New Lawyer Tip of the Week – How Books Can Inspire & Improve Your Legal Career

I am so pleased to share a second guest post by our friend Chelsea Wilson of Washington University School of Law.  Last week, Chelsea set out some excellent guidelines for the art and style of legal writing.  This week, she’s talking all about how books can inspire and improve your legal career.  Once again, thank you Chelsea!!!

[And while we’re talking about books, check out my book Thrive – A New Lawyer’s Guide to Law Firm Practice – an ABA bestseller and the perfect thing to read if you are beginning your summer in a law firm or starting your legal career!]

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Attorneys attend law school for different reasons. Some are looking for a challenging career, others are seeking financial security, and certain attorneys are motivated to serve a good cause.

No matter what drew you to the profession, these legal books can inspire you, re-energize you and deliver to you a few wise lessons that you can use to improve your career.

1.     A Civil Action

A Civil Action is the nonfiction story of Anderson v. Cryovac. In the mid ‘80s, a group of children in Woburn, MA were diagnosed with leukemia and the alleged cause was groundwater contamination from local industry. While settlements were ultimately disbursed to the plaintiffs, plaintiffs’ counsel did not enjoy a happy ending and was rendered bankrupt, in part, as a result of the case.

What change will this book inspire?

The story causes many to re-examine how badly they want success, what they are willing to sacrifice to get it, and what they are willing to risk in the chase.

2.     Five Years of My Life: An Innocent Man in Guantanamo

Nineteen-year-old Murat Kunaz was arrested without explanation in Pakistan in October 2001 and was not released from captivity until five years later. He committed no crime, and the U.S. government has acknowledged his innocence. This book is the story of his journey from Pakistan to Afghanistan to Guantanamo and the tortures he endured along the way.

What change will this book inspire?

Examining the clash of liberty and security is an extraordinarily important exercise for attorneys. If nothing else, this book will rededicate you to zealous representation of clients.

3.     Gideon’s Trumpet

If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed for you …

Anyone who has heard the police recite a Miranda warning has heard this statement. Gideon’s Trumpet is the story of how the right to counsel for indigent defendants came into existence.

What change will this book inspire?

This story may be just the motivation you need to pick up your next pro bono matter and expand your practice horizons.

4.     Storming the Court: How a Band of Law Students Fought the President — and Won

Storming the Court is the story of hundreds of Haitian refugees who were held captive by the United States in 1992 and the struggle to free them. The case ultimately wound up before the Supreme Court, which ordered that the refugees be released.

What change will this book inspire?

Many of the experiences described in the book will remind litigators to think creatively and resourcefully. Not every case proceeds along the usual track, and Storming the Court will inspire you to find better ways to represent your clients’ interests.


Stories like the ones listed here have the power to stimulate your professional energy and can often lead to worthwhile changes in your career. Whether it’s taking on interesting new matters, pursuing a new practice area or simply bringing renewed motivation to servicing your current clients, books have the power to inspire. Whether you are actively seeking inspiration or feel as though everything is on-track, add some time to your schedule for a little reading to encourage personal and professional growth.


Chelsea Wilson is the Community Relations Manager for Washington University School of Law’s online LL.M. Degree program, which provides foreign trained attorneys with the opportunity to earn a Master of Laws degree from a top-tier American university from anywhere in the world.

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