The Florida Bar

Florida Bar Journal

50 Lessons for Lawyers: Earn More. Stress Less. Be Awesome.

Book Reviews

By Nora Riva Bergman

In the ever-growing field of professional coaching for lawyers, few coaches are as qualified, through their personal experience of practicing law, as Nora Riva Bergman. By the time she joined the world of coaching, Bergman already had many years of experience as an employment lawyer, mediator, and managing partner of her own law firm. In her debut book, 50 Lessons for Lawyers, Bergman draws on a variety of popular business books to offer powerful, practical tips on practice management, marketing, leadership, and the ever-elusive concept of work-life balance.

Designed for the busy practitioner, 50 Lessons for Lawyers is grouped into 50 brief, often humorous, and easily digestible chapters with summaries and examples of how to put each lesson into practice immediately. The book’s straightforward layout allows the reader to return to and reference particular lessons with ease. Additionally, with a comprehensive table of contents, readers need not read each chapter sequentially; they may skip around according to their particular needs or interests. It is a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book for the legal professional.

In 50 Lessons, Bergman brings attention to the myriad routines we fall into at the office, which we mistake for diligent practices — such as checking email throughout the day — not realizing how disruptive and counter-productive they are. She highlights such common bad habits and offers simple, constructive suggestions on making small changes throughout the workday to significantly boost productivity and save time. She also encourages readers to focus on why they do what they do, rather than on what they do.

Bergman’s passion for achieving a healthy legal practice is infectious. Each chapter offers motivating, inspiring tips that make the reader eager to spring into action. One of the first lessons, lesson 3, is embodied in her acronym “TANSTATM”: “There ain’t no such thing as time management,” meaning that we cannot control or manage time itself; we can only manage how we spend the time that we have.

Another memorable phrase Bergman uses to describe a workday time-waster is the “lurk and blurt” syndrome, where a staff member hovers in the attorney’s doorway while she is on the phone to interrupt her with a question. Her solution to reduce such unproductive encounters is to schedule brief, daily staff meetings at designated times.

For the brevity of its chapters, 50 Lessons is remarkably comprehensive and well-researched. It is replete with inspiring quotes and resources for further reading on any given topic. In addition to offering ways to boost productivity and quality of work, 50 Lessons also provides effective advice for achieving a balanced, healthy law practice that is consistent with one’s personal values. Indeed, this book transcends the usual dogma of best practices to increase productivity.

From time management to marketing to handling stress and conflict, 50 Lessons is chock full of practical tips for a successful legal career and a happy, balanced life. It is a valuable guide for attorneys in solo, mid-sized, and large firms in any practice area.

Jovita Kravitz is a member of The Florida Bar.