Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney is a must-read book for law students and new attorneys alike. Written by Morten Lund, Esq., Jagged Rocks of Wisdom breaks down the 21 rules of law firm life. Some rules are obvious. Some are not. But all are necessary to survive and thrive in the practice of law.
Jagged Rocks of Wisdom is a very quick but informative read. Although it’s only 94 short pages, each page is chock-full of real life advice from Lund, a real life Biglaw partner.
The book’s chapters are organized around the 21 rules that all young attorneys must follow:
- Proofread Again
- Everything Is Your Fault
- Be Socially Aware
- Just Say No To Preliminary Reports
- Take It Seriously – Because It Is
- This Is Not School; This Is Not Homework
- Form And Substance – Display Confidence
- Admit Errors – Sadly
- Take A Load Off – Your Supervisor
- The Partner Is Always Right – Usually
- Ask Stupid Questions – Not Lazy Questions
- Keep Supervisors Informed – Don’t Exceed Your Authority
- The Partner Is Not Your Friend
- Use Firm Resources: The Law Is A Team Sport
- Be Nice To Your Secretary
- Help Any Way You Can
- Great – You Were A Stud In School. Now Sit Down And Shut Up
- Carry A Pad – And Use It
- It’s Your Career – It’s Your Responsibility
- Just Do It!
Jagged Rocks Of Wisdom Review
Here is just some of the knowledge you’ll glean from Jagged Rocks of Wisdom.
I know what you’re thinking. Proofread? Proofread Again? Those are some of the 21 rules I need to learn about? The answer is yes!
You see, new attorneys bring little, if any, substantive or practical knowledge to the table. Partners know that. Clients know that. So what do they expect? They expect you to pay attention to detail! How? Proofread the heck out of your work product. Proofread your memos. Proofread your emails. Proofread everything.
Lund says it best: a typo means you are either “(a) stupid or (b) lazy.” Once word gets out that you’re (a) or (b), work will stop showing up on your desk. Heed Lund’s advice because it will serve you well, grasshopper.
Everything Is Your Fault
This is rock solid advice. If your assistant make binders for you and a page is missing, it’s your fault. If your paralegal misses a deadline, it’s your fault. It’s all your fault.
So, what to do? To start, follow rules 1 and 2. Also, “take ownership” of whatever the project may be, no matter how small or intellectually trivial.
Your superiors want you to make their lives easier (see rule 10). But you’ll never do that if you can’t be trusted to take ownership of a project. Let’s walk through a very simple example of what not to do.
A rainmaker swings by your office at 5:45 PM and asks you to join her for a conference call with the client. You say “of course” and accept the calendar invite. Thirty minutes later, it’s time for the call. You walk over to the corner office and knock on her door. She says, “come in!” You sit down with pen and paper in hand. With her back to you, the partner asks, “what’s the dial in number?” You respond, “oh, uh, I don’t know . . . I left my phone in my office.” Now the partner has to search through her calendar and/or emails for the dial in number. She’s not happy and it’s your fault.
Always anticipate the partner’s needs and take ownership of every task that’s on your plate.
Ask Stupid Questions – Not Lazy Questions
Lund’s real world experience takes center stage in Jagged Rocks of Wisdom:
Even if the questions you are asking are not all that stupid, at some point stupid questions become annoying questions. While the partner wants to help and guide you, there is a limit to her patience.
This advice is good as gold. Do not ask a partner a “lazy” question. In other words, always do your due diligence before asking a partner a question. This does not mean scouring the earth and every available resource from here to Tibet. It may be as simple as running a Google search and spending 20 minutes reviewing the results.
I can promise you that if a partner can find the answer to an “easy” question on Google, she likely will not come back to you when she has a “difficult” question. Don’t ask lazy questions.
It’s Your Career – It’s Your Responsibility
As Lund so eloquently puts it:
Welcome to reality. School is over. Regulated society is over. You are now a player in the capitalist marketplace, where it is every man for himself. There are no guarantees of success. There is injustice – sometimes a lot of it – and there are no appeals.
Early in your career you will face obstacles. Many obstacles. And despite what HR, the partners, and your mentor(s) say, no one is looking out for you or your career, but you.
The skills you acquire during your legal career are your intellectual property. Your legal acumen stays with you whether you make partner at your firm or jump ship for greener pastures.
Always put you, first.
Jagged Rocks of Wisdom is an excellent book for any law student or new attorney who wants to survive and thrive in the practice of law.
Lund’s writing style is blunt and to the point. But make no mistake, his 21 rules are practical, actionable, and all too often overlooked by law students and new attorneys.
If you want to make partner at your firm, read this book, Actually, read it twice. You’ll be well on your way to starting your legal career off on the right foot. Pick up a copy of Jagged Rocks of Wisdom today!
P.S. Jagged Rocks of Wisdom: Professional Advice for the New Attorney is the first book in a three-part series authored by Lund. To review the entire series, check out The Memo: Mastering the Legal Memorandum and Negotiation: Mastering the Art of the Deal.