By K Hernan • June 16, 2008•Ms. JD, Ms. JD Book Reviews
Ed. Note: KHernan881, a regular contributor to Ms. JD, has agreed to sub-in for the regular Ms. JD Summer Book Series writer this week with the following review of The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book. Ms. JD's regular series should be back next week.
The Young Lawyer's Jungle Book: A Survival Guide, 2nd Edition by Thane Josef Messinger is the subject of this week's book review -- a little off track of what we've been reading so far this summer but hopefully, you'll find it useful nevertheless!
There are a bunch of advice books for new lawyers out there. This one came highly recommended to me by a senior associate acquaintance. So I read it, admitedly in small doses about a chapter at a time until I could get through the whole thing. I will say that I read it slowly not because it wasn't interesting but, let's face it, this is a professional advice book, not a novel, and you can only take so much advice in one sitting.
Overall, I think this was a worthwhile read for a new associate in a big law firm. Mr. Messinger gives very practical advice in a no-nonsense kind of way. He tells it how it is in manner that isn't apologetic or politically correct. (It is perhaps a little male-focused as he hides a little bit from the issues when he discusses gender politics in firms or gender diversity in the profession.) By and large, I think the advice is sound and something that was worth the effort and time and would have been valuable before my summer associate job or a great read between the bar and starting work at the firm. Some things are common sense but those things likely differ for each reader. I really appreciate that it isn't written with just litigators in mind as I've found from most of these sorts of books. He doesn't talk endlessly about cite-checking briefs of suffering through document review. I think this book would be valuable to all large and medium firm lawyers and not just litigators or transactional attorneys.
Here are some nuggets from the book to give you a sense of what you are in for:
In Chapter 4 "Getting the Work Done" he writes about how to take on your first year's work at a firm:
"Your first years in the law are a good opportunity to learn it. Take advantage. Glamorous though the Captain might be, it's more comfy as co-pilot. Enjoy your training wheels while you've got 'em."
Hitting the nail on the head, in my opinion, he writes about how much to bill:
"Why do you think firms pay new associates such ridiculously high salaries? Niceness? Yeah, right. ...The rub is that your cost to the firm is fixed, buy your potential revenue is limited only by the hours of your day. Thus the never-relenting push for even higher billibles. Strangely, [Partners] aren't the only ones stoking. [Associates], in their ignorance of life beyond compeition, too often delight in the unrefined art of extratemporal one-upsmanship. ... Don't shoot for billable superstardom. ... Instead, shoot for - and hit - a target slightly to moderately above the median. Unless you're in the Tour de Rat, moderated exhaustion will be enough to get you the crown of partnership."
You'll find practical advice and many shared lessons learned in this book. I'd be interested in thoughts of others who have read this book. Please add your thoughts in the comments.