering of remarks attributed to the Taoist sage (c. 200 B.C.)
about the wise person’s harmonious and intuitive path of action through a world of
verbiage, extremes, and opposites. “Chuang Tzu is not concerned with words and formulas
about reality, but with the direct existential grasp of reality in itself [as] presented
in a parable, a fable, or a funny story about a conversation between two philosophers.”
A small sample:
Ch’ui the draftsman
Could draw more perfect circles freehand
Than with a compass.
His fingers brought forth
Spontaneous forms from nowhere. His mind
Was meanwhile free and without concern
With what he was doing.
. . . .
Easy is right. Begin right
And you are easy.
Continue easy and you are right.
The right way to go easy
Is to forget the right way
And forget that the going is easy.
- O’Shea, James and Charles Madigan, Dangerous Company:
Management Consultants and the Businesses They Save and Ruin (Penguin 1997, 1998).
The fascinating “first detailed examination of this industry, the closest look to
date at what goes wrong in a consulting arrangement, what goes right, and what makes
the difference.” Presents various case histories, both good and bad, of business
managements’ use of consultants, and concludes with a list of ten guidelines for
the successful employment of these outsiders.
- Pirsig, Robert M.- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance:
An Inquiry Into Values (Bantam 1974). This book is very hard to categorize,
and probably no attempt will do it justice. The narrator alternately: describes his
motorcycle journey with his emotionally troubled young son and two friends; reconstructs
his intellectual pursuit of the definition of quality, through Greek philosophy,
Kant, and Eastern thought; and pieces together memory fragments of “Phaedrus,” his
younger self who grew so obsessed with the philosophical search that he ultimately
had to undergo electroshock therapy. The book contains fascinating meditations on
quality, philosophy, rhetoric, academic life and interactions, the motorcycle as
an example of a mental system, and the process of thinking in general. The apparently-autobiographical
account was enormously popular in the 1970's.
- Pirsig's sequel, Lila: An Inquiry Into Morals (1992),
about the author’s sailing trip with an emotionally disturbed woman, further delves
into issues of quality but also takes side-trips into such topics as the nature of
- Servan-Schreiber, Jean-Louis- The Art of Time (Addison-Wesley
1988). Meditations on time, its passage, its appreciation, and its use.
- Waldrop, M. Mitchell- Complexity (Touchstone 1992).
Explores, using very little mathematics, the new mathematical discipline that addresses
the marketplace, the human brain, the evolution of species, and other “complex, self-organizing,
adaptive systems [that] have somehow acquired the ability to bring order and chaos
into a special kind of balance. This balance point-- often called the edge of chaos--
is where the components of the system never quite lock into place, and yet never
quite dissolve into turbulence, either. The edge of chaos is where life has enough
stability to sustain itself and enough creativity to deserve the name of life. .
. . The edge of chaos is the constantly shifting battle zone between stagnation and
anarchy, the one place where a complex system can be spontaneous, adaptive, and alive.”
Poetic and scientific at the same time. Mind-expanding. May make you think differently
- Weisberg, Richard- Poethics (Columbia University
Press 1992). The author, a professor at Yeshiva University’s Benjamin Cardozo School
of Law, collects here a number of his articles on reading law as one would read literature,
and on the lessons to be learned from the portrayal of lawyers and law in literary
works. He sums up his conclusions: “[s]tories about law– whether or not from the
established [literary] canon– provide a unique source of understanding, likely to
bring a greater ethical awareness to late twentieth-century legal communication.
No bad judicial opinion can be ‘well written.’ No seemingly just opinion will endure
unless its discursive form matches its quest for fairness. ‘Objective’ treatment
of corrupt legal materials is itself corrupt, however seemingly benign. Good writing
ennobles, and– in the case of legal writers– it brings great professional satisfaction
and the restoration of law to our culture’s center stage. And finally: law and literature,
for all their disparities, are one.”
Weisberg’s empirical and textual studies of the legal community
in Vichy France (1940-1944) detail the catastrophic human consequences of lawyers’
divorcing their technical capabilities from a larger sense of justice: “a loose system
of institutionally acceptable professional rhetoric caused (as much as did the terror
or influence of German occupation) the definition, identification, and eventual destruction
of tens of thousands of Jews. . . . Vichy lawyers generated rhetoric that directly
led to the concentration camps. . . . Their willingness to draft laws in a manner
often exceeding the German conquerors’ demands set precedents even the Nuremberg
laws and Nazi courts had not imagined; their subsequent zeal in interpreting that
legislation, unconstrained by traditional (textual) French notions of egalitarianism
and personal freedom, exemplifies the risks to professional communities of theories
privileging situation over standards.”
On a lighter note, the author contends in other sections of the book that “sympathetic
fictional lawyers all fall into one of three categories: they have no law practice
worth mentioning; or they lose the cases on which they are working in the novel;
or they lose their lives altogether without solving anything”; discusses the works
of Shakespeare, Melville, Dickens, and Faulkner; evaluates the canon of the “Great
Books”; defends the Law and Literature movement against Judge Richard Posner’s criticisms;
and recommends that lawyers, to retain their “professional bliss,” use the active
voice in their writing and “read at least one novel a month.”
Every lawyer should find something of lasting value in this book.
One Final Item
Cardozo, Benjamin- “The Game of Law and Its Prizes”
In Selected Writings of Benjamin Nathan Cardozo (ed. Margaret Hall) (Fallon
The text of his address at the seventy-fourth commencement of the Albany
Law School, on June 10, 1925.
[A lawyer] must be historian and prophet all in one-- the qualities of each united
in a perfect blend-- who would fulfill that task completely. . . . Here is a game,
a puzzle, a conundrum, to mystify and pique. Here is a task, a summons, a vocation,
to rouse and stir and quicken. Give what you have, whether what you have be much
or little. You will be sharers in a process that is greater than the greatest of
its ministers. . . .
. . . . The process of justice is never finished, but reproduces itself, generation
after generation, in ever-changing forms, and today, as in the past, it calls for
the bravest and the best. . . .
I come back to my metaphor of a game, a game which exacts skill but which, like every
game worth playing, exacts something more important, and that something is the sportsman’s
spirit, which is only another word for character. This is the chief thing, more important
far than skill, for skill without this will be palsied and perverted. Play the game
like sportsmen, or give it up at the beginning, and choose some other calling, which,
if its aims are less exalted, will at least spare you the reproach of insincerity,
since its members will not have pledged themselves to be votaries of justice. . .
. . . . There may be hours of discouragement and rebuff. When the course is run,
we shall see them in their true perspective. We shall know in the end that the game
was worth the effort.
“Most of the troubles of life,” says the French philosopher, “would be avoided if
men would only be content to sit still in their parlors.” Ah! but they will not,
even those of them who have the parlors, and that is their glory, if it is also their
undoing. The ceaseless drive is there; the lure that prods and teases; the shining,
if shifting, goal, which, like the lighthouses of today, may summon with a revolving
light, but ever swings full circle, a beacon to the wandering traveler.
This is no life of cloistered ease to which you dedicate your powers. This is a life
that touches your fellow men at every angle of their being, a life that you must
live in the crowd, and yet apart from it, man of the world and philosopher by turns.
You will study the wisdom of the past, for in a wilderness of conflicting counsels,
a trail has there been blazed.
You will study the life of mankind, for this is the life you must order, and, to
order with wisdom, must know.
You will study the precepts of justice, for these are the truths that through you
shall come to their hour of triumph.
Here is the high emprise, the fine endeavor, the splendid possibility of achievement,
to which I summon you and bid you welcome.