The 2014 Solo and Small Firm Institute Book Club

By Melanie C. Hagan posted 01-13-2015 13:23


After attending last year’s Solo and Small Firm Institute, I posted about The Checklist Manifesto, a book that had been mentioned by two different speakers that year, and how lawyers have applied the lessons of that book to improve their practices.

This year’s recommended reading list includes these two books:

  • Getting Things Done by David Allen. This book, published in 2002, is subtitled The Art of Stress-Free Productivity. What lawyer couldn’t benefit from learning that art? Allen’s method involves applying “five simple steps” to achieve order: (1) capture—record everything that has your attention (your “inbox”); (2) clarify—review everything that you capture and decide the very next action required (do it now, file it, put it on a list); (3) organize—put action reminders on the right lists; (4) reflect—look over your lists and decide what to do next; and (5) engage—take action.

This blog post on Lawyerist focuses on how lawyers can apply this methodology. Process your inbox at least once a week. Each time you process, do one of the following with each item: do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it. If it takes less than two minutes, do it right away. Break down your projects into discrete steps. As the example used in the post states, if your next project is “respond to summary judgment motion,” the next steps might be add filing deadline to calendar, create filing checklist, print key cases cited by defendant, outline response, draft statement of facts, etc. As the post points out, you will want to refine your process to be the most effective for your personality and your practice.

  • Power Questions by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas, published in 2012. This book’s subtitle is Build Relationships, Win New Business, and Influence Others. The book includes over 200 questions to help you connect with potential clients, colleagues, and employers. From the inside flap:

Power Questions can immediately help you win more business, deepen your relationships, and connect with people more rapidly than you ever thought possible. It shows you how to use thought-provoking questions to engage prospects and uncover their most pressing issues. It gives you the tools to get inside the heart and mind of anyone you meet.

Cordell Parvin, a keynote speaker at the Solo and Small Firm Institute this year, mentioned this book in the context of career development. When thinking about the direction of your career, he offers these questions from this book as a way to get you thinking: (1) What is your mission? (2) Which are the most important relationships you want to invest in? (3) What are the essential priorities and goals of those closest to you? (4) What are your expectations of the people around you, and what do they expect of you? (5) What is your plan?

Both books offer lawyers valuable, practical tools for different, equally important, aspects of their careers. Now the question is: Which book should you read first?