My Life in Court by Louis Nizer
Character: Roy Black
Short Review: Roy Black is a partner with Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf in Miami. Known for representing high-profile clients, including William Kennedy Smith and Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis, Black recently had cameo appearances on Bravo TV’s Real Housewives of Miami, which featured his wife, Lea, as a cast member.
“In college I read Louis Nizer’s legal memoir My Life in Court. I walked along with him into those old courtrooms and watched him perform, mesmerized by his brilliant and fluent advocacy. Long before I turned the last page, I desperately wanted to follow his path. His true stories make the Grisham and Turow legal thrillers pale and bloodless by comparison.”
Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik
Character: Donald B. Ayer
Short Review: A former deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, Donald B. Ayer is a partner at Jones Day in Washington, D.C. He has argued 18 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Colossus is an incredible saga of the politics and practical obstacles encountered in one of the greatest engineering feats in our history.”
1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart
Character: Trevor Potter
Short Review: Trevor Potter served as general counsel in John McCain’s 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns, is the founding president and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, and is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on federal lobbying and campaign finance. He’s a partner at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, D.C.
“A great book for this summer’s reading list. Written 150 years after the beginning of the Civil War, 1861 is a fascinating, riveting description of the year the war started. It reads like a thriller, but is full of bits of history and constitutional law that lawyers will love. Did you know both houses of Congress voted to amend the Constitution to enshrine the right to own slaves in the Constitution—and make it the one amendment that could never be amended? They did. All in an attempt to mollify the Southern states.”
The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow
Character: Morris Dees
Short Review: Dees is co-founder and chief trial attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. He and his civil rights group have been monitoring hate groups and extremist organizations for decades.
“I was already a lawyer running a very successful book publishing company when I read this book. It changed my life. I sold my company and began a civil rights law practice that ultimately became the Southern Poverty Law Center.”
Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E.P. Seligman
Character: Fred H. Bartlit Jr.
Short Review: A go-to corporate defense attorney for decades, Fred H. Bartlit Jr. is frequently called upon by companies fending off multimillion-dollar cases. He is a partner at Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott in Chicago and Denver.
Seligman “explains how happiness comes from achievements—not from the money that comes with achievements, but the pure job of succeeding at very hard missions. And he explains that today’s parents are teaching ‘learned helplessness’ to their kids, which will preclude most of them from succeeding. He also describes how people with failures in their lives end up as the biggest successes, because they are hardened by surviving failure.”
And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank by Steve Oney
Character: David E. Kendall
Short Review: When President Bill Clinton needed legal advice for a variety of personal issues he faced in office, including his impeachment proceedings, he went to fellow Rhodes scholar David E. Kendall. Kendall’s other clients have included the Motion Picture Association of America and the Washington Post. He’s a partner at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C.
“A dark but spellbinding account of the murder of Mary Phagan, and the arrest, trial, appeal, clemency proceedings and lynching of Leo Frank. With astonishing historical detective work spanning decades, we learn who was in the lynch mob, how the lynching was organized and carried out, and why the cover-up was successful so long.”
Personal History by Katharine Graham
Character: Robert B. Barnett
Short Review: Robert B. Barnett, a partner at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C., is the lawyer behind some of the best political books published over the past several decades. His clients have included Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
“Personal History is certainly one of the best autobiographies ever written. It contains lessons on personal growth, advice on facing life’s challenges, insights into the ways of governmental and social Washington, business lessons and the history of the Washington Post.”
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
Character: Dale Minami
Short Review: Minami led the legal team that reopened Korematsu v. United States, which resulted in a federal district court overturning the conviction of a Japanese-American who defied the World War II internment order. He is a partner at Minami Tamaki in San Francisco.
Minami calls this seminal Ellison classic, which traces a black man’s devastating sense of isolation from white America, an important source for “understanding of what people of color feel and experience, learning empathy in a diverse world.”
Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff
Character: James J. Brosnahan
Short Review: Legendary trial lawyer Brosnahan has argued more than 140 cases to verdict over more than 50 years. He’s a senior partner at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco.
“A gossipy, interesting, lucid book on her life.”
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Character: Geoffrey Fieger
Short Review: Geoffrey Fieger is a plaintiffs personal-injury lawyer based in Southfield, Mich. For the past 15 years, Fieger has been best known for his spirited defense of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the late supporter of physician-assisted suicide.
“The Little Prince connects you with your own being so you’re looking inward rather than outward. When you really get down to trial work there isn’t a mechanism where you learn tricks for convincing people of something you really don’t believe. It all has to come from inside you and requires self-examination. I don’t think it has relevance for lawyers doing transactions or mergers and acquisitions. It does have relevance for those who seek to do what I do, which is trial law.”
Leadership on the Federal Bench: The Craft and Activism of Jack Weinstein by Jeffrey B. Morris
Character: Kenneth Feinberg
Short Review: Kenneth Feinberg is founder and managing partner of Feinberg Rozen, a firm in New York City and Washington, D.C. Known for his mediation in mass tort actions and disasters, Feinberg has served as special master for TARP executive compensation, and he is the administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund.
