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All change... 3 must-read books for lawyers

This is a tough blog post for me to deal with. Not least because Simon White as a consummate lawyer keeps recommending books for me to read and they are invariably incredibly useful.

The first book that I would recommend for anyone to read if they are involved in the legal profession is ‘Our Iceberg is melting’ by John Kotter. John Kotter is a Harvard Business School guru.  His book ‘Our Iceberg is melting’ is perfect for lawyers for a number of reasons.  But firstly it is fictional, it is written in large print, it is a story about penguins with briefcases that can talk to each other and it has pictures.  As I said, perfect for lawyers!

Kotter’s book is all about change management.  In this book the iceberg is going to be destroyed.  The penguins have got to find a new glacier to live and work, and that involves change.

All lawyers are going through change.  The book identifies 8 steps that should be followed if change is to be carried out successfully.

The other good thing about the book (I bought 20 to distribute amongst our firm) is that people identify which penguins they are.  If you have a read you might discover more about yourself as well as your colleagues.

The second book I would recommend is ‘Reimagining Legal Services for the 21st Century’.  This is a Simon White recommendation, I still remember the day when we met in a pub to have a chat about putting the world right, and he excitedly pulled a copy of the book from his briefcase and asked me to read a single page.  It was brilliant.

The book is written by Mitch Kowalski, a Canadian lawyer (if you want to follow Mitch on Twitter he is @mekowalski).

The book is a pithy novel about a law firm in the future.  It deals with lots of issues that lawyers are facing and identifies how a proactive law firm resolves them.  I only bought 4 copies of this for the business (it’s an American Bar Association publication and they know how to charge!).  It has become essential reading for people at my firm.  One bright young thing that I gave it to, sent me a text on a Saturday morning after she had finished reading it which read “I want to work for that firm”.  My reply to her was “You already do…..we just haven’t finished building it”.

You can see Mitch on YouTube and hear some of his thoughts about what legal services should be like in the future, but the book really is an essential read.

My third and final offering is from another Harvard Business School guru, David Maister.  The book is called “Strategy and the Fat Smoker”.  It is essentially a manual for Professional Services firms identifying “What’s obvious but difficult”.  Many managers in law firms know what things need to be changed.  What prevents change happening is that it is bloody difficult!

The book refers to a “Smoker” simply because many people won’t do anything about change, until a medical catastrophe happens and they are told to lose weight or stop smoking.  What Maister proposes is that people don’t wait for a catastrophic event but plan in advance, grasp the nettles and do something about it.  The book identifies how organisations think about strategy, how they should think about clients, marketing and selling, and how they should think about management.

The book is laid out in 19 chapters, all worth reading especially chapter 17 which identifies “the trouble with lawyers”! My HR people in particular enjoyed this chapter.

So there you have it three books. All brilliant reads. I wish I had read all three when I was young, enthusiastic and committed to changing the world. I am still enthusiastic and committed… just not so young!