Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Fueling the Spark

Kevin Houchin, Esq. wants lawyers and law students to succeed in their personal and professional lives. He has written two books, both entitled Fuel the Spark. One is aimed at law students, and subtitled,  5 Guiding Values for Success in Law School & Beyond (2009, Kevin E. Houchin, Esq.). The other is aimed at lawyers and subtitled,  5 Guiding Values for  Success in Law & Life (2009, Kevin E. Houchin, Esq.).  Both books are short and aimed at getting those either entering or already entrenched in the legal profession to consider their values and to apply them to their lives so that they can be happier, healthier and more successful in their law practice.  He also wants them to have more fun.

What's not to like?

Mr. Houchin (an entertainment and intellectual property lawyer you can learn more about at would like these books to be required law school reading, and I don't blame him. I have encountered innumerable legal practitioners who started having existential crises the moment they graduated law school.  I myself started feeling when I left law school and entered Corporate America that I was no longer the interesting person I used to be, the person I liked before I became a lawyer.  It has personally taken years of struggle and honest reflection to build a happy, balanced life for myself.

As Mr. Houchin recognizes, I am not alone.  His answer is to highlight 5 guiding values and work up short programs and exercises to help the law student and legal practitioner contemplate and come home to his or herself, or at least remember who they are so they don't stray too far from themselves in the first place.  He writes with enthusiasm, brevity and wit, which is much appreciated by the reader. Without digression he illuminates his 5 core values (keys to success) which are to (1) Accept responsibility for one's life; (2) Show up; (3) Pay 100% attention; (4) Have many irons in the fire; and (5) Give back (Stewardship).

As I teach an Introduction to Law class at the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, Florida, I have come close to answering Mr. Houchin's dream by making his books recommended (but not required) reading and spending one day of class time discussing the principles contained therein with my students. I have even gifted one of his books to a very grateful friend who had just been accepted into law school and would give a copy as a graduation present to any law student I truly cared about.

As for my Introduction to Law class, Fuel the Spark makes for an interesting and thought-provoking discussion with students. It is important to encourage students to think about what values really matter to them. I have even had students indicate that the values highlighted by Mr. Houchin are not the only relevant values and that they might prefer to choose the values they felt mattered most to them rather than the values prescribed by someone else.

All the better.

Fuel the Spark encouraged my students to consider their own values. I loved that they were inspired to begin thinking about qualities that matter to them in life. After all, isn't getting students to analyze and think for themselves what education is all about? And unlike some other disciplines, law is not about "solving for X," but rather identifying and evaluating different perspectives and articulating them in understandable, compelling and persuasive ways.  Not only do the Fuel the Spark books get students to think about their own values, they beseech them to formulate how they will make a positive impact in the world utilizing their strengths and talents.

A worthy exercise for anyone, I submit.

The Fuel the Spark aimed at lawyers also makes for an excellent continuing legal education seminar in ethics and professional responsibility. I would certainly utilize it for any law student or lawyer that came to me for coaching and mentoring.

So I give kudos to Kevin Houchin for creating these straight-forward and easy reads for lawyers and law students. I hope he realizes his dream of having one or the other become required law school reading as I would like to see a more self-actualized and less stressed-out bar.

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