“Morris does a splendid job of analyzing the career of U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein of Brooklyn and focuses on the work and challenges confronting a federal district judge in our nation.”
My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American Journey by John Wooden with Steve Jamison
Character: Jay Foonberg
Short Review: A Beverly Hills, Calif., sole practitioner, Foonberg wrote How to Start and Build a Law Practice, now in its fifth edition.
The Wizard of Westwood seems an unlikely hero for a lawyer, but Foonberg says that for him, that’s exactly what Wooden was. “He was a great influence on me, and his advice for living as found in his ‘Pyramid of Success’ would be of great value to any person at any time.”
The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs
Character: Neal Katyal
Short Review: Neal Katyal, director of the Center on National Security and the Law at Georgetown University Law School, recently stepped down as the United States’ acting solicitor general. A professor at Georgetown University, he was the lead counsel for the Guantanamo Bay detainees in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that military commissions to try detainees violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and four Geneva Conventions.
“Lawyers are trained to think far too much about law being the primary constraint on behavior. In this brilliant book, Jacobs reminds us that the way in which space is configured—from the organization of cities to the layout of individual apartments—alters the path of human interaction in profound ways.”
The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary
Character: Marci Hamilton
Short Review: Marci Hamilton is a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. She’s a longtime legal activist and a champion of children’s rights. She is the author of God vs. the Gavel.
Joyce Cary’s comic novel regarding the misadventures of aging artist Gulley Jimson seems an unlikely recommendation for lawyers, but Hamilton says she likes and recommends books that “test readers’ assumptions, perspectives and perceptions. The great lawyers are the ones who can see in a given set of facts or doctrine what others cannot or will not.” Jimson, she believes, can help them.
In the Shadow of the Law by Kermit Roosevelt
Character: Cynthia M. Lewin
Short Review: Lewin is general counsel and executive vice president of AARP in Washington, D.C.
Roosevelt’s K Street legal thriller may be an offbeat choice, Cynthia M. Lewin says, but it is “a great, gritty portrayal of how the law really works, and it gives a better sense of what lawyers do than most legal novels.”
One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School by Scott Turow
Character: Dahlia Lithwick
Short Review: Dahlia Lithwick is a contributing editor at Newsweek and a senior editor for Slate. She specializes in coverage of the U.S. Supreme Court.
“Turow’s One L is a field guide to law school. Whether or not it’s still perfectly accurate, it sets the table pretty deftly.”
Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality by Richard Kluger
Character: Adam Liptak
Short Review: Adam Liptak covers the U.S. Supreme Court for the New York Times and frequently writes about legal issues.
“I’d recommend Simple Justice, Richard Kluger’s riveting history of Brown v. Board of Education.”
The Man to See by Evan Thomas
Character: Abbe David Lowell
Short Review: If you’re a lobbyist in trouble, a wealthy white-collar criminal or a politician with cops and reporters at your door, you may want Abbe David Lowell on speed dial. His clients have included Jack Abramoff, former California Rep. Gary Condit and former New Jersey Sen. Robert Torricelli. He’s a partner at Chadbourne & Parke in Washington, D.C.
“I was lucky enough to see Edward Bennett Williams in court; he truly was as good as his reputation. All of us trial attorneys fashion ourselves in one way or another, but in many ways he started it all for us. He made the practice of criminal-defense law respectable in the 20th century. And while you read about his great law and trial moments, you also read about the traits that make attorneys more important to their clients than just their legal training.”
The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage by Ellis Cose
Character: Robert Morgenthau
Short Review: The legendary Manhattan lawyer Robert Morgenthau retired in 2009 as New York County district attorney, a position he held for 34 years. He is now of counsel at Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.
“The End of Anger is a masterpiece in illuminating one of the most significant issues in the history of our republic. But it’s more than that—it’s a case study of how our values are transmitted and realized through history, of how social conditioning affects perception, and of how a truly gifted journalist can look at even the most painful realities through a filter of compassion and sympathy. It is one of those books every American of conscience should read.”
Justice Accused: Antislavery and the Judicial Process by Robert M. Cover
Character: Judith Resnik
Short Review: Judith Resnik teaches about federalism, procedure, courts, equality and citizenship at Yale Law School.
She recommends Cover’s book because it examines “how judges struggled with—and either opposed or did not—slavery, and hence provides an understanding of ‘the processes of injustice’ as well as the possibilities of justice.”
Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman
Character: Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III
Short Review: Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III is member in charge of the Florence, Ky., office of Frost Brown Todd. In August, he becomes president of the American Bar Association.
“This book is about creating a more effective plan for personal success through ‘emotional skill’ development to achieve better interpersonal communications. It looks specifically at how we can strengthen our emotional intelligence—our emotional quotient, or EQ—and use it in such ways as to complement our IQ. An enhanced EQ goes a long way in a profession in which the effectiveness of our communications with clients and third parties—real people—will often determine the outcome of a legal project or dispute.”
