If you do not like reading you probably will not like law. In order to be a successful lawyer you must love reading. It is in fact a reading subject. It is said that a good lawyer reads, reads and reads again. Nonetheless, after completing law school, many fail to read beyond “law books”.
I’ve compiled a list of 5 books that every lawyer should read.
How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Nothing is worse than a lawyer who is unapproachable. This book first published in 1937 is a manual for developing “people skills” in anyone. Among other things it teaches you include:
- How to make people like you
- 12 ways to win people with your way of thinking
- 9 ways to change people without arousing resentment
This book surely tops the list of must reads for the West Indian Lawyer.
How to Argue and Win Every Time by Gerry Spence
Gerry Spence is noted as one of America’s finest trial lawyers. He’s tried several important civil and criminal cases and has never lost a criminal case either as a prosecutor or defense Lawyer. Additionally he has had more multi-billion dollar verdicts without an intervening loss than any lawyer in America. Having said that it’s worth reading any book this man writes. While he has written several this classic is indeed a must read for lawyers.
Spence believes that “argument is not the process by which we seek to destroy other” but rather “a tool with which we can achieve an end, satisfy a want, fulfill a desire”. “Argument” he says “is the mechanism by which we reveal the truth – the truth for us.”
Cross Examination: Science and Techniques by Larry Pozner and Rodger Dodd
Since the beginning of time Cross-examination in trials have been a vital part of any trial. Wigmore says that “it is beyond any doubt the greatest legal engine ever invented for the discovery of truth.” In this 700 page book, the authors demonstrate how cross-examination is an art and not a science. According to them “while good cross-examination may be artistic, it is not ‘art’ that wins the day. Through preparation, mastery of technique, and execution of a sold game plan underlie more courtroom victories than all the flash and glitz and strokes of brilliance combined. Cross-examination is a science. It has firmly established guidelines, identifiable techniques, and definable methods, which all act to increase the cross-examiner’s ability to prevail.” From dealing with the “can’t recall” witness to the sequencing of your cross-examination, Pozner and Dodd cover it all in this book.
48 Laws of Power by Robert Green
This book is not a “law text” in the true sense. In fact it was not written for lawyers. Nonetheless, it is by far one of the best personal development book you will ever read, and could have well been titled “How to Deal with Fellow Lawyers”. The author has distilled three thousand years of history of power into 48 well- explicated laws using real historical examples through the experience of Queen Elizabeth I and Henry Kissinger. Given the adversarial nature of the profession, the 48 laws go a long way in teaching you how to maintain sanity, composure and power as a lawyer and human being. The laws include:
Make Your Accomplishments Seem Effortless
Your actions must seem natural and executed with ease. All the toil and practice that go into them, and also all the clever tricks, must be concealed. When you act, act effortlessly, as if you could do much more. Avoid the temptation of revealing how hard you work – it only raises questions. Teach no one your tricks or they will be used against you.
Always Say Less Than Necessary
When you are trying to impress people with words, the more you say, the more common you appear, and the less in control. Even if you’re saying something banal it will seem original if you make it vain open-ended and sphinxlike. Powerful people impress and intimidate by saying less. The more you say the more likely you are to say something foolish.
Conceal Your Intentions
Keep people off balance and in the dark by never revealing the purpose behind your actions. If they have no clue what you are up to they cannot prepare a defence. Guide them far enough down the wrong path. Envelope them in enough and by the time they realize your intentions it will be too late.
The Devil’s Advocate by Iain Morley, QC.
With its sub title being “A Short Polemic on How to Be Seriously Good in Court” this best selling advocacy manual is described as the “Titanic of the advocacy world”. The book covers addressing the judge, Examination-in-Chief and Appeal litigation just to name a few. Practical, humorous and conversational, The Devils Advocate is a must read for West Indian Attorneys who want to enter the courtroom.
You may not find any of these books on your law school’s book list but they definitely contribute to one’s development as a lawyer. And remember readers are leaders! Enjoy!