Book Review: Keith Lee’s The Marble and The Sculptor

November 24, 2013

From the moment I saw the fictional character ADA Alexandra Cabot on Law and Order: SVU I knew I wanted to be a lawyer.  My thought was, and I kid you not, that I was going to be one of the most well-known, admired, feared, young, blonde lawyers to sweep a city off its feet.

Before I continue, let me just say you’re right, that almost never happens.  Alas, I thought it would.

Had Keith Lee’s The Marble and The Sculptor: From Law School to Law Practice been one the books recommended to me (instead of Gideon’s Trumpet, etc.) I would have known from page 5 the truth – “the practice of law is nothing like you have seen in the media.”  I learned that the hard way in law school.

As a “green” lawyer, and I mean very green, I appreciate the brutal honesty of what lies ahead for me having just passed the Bar.  However, Keith’s advice will resonate with a broad spectrum of people – from aspiring lawyers who are contemplating law school to anyone entering a new profession.  The chapters are short and sweet, covering dozens of areas from courses to take (and not take) in law school to the importance of writing well in law to professional development.   Keith isn’t afraid to tell people like me, who think (for me, thought) being a lawyer is the most glamorous and lucrative profession in the world, that failure and embarrassment are inevitable.  The theme of the book is straightforward – do everything like you give a damn.  Period.  Success in both your personal and professional life will follow.  As Keith reiterates, whining gets you no where.  Keith doesn’t care that the legal job market is in flux or that a law school exam may be too hard.  Keith instead sheds light on taking the path less traveled – get off your butt and seek opportunities, network and volunteer all with the expectation of receiving nothing in return.

Although I am past the law school and Bar studying phase, I can’t help but think “crap, I really know nothing about the practice of law.”  However, I leave Keith’s easy-to-read book with the most honest and simple piece of advice I have yet to receive — I am the master of my own success.  Keith can’t provide it.  My mentors can’t provide it.  No one can force me to network or to attend Bar events.  But Keith has provided an easy-to-follow map to help me get there (…and  to maybe one day become Alexandra Cabot).


Trash Day

November 24, 2013

“Leo, bro, it’s Jordan… you gotta see this. It’s Christmas in Fishtown. Come to the office!”
“I have caller ID. I know it’s you, Jordan. Why are you calling me on a Saturday? And don’t ever refer to me as ‘bro’ again”.
“Bro, err, Leo. Just trust me. Come to the office. And wear jeans and a t-shirt if you own anything like that.”

Before me on that hot Saturday morning stood the most beautiful thing I had ever seen – a giant mountain of trash. Well, a mountain full of discarded office furniture. Old filing cabinets, used chairs, pens, desks, you name it. Apparently one of the businesses in our building had left abruptly and figured it would be too expensive to move any of the furniture, so they threw it all in a big dumpster. I swallowed my pride, called the building manager, and asked if I could take their trash.

“It’s trash, Jordan. You can do whatever you want.”
“Thanks, Jess! You’re the best!”

Read the rest of this entry »


In This Sadness

November 11, 2013

The rain came down on the courthouse windows as I sat staring at the empty bench. The jury had been deliberating for hours. I stood up and started pacing, wishing I hadn’t quit smoking years ago… a smoke would be great right now.

“Jordan, you look nervous” the client said to me.
“I’m just thinking. I’ve been out of the office for a week now. That’s all…”

Truth be told I was nervous as all hell. But a good nervous. I felt alive.

Just as the client was about to say something, the chamber doors opened and Judge Shemlin walked out. Here comes our verdict…

At that moment, I thought back to 2009 and the first case I had ever tried. I was an associate at Wolf Rebman, a small suburban Pennsylvania law firm. I second chaired a case with my boss, James, and we had won against all odds. James had tried hundreds of jury trials in his career. He was a man of few words, and never showed even the slightest bit of emotion. I remembered the jury deliberations in that case, and asking James if he was nervous…

“Honestly, Jordan, I’m nervous as hell” James told me, still looking cool as ice, with a slight grin on his face. “The day I’m not nervous is the day I retire from law. Even after 30 years of practice, it never gets any less nerve racking. It just doesn’t. But man, when you win, it’s the best feeling in the world. There is nothing better than winning a jury trial, nothing in the entire world…”

James had spent his career trying cases, and mostly winning them. He started his practice very shortly after law school, and then spent a lifetime building it up. After 30 years of practice, James had many boats, several vacation houses, and he never needed to work again. He was the consummate trial lawyer. Cool, calculated, and someone who was prepared for every situation.

Ever since I worked for him, I always wanted to be James.

Read the rest of this entry »


In The Digital Age, What Is Privacy?

