As any lawyer can attest, working in the legal industry certainly has its share of demands. Not only is the technical side of the job demanding, but so is keeping up with changing legislation, shifting caseloads, and the professional development that all lawyers are expected to maintain. And, it’s even more intense for partners, with the addition of new business tasks and firm managerial duties.
In the midst of all these demands, it’s just as important as ever that partners strike a balance between professional and personal, legal and managerial, traditional and innovative. What is one of the best ways to tap into this balance? Reading.
Across nearly any industry, it’s recommended that leaders and professionals dedicate time to reading materials that aren’t necessarily directly related to their fields, but which can still help them grow individually and as part of a larger network of professionals. Here, we’ll explain some of the benefits that partners can expect to enjoy by reading outside the office or conference room, as well as provide a list of 10 great books that we highly recommend for partners and other professionals of the legal world.
6 Reasons Why Every Attorney (and Specifically Partners) Should be Reading
Though we’ve always been taught the benefits afforded by reading, it’s still important to keep them in mind – particularly as reading for personal development and leisure can easily fall to the wayside when more pressing work demands creep up. Here are 6 reasons why you shouldn’t put off reading but, rather, prioritize it:
1. A Different Kind of Professional Development
Even though you may not be reading case documents or legal precedents, reading things independent of the field of law can have a tremendous impact on your ability to communicate with co-workers and clients, tap into more creative ways of processing information, and ultimately perform your job better. Though it may not seem like it in the short run, reading for leisure, enjoyment, and personal betterment will have long-lasting benefits that can then spill over into office life.
2. Better Client Relatability
When you’re knee-deep in legal jargon all day, it might make for an excellent lawyer, but it may not make you the most relatable person in the room. And, to some degree, it’s important to be relatable to clients and potential clients when it comes to expanding business development and targeting potential clients at the individual level – especially in the role of partner, where this skill is vital for firm growth.
By widening your reading selection, you’ll have more resources and information at your disposal beyond just your professional industry. What’s more, you’ll also have conversation starters and talking points to discuss with potential clients, who may be debating whether to use your firm’s services or your competitors’.
3. More Social Awareness
Depending on the books you choose to read, your levels of social awareness and other societal intricacies may be challenged and bettered. Working in one industry with a pretty specific client base may not always afford partners the chance to hear others’ points of view or stay updated on relevant social questions outside their practice areas. By choosing to read about these issues, it can bring a new perspective to how you practice law, lead your firm, and engage with the community around you.
4. Deeper Leadership Potential
While there are several factors that go into making a naturally great leader – personality, upbringing, education, experience, values, communication styles, etc. – there is also a plethora of reading resources available to firm partners that can help introduce, explain, and develop leadership skills. Even by simply reading up on workplace psychology, improving communication skills, or how to host more productive meetings, you can set positive traits into motion within your work environment that, as a leader, will affect everyone who works under your position.
5. Personal Growth
Beyond the other reasons for why you should be reading more, developing a strong habit of reading non-work-related materials can help deepen personal growth and knowledge of self, awareness of strengths and weaknesses, and any personal tendencies that are good and bad in your life. When you engage with a variety of different readings, the personal growth you experience can have just as profound of an impact as the habits you develop to advance your professional life.
6. Leisure and Enjoyment
Finally, reading for pleasure can simply be relaxing, stress-free, interesting, and just plain enjoyable. Reading can be one of the most calming and therapeutic activities that you let your mind do, especially after a busy day.
According to the National Library Trust (UK), reading strictly for pleasure has been shown “to improve(s) literacy, social skills, health and learning outcomes.” When we allow our minds to engage in relaxing, creative thinking, it’s similar to the joy we can experience by working our muscles physically or nourishing our bodies with healthful foods. As leaders in both their firms and their communities, partners should do their best to exemplify a healthy, fulfilling habit of reading simply for enjoyment.
What Are the Top 10 Books We Recommend for Partners?
If you’re ready to further develop your professional habits, personal strengths, and client development abilities as a partner, here are 10 book recommendations that we think every partner would benefit by reading:
1. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (1989) by Stephen Covey
Though this book certainly isn’t new, it’s timeless in its presentation of how highly effective, inspirational, and disciplined people have developed the habits that helped to get them where they are. Covey also presents step-by-step ideas for becoming a better and more effective individual, as well as a better professional.
2. The Knowing-Doing Gap (2000) by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton
Pfeffer and Sutton break down the sharp difference between talk and action while they dissect the “knowing-doing” gap. Their recommendation? Employ more common sense, and start doing instead of just talking.
3. Good to Great (2001) by Jim Collins
Collins’ research, once ground-breaking for its time, explores why some companies outperform others so egregiously. He then uses the findings to offer recommendations on leadership, staffing, and every day organizational questions that are still practiced today.
4. Getting Things Done (2001) by David Allen
For anyone who feels stressed out, overwhelmed, and disorganized, Allen’s book helps readers better understand how to set goals and priorities, use time more wisely, and take advantage of the many tools at our disposal that can make our lives easier. The aim of this book is to showcase methods for becoming more productive while learning to get a handle on stress.
5. Give and Take: Why Helping Others Drives Our Success (2014) by Adam Grant
Here, Grant opens the discussion on how and why some individuals experience amazing successes professionally, while others never seem to get their bearings down to fully succeed. By taking a closer look at success, we begin to see the many forces (beyond just hard work) that are consistently at play.
6. Die Empty: Unleash Your Best Work Every Day (2015) by Todd Henry
A great read designed to keep work and life balanced while also remembering that both work and life are finite. In his book, Henry offers easy ways for making “every moment count” to glean the most you can from your job and, ultimately, to achieve your higher goals.
7. Emotional Intelligence: Why it Can Matter More Than IQ (2005) by Daniel Goleman
This book explains what Goleman considers to be the five most important emotional intelligence skills and their impact on everything from our careers to relationships, and even on our mental and physical health. Intelligence is certainly not as simple as research once thought.
8. Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t (2014) by Simon Sinek
Sinek takes a deep look at workplace culture and why negativity, paranoia, and dog-eat-dog sentiments commonly take root. When juxtaposed with companies that don’t experience these office attitudes, Sinek points to his idea of a “circle of safety.” This circle works both as an insulator for security and innovation as well as a wall to protect against outside threats. By capitalizing on this circle, companies can spend more time on what’s really important.
9. Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration (2014) by Amy Wallace and Ed Catmull
An excellent look at creativity and the massive influence it can have on business, this book helps to explain the important role of creativity among teams and managers as a way of promoting better office culture, as well as better business results. For these authors, it all comes down to innovation and originality.
10. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (2011) by Daniel Pink
By delving into what he considers to be the three main motivators – autonomy, mastery, and purpose – Pink explains how and why these factors work together to affect the way we perceive career satisfaction, as well as help others perceive theirs. Pink’s work is a great refresher on what motivates us, and how that can lead to feelings of satisfaction at work.
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