As a well-known lawyer and (former) law professor, Alan Dershowitz gives a lot of advice to young lawyers. At one point, he wrote it all down in Letters to a Young Lawyer. The book has been around for a while, but it is still full of good advice for young lawyers — and so is Dershowitz.
When I asked Dershowitz what he would change about Letters to a Young Lawyer if he were writing it today, he pointed out that because law has become much more of a business, he would want to add a chapter on conflicts and billing practices, which are more relevant than they were.
In the book, Dershowitz places great importance on finding a mentor, but acknowledges that a great mentor is hard to find. We talked about how to avoid bad mentors, including two red flags:
- Lawyers who advise you to do the same things they have done in their career.
- Lawyers who do things just because they have always done things, despite the lack of any evidence those things actually work. There are some great examples in Letters to a Young Lawyer that we discussed in the the podcast.
I asked Dershowitz about imposter syndrome, which he says is an issue for him just as it is for many young professionals.
One of the things that jumped out at me in Letters to a Young Lawyer was Dershowitz’s take on work-life balance. He quotes the old saw that nobody regrets working too much when they are on their deathbed, then says that some people should regret not working enough. During our interview, he elaborated on the right way for young lawyers to approach work-life balance.
We also discussed his view that you should not do what you are best at, why the Yellow Pages and the Internet are a terrible place to find a lawyer, and the three arguments you make to a court:
- The one you think you made.
- The one you wish you made.
- The one you actually made.
Incidentally, Dershowitz claims at 5:59 that the hit show How to Get Away with Murder is a ripoff of his novel, Reversal of Fortune. I have no opinion, since I have not seen the show or read Dershowitz’s book.
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Finally, we’re aware of the allegations (pdf) against Dershowitz related to his former client, Jeffrey Epstein. It’s hard to know what to think about that at this point. For what it’s worth, we recorded this interview a while ago, long before those allegations surfaced. (Thanks to Marc Randazza for that pleading.)
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