Denver Bar Association
November 2011
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Book Review: ‘Marathon’ Sprints to Niche Big-Law Audience

by Christopher Mommsen

Book Review: ‘Marathon’ Sprints to Niche Big-Law Audience


“The Six-Minute Marathon:
A Guide to Life as a Lawyer”

by Andrew Hartman, with contributing editor Caren Ulrich Stacy, 168 pages.
Published by the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Available in paperback for $12.95.

 

A


ndrew Hartman provides great brass-tacks advice on the idiosyncrasies of big-law culture for junior associates in this easy-to-read and information-packed guidebook. However, as the introductory chapter of "The Six-Minute Marathon" admits, this book is about big law. Readers who are not young large-firm associates or law students interested in such a career path would be advised to look elsewhere for career advice.

However, the strengths of this book are two-fold. First, Hartman, an adjunct professor and Experiential Learning Program director at the University of Colorado Law School, and Caren Ulrich Stacy, who interjects fresh and useful points of advice in sidebars throughout the book, possess a wealth of real-world firm experience. They have been there and faced everything ranging from understanding the byzantine firm compensation system to writing correct billing entries, both as an associate and as a supervising partner. They present these years of advice in a manner that a reader with no experience or context can understand, and without any of the condescension that might normally accompany an old hand’s lesson to a newbie. The authors also largely avoid devolving into pointless discussions about attitude and philosophy, sticking to situational advice a young associate can act on as opposed to tangents that an associate would ponder.

Second, the authors manage to strip down or entirely omit the lame attempts at jokes, lengthy, self-congratulating anecdotes, and tired tangents that too frequently populate these "surviving the___" guides. As a result, the book feels comprehensive, despite clocking in at a lean 168 pages. Hartman’s personality still shines through in the form of lively prose, and relevant but brief stories culled from his experience. Because it’s so free of nonsense and so well written, "The Six-Minute Marathon" is one of the breeziest professional help books I have ever read, taking me less than three hours to read, without skimming.

That said, this book is not for everybody. It is specifically targeted at young associates or law students who are trying to make partner in a larger firm. Most of the advice, which is oriented toward how to make profit-hungry partners happy, will not serve young lawyers who work in less structured small firm environments, not to mention for a nonprofit or government agency.

Even an attorney who is questioning the long-term fit in big-law practice probably will not find a great deal of help in this book. Hartman refers to the degree of turnover inside large law firms—77 percent within the first five years—as a number that is likely to get "worse," as though this couldn’t be a sign of industry dynamism or firms and attorneys mutually seeking the most productive fit. The chapter on "graceful exits" notably fails to make any mention of a situation where the associate actually wants to leave, as if no sane young lawyer would ever leave a large firm.

Ultimately, the razor-sharp focus of this book is its greatest asset for the target audience. By exclusively focusing on a relatively tiny subset of young attorneys, Hartman is able to cram a near-comprehensive set of advice into a book so small it fits in your back pocket. For young attorneys at large firms trying to make partner, and for law students interested in this career track trying to gain some insight into the realities of life at a large firm, this book is an absolute must-read. Other readers will find the book’s advice limited in applicability. D

 

Christopher Mommsen is a criminal defense attorney in Denver.


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