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!”

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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.

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