A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines
Character: Brendan V. Sullivan Jr.
Short Review: A partner at Williams & Connolly, Brendan V. Sullivan Jr. has represented some of Washington’s most prominent, scandal-plagued figures, including Lt. Col. Oliver North, former HUD Secretary Henry Cisneros and the late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska.
“I tell would-be trial lawyers that if they want the perfect litmus test to determine whether they have the heart of a trial lawyer, they should read the following books to see if they cry: A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines, Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson, and The Innocent Man by John Grisham.”
The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law by Ward Farnsworth
Character: Eugene Volokh
Short Review: Eugene Volokh, a former clerk for retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, teaches constitutional law at UCLA. He also writes about constitutional issues on the Volokh Conspiracy, a highly popular and influential legal blog.
The Legal Analyst “clearly and helpfully explains the structure of various kinds of legal arguments—arguments about efficiency, public goods, slippery slopes, hindsight, bias and more. An excellent book for law students, soon-to-be law students and lawyers.”
Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton
Character: Kim McLane Wardlaw
Short Review: Kim McLane Wardlaw is a judge on the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at San Francisco. A former partner at O’Melveny & Myers, Wardlaw served on the transition teams of President Bill Clinton and Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan.
“Cry, the Beloved Country, a book about apartheid, reminds us of the importance of a neutral judicial system in remedying inequities. Its inspiring theme of hope in the face of injustice echoes an earlier American novel, The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck’s great book about a family’s struggle to survive in Depression-era America.”
A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy
Character: Stephen N. Zack
Short Review: Stephen N. Zack is administrative partner at Boies, Schiller & Flexner in Miami and president of the American Bar Association.
“The book is roughly 50 years old but has never been more relevant. This book is a fast read that reinforces the dynamic role newcomers play in American life and culture. It reminds us that each successive wave of newcomers to our country has made it stronger and more vital. We are a world leader because our freedoms and opportunity draw people from around the world.”
Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen and Haskel Frankel
Character: Sam Adam Jr.
Short Review: Sam Adam Jr. is a defense attorney and sole practitioner in Chicago. In recent years he has represented such high-profile clients as vocalist R. Kelly and former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich—often teamed with his father, Sam Adam Sr.
“Respect For Acting taught me how to look inside yourself and bring out those things that other people see, or want to see, to take a look at a character and understand who that character is in order to become that person. That’s what a whole lot of trials are about—preconceived notions about who you are, and who your client is. You can quickly sum up who the audience wants you to be.”
The Trial by Franz Kafka
Character: Thane Rosenbaum
Short Review: As founding director of Fordham Law School’s immensely popular Forum on Law, Culture & Society, Thane Rosenbaum has pulled together some of the most prestigious gatherings of lawyers, judges, writers, actors and academics in the nation. He’s also an award-winning novelist; Fordham’s John Whelan Distinguished Lecturer in Law; and the editor of Law Lit: From Atticus Finch to The Practice.
“Franz Kafka’s masterpiece is a cautionary tale about the soul-crushing dimensions of the legal system. More allegory than story, this nightmarish parable makes being turned into a bug an improvement over what happens to Joseph K. on the day when officers of the court pay him a visit. Though they leave without ever charging or arresting him, they inform him that he is the subject of a legal proceeding where his guilt is certain. There is no actual legal trial in The Trial (spoiler alert), just the human trial of a man forever transformed by the grinding gears of the law. Joseph K. spends the novel desperately seeking an acquittal from a nameless crime while all of Prague becomes a prison on account of a legal proceeding that can’t be stopped even though it has barely begun.”
Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn
Character: Gloria Allred
Short Review: Gloria Allred is one of the highest-profile lawyers in America and a founding partner of Allred, Maroko & Goldberg in Los Angeles.
“Groundbreaking and chilling, Half the Sky tells the heartbreaking but inspirational stories of some of the hundreds of millions of women and girls who are little more than serfs and objects in the world’s brutally misogynistic cultures. But hope is alive: The authors also recommend specific programs the reader can connect with that really do make a difference in combating sexual slavery, mothers dying in childbirth, female genital mutilation, bride burnings and other horrors. A must-read.”
Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made by Jim Newton
Character: Erwin Chemerinsky
Short Review: The dean of the University of California at Irvine School of Law, Erwin Chemerinsky is a fervent and frequent Supreme Court advocate and the nation’s most-cited full-time legal academic.
Chemerinsky believes that this definitive biography on one of the most influential and controversial U.S. political figures shows “judicial activism” as it ought to be. “It’s the best judicial biography that I have ever read.”
Civility: Manners, Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy by Stephen L. Carter
Character: Leah Ward Sears
Short Review: Leah Ward Sears is a former chief justice for the Georgia Supreme Court and was the first black woman to head a state court system. She is now a partner in the Atlanta office of Schiff Hardin.
Carter’s Civility is more broadly defined than simple manners. “He points out so well the sacrifices we all must make to be able to live together by doing more than just being obedient to the law.”