Recently we were asked what business books we had on our bookshelf that might be useful to read when it comes to running a law practice (we add “and keeping your sanity”). Here’s the list, in no particular order of importance or relevance below.
Some of these might strike you differently, of course, and you’re welcome to let us know any others that you think were particularly useful in handling the business side of your practicing law – we’d love to hear what others think too. Many of the books on our shelf are not law-centric since there really aren’t a whole lot that are and general marketing and business discussions are usually quite easily translatable to the business of practicing law. Also, many of these books deal with non-business trial practice issues and sometimes had great nuggets of business wisdom planted in them, although not the primary focus of the book.
Here's our list – what are you reading?
The E-Myth Attorney (of course) by Michael Gerber, et al, which I wrote about before at this link: http://thelawcoach.blogspot.com/2011/05/e-myth-attorney-why-most-legal.html (there’s lots of links in the blog to other resources too)
The Art of Profitability by Adrian Slywotzky, a Zen like novel approach to understanding the importance of profit to a business – I’ve gifted copies of this book with several attorneys and I still have my original thumb-worn copy.
Tell to Win by Peter Guber, 2011, the powerful power of telling a story to influence and lead, recently suggested to me by Louis Green (Ok) and I’m thoroughly enjoying the read right now. Although I’m not done with it, it clearly belongs on this list.
Reptile by David Ball and Don Keenan, it really is the key to a juror's heart and mind. Expensive book but there’s nothing like it to understand how a jury really thinks. If there was one button you could press to get the jury to do what you wanted, wouldn’t you want to know what it was?
The Power of Six Sigma by Subir Chowdhury, I’ve read probably half a dozen books on the topic and this is nearly the shortest and definitely the clearest one on the importance of error-free practices. Combine this idea with the E-Myth and you’ve got a recipe for winning (not Charlie Sheen style either). If you understand six sigma and figure out how to apply it to your practice, you’ll only get better and more profitable.
All Marketers are Liars by Seth Godin, very well known author, great explanation on the value of marketing the right way, favorite parts of book: Fiji water and Who's Your Nanny? Entertaining and easy to read and well worth it – all of his books are
Made to Stick by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, why making a product or an idea “stick” in the consumer’s mind is all the difference between financial success and not. My favorite part: The Curse of Knowledge
10 Ways to Screw Up an Ad Campaign by Barry Cohen, you need to understand advertising before you try it. Favored pages: Why Bother - I can't Outspend the Competition (good news, you don’t have to) which I rephrase as “the Mills – the bigger they are the harder they can fall”
Making Your Case by Scalia and Garner, understanding an appellate mind. How can you go wrong listening to Garner (who is terrific) and opening the mind of SC Justice Scalia?
Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin, it’s good to understand the value of putting yourself in the place of others and this true story of Lincoln is not only a great history read, but if you read between the lines you can see the methods and value of working with others and getting others to work with you (ie you and cocounsel and you and your jury, etc)
The Long Tail by Chris Anderson, the first to really explain how selling less can be selling more – think getting the right clients not the most clients and why niche marketing can get you there
Never Wrestle with a Pig by Mark McCormick, the importance of picking your battles is only part of it, my favorite pages: Feed Your Enemies. This guy wrote What They Don't Teach You at Harvard and, later, What They Still Don't Teach You at Harvard too
Small Giants by Bo Burlingham, nice book on why “big’ isn't always better and how the giant in your niche of law can be you. Read it and maybe you won’t want to have sixteen lawyers and twenty paralegals to supervise
The Maxwell Leadership Bible by John Maxwell, yes it’s a bible. That one probably caught you by surprise, right? Two reasons it’s on this list. First, it’s by Maxwell and he’s a great business thinker who’s on the same level as Seth Godin (and that’s really good). Second, it’s the bible. The eternal story of everything right and everything wrong, everything moral and everything not. I’ve gotten more trial ideas from church sermons and bible stories that any other single source. And there’s a lot more than one or two business concepts rooted in biblical passages too.
Words That Work by Frank Lutz, the simple fact is that people don't hear with their ears. Maybe they ought to, but they don’t. You don’t. I don’t. It’s about time we lawyers realized and acted on it. Smart defense attorneys (and a lot of politicians) already are.
The Imperial Cruise by James Bradley, another history book that tells of a true adventure in the politics (and value) of subterfuge. An interesting dichotomy taught in the politics and history of the times
Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch, clever title and content that gives you ideas and approaches to marketing that really work.
50 Prosperity Classics by Tom Butler-Bowden, 50 classic books on the human potential for achieving prosperity distilled down to 5-7 pages each. When you think you can’t handle it any more, pick out a chapter for encouragement, any chapter. Did you know that one of the most financially successful and well-known authors in the world hit rock bottom first and was once broke, homeless, without a family, and trying to decide between sleeping another night in the public library back rooms or buying a gun from a pawn store on a Cleveland street so he could just end it all? The Moral of this book? Don’t let the SOB’s get you down.
Great Negotiators by Tom Beasor, 280 pages of mostly one and two page tips on how negotiators think - and they are all great advice
The Journal of the Legal Writing Institute, (it’s also online here: http://www.journallegalwritinginstitute.org/) published by the Legal Writing Institute (full disclosure: I'm a member), this is simply the best articles on the best legal writing ideas and practices, various authors. Recent ones? When the Truth and the Story Collide-the Limits of Legal Storytelling, the Elements of Rhythm, Flow and Tone to Create Persuasive Acoustic Experience in Legal Writing, an Empirical Analysis of Writing Style, Persuasion and the Use of Plain English - this is simply the best articles around on the topic of the skills and psychologythat go into good legal writing
Of course, there are lots more business books out there that deal with running a law practice and sound business principles in general, so this is by no means a complete list. You will have a favorite that you've read, no doubt, that is not on this list. Let us know what it is and in the future we'll revisit this list and update it.
But for now, this list is a pretty good place to start for the newcomer to the topic of business books to read to run your law practice and keep your sanity.