Frank Kimball

A Book Shelf For Professional Success and Development: The First 34 You Should Read

You are the fiduciary of your own career. The more reading, thinking, and planning you do  the better equipped you will be to succeed in this rapidly-changing profession that is driven by powerful economic, professional, and client service forces that, will result in more change in the practice of law in the next decade than has been seen in the last century. 

This post includes nearly three dozen of my favorite books.  Buy and read one a month and in less than three years you’ll know far more than your peers about the profession, your firm, economics, practice development, and how to lay the foundation for future success. But I’m a big fan of buying used books through Amazon and E-bay and many of the pricier hardbacks on this list are available for 70-90% off their retail prices.  Many are available in versions for your Kindle or I-Pad at a significant discount.

I know the torrent of information that crosses your screen and desk begins to resemble an unstoppable fire hose.  The typical lawyer receives 150-250 e-mails a day most of which cry out for immediate attention.  But if you want to practice law, understand law firm management, and build a platform for expanding your practice, you must carve out 5-10 hours a week to read about the profession, your practice area, or the businesse3s of your clients. But when there’s a quiet moment for a little reflection about where you fit within the profession, here are the books that do the best job of providing practical, blunt advice on the career issues you will confront.  

 Success as a Lawyer

Freund, James C., Lawyering—A Realistic Approach to Legal Practice (Law Journal Seminars Press 1979). This is the single best volume on the nature of the partner associate relationship in law firms. Freund, a former senior partner with Skadden Arps, walks the reader through every aspect of attorney development. The book is practical and insightful and provides terrific guidance on the steps associates must take to progress and succeed in a demanding law firm environment.  Freund’s book is sufficiently useful that I gave it to every associate who started with my law firm when I was a hiring partner - and I know several other hiring partners who did as well.

After the jump, Frank's remaining recommendations, including works on Interviewing and Networking. Enjoy!

His later works are equally useful - Smart Negotiating: How to Make Good Deals in the Real World (1993); Anatomy of a Merger: Strategies and Techniques for Negotiating Corporate Acquisitions (1975) (sufficiently interesting that I thought - for a moment - about becoming a corporate lawyer);  Smell Test: Stories and Advice for Lawyering (ABA 2009).

A similar approach is taken by Steven Bennett, a partner in the New Y0rk office of Jones Day, in The Path to Partnership— A Guide For Junior Associates (Praeger 2004).  Bennett offers practical and accurate advice on billing time, writing, oral presentation skills, meetings, searching for assignments, expanding your level of responsibility, dealing with bad news and problems, and myriad issues that law school does not teach you about business practice and litigation.  His chapters on working relationships with clients and colleagues and the mysteries and importance of business development should be mandatory reading for any new lawyer.

I strongly recommend David Maister’s Managing the Professional Service Firm (MacMillan 1993).  Maister, who recently retired, was the leading international management consultant for professional firms and a professor at the Harvard Business School.  His client list included most of the leading law firms, management consulting firms, and other professional service firms in the world.  This text is a masterful collection of his thoughts on every aspect of professional firm management, structure, economics, and administration.

His other texts include True Professionalism (Free Press) (1997) ($25). Practice What You Preach: What Managers Must Do to Create A High Achievement Culture (2001); The Trusted Advisor (2000); First Among Equals (2006) ; and Strategy of the Fat Smoker (2008). Maister’s texts are one of the great bargains of the century. For $25-40 you can buy a collection of essays and reports from a consultant who used to charge his clients $20,000 per day.  Works for me. Maister gives you an inside view about the issues on the plates of the partners who run your law firm, the choices they make, the priorities they set, and the difficulties and challenges presented by managing independent professionals with ambitious agendas.

 The History of the Profession

The more you understand about how the profession has evolved in the last 50 years, the better you will be able to understand the changes taking place today.  The senior partners with whom you work graduated from law school in an earlier era - some during booms, others during recessions.  They also faced issues relating to salaries, bonuses, paying off debts, and dealing with the uncertainties of being promoted to partner (I graduated in 1977 with $20,000 in debt and a starting salary of $25,000)(and yes, I know my rent at 18th and 1st in Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town was $420 a month). They also were associates and young partners in an era when law firms first grappled with issues of discrimination and diversity.  A few hours spent reviewing the history of the profession will be interesting and useful. Just because the math has changed does not make the history less important.

