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Bar News - December 19, 2008

Book Review The Creative Lawyer, A Practical Guide to Authentic Professional Satisfaction By Michael F. Melcher


If your current job paid half your present salary, would you still do it?  What if your current job paid triple your present salary, would you be happy doing it – and no other job – until you retire? Have you ever considered what percentage of your leisure time you really enjoy?

These are just a few of the questions Michael F. Melcher, a former attorney turned career coach, poses in the first chapter of his book, The Creative Lawyer, A Practical Guide to Authentic Professional Satisfaction. Melcher describes his book as "a practical, fun, inspirational guide to building and maintaining a life that is personally and professionally satisfying." The Creative Lawyer lives up to its billing.

This book provides a roadmap to becoming a creative lawyer, which Melcher defines as "any lawyer who uses his or her own creativity to make a life that works." The author starts from the premise that if you dedicate just twenty minutes a day to working on your career, as opposed to in your career, you can make definite changes that will have a lasting effect and lead to greater happiness. The real life examples Melcher uses to illustrate how attorneys from varied backgrounds have made large and small changes to achieve life balance and career satisfaction will be helpful to those looking to venture into a new area of the law or to change careers completely.

Answering the questions asked above is just the beginning of Melcher’s recommended strategy for recognizing strengths and weaknesses and using the information to create a more satisfying life. This is an interactive book that contains valuable exercises designed to inspire creative brainstorming and critical thinking about who you are, what makes you happy, and what aspects of a career you are unwilling to negotiate. The exercises are easy to complete in a short time; however, the blank space allotted to complete the exercises is minimal. A slightly larger format would have made this book more user-friendly.

As the reviewer, I diligently worked through every exercise to fully experience all this book offers a reader. In doing so, I created my own road map for living a life suited to my personality and life goals. For example, I identified my core values, developed three possible life vision statements, and evaluated my current competencies, as well as those areas I would like to develop further. I brainstormed areas of interest and listed experiments I can use to experience these areas with little risk of meaningful failure. I also thought through how to clearly communicate my current goals in a way that will make it easier for others to help me reach those goals.

One exercise I found particularly helpful was doing market research on myself. It gave me valuable information that will help me capitalize on my strengths and further develop areas that are hampering my success. For example, after interviewing six people about things I do well and not as well, there was an overwhelming consensus that my strengths lie in writing and communicating. The interviews also revealed that focusing my efforts on becoming more decisive would increase my productivity. With the help of this exercise, and others in The Creative Lawyer, I now have a clearer sense of who I am and what I need to do to live a more satisfying life, personally as well as professionally.

An attorney who is unsatisfied with any aspect of her/his current position, but does not have a clear idea of what to do about it, should read this book. This book will also help attorneys who know exactly why they are unhappy, have an idea of what will make them happier, but don’t know where to start to make that change happen. It will be less helpful to an attorney who is currently satisfied with her/his position and lifestyle. However, the exercises are designed in such a way that anyone wanting to create a deeper understanding of her/himself in both work and home life will benefit from the book.

Finally, Melcher asks, "What would happen if even one percent of lawyers found better ways to express themselves, take care of themselves, and move forward? How much positive influence would they have? How much would they contribute to the world?" and he answers, "A lot, I think."

Melcher’s book offers an opportunity to change your perspective on your life and career and that alone may change the world for the better. Despite the list price of $39.95 for a book that is fewer than two hundred pages in length, the exercises, information, life stories, and lists of recommended reading materials in this book make it a worthwhile investment.

Esther B. Piszczek is a member of the Massachusetts and New Hampshire bars. She has litigated civil and criminal environmental cases with the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office.

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