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Book Review: The Education of a Lawyer

Stacked3This week's Daily Record column is entitled "Book Review: The Education of a Lawyer."  My past Daily Record articles can be accessed here.


Book Review: The Education of a Lawyer 

Gary Muldoon is an attorney I’ve known and respected ever since I first moved to Rochester in 1995 when I was a young, recent law school graduate. I was introduced to him shortly after arriving in Rochester and a few months later I was hired by the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office. During my tenure there, I constantly referred to the wealth of knowledge in his book, “Handling a Criminal Case in New York.”

In fact, over the years, I’ve learned a lot from his books and writings (and Gary has even occasionally provided me with great tips about interesting cases for this column), so I was honored when he reached out to me earlier this year to ask me to review a draft of a manuscript that would soon be published by the American Bar Association.

That book was recently published and I’m fortunate enough to have received a review copy. So, I figured the least I could do would be to review it!

His newly published book, “The Education of a Lawyer,” is targeted toward law students and young lawyers and provides a wealth of information about becoming the lawyer you want to be. It’s a timeless book that covers all aspects of a legal career, starting with advice for aspiring and current law students and ending with advice about lawyering and life.

In the first chapter, he offers his thoughts and perspective on the law school process, including this sage piece of advice: “Resist the temptation to use legal expressions in your everyday speech. Come October, don’t say, “Prima facie, it would appear that the Yankees will win the Series.” (This sentence improves only marginally when “Red Sox” is substituted.)

He ends this chapter with a list of recommended reading that would benefit and be of interest to both aspiring and current lawyers. You should definitely check it out.

Next, he addresses the job search, covering the many options available to recent graduates, ranging from seeking employment with a firm to starting your own practice. Importantly, he stresses how important it is to take action when seeking employment: “When a job opportunity comes up and it’s something you want, don’t lollygag.”

Then, he moves on to what lawyers do next: practice law. He covers the nuts and bolts of being a good lawyer, no matter where you work or what your areas of practice. For example, he stresses the importance of being on time, having a positive attitude, wisely choosing CLEs, and emphasizes the always-important skill of drafting CYA letters.

He also discusses the benefits and drawbacks of the different types of lawyering, from BigLaw to Small Law to working for the government.

Of course he includes chapters on trial and written advocacy, with all sorts of useful tips for lawyers seeking to improve their oral and writing skills. He explains the importance of never being satisfied and always working to be the best lawyer that you can be.

Finally, he discusses the importance of relationships, both personal and professional. He covers work/life balance, sustaining healthy client relationships, maintaining civility with colleagues, and the importance of getting on the good side of court clerks and courtroom deputies.

In short, Gary covers an incredible amount of information that is of vital importance to young lawyers embarking on a career in the legal profession. That being said, my one criticism is the same as my earlier comment about the book: It’s timeless.

In other words, it’s chock full of useful information—nearly all of which would have been just as applicable 15 years ago as it is today. This is because Gary gives barely a passing nod to the effects of technology on the practice of law.

Certainly technology has not fundamentally changed lawyering, but it has changed the business of lawyering. For that reason, an essential building block to a successful legal career in the 21st century requires at least a basic understanding of how technology fits into — and is changing — the ways that lawyers are practicing law and competing in the legal marketplace.

Granted, my perspective on this is unique, but even so, I do think it’s the one topic that deserved a chapter of its own and its addition would have added to the value of the book.

Of course, even without a chapter on technology, it’s a great, informative book that would make a wonderful gift for the aspiring lawyer or recent law graduate in your life. And, it’s not just for young lawyers — even you seasoned lawyers out there can benefit from it. So pick up a copy today and learn a thing or two!

Nicole Black is a Rochester, New York attorney and the Legal Technology Evangelist at MyCase, intuitive web-based law practice management software for the modern law firm. She is also a GigaOM Pro Analyst and is the author of the ABA book Cloud Computing for Lawyers, co-authors the ABA book Social Media for Lawyers: the Next Frontier, and co-authors Criminal Law in New York, a West-Thomson treatise. She is the founder of lawtechTalk.com and speaks regularly at conferences regarding the intersection of law and technology. She publishes four legal blogs and can be reached at niki@mycase.com.