Hoffman, Paul Lions in the Street: The Inside Story of the Great Wall Street Law Firms, (1973, Signet) This is the first book  to discuss the genesis of Wall Street firms.  While the numbers are smaller and the stories seemingly ancient, the themes about client service, profitability, the path to partnership, and the power structure of law firms are remarkably similar to issues facing lawyers in 2011. It was written after the legendary starting salary explosion of the late 1960's and many of the issues facing law firms today were identified in Hoffman’s  remarkable text. 

The text was controversial because it was written in an era when law firms were not discussed in the media.  In this pre-media, pre-internet era there was no discussion of revenues, rates, and partner profits.  Indeed many firms refused to speak with Hoffman - viewing contact with the media as unprofessional and inappropriate.  The associates who were new to practice when Lions in the Street was published now run many of America’s largest law firms.  It’s worth understanding the world as it was seen at that time.  Mad Men meets the legal profession.  In fairness to Don Draper - the partners at Wall Street firms were not always as fashionable, did not spend their days hooked to a Johnny Walker I.V., and did work - for their era - herculean hours which did conclude at lunch.

There are scores of terrific lawyer’s autobiographies. One of my favorites is William O. Douglas, Go East, Young Man: The Early Years, (1974, Random House). It includes chapters on his life as a student at Columbia, as a young lawyer at Cravath, a professor at Yale, and as a founding Commissioner of the SEC. The chapters about his life as a student and a young lawyer touch on many of the issues young lawyers grapple with in 2011.  Justice Douglas was stubborn, controversial, not known for enlightenment on the role of women in the profession, and a thorn in the side of many Presidents.  Whatever one thinks of his politics or personality the biography is fascinating.

Judith Richards Hope’s memoirs of her years at Harvard Law School and early years in practice is one of the most powerful books about the treatment of women in the profession in the 1960's. Pinstripes & Pearls: The Women of the Harvard Class of 1964 Who Forged An Old Girl Network and Paved the Way For Future Generations (Scribner, 2008). A law school classmate of Justice Ginsburg, she was one of a handful of women in the Harvard class of 1964.  The attitudes of faculty, employers, classmates, and others she encounters are troubling and, in some sense, hard to grasp almost 50 years lawyer.  Hope’s remarkable career as a senior partner with Paul Hastings, a corporate director, a member of the governing board of Harvard University, and advisor to several Presidential Commissions began in the hallways in Cambridge where the treatment of women was positively primitive.

Thanks to Michele Ward, now the Recruiting Manager in the Los Angeles office of Winston & Strawn, who gave me this extraordinary book when I was doing a project with her for Paul Hastings in 2004.  Every woman lawyer and law student should read this book to provide a zero point for the progress of women in the profession. Strike that. Every lawyer should read this text.

Marc Galanter and Thomas Palay, Tournament of Lawyers - The Transformation of the Big Law Firm (Univ. of Chicago Press 1991) is a law / economics analysis of the evolution of large law firms). Published at the beginning of the great recession of the early 1990's it examines demographics, profitability, management, and compensation-related issues.  It studies the rapid growth of the profession from 1970-1990 and offers some sobering predictions about the future of what we now call multi office major national law firms. Professor Galanter has a remarkable roster of publications about the legal profession.

Mark H. McCormack, The Terrible Truth About Lawyers: How Lawyers Really Work and How to Deal With Them Successfully, (1986, Beech Tree Books -- William Morrow).  This is an irreverent but quite useful guide to how lawyer and non-lawyer clients can work effectively with lawyers.  McCormack practiced law briefly and founded what has become the largest sports management agency in the nation.  His words of wisdom on working with clients and other professionals are as meaningful today as when they were written.  It may be tempting to cast a twenty five year old text into the dust bin of history but there aren’t many other publications that do a better job of explaining the difficulties clients encounter when working with lawyers.


