Ten books that all lawyers should read
I’m sure it will surprise none of you to learn that I love books. As a lawyer and an info junkie, it’s only natural that I love to read – whether it’s to learn something, for inspiration or just to relax. I’m one of those people who have multiple books on my bedside table – because one book is never enough!
In honour of Book Week, which was held last week (and was not without controversy), the LIV Library team has helped me to compile my “must read” list for lawyers – which will no doubt prove controversial in itself!
1. To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee.
This classic continues to resonate and inspire lawyers. Atticus Finch is the lawyer we all dream to be: someone who stands up for the fundamental principles of our justice system that we must be ruled by law, without fear, favour or prejudice, even when doing so comes at great personal cost. If you’re looking for a present for a newly admitted lawyer, skip the briefcase and give them a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird.
2. Statutory Interpretation in Australia, by D C Pearce and R S Geddes 8th edition.
Statutory interpretation is a skill that all lawyers need to have. And when “text, context and purpose” haven’t given you the answer, it’s time to turn to our friends Pearce and Geddes. This text is valuable currency in my practice, and it’s quite common to hear the forlorn cries of “who has my Pearce and Geddes?” from a frustrated lawyer in the midst of a complex advice.
3. Tomorrow’s Lawyers, by Richard Susskind.
Susskind sent the legal profession around the world into a tailspin in 2010 when he published his bestseller The End of Lawyers? He has published several books since on the theme of the disruptive innovations challenging the legal profession. Tomorrow’s Lawyers is his latest, and incorporates all the best bits from his previous books.
4. Shades of Grey, by Jasper Fforde.
This is a novel about a future dystopian society with a social hierarchy determined by people’s ability to perceive colour, and a totalitarian government that keeps the citizenry in check. Thematically, it is very similar to Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, George Orwell’s 1984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. However, Fforde’s writing style and characters are a funnier, more enjoyable way of being reminded of the evils of unaccountable government and the dangers of allowing a government to control and subject its citizens, and I find it better bedtime reading than heavier texts like 1984.
5. The Law Handbook 2015: Your practical guide to the law in Victoria, edited Naomi Saligari, Fitzroy Legal Service, 2015, also , available online.
The saviour of any lawyer who has volunteered in a community legal centre, the Law Handbook is published annually and gets better with age. It provides an overview of basic legal topics, which may not come up in your legal practice every day but which the public expect you to know about, such as options if a client receives an infringement notice; your client’s rights in a fence dispute with a neighbour; and how to appeal government decisions. It’s also a great resource for LIV presidents asked to speak to the media about matters falling outside of their practice area!
6. Leading Change, by John Kotter (1996).
Listed by Time magazine as one of the “Top 25 Most Influential Business Management Books” of all time, Leading Change provides an eight-step process for managing change in your organisation. If you read Susskind and are left thinking “what now”, pick up Kotter and follow his process. His more recent book Accelerate, published in 2014, recognises that the speed of change has accelerated exponentially and explains how to implement the steps of the change management process concurrently and continuously.
7. Phryne Fisher series, by Kerry Greenwood.
Fun, divine and light-hearted describes both the heroine and the books themselves. Written by a Melbourne legal aid lawyer, the books combine escapism and history to produce one of the classics of the “whodunnit” genre. The books have also been made into a TV series, providing an excellent opportunity for the traditional bookworm refrain of “yeah, but the book is better than the TV series”.
8. Legal Drafting: A how to guide, by Ros Macdonald and Denise McGill (2015).
I’ve previously disclosed my love of plain English. This book provides a practical approach to writing in plain English and is a must read, not only if you are a lawyer preparing your first deed or contract, but also if you are an experienced lawyer looking to drop some bad habits.
9. Handy Hints on Legal Practice, by Gordon Lewis, Emilios Kyrou and Albert Dinelli, 3rd edition (2004).
Whether you are a principal or an employee, this book provides, as the title says, handy hints on navigating issues arising during legal practice – from ethical issues to practice management to building effective client relationships. It’s a really easy read if you want to read it cover to cover, or it’s a great resource for dipping in and out of as needed.
10. Anonymous Lawyer, by Jeremy Blachman (2007).
It started as a blog by an ‘anonymous lawyer’ ranting about the antics of his colleagues – including his bitter rival ‘The Jerk’ – and was later turned into a book. It is satirical, but, as with all good satire, it often cuts very close to the bone. Laugh at yourself and your colleagues with this easy read – and then break out the paperclips to see who has the biggest office.
COURTESY OF LIV