From battles in Iraq to Marcus Aurelius; the realities of conflict to what actually makes us happy; these books can all teach you something powerful (and have nothing to do with the law). Wondering where you can start looking for answers to some of the difficult questions you have? Want to learn some techniques to be more productive, more focussed and more fulfilled? These books are a great place to start. Some will resonate. Some won’t. But, I challenge you to read them all and then tell me you haven’t learned anything valuable! These must-read books for lawyers can change your mindset and your direction in any part of your life.
Having great legal, commercial and client skills takes years and years of hard work. It’s the reason why your firm puts on those breakfast presentations and “lunch and learn” sessions for you. It’s the reason why continuing professional development is so important. However, there is a secret that a lot of lawyers never find out: the really good people do a lot of development work on their own time.
Want to learn how to be more commercial? Want to know how to react better to certain situations? Want to challenge your pre-existing ideas? Want to truly “think differently”? It’s simple. Get your head into one of these books.
Prepare to see your world differently.
The Four Agreements by Dom Miguel Ruiz
The lessons I’ve learned from this small, simple book have transformed the way I interact with the world. The agreements themselves are very simple: be impeccable with your word, don’t take anything personally, don’t make assumptions and always do your best. The discussion of each agreement and the simple, but beautiful, way they are explained make the lessons stick.
If you enjoyed The Alchemist, but want something to help you practically see your interactions in a different way, this book is magical. Stop living in your head. Stop worrying about how you’re seen. Embrace being great. Stop judging yourself within the made-up framework of the way your brain thinks others perceive you.”
Extreme Ownership by Jocko Willink & Leif Babin
Jocko and Leif are ex-US Navy Seals who provide life lessons and amazing stories from the front line on leadership and getting ahead in life. Jocko is all about taking ownership of all aspects of your life and aggressively taking responsibility for who you are, in whichever direction you are moving. The book dives deep into some incredible and tragic stories during his time in Iraq in particular and does a great job of parsing the lessons of managing in the armed forces with managing a team at work.
For lawyers wanting to reimagine what real pressure is, learn the power of prioritisation, “manage up” and develop empowering habits, this is a thoroughly entertaining read.
The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
This book is a deep-dive into finding the best in any situation. From Stoic thought in ancient Greek philosophy to modern day examples, Obstacle provides a rock-solid case for learning to “lean into” a problem and turn it into the solution. Get better, get stronger, get tougher, be more creative, and see opportunity in a completely different way. Obstacle provides a framework that allows the reader to completely reimagine their problems.
For lawyers, Obstacle can illuminate potential opportunity in your career, even in the face of difficulty. Furthermore, learning to see things differently can empower you to provide a more creative solution for clients. From a personal perspective, Stoicism gave me the power to see opportunity in my own career. It reminded me to be patient and to recognise that hard work has value I hadn’t considered before.
As Marcus Aurelius put it, nearly 2000 years ago, “The impediment to action advances action. What stands in the way becomes the way.”
Tribe by Sebastian Junger
It may be a short read, but Tribe packs a real punch. As one of the world’s foremost war reporters, with decades of experience witnessing humans at their best and worst, Junger discusses the power of community and the intrinsic need to feel part of something bigger than ourselves. Tribe explores stories of modern and 19th-century war, the Native American Indian community, and how modern men and women need to find their own “coming of age” traditions. Highlighting our human drive for competence, authenticity and connection, Junger flags these three pillars as eroding in modern society and rings the alarm for the future if we can’t return to these core principles.
Originals by Adam Grant
Adam Grant’s Originals blows open many of the misconceptions around ideas and success. It provides a framework for individuals and organisations to fight back against “group think”. The book focusses on fostering creativity, deals with issues like “first mover advantage”, and discusses how different people and personality types can find success. From Martin Luther King Jr to Warby Parker, Einstein to Amelia Earhart; Originals is a strong introduction to questioning how we approach problems and finding better ways to create solutions.
So there you have it, your reading list for the next couple of months!