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The Curmudgeon's Guide to Practicing Law

4.5 out of 5 stars 44 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1590316764
ISBN-10: 1590316762
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Editorial Reviews

From the Back Cover

The Curmudgeon has been practicing law for just a little too long, and he may be too jaded for his own good. Beneath his crusty exterior, however, lies a fount of wisdom. The Curmudgeon knows everything about the legal profession, and he's willing to share his keen observations from the corner office. He offers practical and honest, if blunt, advice for surviving and thriving in a law firm. He tells you what you need to know about billing, managing your assistant, drafting internal memos, dealing with clients and building your law practice. Read the Curmudgeon and find out what drives law partners crazy, what will impress them and what ten mistakes you should avoid. Concise, humorous and full of valuable (but curmudgeonly) insight, this is a must-read for every lawyer and law student. "The Curmudgeon cuts to the chase about how to practice law successfully. . . .Instructive, insightful, ... and just plain fun!"

-- Gary Garfield, General Counsel, Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire, LLC.

About the Author

Mark Herrmann graduated from Princeton University in 1979 and The University of Michigan Law School (Order of the Coif, Michigan Law Review) in 1983. After graduation, he clerked for The Honorable Dorothy W. Nelson in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Mark practiced at Steinhart & Falconer in San Francisco from 1984 to 1989, when he moved to Cleveland and joined the international law firm Jones Day, where he is now a partner.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 135 pages
  • Publisher: American Bar Association (March 25, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1590316762
  • ISBN-13: 978-1590316764
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.4 x 7.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,219 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I don't know Mark Herrmann, but I feel his pain. Every attorney over 40 will recognize him/herself in Mark's curmudgeonly advice to the next generation. Hopefully, every attorney under 30 will take heed and follow unless they have a better mousetrap to offer (and those of us over 50 shouldn't doubt that they do!). In the absence of that mousetrap, no young attorney could go wrong picking up this book and heeding the advice from a very successful (and funny!) lawyer in his, ahem, middle years; one who is generous enough to donate the proceeds from the sale of this book to the American Bar Association.

That said, here are my favorite "bits."

THE C: Rule No. 10 from "How to Fail as an Associate" -- So long as it's clearly marked "DRAFT," no one will care if its incomprehensible

MY COMMENT: Nor, may I add, spell-checked. A memorable moment in one of my own associate's short careers was this response to "why are there so many spelling errors in this?" "Because," the associate replied, "I knew you'd revise it anyway so why should I bother?"

THE C: "What They Didn't Tell You in Law School" -- To be on the wire is life; the rest is waiting.

MY COMMENT: And don't think this applies only to the law. One of America's finest poets, W.S. Merwin, passes along the following advice from one of his mentors, the great John Berryman:

he suggested I pray to the Muse

get down on my knees and pray

right there in the corner and he

said he meant it literally . . . .
Read more ›
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Format: Paperback
I signed it out at the library. I'm not going to pay over $40 for a little ego-driven paperback like this. By the way, contrary to one review here (saying that the proceeds generously go to the American Bar Association) the book says on p. 135 (the last page) that "any royalties would be paid to our firm, not to me personally."

The book is written by a litigation partner at Jones Day. Many of the same things that irritate him irritate me (and I'm a solo plaintiff litigation lawyer).

The best chapter is "The Curmudgeon on Couth"--all about leaving USEFUL telephone messages, sending e-mails, etc. I share all of his observations--especially about the totally uninformative, "Hi--call me back" phone messages--or messages where the caller leaves an unintelligible number, or says the number so fast you have to listen to it 10 times and maybe get it.

The chapter, "Dress for Success" is two sentences: "I don't give a damn what you wear. Just make sure the brief is good." Odd. I've seen so many expensive big-firm lawyers show up at court in obviously off-the rack suits. Don't listen to that advice. Invest in some custom-measured, tailored clothes. Go to an Asian country on a vacation if you don't want to pay a lot. You will then forever notice how badly other lawyers dress, and wonder how they could be so oblivious.

Most of the other parts of the book are ego of the defense-oriented author. Some is even outdated because of the bursting of the legal bubble (there sure aren't as many new associates these days, and defense clients don't seem willing to pay unlimited amounts to big firms anymore).

But the book IS interesting to read because it has many good, honest observations about the legal system and what they don't teach you in law school.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is fairly expensive, especially for being so small. (Almost pocket sized, and only 135 pages.) But it is work the money. With a hint of humor, Herrmann the Curmudgeon gives great advice, and very succintly. It cannot be retierated about how much his advice is on point. I plan to recommend the book to all the new attorneys that I know.
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Mark Herrmann has provided an extraordinary gift to the legal community. The Curmudgeon's guide is well written and precise in its well-informed commentary. The author, a partner at Jones Day, has a sense of humor and a gift for succinct, valuable insights, the likes of which professors and senior lawyers rarely divulge. To read this book is to stumble on such secrets of the temple as to refashion the mind of a young law student or lawyer. To give but one example, I had wondered, during my summer, why, when I had provided my partner with some useful and succinct legal analysis and fact finding, I was rewarded with a terse "Good work," and a lot more work and why, when I had rushed through a job and provided him with a rambling memo, I would not hear from him for a week. Now I know. Feedback on assignments is so scarce in law firms, it is difficult to parse the code that your superiors traffic in. Curmudgeon resolved my confusion immediately: he notes that when he gets good product from associates, he rewards them with more and better work. When he doesn't, he simply ignores them. Work is the life blood of a lawyer, and the better quality work you can get assigned, the better your work experience and your career will be. Curmudgeon's guide resolves so many questions before they are asked, it really should be a bible for anyone starting their legal career. I am certain that the great lack that this book meets is the result of a lack of time and not malicious intent on the part of our would be mentors, but it doesn't undercut the extraordinary generosity of this tough love book. The tone may be grumpy, but an avuncular grumpiness that is very welcome. Please read this concise tome of invaluable wisdom. If you do read it, you'll find it useful, fun, and too damn short.
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