BULLETIN | FALL 2015 63
Three Degrees of Law By Harlan York ’87 | Reviewed by Dave Desjardins ‘02
THREE DEGREES OF LAW Author: Harlan York ’87 Publisher: Motivational Publishing About the Reviewer: Dave Desjardins ‘02 is legal counsel for the Connecticut House Democrats.
ROUNDTRIP TICKET HOME Author: Kalimah Fergus Ayele ‘93 Publisher: Amazon.com (Kindle edition)
Devote yourself to your chosen craft. If you are unhappy with your current situation, change your perspective. And, like the fictional character Rocky Balboa, when you face a setback or take a “hit,” get back up and keep moving forward. Harlan York’s new book Three Degrees of Law is full of such helpful advice, as well as entertaining anecdotes and personal observations from his years as a top immigration lawyer. This book abounds with quotations and stories from colorful fictional and real-life characters, ranging from Harry Potter’s Dumbledore to Neil Young to obscure (but fascinating) 1960s professional wrestler Karl Gotch, each carefully selected by the author to make a larger point. However, it is the vignettes giving us a small window into the relationship between the author and his late father and hero, “Duke,” that are often the most powerful. While York has written this book with lawyers and people considering law school (and their parents) in mind, the basic concepts he expresses are equally relevant to non-legal professionals looking for some inspiration and good old-fashioned mentoring. Three Degrees of Law isn’t so much a how-to guide as it is a series of mini-lectures and pep-talks. He has organized this collection into three broadly defined chapters, or “degrees”: “I want to be a lawyer,” “running the best practice you can,” and “being the best lawyer you can be.” However, none of the chapters is so rigidly defined that the reader feels that only a certain set of pages is relevant to his or her life and
career situation. For example, York’s first degree contains guidance for those looking to enter the legal profession, but is also full of meaningful advice for attorneys who have been practicing for years and are looking for ways to avoid burnout and keep their passion for the law (or whatever professional goal they are pursuing) fresh. At 120 pages, Three Degrees of Law is a quick read, but as York lays out his philosophy on how to succeed in a career that is both professionally productive and personally rewarding, you may find yourself pondering passages long after you’ve put the book down for the night, and that’s what the author wants. Whether or not you agree with York’s ultimate conclusions, the real value of this book is in using his thoughts and experiences as a lens through which to re-evaluate your own career and life choices. Socrates has been credited with the phrase “the life which is unexamined is not worth living,” and, much in the same spirit, the philosophy expressed by York in this book may be best summed up as “the career which is unexamined is not worth pursuing.” Through his prose in Three Degrees of Law, York can be a helpful companion to guide readers down the path of critical professional self-re-evaluation. It is important (and often a neglected exercise) to routinely ask oneself questions such as “am I fulfilled in my career?” “how can I improve myself?” and “am I happy?” As the author pointedly reminds us, “[t]here are no wrong answers to most questions. You have to figure out what’s right for you.”
A PLACE TO STAND: THE BEAUTY OF LANDON Author: Jamie Kirkpatrick ’66 Publisher: Landon School
ALWAYS A CATCH Author: Peter Richmond ’71 Publisher: Philomel Books