Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, July 3, 2019

Solitude, Leadership, Lawyers, And Law Professors

Amul Thapar (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit) & Samuel Rudman (Choate, Hall & Stewart, Boston), Solitude, Leadership, and Lawyers, 117 Mich. L. Rev. 1277 (2019) (reviewing Michael Erwin (Character & Leadership Center) & Raymond Kethledge (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit), Lead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude (2017)): 

Lead Yourself FirstLead Yourself First: Inspiring Leadership Through Solitude bears all the hallmarks of a well-crafted legal argument. That makes good sense, because it was coauthored by a great lawyer. Lawyers, however, do not play a large role in the book. We were curious to know whether the book’s core argument—that solitude is indispensable to leadership—applies to law.

To do so, we test the book’s argument on its own terms. The book develops its argument in two ways: by reviewing historical examples and by interviewing contemporary leaders from all walks of life. Following the book’s lead, we apply its hypothesis to a historical example with which we are familiar, and we discuss solitude with modern-day lawyers. We conclude that the book’s lessons about solitude and leadership apply just as squarely to lawyers as they do to other leaders. ...

[W]e came to this subject with a healthy dose of skepticism. Perhaps because we are both extroverts who enjoy team settings, we would not have expected solitude to play such an important role in leadership. Add our names to the ranks of the converted. By the end of the book, we were persuaded, and we expect others will be too: one of the historical examples or interviews will call to mind how the reader does his or her best thinking, and we are willing to bet that important parts of it are done alone.

That doesn’t mean that lawyers will be able to embrace all the book’s recommendations. Absent a radical change in how we structure our working days, we could not readily “mark off sixty or ninety minutes on [our] calendar[s] each day for time to think” (p. 182). And one of us is nervous that permitting emails to go “unanswered for hours rather than minutes” might require him to find a new job (p. 182). (The other has life tenure.)

The benefits of solitude, however, are profound—particularly in a profession that puts a premium on analytical clarity. Figuring out how to use solitude most effectively likely requires a highly personalized process of trial and error. Nevertheless, it is one we look forward to, not only because the book has convinced us to pursue it but also because it has equipped us with dozens of examples and recommendations on how to do so.

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