Written by Roy Black

This is one of my favorite quotes:

“You do not merely want to be considered just the best of the best. You want to be considered the only ones who do what you do.”
~Jerry Garcia (lead guitar for The Grateful Dead)

It took me a long time to figure out Garcia’s meaning. To be “the best of the best” means by some measurement you are better than others in your field. But to be the “only one” is to create a new category for yourself like The Grateful Dead created their own genre of music. They broke from the herd and created a unique form of music.

Mariano Rivera played for 19 years with one team, at one position, throwing only one type of pitch, one inning at a time. His mechanics are perfect and it has made him the best relief pitcher in the history of the game and insured his entry into the hall of fame. The road to success is taking a small slice of something and owning it. Being the master, the force to be reckoned with, the only one they call in the ninth inning with the game on the line. I was reminded of this last Thursday when the Supreme Court granted cert in a case filed by Paul Cassell, a law professor and former federal judge. He has intensely focused on one issue, the rights of minor sex crime victims, and made it his own. This is a good example of how Garcia’s axiom works — master one part of the legal spectrum, and will take you to the Supreme Court.

obsession 4I love obsessive people (at least those obsessive about their work); as the MRI proves they employ more brain power on a problem. Focusing enormous energy on one singular issue can effect radical change. And in the Darwinian legal world, the only way to survive is to be distinctive.

My partner Howard Srebnick has had a 6-year obsession with the Kaley case and it brought him to the Supreme Court. His brief may be accessed here. He is singularly focused on one issue – the right to counsel and government freeze orders. How obsessive is Howard in his preparation for the oral argument? He is listening to decades of recorded arguments to get the sense of it. Far and away beyond what is necessary, but it will give him the confidence to attack any Justice’s question.

My advice is take on an issue and beat it to death. Have an obsessive devotion to one talent or skill. Be the recognized expert in it. The go-to guy. It will take you a long way.

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12 Comments to Obsession

  1. July 2, 2013 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

    GREAT blog!!! I truly believe in immersing yourself in a discipline!! Reminds me of the book Outliers!

  2. Monte Burke's Gravatar Monte Burke
    July 2, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Sounds a lot like the work ethic of a lawyer friend of mine. Roy Black.

  3. July 3, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    To “own” that one skill or talent allows you to be unique and a game changer. It’s easier to be good at many things instead of being the “real deal” in one specific discipline!

  4. July 4, 2013 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Read Outliers. It explains why obsessions make people successful. Just practice something for 10,000 hours and voila!

  5. July 4, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    FYI. They need to put Elroy Face in the hall of fame. He made the closer position what it is today.

  6. July 15, 2013 at 5:56 am | Permalink mistake upon mistake upon mistake, what is wrong with the work of the private bar lately?

  7. July 15, 2013 at 3:18 pm | Permalink
  8. July 15, 2013 at 6:05 pm | Permalink prosecutors get away with murder all the time. what’s the big deal with zimmerman skating?

  9. July 17, 2013 at 7:59 pm | Permalink notice the dress description of one of the assailants

  10. July 18, 2013 at 3:37 am | Permalink
  11. July 23, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Permalink this rule will make it harder for attorneys to admit when they perform ineffectively.

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