Lawyer shelling: Lies, damned lies and collective wisdom

Posted on March 28th, 2012 by Chrissie Lightfoot

This article was first published in the Law Society Gazette 27th March 2012 and is reproduced by kind permission.

In a legal world flush with lies, damned lies and frightening statistics in relation to ‘lawyer shelling’ (my crude terminology for expulsion and even possible extinction of our treasured profession and the comfortable roles we once enjoyed) I reckon we can find great wisdom in a variety of books beyond the standard ‘technical law’ tomes to help us become better lawyers, managers or ‘whatevers’ in this wonderful industry.

Certain books can even help us make the right choices, embrace the inevitable changes, equip us with lifelong tools and skills and thereby enable us to take control in our career, business and life.

And so I pose this question to you: If we’re going to be successful in being the lawyers of tomorrow, today, what should we lawyers be reading to become better managers in our careers, businesses and life? I propose the following as I share with you now an excerpt from The Naked Lawyer eBook.

‘My professional and life journey started many years ago… as a wee girl when I began reading books and wisdom written and shared by gurus. I was hungry to “know”. At a very early age I realised that throughout my professional life, I was going to be working for and with business people, so I figured I’d better get to grips with understanding trends, understanding organisations, understanding the people in them and the people I will be serving. But first and foremost I realised that I’d better understand myself most of all if I had any chance of ever making anyone happy (let alone me).

‘Naturally, I gravitated towards reading stuff which would teach me how to “find” myself, understand “me”, make the right choices to create an optimal lifestyle and to identify my life’s true priorities. I was helped by the wisdom of Lao Tzu and Pearl Bailey respectively: “Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is enlightenment”, and “you never find yourself until you face the truth”.

‘During my junior and teenage years of the 1980s, I began to read about understanding organisations (businesses) and trends from the works of Tom Peters, Thriving On Chaos; Charles Handy, Understanding Organisations, The Empty Raincoat; Moss Kanter, The Change Masters; James Collins & Jerry Porras, Built To Last, Good To Great; John Harvey Jones, Making It Happen, Troubleshooter and Thomas Peters & Robert Waterman, In Search Of Excellence.

‘In my twenties, which spanned the 1990s-2000, I focused on understanding more about people, including myself, and read more hardcore stuff, in particular psychology, spiritual, business and trends texts, by authors such as: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Happiness; Maslow, Hierarchy Of Needs; Carl Jung, Nostradamus; Deepak Chopra, Ageless Body, Timeless Mind; Maltz, Psycho Cybernetics; Jack Black, MindStore and Bill Gates, Business @ The Speed Of Thought.

‘I was particularly enamoured by the technological revolution unfolding and the founding father entrepreneurs of the very same who helped create what we are doing right now in the legal space, that is, web based communication and interaction. The likes of Tim Berners-Lee – inventor of the world wide web, Vint Cerf – father of the internet and Jakob Nielson – authority on how people use the internet.

‘In my thirties, from 2001-10, I began reading the new kids on the block, in particular subjects covering marketing, sales, social media, innovation, change, customer service, communication, talent, futurology, law and ethics.

‘For example: Seth Godin, Permission Marketing; Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping Point; Robert Scoble & Shel Israel, Naked Conversations; Gary Hamel, Leading The Revolution; Chip Conley, The Rebel Rules; Jack Welch, Straight From The Gut; Bruce Abramson, Digital Phoenix; Marcus Buckingham & Donald Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths; Tom Rath, Strengthsfinder; Gary Russell, Big Rocks: Balancing Life & Work; Philip Kotler, Marketing Moves; Locke, Gonzo Marketing; Ken Blanchard, Gung Ho!; Spencer Johnson, Who Moved My Cheese; Chris Anderson, The Long Tail; Regis McKenna, Total Access: Giving Customers What They Want; Ming Zeng & Peter Williamson, Dragons At Your Door; Clayton Christensen, The Innovators Solution; Richard Susskind, The End of Lawyers?; Ray Kurzweil, The Singularity Is Near; Roger Steare, Ethicability; Chris Brogan, Social Media 101 and Bob Burg, Go-Givers Sell More.

‘You see I figured knowledge wasn’t / isn’t just power. Having knowledge in the 21st century was / is going to be about survival as we move toward singularity. More about this concept in my next article. I therefore view continual learning as a life-long quest… not only out of pleasure, but necessity. Maybe that’s something you should think about too. Why?

‘Because your present and future may well depend on it.’

In a knowledge currency networked world, if you don’t want to be the kind of lawyer who is shelled or shelved, maybe pick up a book today. Not a book about law, I hasten to add, a book about what encompasses the business of law and what will help us become better managers; even better human beings, along the way, perhaps.

When all is said, written or done, even in a world full of lies, damned lies and collective wisdom, ‘with all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world’ (Desiderata poem).

Chrissie Lightfoot
The Entrepreneur Lawyer, CEO EntrepreneurLawyer Limited.
Author of The Naked Lawyer: RIP to XXX – How To Market, Brand & Sell YOU!

Please do feel free to comment on this post, share the books which have touched you, and add to the collective wisdom. I’d love to hear your thoughts…

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