I’m working my way through Leadership in Turbulent Times by Doris Kearns Goodwin, which distills leadership lessons from the careers of Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, and LBJ. Solid read so far.

One of the highlights is the section where a chastened Lincoln responds to his failed stint in congress (following his failed stint in the Illinois state legislature) by deciding to become an elite trial lawyer:

The half-decade that followed Lincoln’s brief and unhappy tenure in Congress is often depicted as a period of withdrawal from public life. He himself claimed that he “was losing interest in politics.” Although one might suspect his claim, it is undeniable that he practiced law more assiduously than ever before. Furthermore, this waiting period was anything but a passive time; it was, on the contrary, an intense period of personal, intellectual, moral, and professional growth, for during these years he learned to position himself as a lawyer and a leader able to cope with the tremors that were beginning to rack the country.

So how did our nation’s most celebrated Vampire Hunter transform himself into a Super Lawyer?
Continue Reading Abraham Lincoln: Super Lawyer

Tim Ferriss had an amazing conversation with Jerry Seinfeld that covers Seinfeld’s writing process, the importance of systems, and life. It’s probably the best podcast I’ve every listened to.

Here’s the takeaway: Your brain is a lump of meat in your skull. It responds to rules, rewards, and routines, so you can train it like a schnauzer. If you want to consistently succeed in a difficult field, you have to train it this way. To illustrate, Seinfeld goes through some of his routines for writing, fitness, and meditation.

That is a gross oversimplification. The whole podcast is well worth your time. I’ve pulled out a few highlights below.
Continue Reading Jerry Seinfeld on Writing, Systems, and Life

I don’t usually get surprised at legal-writing CLEs. But I got surprised this morning.

For context, I was lucky enough to moderate a panel  at the VADA’s annual meeting this morning. Justice McCulloughJudge Carson, and Erin Ashwell sat on the panel, which addressed practical legal-writing tips. If you know these folks, then you know that they have varied and fascinating life experiences. We ignored them. Instead of talking about, say, growing up in Marseille (Justice McCullough) or spending summers in the Catskills as a California kid (Judge Carson) or writing novels (Erin), we focused on my idiosyncratic tics and obsessions. You’re welcome, VADA!


Continue Reading Legal Writing: Be Brief or Be Thorough?

The brief in opposition is one of the great underappreciated joys of Virginia appellate practice. It comes at the writ stage, when we’re just trying to convince the Supreme Court that it should/should not grant a petition for appeal. We’re not necessarily arguing the merits. Sometimes, the petitioner will not yet have hired specialist appellate counsel. Even when they do, some nominal appellate lawyers fail to appreciate this distinction.

Continue Reading Dead Man Walking

So we decided to send Jack to sleepover camp this year. You remember Jack, right?

Well, he’ a little older now. This is the first year that he’s eligible for camp, and he’s really been looking forward to it. We’ve been sending him letters every day, and we include the sports section from the local

 Lately, I’ve been binge listening to Scriptnotes, a podcast by John August and Craig Mazin about screenwriting and things that are interesting to screenwriters(TM). I’m not a screenwriter myself and, as it turns out, I’m not interested in many of the things that are interesting to screenwriters. (In my defense, that is a very

Lawyer

Getting paid to write is, at least for me, the best part of being a lawyer. But while I may be, strictly speaking, a “professional writer,” I’m very much aware of my shortcomings in that field. And I’ve got plenty, as illustrated by the fact that–not to put too fine a point on it–nobody