October 11, 2013

A few days ago I wrote about LinkedIn and how apparently they know who I email. After that, I began thinking about how much you can learn about a person just by their digital footprint, especially from an intelligence perspective. What’s interesting is just how much data private corporations like Amazon, Apple, and Microsoft know about everyone. So, exactly what kind of things could you figure out just looking at a person’s digital footprint? Let’s think about it…

Your daily travel habits. You know that function “location services”? While it’s cool to show the world that you’re posting something from Thailand, Philadelphia, or China, reviewing your location services history also would allow someone to put together a very accurate profile of where you generally are. Your laptop, and ergo third parties like Apple, know where you are every single day. 

Your interests, including what type of music, hobbies and literature they are into. If you’re like me, maybe you buy a lot of books and music in digital format. It’s easier than carrying stuff around everywhere. However, if someone were putting together a dossier on you, they could compile all the music, books, and games you are into. While we used to listen to tapes CDs, now Spotify broadcasts whatever I listen to all over the internet. 

Your social network. Just by looking at my Facebook page, you can make some obvious connections about me. Grew up in Downingtown, went to Villanova University, and then Temple Law. Looking at my “friends” section, you can put together a very clear picture of the people I associate with and how frequently. In the olden days, the government would have to subpoena your telephone records or conduct surveillance to figure out who you associate with. Today it’s much easier to simply look at who emails are sent to, and who you’re friends with on Facebook. Keep in mind, part of intelligence is being able to see how people are connected. 

Read the rest of this entry »


A Brave New World In The Cloud

October 9, 2013

This morning I woke up and had a LinkedIn request. LinkedIn is stupid, but I have it for some reason. I’ve never figured out what to do with it, nor received any benefit from it, but that’s beside the point. After I accepted the request, it then suggested “people I may know.”

I start browsing through the list, and something startled me. It was suggesting current clients of mine, prospective clients, and opposing counsel. Many of whom I’ve never met in person, and have only emailed a few times. We’re not Facebook friends, we’re not on Google Circles, and we don’t follow each other on Twitter. No, these are people I have simply emailed privately back and forth with. Other than our private emails, there is no trace that I had ever encountered many of these suggested contacts. Several were not even in my geographic area, we had no shared connections, and my only connection to them is either being a client of mine or counsel in another case. Our only traceable connections were emails back and forth.

To put it mildly, the discovery was unsettling. How the hell does LinkedIn know who I’m emailing with? Isn’t that information private?

Then I got to thinking….

Read the rest of this entry »


Pennsylvania To Introduce Anti-SLAPP Laws

September 14, 2013

I have good news – Senator Larry Farnese has introduced a bill to protect civic associations and other individuals discussing issues of public importance, who are then named in a frivolous lawsuit (“strategic lawsuit against public participation” or “SLAPP”).

Anti-SLAPP laws are vitally important here in Philadelphia, as public participation is written into the Philadelphia Code. Under the law, anyone seeking a zoning variance or Special Assembly Occupancy License must first meet with the local civic association.

However, a chilling trend is emerging. When an applicant doesn’t like what the community has to say, they will file a frivolous lawsuit against the neighbors, bloggers, and the civic association. Defending these lawsuits are expensive for anyone on the wrong end of one, even if they are completely frivolous. SLAPP suits have gotten so out of control that the Old City Civic Association disbanded because it could not procure insurance for its directors and officers due to defending frivolous SLAPP suits. Under current Pennsylvania law, the victim of a SLAPP suit has little recourse against a vexatious plaintiff. Anti-SLAPP laws will punish those who choose to file frivolous lawsuits to curb free speech and public participation.

If you are a resident of Pennsylvania, I urge you to sign this petition and let the legislature know this is an important issue.


When You Are What Google Says You Are

September 4, 2013
On the internet, nobody knows you're a dog.

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.

Last week I learned that my friend Charlie Thomas was throwing in the towel after 11 years of practice. Charlie was my co-counsel in the Bellwether Trial, and I can say from first hand experience that he is a good lawyer (not just “We chat on Twitter, so I say nice things about him.”) Charlie also has a great sense of humor, and often offers “free legal advice” that include tidbits like “Don’t steal stuff” or “Don’t show up to court high when you’re being brought up on drug charges.” His sardonic anecdotes of criminal law practice always make me laugh.

So why would a good, experienced trial lawyer like Charlie get out of practice? No clients, apparently. Despite what you may have read on Solo Practice University, solo practice is hard. Real hard. Not everyone makes it. There are only so many paying clients, and lawyers to serve them.

But why would someone as good as Charlie not have any clients? He explained:

Most of that reflection was focused on fixing the marketing problem. All my eggs were in a single basket — and not one that I owned myself. When Google changed their algorithm and sent me off the first page and down to page four, my phone stopped ringing.

This is one of the reason bloggers like Greenfield and Tannebaum advise against a “Google-based” reputation, and instead suggest lawyers focus on developing  competence, strong relationships with real people, and a reputation for excellence among your peers.

Despite what you may have heard on the internet, the future of law isn’t manufacturing a Google based reputation, and it never will be. Because if your reputation is based on Google, you are what Google says you are. And if Google says you’re on page four, apparently you’re nobody. Even if you’re a good, experienced trial lawyer.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,389 other followers