Books with Benefits (for the Busy Attorney)

August 03, 2023 Jessica Te

Recreational reading is a luxury — especially for attorneys — but there’s no better day to pick up a pleasant paperback than August 9: National Book Lover’s Day.

Despite the existence of e-books, audiobooks, and other digital reading tools, leafing through a physical book can be a novel (pun intended) experience. Yet, as an attorney, your time for recreation is limited. You read all day. Why should you spend your free time reading more?

Well, we’re glad you asked. Today, we’re highlighting how recreational reading can benefit attorneys and legal professionals.

Stay curious.

Attorneys need to have nimble minds which can quickly adapt to changing circumstances and complex cases. Open a book and your mind may be opened to new cultures, new experiences, and new words. This newfound knowledge will improve your ability to strategize your cases and communicate more succinctly with clients, judges, and opposing counsel.

A curious mind can strategize outside the box.

Attorneys are storytellers.

One way to improve your own storytelling ability is by — you guessed it — reading stories.

Reading can give you a first-hand look at how to build perspectives and tell a story. While reading, ask yourself, how did this author create a narrative? What makes the storytelling good? Take the opportunity to observe factors that make a story compelling to you, then integrate them into your own story-building for your clients. For example:

  • Why did the author include this scene? What does it add?
  • How does the author set up the plot? Or set a tone?
  • How did the author build this character? Why is this character favorable, or unfavorable?

Read to write better.

Attorneys spend a large portion of their days writing, and every case must be written in a captivating way.  Reading authors who know their way around a sentence will improve your writing. Familiarizing yourself with the nuances of the English language may help you construct clear, concise arguments.

A well-constructed sentence is a joy when it slips seamlessly from mind to page.

Understand your clients better.

Reading books may even help you understand your clients better.  Perhaps you have a client who is from another culture.  Read an author of similar background and you may gain insight into how this culture approaches communication and problem solving.  Books that explore subjects like history can give additional context, insights, and understanding about your client’s life experiences.

Meet your next client/contact/best friend.

Reading can improve your networking skills. Books offer a door into conversation with someone you’ve just met. Since common interests can bring people together, at your next marketing event, try asking people about the latest (or oldest) book they have read. Is there a story they remember? A character who influenced someone’s decision to become a lawyer? What novel kept the person awake binge-reading through the night? There’s a special book out there for everyone, you just need to find it, and with that, a new connection is made.

(Note: Learning others’ favorite novels is also helpful if you want to buy them a follow up gift.)

Much-needed R&R.

Escapism is sometimes necessary for relaxation and one appeal of books is that they aren’t (necessarily) real. Separate yourself from the stress of your day and see (or read) through the eyes of another, in a different place, time, or world. Step away and give yourself that moment of self-care and distraction before returning to work.

If you have time during a flight or between trials, lose yourself in a book for a while.

A satisfying sense of completion.

It isn’t uncommon for cases to go on endlessly. There can be simple joy in committing time to reading a novel or short story all the way through. Reading a story with a clear-cut beginning, middle, and end may give a real, though small, sense of accomplishment and fulfillment. And this might be just the motivating push you need to continue forward with your case.

Where to begin your reading journey?

Hook, line, and sinker. Reluctant readers need to be baited with a book of their interest. Attorneys can find recommendations from online legal blogs and publications or the library, but luckily, our firm has a hardworking librarian and book enthusiast, Barbara Reedy.

Barbara Reedy in library

Barbara suggests two tempting, bite-sized books for even the busiest of legal professionals: “The Old Man and The Sea” by Ernest Hemingway and “The Sound of Waves” by Yukio Mishima.  Both books, written by master wordsmiths, will transport you to another place and time and they are both only around 150 pages.

It’s important to keep your mind alive and curious because a large part of lawyering is hearing clients’ stories,” Barbara explains. “Attorneys need to understand and wrap their mind around those stories, and then retell them in a compelling way in court. The job is to tell nonfiction stories that engage like fiction.”

Yes, life is busy, but it can be worth it to keep reading and learning because there’s always something new that you have yet to discover... so pick up a book and see where it takes you.