Legal industry insiders say these are 17 must-read books for advice on how to succeed in law

  • Business Insider asked attorneys and legal recruiters for the books they recommend people read to advance their career and develop the skills needed to succeed in law.
  • Here are the 17 books they suggest should go on your bookshelf.
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If you're looking to up your career, grow your network, or brush up on your knowledge about the legal world, reading is one way to do that.

A new corporate lawyer, for instance, would find a guide to financial markets by an ex-Hogan Lovells and Freshfields attorney helpful. And those who eventually want to land an in-house job at a company might pick up a copy of "The Insider Counsel Revolution," written by the former general counsel of GE.

Business Insider spoke with 11 lawyers, GCs, and legal recruiters about the books they found the most interesting and eye-opening about the industry.

"All You Need to Know About the City" by Christopher Stoakes

Now in its 15th year of publication, "All You Need to Know About the City" is known in the legal and financial circles as the essential guide to financial markets. It's written by Christopher Stoakes, a former lawyer at Freshfields and Hogan Lovells.

Nathan Peart, recruiter at Major Lindsey & Africa, remarked, "It's fantastic. When I first started recruiting, I read that and it basically explains all of the financial products available. And because of that legal writer context, it's quite interesting. It's a really good book that gives people a very fundamental understanding of how the money market works and how law firms are structured."

"Courageous Counsel: Conversations with Women General Counsel in the Fortune 500" by Kara Baysinger and Michele Mayes

Dentons partner Kara Baysinger and Michele Coleman Mayes, general counsel at Allstate Insurance, interviewed more than 50 women who have held GC and high-profile management roles in legal departments.

"The book showcases stories by women who have 'made it' as successful GCs and legal executives," explained Catherine Kevane, securities litigation partner at Fenwick & West. "The book is by women, for women, and pushes women toward to equity."

"Crossing the Chasm" by Geoffrey Moore

Legal tech is on the rise, and lawyers both new and old should start looking into how they can use AI and software in their work, according to legal experts.

"This is a great book and should be required reading, specifically in legal tech," said Leah Del Percio, who left DLA Piper to start her own legal tech company, Trustate. "It outlines in detail how the tech-adoption lifecycle works and underscores how crucial product market fit is along with delivering a product to market most efficiently. The legal industry has obviously been late to embrace technology and this book may help other entrepreneurs with this notoriously difficult customer segment."

"Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don't" by Jim Collins

"Can a good company become a great company and if so, how?" This is the question that Jim Collins, a business management expert with experience working at McKinsey and Hewlett-Packard, tackles in "Good to Great." The book is an in-depth study of 28 companies, including Coca-Cola, Intel, and Merck, offering analysis into what makes a great business — something that all lawyers, who deal with corporations across various industries, should know.

Tracy Bowden, general counsel at insurtech startup Hippo, recommends this book for its message on "the importance of reflecting on 'how it is always done' to reengineer and improve processes," especially in an industry like law, which is largely seen as old-school and conservative.

"Indispensable Counsel: The Chief Legal Officer in the New Reality" by E. Norman Veasey and Christine T. Di Guglielmo

In-house lawyers play a crucial role at companies, offering legal counsel that balances risk and innovation to help them make the best business decisions. Former Supreme Court Justice of Delaware, E. Norman Veasley, and Christine T. Di Guglielmo, attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, examine the role of corporate counsel and offer guidelines on how to balance the many hats they wear.

"The book raises all of the issues that a GC faces that involves more than the black-letter law," said Deborah Marson, general counsel of information management company, Iron Mountain. "It talks about what it really means to be a GC and flex between having your primary client be the company [and being] their advisor to the board of directors, the CEO, and everyone in the c-suite. How you maneuver and judge properly what your role is between all those constituencies is not easy, and this book dives into those issues." 

"My Own Words" by Ruth Bader Ginsburg

This collection of previous writing and speeches by Ruth Bader Ginsburg offers glimpses into the Supreme Court Justice's perspectives on a wide range of topics, from gender equality to law and lawyers in the opera.

"'My Own Words' resonated with me because of the incredible life that Ruth Bader Ginsburg has led, both as a woman in a male-dominated field and as a legal revolutionary," said Lisa Hawke, vice president of security and compliance at Everlaw, a legal tech company. "For anyone with an interest in the legal industry, this book will get you excited about the power of the law when matched with resilience and courage, something we can all be inspired by today amid a global pandemic."

"Tiger Tactics: Powerful Strategies for Winning Law Firms" by Ryan McKeen, Billie Tarascio, William Umansky, Theresa DeGray, and Jay Ruane

"Tiger Tactics" is a collection of essays from five prominent attorneys. It offers a diverse range of stories about what it takes to become a successful lawyer — so diverse, in fact, that Joshua Lenon, resident lawyer at legal tech startup Clio, called it "contradictory," in a good way.

"What's worked for Billie Tarascio in the beginning of the book, hasn't worked for another lawyer at the end," he said. "So it gives a better view of the fluid nature of the practice of law, the individual circumstances that arise due to geography, due to practice area, and just comfort with some of the stuff that's out there… This book is it's about finding what's right for you."

"The Authenticity Principle" by Ritu Bhasin

A lawyer turned entrepreneur, Ritu Bhasin draws on her childhood experiences as a Canadian born to Punjabi parents and her ten years at a law firm to explore the feeling of needing to fit in. Combining neuroscience, diversity, leadership, and mindfulness research, Bhasin makes an argument for finding your "authentic self" to thrive in your personal and professional life.

