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Literature for Lawyers, in Good Times and Bad

Forget the self-help books with their empty optimism and recycled advice, and those hefty legal primers on substantive skills or trial practice. Lawyers -- still employed or not -- might be better off taking a page (or even a quote) from literature instead, just as Dan Hull and Jane Genova are doing at their respective blogs.

At What About Clients?, Dan Hull references a passage from Anton Chekhov on how lawyers and writers can capture juries and readers: "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass."

And borrowing from William Wordsworth, Hull asserts that good writing is all about making it sing: "Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart." Be sure to check the comments for more great quotes from classics that can help lawyers improve their writing.

As for Genova, she reminds newly-unemployed lawyers and investors that they might find solace and inspiration in literature because the authors really "understood suffering." Genova shares her own experience:

"There are the hours," reflects [Leon] Wieseltier [in an article from The New Republic], "when the old Penguin paperbacks must stand us in good stead." I had the same thought in 2004 when I [was] down and out. I schlepped all the way from West Hartford, Connecticut to Dow Jones in central New Jersey and back. I did that for a job interview. When I got there the head of public relations kept me waiting an hour, then informed me she just wanted to discuss my blogging - not any job.

"Careless people," I reflected. That's a line from F. Scott Fitzgerald's "The Great Gatsby." Jay Gatsby makes that appraisal of the establishment. Being able to put that incident in the context of people who don't have to worry about gas money helped me. It really did. I was surprised, especially since my doctoral studies in literature and language never landed me a tenure-track teaching position.

What's your favorite source of inspiration for legal writing or for times when the economy's got you down? Share your thoughts below.

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on March 4, 2009 at 03:51 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)


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