You Can’t Teach Hungry is John Morgan’s self-described how-to guide for building the multi-million dollar law firm. Morgan is the founder of the Morgan & Morgan personal injury law firm that has developed a national footprint. The firm lists eleven lawyers in its Jackson office, which makes it one of the largest plaintiff firms in the state.

Morgan’s book is part nuts and bolts suggestions and part business philosophy. The latter is what I enjoyed the most.

Morgan definitely understands lawyers. He recognizes that many lawyers are poor businessmen and simply hope for the best for their practice. His descriptions of some lawyers are funny, such as the big-talking lawyers who always tell war stories about the same trial that was years ago. Incidentally, I think that I am speaking for many lawyers when I say that the only war stories that we are interested in hearing are the ones with a punch-line at the end.

Morgan attributes a fear of failure as a common characteristic of successful lawyers. That is something I can identify with. I’ve had my own practice for nine years. My practice has been successful and financially stable for the entire time, despite a transition from an almost all defense practice to an almost all plaintiff practice. But success and experience has not made me fear failure less. 

I fear failure more today than I did the day that I walked out of Baker Donelson. The reason is that now I have tasted bitter defeat from losing trials where there was no recovery or fee unless we won and have seen other lawyers’ practices fail. In the late 90’s and early 2000’s there were lawyers making a fortune in Mississippi who were not really practicing law—much less litigating and trying cases. Today, there are smart and hard working lawyers who struggle to make it.        

Morgan suggests that when the fear of failure leaves a lawyer, he or she should hang it up.   

Morgan is a huge proponent of television advertising. He states that many lawyers who try television ad campaigns do it wrong. He recommends developing a catch phrase like his firm’s brilliant “for the people.” If everyone advertised like Morgan’s firm, I might not think that it is damaging to the profession. But the get-rich-quick commercials starring plaintiffs who look fine are a ball-and-chain around the neck of those of us who actually try cases.

Although the book is written for plaintiff lawyers, some defense lawyers might enjoy its insights on the business of law. The book is $20 on Amazon or $9.99 on the Kindle. You don’t need to get much out of it to make it worth that price. The book even comes with an offer for a free gift for those who read to near the end of the book. What is it? Read the book. But I can say that Morgan does deliver the gift as promised. 

  • mattdev

    Nice post – I’ll check it out on Kindle. These guys are very successful and it’ll be interesting to read how they got it all started, how they dealt with the stress of the risk, etc., assuming the book addresses that.
    With a 1 year old and another one coming down the pike, I am always amazed and inspired by those lawyers who “take risk,” whether it be moving laterally, hanging their own shingle, or taking some other ballsy move mid-career. Not saying these guys did that, it’s just a thought and feeling that I usually associate with small plaintiff shops.

  • Anon

    Been to their Jackson office. There are not 11 lawyers there. Look up Espy’s name on the Bar website. It does not say “Morgan and Morgan” but rather “Mike Espy PA”.

  • Anderson

    I believe their Jackson office is a pied-a-terre, so to speak.

  • larue65

    I don’t practice law but I’ll probably read the book based on the title alone. “You can’t teach hungry” is a phrase that applies to my profession of banking, as well as many others, I’m sure. It’s almost the equivalent of the “you can’t coach speed” maxim uttered by many a football coach.