"Ritu started her career in big law and understands the associate experience personally," said Sarah Evenson, director of law school programs at law firm Barnes & Thornburg. "She shares great stories I think many new lawyers can identify with. Her book is a great mix of personal stories, practical self-reflection exercises, education, and advice."

"The Client-Centered Law Firm: How to Succeed in an Experience-Driven World" by Jack Newton

Jack Newton, CEO and co-founder of legal tech company Clio, discusses the importance of keeping the client at the center of all business decisions at law firms.

"When we lose sight of that, I think we lose sight of how to really make the fights that we're having matter," said Clio's Lenon. "And so 'The Client Centered Law Firm' talks about how to keep that focus on the ultimate end user political system — your client — and how it's a win-win for lawyers and clients when we have that focus."

"The Connector's Advantage: 7 Mindsets to Grow Your Influence" by Michelle Tillis Lederman

Networking expert Michelle Tillis Lederman provides guidance on how to cultivate relationships to advance your career, which is especially important if you're stuck in a state of uncertainty when it comes to your profession.

"Relationships and communication are critically important to the practice of law," said Barnes & Thornburg's Evenson. "No matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, this book has great tools and advice on how to build stronger relationships and improve your networking skills in an authentic way."

"The End of Lawyers?: Rethinking the Nature of Legal Services" by Richard Susskind

Legal advisor Richard Susskind critically analyzes the four major pressures that the industry is confronting — to charge less, to work differently, to embrace technology, and to deregulate — and offers four business models as possible solutions.

"It was enlightening to hear that someone else thought that the legal profession could be improved and become more customer-centric like other service industries, and to hear that the government and clients were driving that change," said Robert Taylor, CEO and GC of the virtual firm, 360 Law Group. It was also comforting to know that someone else saw the need for change, and was talking about it."

"The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement" by Eliyahu M. Goldratt

"The Goal" is a novel written by business leader, Eli Goldratt, about a plant manager working to improve performance at his factory. Through fiction, Goldratt explores fundamental business management practices that can be applied to a variety of organizations across industries.

"It's a novel-like read… and, even though it takes place in a factory setting, I believe that it offers lessons in management that lawyers the world over should heed," said Ben Lambert, president and GC of 360 Business Law America. "It has certainly had a huge impact in my career in general and, after transitioning back to law practice, a hugely positive impact on the way I deal with clients and legal work."

 

"The Inside Counsel Revolution" by Ben W. Heineman, Jr.

Ben Heineman was the top legal executive at General Electric for nearly 20 years, and shares his insider knowledge in "The Inside Counsel Revolution." He tracks the transformation of general counsel and in-house lawyers at companies, which are now regarded as the coveted position to end up at for many young corporate lawyers.

"It's an excellent book on balancing the ever-evolving role of the general counsel as both a strategic advisor and guardian of the company," said Caroline Tsai, Western Union's chief legal officer and corporate security. "The book provides great insights and practical advice on how to lead with integrity, particularly as general counsels across the globe engage in corporate sustainability efforts for their businesses."

“The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life” by Thomas Sterner

Entrepreneur and founder of The Practicing Mind, Thomas Sterner, demonstrates the importance of practice and discipline, which can be applied to any industry — especially one as rigorous and skill-oriented as law.

"This book was recommended to me by my son who is a pianist and aspiring golfer," said Bowden, GC at Hippo. "I reflect on this book across both my personal and professional life.  Staying focused on repetition and preparation. Taking time to learn any new area of the law or skill requires [being] not merely knowledgeable, but proficient. 

"Traction: Get a Grip on Your Business" by Gino Wickman

Lawyers — especially partners and senior associates — are essentially business people, but they aren't trained as such, said ex-DLA Piper associate Del Percio. She recommends "Traction," where leadership expert Gino Wickman gives six key components of making good business decisions for success, including how to manage teams and scaling business.

"If there is no meaningful leadership and the team doesn't share a clear vision for the future trajectory, you can't grow effectively," Del Percio explained. "This book offers solutions and tools lawyers can employ to help scale their business, whether it be their law practice or a legal tech startup."

"What It Takes" by Stephen A. Schwarzman

Although he isn't a lawyer, Stephen Schwarzman, CEO and co-founder of Blackstone, offers a personal look into how he built a successful business, from cultivating work culture and high-value talent to establishing processes that allow the firm to analyze and handle risk — all relevant to big law firms.

"He has a really incredible story that highlights how he not only had to work hard, but also work smart. The book also contains some excellent tips to reducing your "big idea" to practice and building something great," said Del Percio.

"Zero to One" by Peter Thiel and Blake Masters

A lesser-known fact about Peter Thiel is that he was a securities lawyer at Sullivan & Cromwell before catapulting to entrepreneurial fame with companies like Paypal and Palantir. Although the book focuses on startups, Del Percio thinks its message of being willing to go against the grain applicable to the legal industry.

"In the book, he talks a lot about the value of thinking differently in order to go from zero to one in any meaningful capacity," she said. "As someone who notoriously thinks differently (whether I like to or not), the book helped me to harness that and see the value in it. I think this is important for lawyers in particular as they can appreciate the "dissent" in theory, but don't always find practical value in thinking differently."

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