Saturday, January 24, 2015

The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law by Mark Herrmann

One of the curious aspects of law school is the extreme extent to which it does not provide practical training.  Yeah, you learn the doctrinal stuff, like what a contract is, what murder is, etc.  But, you don't learn things like how to file a law suit.  To be fair...I still don't know how to do that.  I guess some things don't ever change.

Mark Herrmann has done a service by providing practical advice for new lawyers, in the form of a curmudgeonly boss.  For example, he instructs new associates about their written work:  "I will make three assumptions about your work.  First, it will contain no typographical errors.  Second, it will contain no grammatical errors.  Third, all citation forms will be correct.  Please review your written work before you hand it to me to be sure that my assumptions hold true."

Two points about this advice.  It's both obvious and not.  Of course, after someone says it, it's obvious.  Why would you give something to your boss that's not done?  Before someone says it, though, it's to think that you can get away with giving a draft, and then doing the final touches after a supervisor approves it.  But, as the curmudgeon points out, this just creates unnecessary work for the supervisor.

Or another example: detailed instructions on how to leave a voice mail: "If it truly is important that I return the call, state your phone number, not just slowly, but twice.  That way, when your cell phone connection to my voice mail garbles your phone number the first time you uttered it, a chance remains that I actually will hear the phone number the second time around."  Again, obvious, but not (because people don't know how to leave their phone number in voicemails).

Most of the advice in the book is of this sort: it's obvious if you think about it, but if no one has ever told you, you might not ever think about it.

One chapter that was especially helpful was "The Curmudgeonly Secretary," For someone who has never worked with a secretary before, this chapter was pretty helpful.

Other sections were less relevant for my life (like, drumming up business).  Still, I'd recommend the book to any attorney.  I would especially recommend the book to new lawyers, even those of us (ahem) who have been out of law school for almost 4 years.  It's also short and to the point, so it reads well and quickly.  I read it over three nights.


billy said...

When was this book written? Before or after caller-ID?

Christopher said...

What is... murder?

Brent Waggoner said...

How high is the bar?

Brittany said...

I think you should file a law suit against your school - that should be Lawyer Up 101.