Bricks on the Brain

UM Law

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Peak Performance in the Legal Profession

A collegue recently took it upon herself to ask the SBA secretary to forward all of us an email promoting her new book.

I have read the excerpt available online and I have read the author's bio (assumedly self-authored) on the same website. From what I have seen, I am not particularly impressed with this project, and I feel it reflects poorly upon UM Law students. As she is not yet a lawyer, I will reserve my judgments as to how such things reflect upon the community of lawyers.

First and foremost, the author is not a lawyer. She has not even officially graduated yet, nor has she taken the bar. It is not at all clear why she is qualified to profess a means of achieving "peak performance" in a profession in which she has yet to officially serve.

Secondly, as I understand her bio, she has yet to serve in any profession. It seems she went straight from college in 2002 into law school. One wonders why she didn't take it upon herself to write "Peak Performance in Law School" or "Peak Performance in Academia", the field where her actual experience seems to lie. In her defense it appears from the bio that she did have some sort intern-type job during law school.

The bio is filled with other statements that fail to pass my smell test:

  • It purports, "Over the last decade [the author] has conducted independent research on the psychology of human peak performance." However, judging by the picture, graduation dates and the average law school grduation age, she is probably 25+/- 2 years. That would mean that "research" on this project began in high-school.
  • A second smelly sales ploy is an attempt to associate with other successful people, such as "Zig Ziglar, Tony Robbins, Ken Blanchard, Paul Brown, Donald Trump, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jim Ferraro, David Roehrs, Joseph Moriello and Richard Branson" all of whom it is claimed are her "mentors". The dictionary defines a mentor as "... a trusted counselor or teacher, especially in occupational settings." This implies some sort of interaction. Has the author interacted with all of these "mentors?" Or did the author of the bio "accidentally" confuse the term mentor with "role model" in an effort to employ the sales tactic of celebrity association, aka presumptious name-dropping?

After reading the sample chapter, Chapter 5, there is hardly anything distinguishing the book from the stacks of motivational books littering yard sales and used book stores accross America. It contains a rehashing and recycling of tired sports and business analogies. The strategies are nothing more than common-sense strategies that most law students have already mastered. Of course the book does distinguish itself from other works with the author's apparant mastery of prose: "Herb Brooks made the difference with his vision, tenacity, and quite frankly, “balls” to push this team beyond its limits to achieve what he set out to do" Ahhh genious. Pure genious.

It seems to me that a law student ought to spend their time writing scholarly case notes and comments for academic publication, not on some naive attempt to cash in on the motivational literature racket. It makes no difference to me how a girl makes her living, just don't bring down the good name of UM Law in the process.


  • At 4:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I don't know how you can rip her for writing a book instead of doing a scholarly paper. To each their own. I didn't even care enough to see whether it was self-published or not, but writing a book - no matter the quality - and getting it published is an accomplishment.

    That said, I'm not impressed either. It defies logic how she can be an authority on the subject she purports to know about.

    Then when she wrote in that tacky campus-wide e-mail to contact her "If your (sic) interested," that was the clincher for me.

    If I wanted to sell a book I wrote I'd put a little more thought into my pitches...

  • At 8:13 PM, Blogger Bricklayer said…

    I see your point. I meant to offer law review submissions as one alternative to what she produced. Many other alternatives would have been applauded (indeed perhaps purchased by me), including anything a law student or ordinary person would be qualified to write on. Even a nice piece of fiction.

    I think my reaction would even had been different if the book did not claim to act as an authority. For example, the promo says: "... this book will help the novice lawyer ..." and "[t]he principles discussed can be applied to nearly every area of practice to get results."

    Instead, if she had just promoted the book as "Hey guys, this is the research I've done and this is how I plan to approach my career..." then I'd say kudos to you, good luck with the bar.

    Frankly, if the book is what I suspect it is, then I think some of the advice could be counterproductive. Some practitioners in some areas of law may indeed benefit from the aggressive sports/business analogies. But in other practice areas that require more of a delicate touch, thinking with one's "balls" could be disastrous.

  • At 3:51 PM, Anonymous the libertine said…

    I find it stupefying that a UM Law student has the audacity to write such a book. UM is not NYU, Harvard, or Yale. Nor does this particular person have a prestigious firm job in NYC at Skadden Arps or Wachtell, Lipton. How could he possibly reason that he is a peak performer in the legal profession? Is this what they teach at UM Law?

  • At 1:18 AM, Blogger Bricklayer said…

    I can assure you that most other UM Law students are well aware that our alma matter's reputation will saddle us with a presumption of mediocrity that can only be rebutted by proving ourselves in the real world upon graduation.

    I don't think UM Law had much to do with this book, other than there possibly being some truth to the rumor that Florida's sun does fry some people's brains.

    I guess the deeper question is what is "Peak Performance" in the legal profession, and how is it measured? Is it billable hours? Client satisfaction? Convictions/Acquitals? Time spent with family? Size of your wallet? Justice served? Becoming a judge? Not becoming a judge? Staying a lawyer?

    If it matters, UM Law doesn't purport to answer this question. Which is probably a sign that is not such a bad law school after all.

  • At 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    All it tells me is that the entire genre of what used to be called "self-help" books is crap.

    Sure you might find a book with a few good tips for your specific situation and you can glean a few pointers from others' failures and successes.

    But ultimately our society is so desperate to be better, faster, richer, peak-er (if that's a word) that people will buy anything.

  • At 8:26 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Read the whole book instead of a chapter before you criticize it. This book is about preparing for the practice of law, which law school does not do. The preface of the book discloses that the author is merely preparing for life after law school. Instead of partying the 3L year away she wrote a book to prepare herself for the real world. Writing a scholarly paper is wonderful, but preparing to go out in the REAL WORLD and practice law with an edge is what most students need to do pay off their student loans. As an aside, the Florida sun does not fry your brain; it makes you tan, ripped and ready to take on the world. I am interested in how the author is doing today since he did not go to Harvard, Yale or NYU?????Ever Truly Yours, Anonymous.


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