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Becoming A Lawyer: Discovering and Defining Your Professional Persona, Toni Jaeger-Fine

Becoming a Lawyer  is both a career guide and self-improvement book that aims to make law students into confident professionals, and possible even happy ones. Jaeger-Fine concentrates in this work on the creation of a “professional persona,” or a combination of qualities (not necessarily academic) that lead to lawyers who thrive in practice. In a legal market that is becoming smaller, the author argues, the more important this professional persona is to separate oneself from the pack.

After describing how firms partnership, mentorship, and technology are all changing modern legal practice, the author moves on to the building blocks of the professional persona in chapter 3. Here, cognitive theory and the Dunning Kreuger effect are analyzed with an emphasis on their role in the culture of legal practice. Then, the importance of habit is discussed at length, noting that 45% of daily behavior is based on habit rather than decision. This portion of the book is especially useful, for any professional, as it gives clear examples of how one’s emotional intelligence, leadership skills, and followership skills are crucial to professional success in nearly any environment.

The second part of the book focuses on self-management, or professionalism from the inside. Concepts here include the importance of a positive mindset, optimism, and grit (sustained and persistent effort over a long period of time). This portion of the book becomes a little heavy-handed with its further commandments about resourcefulness, diligence, self-discipline, and reliability. Again, the development of good habits remains paramount, making one wonder if one could ever harness all the professional skills to create one’s optimum professional persona. The sections on time-management and organization do share some effective tips, such as not letting the urgent hijack the important. Not to mention it finally persuaded this blogger to commit to keeping a cleaner desk.

The final portion of the book deals with relationships, or as the author describes it, “professionalism on the outside.” Tips for newcomers to the legal profession include networking basics, the importance of understanding generational differences, and the importance of inclusiveness. More interesting though is the following chapter on talent management. This portion may do well to explain the mind of a supervisor to a new attorney, and the value of their intellectual capital in the workplace. It reminds the reader of the importance of being valued and appreciated for one’s contributions, and the value of a manager who can work with different types of workers and meet their individual needs adequately.

Becoming a Lawyer is a light and optimistic read that will be inspiring to some new lawyers, and overly cheery and pedantic to others. The author has high hopes for the new lawyer and her professional persona, and the book combines both useful advice with an overall encouraging attitude that some young lawyers may find quite inspiring.


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