I remember when I graduated law school in 2008. I had just been hired at Foehl & Eyre as an associate, not really sure where this strange journey would take me. One afternoon, I got a call from my Uncle Jim, a successful commercial litigation attorney:
“Jordan, it’s your Uncle Jim.”
“Come to my office. I have something for you.”
I dropped by the office, and there was a package at the receptionist’s desk. A book called “How To Start and Grow a Law Practice” by Jay Foonberg. I called my Uncle Jim back:
“Hey Uncle Jim, thanks for the book. I’m not really sure what to do with it, though. I have a job working at a law firm. I’m not starting a law practice any time soon.”
“Jordan, trust me on this one. Read this book. And start building your practice as soon as you can. Whether you’re working for a big firm, a small firm, or yourself. Always be building your practice.”
Life changing moment.
Later in 2012, I decided to work for myself and open my own law practice. (that’s a story for another day). While starting the practice, the first thing I did was get books. Lots of books. I had been admitted for four years, but I knew I had a lot to learn.
Some of the books were good, some were bad, none of them really had anything new or beyond Foonberg’s book. (notable good books worth reading – Spencer Aronfeld’s ‘Make It Your Own‘ and Carolyn Elefant‘s ‘Solo By Choice‘).
Last week Brian Tannebaum‘s The Practice showed up on my desk. Initially I picked it up while sitting in court waiting to be called, planning on reading a chapter or two. I became so engrossed in the book that I went over to a coffee shop and read it cover to cover in one evening.
Life changing moment.
The Practice is the most relevant and important book since Jay Foonberg’s ‘How to Start and Grow a Law Practice.’
Most, if not all of the books I’ve read about the practice of law involve basic stuff – how to open an IOLTA account, don’t steal from your IOLTA account, return phone calls, start a website. Okay. Got it.
Summed up – Tannebaum’s book is about how to become the lawyer you’ve always wanted to be, along with the nuts and bolts of practice. I would go through the entire book but it touches on such a wide variety of subjects – everything from how to envision your career, taking vacations, to having manners when interacting with lawyers doing you a favor. (hint: an email saying “tx” doesn’t cut it.) It’s like someone wrote down all the important stuff about practicing law. There is nothing else quite like it. It’s the first book I’ve read in forever and said “Wow, this is entirely new material.”
Once you’ve figured out the basics of starting a law firm, The Practice is where to go next. It’s about how to be a competent, ethical, and successful practicing attorney. It’s about how to practice law your way. Written by an attorney who actually practices law and is successful at it.
The Practice won’t pat you on the head and rub your belly, either. It is exactly what it purports to be – the brutal realities of practicing law. It’s good reading whether you are a law student, biglaw attorney, work for a small firm, or you’re on your own.
In my view, this is the first time anyone has written something like this, and the result is epic. The Practice should be required reading for all law students and practicing attorneys. It may be the most important book you ever read about lawyering.