To learn more about interviewing skills and techniques read Arnold B. Kanter, The Essential Art of Interviewing — Interviews from Both Sides of the Table (New York Times Press 1997)(Kanter is a good friend who was for years the hiring partner of Chicago's Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal firm. For more than twenty years he has been a management consultant to law firms and investment banks nationally on all aspects of hiring. Kanter’s text is more than guide to interviewing — it is an insider’s guide to how law firms think, how they interview, and how they make employment decisions.

Anthony Medley, Sweaty Palms —The Neglected Art of Being Interviewed (Warner Business Books 2005). This second edition of a terrific text on the  give and take of interviews.) The author, an attorney, has interviewed thousands of law students and practicing lawyers.  Eminently readable, blunt, and useful.  Aimed at a broader audience of professionals and non-professionals some of the advice may seem too basic but I still view it as one of the better texts in the field.

 Mastering Call Back Interviews (Frank Kimball - Kimball Partner Group 2011). I’ll confess considerable bias here but this text, available at no cost to members of Ms. JD, covers the interviewing waterfront from ❏ analyzing firms ❏ the Q and A process on both sides of the table ❏ tips for OCI and Call back interviews ❏ anticipating and handling the questions you will be asked ❏ establishing  credibility in a new city ❏ split summers ❏ selecting a practice area ❏ the basics of networking and connecting ❏ asking questions that result in real answers to real concerns ❏the impact of the recession and recovery on interviewing trends and tactics ❏ students most common questions about call back interviews ❏ e-mail tactics and strategies ❏ attire and impressions and ❏ event etiquette. 

The text examines in detail the interviewing process from the firm’s side of the table so a student can peer into the mind of the interviewer including ❏ preparation ❏ evaluation ❏ how to elicit important facts ❏ how to handle hot issues ❏ compensation ❏ parental leave ❏ hours ❏ staffing and ❏ responsibility.   Also included is an introduction into law firm management and economics.  

Several power point slide shows are included on this and related topics which have been presented at Harvard, Michigan, Northwestern, Virginia, Georgetown, Duke, Hawaii, UC Irvine, UCLA, Indiana, Loyola Chicago, Illinois, Washington & Lee, DePaul, Chicago, Columbia. To order a copy please e-mail the author.  


It’s fair to say that this is the hottest topic among recent graduates and experienced professionals. Regrettably many of the mass market publications are either too simplistic or way off the mark. The best books I’ve read that are appropriate for professionals building their contacts and client base in law, management consulting, accounting and other service firms are the following.

Keith Ferrazzi began his career at the Deloitte management consulting firm, became the Chief Marketing Officer of the Starwood Hotel Group and then founded his wildly successful independent marketing firm Ferrazzi Greenlight. Never Eat Alone explains his theory of identifying, cultivating, contacting, accessing, and working with your ever-expanding network of personal and professional contacts.   Ferrazzi was not born with a silver spoon in his mouth. In his own words, he grew up on the wrong side of the tracks in Pittsburgh, graduated from Yale and the Harvard Business School and begin putting his theories into practice as a young management consultant.

Never Eat Alone is full of practical, useful, and inspiring advice that will at the same time, kick you in the butt, motivate you, and show you the path to making this skill an intuitive and enjoyable part of your life.  It may be the best $15 you ever spend on your own career. While you’re at it, sign up at his website and receive and read the weekly tips from Keith and other gurus on networking and related skills.

Ferrazzi’s second text  - Who’s Got Your Back - The Breakthrough Program to Build Deep Trusting Relationships (Random House 2009)- is more of a companion volume than a sequel.  As Keith puts it “the real path to success in your career and in your personal life is through creating an inner circle of “lifeline relationships” - deep, close relationships with a few key trusted individuals will offer the encouragement, feedback, and generous mutual support that everyone of us needs.”  It’s more than mentoring - it’s a deeper piece on why its critical to have a team that supports, motivates, and when necessary criticizes the steps you are taking.  It’s about people who you trust, who understand your work, and who will hold you accountable but still be “on your team.”

