Inside Track: The Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference: Where the Answers Are:

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  • The Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference: Where the Answers Are

    “Lawyers know the law no better than other people; they only know where to find it.” – King George III. You may know more than Mad George presumed, but even so, you will likely be asked a question you don’t immediately have an answer for. Know where to find it. – the Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference.


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    Aug. 6, 2014 – Suppose that last year you helped an elderly woman refinance her house. Last week she walked into your office, with a fuzzy, flatulent, and incontinent little dog on a leash. She wants you draw up a will, but only if you can assure her that Fido will be provided for after she’s gone. Can you handle it?

    You open Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference and turn to chapter 35, Animal Law, specifically section 35.49, “Wills and Trusts.” There you find that the new Uniform Trust Code makes it possible to create a “Trust for Care of an Animal.” You assure her you can do it, take down details, and set a follow-up appointment for the next week. She leaves happy, you clean up after Fido, and you start drafting.

    After work you meet your brother-in-law at the usual watering hole. He’s a classic garage-shop tinkerer who thinks he’s come up with a new tool that could make a fortune. He’s thinking about a patent, but wants to know whether he would have to include his buddy on the application. He explains that the two of them had once discussed the idea over a beer, and the buddy had shared a few thoughts. But your brother-in-law insists he had done all the tinkering and worked out the details.

    You don’t know much about patent law, but you’ve recently browsed through your Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference, specifically section 26.8, “Conception and Inventorship.” There you had read that, although every “true” inventor must be listed on a patent application, contributing “ordinary skill and marginal insight” does not make one a true inventor. You advise your brother-in-law that if things are as he described them, he is free to pursue his dream and to leave his buddy out. But you also remind him that you are not a patent lawyer, and that he should talk to one before going any further.

    In exchange for that insight, brother-in-law buys you a drink.

    Next morning an older man comes to see you. He owns an apartment complex, and one tenant, a young man, has been harassing a female tenant, to the point that the woman has obtained a no-contact order against him. Your potential client doesn’t believe the man will observe the order, and anyway is tired of the drama. He simply wants to kick the young man out and wonders if you can help him do it.

    You turn to section 32.3 of Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference, in the chapter on “Landlord/Tenant Law.” You find discussion of the Safe Housing Act, which explains the procedure by which a landlord can terminate the lease of an “offending tenant” such as this young man. The potential client becomes an actual client, and you begin the termination procedure.

    A few weeks later it becomes obvious that the troublesome tenant is refusing to go quietly into the night. Having completed a year of law school before opting for a life of motorcycles and mayhem, he decides to fight the termination. He files a plethora of obviously unsupportable defenses and counterclaims, supported by many pages of legal and quasi-legal documentation. You successfully navigate this legal briar-patch, after hours of research and court time, and succeed in getting the offending tenant evicted. You wonder if you can recoup any of those fees.

    You look again to your trusted Desk Reference, and find a chapter on “Frivolous Claims.” It turns out that you are entitled to them if you can show that the claims and defenses were presented for an improper purpose, such as to harass and injure an opposing party. You get an award of fees. But of course trying to collect those fees will toss you into the realm of “Collector/Debtor Relations.” Fortunately, that’s covered in chapter 16 of Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference.

    It’s for times like these that you need the Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference, which provides quick, basic answers to practical questions in more than 35 practice areas. Ideal for the general practitioner, and anyone who may be addressing legal matters that fall beyond their usual area of expertise. Newly revised for 2014, this easy-to-use reference – available in both print and online as part of Books UnBound® – puts the information you need at your fingertips.

    Wisconsin Attorney’s Desk Reference is available in print to members for $219 plus tax and shipping. Subscribers to the State Bar’s automatic supplementation service will receive future updates at a discount off the update price. Annual subscriptions to Books UnBound start at $149 per title (single-user prices; call for library and firm pricing). To order the Desk Reference or for more information, contact the State Bar at (800) 728-7788 or visit our Marketplace website.