Book Review: The Practice


Personal Productivity for Lawyers

This quick-start guide to Getting Things Done and Inbox Zero also includes two shortcuts for those who want the benefits of GTD without having to learn the system.

The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers and Lawyering is full of excellent advice from Brian Tannebaum about how be a lawyer and build a successful law practice from a lawyer who likes to play the part of a troll online.

I have been reading Brian Tannebaum’s blog for almost as long as he has been writing it, first at his own My Law License, and later at Above the Law. (The Practice is basically a tour through the archives.)

Why have I been reading so long? Because Tannebaum is a skeptic and I like that. As far as I can tell, he is immune to Shiny Shiny Syndrome. On technology, he doesn’t confuse the tools of law practice with the practice of law itself. He recognizes that most of the hype around social media for lawyers is so much bullshit.

“[Technology] may make your life easier, but it will never make you a better lawyer.” —p. 48

Tannebaum isn’t a Luddite, though. He recognizes that social media and technology and online marketing have value. But there is value and then there is Value as sold by the gurus. Unlike many lawyers, Tannebaum knows the difference.

 “Lawyers are sheep … Want to make money? Convince a lawyer you can make them money. They will give you money.” —p. 141

Tannebaum’s skepticism is a valuable perspective. More lawyers — especially young lawyers — should have it. There are too many lawyers dazzled by the techo-online-so-called-future of law. And at the same time there are far too many lawyers who are completely incompetent when it comes to technology. Tannebaum is neither.

On the other hand, The Practice: Brutal Truths About Lawyers and Lawyering is also full of stuff like this:

 “I hope you like the book, but in reality, I don’t care.” —p. xviii

And this:

 “I’ll lay this out for you in simple, easy terms that you can understand. Maybe you can even put some of this to work in the middle of contemplating your miserable life as a lawyer.” —p. 101

Tannebaum is happy (and quick) to call himself a troll and a bully. Maybe he is. Maybe cynic is closer to the truth. In any case, I just find this sort of thing tiresome. Unlike Jordan Rushie and Lee Rosen, I couldn’t finish The Practice in one day. It took me a few weeks because I kept getting bored with his constant sniping at the particular breed of lawyer Tannebaum frequently writes to: the Generation Y, iPad-toting, social media-obsessed Starbucks lawyers.

“The Gen Y cheerleading squad of lawyers and their marketers believe there is actually a revolution in the legal profession and that if those who have come before don’t get with it and move their practices to the iPad, they (we) will go the way of the dinosaur.” —p. 18

That’s doesn’t describe me, and I haven’t met any lawyers it does describe. I have definitely seen a few of them online, but I don’t have the impression they are about to take over the legal profession. They are easy to ignore, and that is the best thing to do with them.

If that does describe you, however, you really need to sit down and read The Practice cover to cover. I’m serious. This book is written for you, and there are hard truths in it that you really need to learn, starting with Tannebaum’s code of ethics and his advice on deciding what kind of lawyer you want to be. And even if Tannebaum is not a marketing consultant, his excellent advice about networking rings true — and it isn’t what you are hearing from most marketing consultants. Buy it, and you won’t be sorry you did (although you might get your feelings hurt a bit).

Otherwise, buy The Practice if reading good advice about law practice sprinkled with cynical sniping at young lawyers sounds like your thing. It’s my thing, apparently, and I will continue to read Tannebaum’s blog if he ever starts updating it again. You probably should too.


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  • Alex

    Why did he publish through the ABA? For someone who prides himself on his BS meter, I’m surprised he would touch the ABA.

  • Daniel M. Mills

    This is an excellent book because of its focus on the essence of being a lawyer. It is full of the wisdom of a real lawyer. It’s also a good read.