Harvey Mackay - Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty - The Only Networking Book You’ll Ever Need (Doubleday 1990).   Mackay, an inspiring speaker and very successful CEO wrote this incredibly useful text in the pre-internet era.  The theories on the importance, utility, and tactics for identifying, assembling, nurturing and profiting from your network are all here.  Now we have many more tools - e-mail, contact managers, social networking, databases and the like that help us jump start the process. But Mackay’s book remains one of the best for getting you to and through the all important face to face, phone to phone, part of personal and professional relationships.  He’s the consummate sales person and executive but his journey is inspiring, authentic, and practical.  He’s not afraid to list mistakes he’s made or failures he has experienced.  Put Keith Ferazzi and Harvey Mackay on your bookshelf and on your team.  You’ll be way ahead of the game.

Another Mackay text is equally worthwhile. Sharkproof - Get The Job You Want, Keep the Job You Love (Harper Business 1993).  It is a wonderful compendium of real life stories of people who put networking and contact theory to work in business. It lends credence to many of the theories you may find foreign or unpersuasive. Readable and memorable.  Again, some may criticize the text because it was written before the avalanche of electronic tools were available but his advice remains fresh, useful, and accurate.

 Career Paths 

The Lawyers Career Management Handbook (Marcia Pennington Shannon - Managing Editor (West 2010).  This remarkable, indispensable text was published in late 2010  - The chapters are written by the legal career consultants of Shannon and Manch - a firm which is on anyone’s short list of the best career consulting firms in the nation.  The book is accurate, timely, comprehensive, and easy to use.  It discuss career trajectories, career planning, the details of jobs search in the law firm, government, public interest and other arenas.  It is jammed with useful links and references to other tools which can assist you in your career developments.  It’s warm and friendly and blunt and practical at the same time.  It belongs on the book shelf of every Office of Career Services, law firm hiring partner, law student or associate evaluating career planning tactics and strategies.  Buy it.

Richard W. Moll, The Lure of the Law - Why People Become Lawyers and What the Profession Does to Them, (Viking 1990). Rather than simply listing many things one can do with a law degree he walks you through the choices actual lawyers have made - from famous partners in mega firms to satisfied lawyers in many other areas of practice.  Moll’s text is thought provoking. It will not give you “the” answer about the direction your career should take but it will inspire you - and convince you that satisfaction and happiness can be found in many corners of the profession. 

Jason P. Rich, First Job, Great Job — America’s Hottest Business Leaders Share Their Secrets (MacMillan/Spectrum 1996)( interviews with 30 leaders of American business who talk about what drew them to their firms and other issues that are related to hiring lawyers).

Paul Hawken, Growing a Business (Fireside / Simon & Schuster 1987)(the founder of Smith & Hawken describes how he went from one small classified ad in the New Yorker to a $50 million business and talks about his zeal, commitment, and focus on what he loves).  The customer service ethic of Smith & Hawken is the stuff of legend in retailing.  And, folks, there’s not a whole lot of difference between retail and practicing law.

It’s worth reading coming of age books about those in other endeavors. Some of my favorites are Robert Klitzman, In A House of Dreams and Glass (Simon & Schuster 1995) (the stress of going through a residency in psychiatry) ❏ Samuel Hynes, Flights of Passage (Naval Institute Press, 1988) (a young aviator’s memoirs of learning to fly in World War II).  Professor Stephen Bergman, now on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School, penned In The House of God (Dell Paperback) an NC-17 view of the life of interns in a teaching hospital in the late 1970's. It has sold more than 2 million copies.

 Books Which Inspire

Lt. General Julius Becton (U.S.A.) Becton: A Soldier and Public Servant. General Becton, one of the first African Americans to wear a star on his shoulder served in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, NATO, and the first Gulf War. His autobiography is a compelling masterpiece. After leaving the Army he ran the D.C. school system, served with the Agency For International Development and as President of Prairie View University A&M. He is one of the most impressive people I’ve ever met (and he loves jokes about lawyers).  There are few people who have accomplished so much in their life and who have dedicated more than 60 years to public service.

