30 Lawyers 30 Books (First 15)

My Life in Court by Louis Nizer

Character: Roy Black

Short Review: Roy Black is a partner with Black, Srebnick, Kornspan & Stumpf in Miami. Known for representing high-profile clients, including William Kennedy Smith and Girls Gone Wild creator Joe Francis, Black recently had cameo appearances on Bravo TV’s Real Housewives of Miami, which featured his wife, Lea, as a cast member.

“In college I read Louis Nizer’s legal memoir My Life in Court. I walked along with him into those old courtrooms and watched him perform, mesmerized by his brilliant and fluent advocacy. Long before I turned the last page, I desperately wanted to follow his path. His true stories make the Grisham and Turow legal thrillers pale and bloodless by comparison.”

Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik

Character: Donald B. Ayer

Short Review: A former deputy attorney general in the George H.W. Bush administration, Donald B. Ayer is a partner at Jones Day in Washington, D.C. He has argued 18 cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Colossus is an incredible saga of the politics and practical obstacles encountered in one of the greatest engineering feats in our history.”

1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart

Character: Trevor Potter

Short Review: Trevor Potter served as general counsel in John McCain’s 2000 and 2008 presidential campaigns, is the founding president and general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, and is considered one of the nation’s leading authorities on federal lobbying and campaign finance. He’s a partner at Caplin & Drysdale in Washington, D.C.

“A great book for this summer’s reading list. Written 150 years after the beginning of the Civil War, 1861 is a fascinating, riveting description of the year the war started. It reads like a thriller, but is full of bits of history and constitutional law that lawyers will love. Did you know both houses of Congress voted to amend the Constitution to enshrine the right to own slaves in the Constitution—and make it the one amendment that could never be amended? They did. All in an attempt to mollify the Southern states.”

The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow

Character: Morris Dees

Short Review: Dees is co-founder and chief trial attorney at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala. He and his civil rights group have been monitoring hate groups and extremist organizations for decades.

“I was already a lawyer running a very successful book publishing company when I read this book. It changed my life. I sold my company and began a civil rights law practice that ultimately became the Southern Poverty Law Center.”

Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E.P. Seligman

Character: Fred H. Bartlit Jr.

Short Review: A go-to corporate defense attorney for decades, Fred H. Bartlit Jr. is frequently called upon by companies fending off multimillion-dollar cases. He is a partner at Bartlit Beck Herman Palenchar & Scott in Chicago and Denver.

Seligman “explains how happiness comes from achievements—not from the money that comes with achievements, but the pure job of succeeding at very hard missions. And he explains that today’s parents are teaching ‘learned helplessness’ to their kids, which will preclude most of them from succeeding. He also describes how people with failures in their lives end up as the biggest successes, because they are hardened by surviving failure.”

And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank by Steve Oney

Character: David E. Kendall

Short Review: When President Bill Clinton needed legal advice for a variety of personal issues he faced in office, including his impeachment proceedings, he went to fellow Rhodes scholar David E. Kendall. Kendall’s other clients have included the Motion Picture Association of America and the Washington Post. He’s a partner at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C.

“A dark but spellbinding account of the murder of Mary Phagan, and the arrest, trial, appeal, clemency proceedings and lynching of Leo Frank. With astonishing historical detective work spanning decades, we learn who was in the lynch mob, how the lynching was organized and carried out, and why the cover-up was successful so long.”

Personal History by Katharine Graham

Character: Robert B. Barnett

Short Review: Robert B. Barnett, a partner at Williams & Connolly in Washington, D.C., is the lawyer behind some of the best political books published over the past several decades. His clients have included Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Personal History is certainly one of the best autobiographies ever written. It contains lessons on personal growth, advice on facing life’s challenges, insights into the ways of governmental and social Washington, business lessons and the history of the Washington Post.”

Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison

Character: Dale Minami

Short Review: Minami led the legal team that reopened Korematsu v. United States, which resulted in a federal district court overturning the conviction of a Japanese-American who defied the World War II internment order. He is a partner at Minami Tamaki in San Francisco.

Minami calls this seminal Ellison classic, which traces a black man’s devastating sense of isolation from white America, an important source for “understanding of what people of color feel and experience, learning empathy in a diverse world.”

Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff

Character: James J. Brosnahan

Short Review: Legendary trial lawyer Brosnahan has argued more than 140 cases to verdict over more than 50 years. He’s a senior partner at Morrison & Foerster in San Francisco.

“A gossipy, interesting, lucid book on her life.”

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Character: Geoffrey Fieger

Short Review: Geoffrey Fieger is a plaintiffs personal-injury lawyer based in Southfield, Mich. For the past 15 years, Fieger has been best known for his spirited defense of Dr. Jack Kevorkian, the late supporter of physician-assisted suicide.

“The Little Prince connects you with your own being so you’re looking inward rather than outward. When you really get down to trial work there isn’t a mechanism where you learn tricks for convincing people of something you really don’t believe. It all has to come from inside you and requires self-examination. I don’t think it has relevance for lawyers doing transactions or mergers and acquisitions. It does have relevance for those who seek to do what I do, which is trial law.”

Leadership on the Federal Bench: The Craft and Activism of Jack Weinstein by Jeffrey B. Morris

Character: Kenneth Feinberg

Short Review: Kenneth Feinberg is founder and managing partner of Feinberg Rozen, a firm in New York City and Washington, D.C. Known for his mediation in mass tort actions and disasters, Feinberg has served as special master for TARP executive compensation, and he is the administrator of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster Victim Compensation Fund.

“Morris does a splendid job of analyzing the career of U.S. District Judge Jack Weinstein of Brooklyn and focuses on the work and challenges confronting a federal district judge in our nation.”

My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American Journey by John Wooden with Steve Jamison

Character: Jay Foonberg

Short Review: A Beverly Hills, Calif., sole practitioner, Foonberg wrote How to Start and Build a Law Practice, now in its fifth edition.

The Wizard of Westwood seems an unlikely hero for a lawyer, but Foonberg says that for him, that’s exactly what Wooden was. “He was a great influence on me, and his advice for living as found in his ‘Pyramid of Success’ would be of great value to any person at any time.”

The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs

Character: Neal Katyal

Short Review: Neal Katyal, director of the Center on National Security and the Law at Georgetown University Law School, recently stepped down as the United States’ acting solicitor general. A professor at Georgetown University, he was the lead counsel for the Guantanamo Bay detainees in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court found that military commissions to try detainees violated the Uniform Code of Military Justice and four Geneva Conventions.

“Lawyers are trained to think far too much about law being the primary constraint on behavior. In this brilliant book, Jacobs reminds us that the way in which space is configured—from the organization of cities to the layout of individual apartments—alters the path of human interaction in profound ways.”

The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary

Character: Marci Hamilton

Short Review: Marci Hamilton is a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University. She’s a longtime legal activist and a champion of children’s rights. She is the author of God vs. the Gavel.

Joyce Cary’s comic novel regarding the misadventures of aging artist Gulley Jimson seems an unlikely recommendation for lawyers, but Hamilton says she likes and recommends books that “test readers’ assumptions, perspectives and perceptions. The great lawyers are the ones who can see in a given set of facts or doctrine what others cannot or will not.” Jimson, she believes, can help them.

In the Shadow of the Law by Kermit Roosevelt

Character: Cynthia M. Lewin

Short Review: Lewin is general counsel and executive vice president of AARP in Washington, D.C.

Roosevelt’s K Street legal thriller may be an offbeat choice, Cynthia M. Lewin says, but it is “a great, gritty portrayal of how the law really works, and it gives a better sense of what lawyers do than most legal novels.”