The Successful Practice of Law
By John E. Tracy
2000/02 - Beard Books
1587980576 - Trade Paper Our Price $34.95
Based on the author's quarter-century as an accomplished attorney and his years as an outstanding professor of law, this compendium provides seasoned advice on all phases of independent law practice.
This unique book is a down-to-earth guide designed to help lawyers solve everyday problems in a more efficient manner--a ready-to-tap source of tested, proven methods for building and maintaining a sound practice. Here, in a compact volume, are timely techniques for getting and holding clients, for smoothing out the office routine, and preparing and trying a case.
Review by Gail Owens Hoelscher
Originally published in 1947, The Successful Practice of Law still ably serves as a point of reference for today's independent lawyer. its contents are based on a series of non-credit lectures given at the University of Michigan Law School, where the author began teaching after 26 years of law practice. His wisdom and experience are manifest on every page, and will undoubtedly provide guidance for today's hard-pressed attorney.
The Successful Practice of Law provides timeless fundamental guidelines for a successful practice. It is intended neither as a comprehensive reference work, nor as a digest of law. Rather, it is a down-to-earth guide designed to help lawyers solve everyday problems -- a ready-to-tap source of tested and proven methods of building and maintaining a sound practice.
Mr. Tracy talks at length about developing a client base. He contends that a firemen's ball can prove just as useful as an exclusive party at the country club in making contacts with future clients. He suggests seeking work from established firms as a way to get started before seeking collection work out of desperation.
In his chapter on keeping clients, Mr. Tracy gives valuable lesson in people skills: "If a client tells you he cannot sleep nights because of worry about his case, you will ease his mind very much by saying, 'Now go home and sleep. I am the one to do the worrying from now on.'" Rather than point out to a client that his legal predicament is partly his fault, "concentrate on trying to work out a program that will overcome his mistakes." He cautions against speculating aloud to clients on what they could have done differently to avoid current legal problems, lest they change their stories and suddenly claim, falsely, that they indeed had done that very thing. He also advises against deciding too quickly that a client has no case: "After you have been in practice for a few years you will be surprised to find how many seemingly desperate cases can be won."
Mr. Tracy advises studying as the best use of downtime. He quotes Mr. Chauncey M. Depew: "The valedictorian of the college, the brilliant victors of the moot courts who failed to fulfill the promise of their youth have neglected to continue to study and have lost the enthusiasm to which they owed their triumphs on mimic battle fields." Mr. Tracy advises against playing golf with one's client every time he asks: "My advice would be to accept his invitation the first time, but not the second, possibly the third time but not the fourth."
Other topics discussed by Mr. Tracy, with the same practical, sound advice include establishing fees, drafting legal instruments, examining an abstract of title, keeping an office running smoothly, preparing a case for trial, and trying a jury case. But some of best counsel he offers is the following:
"You cannot afford to overlook the fact that you are in the practice of law for your lifetime; you owe a duty to your client ot look after his interests as if they were your own and your professional future depends on your rendering honest, substantial services to your clients. Every sound lawyer will tell you that straightforward conduct is, in the end, the best policy."
That kind of advice never ages.
John E. Tracy was a professor of law at the University of Michigan, practiced in the courts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois, and New York, and was one of the drafters of the ABA's model corporation code.
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