I have some people in this virtual world that I am most pleased to be associated with. Some I’ve met in real life, and they’ve brought me a great deal of courage and insight as I make my way through this world. Others I interact with just through this here computer. I wish I could say that all of the folks I’ve met at school or at my jobs mean more to me than those who’ve found me through the blog or twitter, but that would just be a lie. And, while it would be a lie to say I am against lying, I want to be honest in this post (as I try to be in most) and tell you that it simply is not true. If I know you in real life, I may like you less than the person about whom I am writing today.
So, what was I saying? Oh yes, real life. Right. As I was saying. The folks I’ve come to ‘know’ (and I use the quotes simply to separate what convention calls knowing versus ‘knowing’ in the sense of gleaming what I can through conversations that take place online) are remarkable. Truly they are. They are soldiers (literally) and fighters (figuratively) artists and thinkers. Some are comedians and comediennes. It is, as I’ve said, Ernest Hemingway’s Paris for shut ins.
I’ve had the good fortune to run into some people who like to write. Writers. Not people who dabble in it the way I do, but who do it and mean it. And, I’ve been lucky enough to get to read the stuff they write. One young buck, Keith Lee, who writes a blog called Associate’s Mind, was kind enough (brave enough?) to send me an advanced copy of his book, The Marble and the Sculptor. Now, when you click on the link to his website you will see Keith isn’t a dumb shit. His blog isn’t a tumblr full of gifs and pithy quotes. It is a wellspring of information that new attorneys can and should read and incorporate into their daily lives. Keith is doing this thing that we do. And he is trying to do it well and set an example for the rest of you toddlers out there. He makes the profession proud.
I wanted to write some things about his book. And of course, I wanted to be complimentary and ooze and gush over it. I wanted to say things like “WELL WRITTEN!” “Every new lawyer needs to read this book and sleep with it under her pillow.” or whatever. But see, I’m not really a book critic. I wouldn’t even know how to begin writing a review of any such kind. I don’t even like book reviews. I mean, let me read it and figure it out for myself, I say. But here’s the thing abut this book. It made me think. It made me feel things. I wanted to sit with some of the thoughts and ideas, mull them over and pull them back out later and see how they fit with practice. Because, see, no matter what, I’ve been doing this longer. I may not do it better, but I think I’ve got some insight into which of the tidbits in the book are practical and which are just really nice ideas but, you know, fuck it.
Let me start by saying this – Rodin is my absolute favorite artist (well, him and Gaugin.) I love the Rodin museum in Philadelphia, and truly my ideal specimen of a man is the Thinker. As a girl, we had a replica in my father’s library (at that time the library was some 2×4’s on some bricks) and I would stare at it. Maybe I even had some fantasies about it but now my dad reads this blog so we will let that go. I think, though, that the idea that we are both the marble and the sculptor is spot on. In everything we do this is truth. It is not easy to cut and chisel and hack away in order to get to the thing underneath it all. It is a painful process and requires we let go of many beliefs and assumptions that we’ve held onto for so long. Not just us lawyers, but all humankind. When we think of ourselves as static instead of dynamic, we never get past just being a lump of clay.
(Oh, but notguilty, this is just part one, why is that?
Look, there’s a lot of stuff in this book. I mean, this guy is trying to tell you how to be a good lawyer, and I like to write about how I feel and think, so a review of the whole book would be very long, so just deal with it. I’ll get to the rest when I get to it.)
There is an arrogance in the book, a sense of knowing better than everyone else. But it’s a self-help book, right? I mean, who would write it but a guy with moxie who believes he has insight into things that others don’t. And, I get it – the idea being that young lawyers will listen to other young lawyers since they clearly won’t listen to us. There is so much in here that is worthwhile and good – for example, making sure you start building your reputation in law school; make sure you become a good writer; and realizing that this lawyer thing is really fucking hard work. So, if you think law school is stressful, you are in for a rude awakening, my friends. But then there are things that gave me pause. In one part of the book, Keith says if you aren’t writing every day, you aren’t thinking. And says that if you aren’t writing, you are just going through things in a routine way because you are lazy. I don’t know that this is true. I don’t write every day, and I certainly think more than the average bear. Maybe there are statistics or studies that support his hypothesis, but I don’t buy it. Writing is what writers do. It is not what everyone does. I don’t know if it is something everyone can do well, but that doesn’t mean a lot of people can’t create cohesive and rational arguments, or that they can’t be persuasive in a courtroom. The skills to write in a lawyerly way and in a writer’s way are just different. Keith has a gift. He can write, and it shows in every line of this book.
You know what else shows in every line of the book – that Keith is different from his peers. Sorry, not sorry. There is advice to be found in this book in droves. This, I think, is a book I would have written just a few years out of school. It is hopeful and powerful and tells you exactly what to do in order to be the best you can be in this profession. Hey old fart, this book isn’t for you. It’s not going to teach you how to fix things once you’ve been in practice for 15 years. That you need to find somewhere else. But, if you are just out of school and are just at a loss on how to get to where you’d like to be, get this book. Just realize that while Keith can lead you to the water, you still have to drink.