John Wood, Leaving Microsoft to Change the World John was Microsoft’s lead marketing executive in China in the late 1990's. He left Microsoft to launch which builds schools and computer labs for elementary school age girls in South East Asia, India, and South Africa. In the past 7 years RTR has built 832 schools, 7,500 libraries, and put more than 9,000 girls on scholarship.  His book is an inspirational autobiography about how one man’s dream was turned into reality. The struggle, the risks, the improbable events are captivating, emotional, and  funny. Against all odds he succeeded and set a standard for performance that should be inspiring to any new professional  beginning her or his career.                    

Janet Hanson More Than 85 Broads: Women Making Career Choices, Taking Risks, and Defining Success on Their Own Terms (McGraw Hill 2006). A former Goldman Sachs investment banker, Janet Hanson founded a remarkable NFP “85 Broads” – which is spreading like wildfire to provide ambitious professional women guidance in professional and career development. This book compiles the stories of many remarkable women Hanson has known on her lane of life’s highway.  Every woman law student in America should join 85 Broads. Every law student, male or female, should read this remarkable book.

Marcus Luttrell,  Lone Survivor (Little Brown 2007) Luttrell, a Navy Seal, was the only survivor of a mission in Afghanistan where a 4 man Navy Seals team encountered more than 150 heavily armed Taliban. Awarded the Navy Cross, the nation’s 2d highest honor, Lutrell’s book is a remarkable, inspiring, unvarnished story of training, brilliance under fire, teamwork, passion, and patriotism that will inspire any reader encountering challenges in their personal and professional life.  As they say in the Seal Teams “the only easy day was yesterday.”

Carolyn Dowd Higgins is the Director of Career Services at the University of Indiana School of Law.  Also a gifted musician who has spent many years performing and studying opera, she recently published  This is Not the Career I Ordered (2010 Reinvention Press). This book is provocative, interesting and inspiring. Carolyn’s book is simply remarkable. I have dutifully read scores of texts that purport to counsel and inspire lawyers. This is one of the best efforts in an all too crowded field. 

First, it’s inspiring, engaging, thoughtful and funny.  Second, it doesn’t fly over the battlefield at 35,000 feet offer some pithy comments and fly away.  It is specific, factual, concrete, and useful.  Third, it isn’t preachy or full of faux psychology.  It offers concrete examples of real people handling real problems and finding real inspiration.  Fourth, it’s something you can read in a couple of hours and go back to time and time again.  Fifth, it’s high on substance but it is not a scientific academic treatise that will be off putting to those who live in the world of capitalism, free enterprise, strange supervisors, challenging clients, and colleagues who may not always have their best interests at heart. Carolyn’s on my short list of professional counselors who “get it.”

Liane Sebastian’s Women Who Win at Work is a fascinating compilation of snapshot bios of leading women professionals.  Liane, of the nation’s pre eminent graphic designers, artists, and consultants, is well on her way to becoming a remarkable author. Men and women law students and lawyers should read this book – two or three times – to find inspiration and enlightenment.  I’ve known Liane for 23 years – and one of the best professional experiences of my life was working with her on some complex and important design projects for MWE. She’s raised the bar with Women Who Win at Work.  

Capt. Angie Morgan and Capt. Courtney Lynch (USMC) Leading from the Front: No Excuse Leadership Tactics for Women. This engaging and inspirational book talks about the challenges of learning to become leaders in the toughest organization in the world – the United States Marine Corps.  It’s a story of triumph, commitment, effort, and learning told in a way that civilians can understand and appreciate.  I’ve met the authors and it’s safe to say that they’re proof of the age old adage “The Marines have landed and have the situation well in hand.”  Of course one of the authors is a Wolverine – what greater combo platter of credentials could possibly exist?

Conclusion - Suggestions and reactions welcome.  If you could recommend five books to a friend about their professional path, what would you suggest?  I’m an Amazon, Kindle, DVD, and newspaper junkie. There is always more to read and more to learn. Tell me what should be on my list.

If you’d like to receive complimentary copies of our publications  and presentations on any of the following subjects, please e-mail Frank Kimball or register with  ❏ Call back interviews ❏ Connecting and Networking ❏ The Chicago Market in Private A Practice ❏ Successful Summer Programs ❏ 2010-2011 Trends and Issues in Entry Level and Lateral Hiring.

Frank Kimball - Principal
The Kimball Partner Group -
A Lateral Link Company

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