Law school does a poor job preparing corporate lawyers for the practice of law. You spend most of your time discussing legal theory and learning to “think like a lawyer” – whatever that means. In the real world, it’s useful to have practical skills to assist you as you begin your career. I’m often asked which books I’d recommend to a new lawyer. Here are my top five.
Working with Contracts: What Law School Doesn’t Teach You by Charles M. Fox. This is a great overview and primer. Should be required reading for all lawyers that need to work with contracts. It gives an overview of contracts generally and then dives into the important subsections of a contract, including reps/warranties, covenants, conditions precedent and remedies. It can serve as a reference book, but is surprisingly readable as well. It’s a great roadmap for junior associates.
Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist by Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson. These two authors put together a master class for young startup founders on how to get smart before meeting with lawyers and venture capitalists. The irony is that it’s also a perfect book for a junior lawyer. Written in plain English and directed at smart people who simply lack experience in the venture capital space, it’s easy to read and yet chock full of great information. It’s particularly helpful in getting you familiar with the vocabulary of being a corporate lawyer.
A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting by Ken Adams. This is a pricey pick that may not be as helpful during your first year but will be a great reference going forward. Unlike the first two books, Ken Adams’ book is a reference book. Ken Adams is on a mission to draft clear contracts without legalese. If you have a technical question, it’s highly likely he covered it in one section of the book. It’s also spiral-bound, which makes it convenient as a reference guide.
Typography for Lawyers by Matthew Butterick. This is a favorite of mine and not least because it conclusively puts the “two spaces after a period” mess to rest. Always use one space. Need further proof? The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals requires all briefs to have one space after a period. Putting that aside, it’s full of other good tips of lawyers on the presentation of words on the page. You’ll figure out pretty quick during your legal career that the way you present your work is truly important and goes a long way to people judging its quality.
The Obstacle is the Way: The Timeless Art of Turning Trials into Triumphs by Ryan Holiday. This isn’t a law pick, but it’s a great book. Ryan Holiday is the former marketing director of American Apparel, so you’re probably already familiar with his work. It’s basically a book about Stoicism and about how life is really just a series of obstacles which can be great learning experiences. I think it’s a great idea for junior lawyers to focus on the things they can control and let go of everything else. After all, if you can’t control it, what’s the point in worrying about it?
Let’s talk about it. Have you read any of these books? Any that I left out? Let me know in the comments.
Joshua Holt is a practicing private equity M&A lawyer and the creator of Biglaw Investor. Josh couldn’t find a place where lawyers were talking about money, so he created it himself. He spends 10 minutes a month on Personal Capital keeping track of his money and is currently fascinated by the JD Mortgage service connecting lawyers with lenders offering no to low down payment options.