Mark Herrmann and “Inside Straight”

What follows is a brief review of Mark Herrmann, Inside Straight–Advice About Lawyering, In-House and Out that Only the Internet Could Provide (ABA Publishing 2012).*  You will remember that Mark is the best-selling author of a classic entitled The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law, ABA Publishing (2006).  I lovingly reviewed The Curmudgeon previously. Read that post again for more details about Herrmann. (Besides, I need the page views (Herrmann understands what I mean.))

Herrmann was a general litigator at a small firm, a general litigator at mega-firm (in Cleveland–that by itself is funny) and is now in-house counsel in some big insurance brokerage outfit. He is also a gifted writer with a flair for being both frank and funny in the twisted ways of a real trial lawyer whose heritage must be German. Refreshingly, he is not an ego maniac.

He also has a brilliant kid who Herrmann shamelessly uses in Inside Straight to illustrate the essence of the points made in the book. Herrmann really should give the kid all his royalties, ’cause the boy is clearly smarter than his dad. As Herrmann says, the “little turd is in medical school now.” But, I digress. (I first typed “regress.” Is that a Freudian slip?)

When not writing best selling books, listening to the “little turd,” and advising some corporate giant about how to screw widows and orphans and leave them nailed to Billy Bryan’s cross of gold, Herrmann writes a column for Above the Law not surprisingly titled “Inside Straight.” This book is a compilation of Herrmann’s posts at ATL between November 2010 and April 2012 together with selected comments (some of which are hysterically funny) that readers made in reference to the posts. Those posts have become required reading by corporate counsel and the outside counsel who represent these non-breathers (to use a description that Jerry Spence coined as he rode his gilded horse while pursuing his screwy Jihad for Justice). But, I regress.

You ought to put this book on your summer reading list. (F…, did I just write “summer reading list?” It sounds so, well, Rehoboth Beach-ish.) The book has 271 pages (excluding the obligatory lies about Herrmann’s claim to be able to fly like a bird) and is divided into a wonderful preface entitled “Flotsam,” followed by six relatively short chapters. The chapters discuss life as in-house counsel versus life as outside counsel, attracting business, corporate policies and politics, law firms, through the eyes of an insider turned outsider (my favorite), and succeeding in the law (also my favorite). The writing is clear, direct and wry. The perspective is that of a litigator who has either seen it all in real life or in his frequent nightmares.

Mark, appearing at a DC bar meeting, discussing  "Law & Cyberspace: Legal Blogging & the Courts."

Mark, appearing at a DC bar meeting, discussing “Law & Cyberspace: Legal Blogging & the Courts.”

I must confess that I am not impartial. I love ATL, and I really like Mark, although our relationship consists only of e-mail correspondence. That admitted, Inside Straight, the book, is both a great read and a great instruction manual for lawyers of any stripe.** The book has been highly praised by people who (unlike me) know a lot about “big law” and big corporations. But the book is not only for “big law” types. Solos and small firm practitioners will find a lot that will interest them between the folds of this book. As I say, take this book to your “summer place” and pursue it at your leisure. (Remember, don’t mix SPF50 with your gin.) I am betting that you will come away from reading this book far better informed about the realities of the practice of law and little sore from your constant chuckling.


*If you are a member of the ABA, you can buy the book for $19.95.  If you want to screw Herrmann and the ABA, Amazon will sell you the book for $15.37.

** OK, so you think I am Herrmann’s pimp and you don’t trust me. If so, consider this: Scott Greenfield, a criminal defense lawyer in New York and a preeminent blogger, wrote, “Inside Straight is a very quick read, replete with Herrmann’s hallmark humor and humility. Mark has inspired me on more than one occasion to riff off his thoughts, and given me a framework to think about some really important ideas. Most significantly, Mark Herrmann is the real McCoy, and that he has once again laid himself bare for our benefit makes this book worth your time. Get it. Read it. Enjoy it, but learn from it.”



4 responses

  1. You are only his pimp if you’re getting a cut… uh, are you? Nah, couldn’t be…. could it?

    By the way, why haven’t you written a book? Unless you have, and I just haven’t seen it.

  2. Anon.,

    No cut (yet).

    No, I haven’t written a book, and I don’t plan to do so. But, I have a good title for a biography written by someone else, “A Peabrain in Paradise.”

    All the best.


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