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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 78, No. 11 November 2005

    Book Reviews


    Democracy and New MediaDemocracy & New Media

    Edited by Henry Jenkins & David Thorburn (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004). 440 pgs. $22. Order, (800) 405-1619. 2004).

    Reviewed by Eric G. Barber

    When Democracy & New Media arrived in my mailbox for review, I was initially skeptical that one could publish a timely and relevant book discussing emerging technologies and democracy.

    This book is a collection of essays presented at Massachusetts Institute of Technology conferences and forums between 1998 and 2000. Using 21 essays divided into three broad categories, the editors no doubt hoped to increase the likelihood the book, or at least some of its articles, might be timely and relevant.

    Some of the essays in Part I, "How Democratic is Cyberspace?," are useful for conceptualizing democracy and technology's effect on it. The essays that hit their intended target are those that focus on theory. Essays locked onto one particular type of technology are in some cases already irrelevant. There is abundant skepticism about technology's impact on democracy, with many essays pointing out that meaningful democracy requires active participation and most new technologies are inherently passive.

    The essays in Part II, "Global Developments," highlight just how much technologically advanced countries take for granted access to information and ease of communication and how much of an impact that attitude might have.

    Part III, "News and Information in the Digital Age," focuses on the delivery and form of news. John Hartley reminds us, "the French Revolution, for instance, perhaps the most decisive founding moment of political modernity, was promoted and disseminated on the Gutenberg wooden press, a premodern technology that was already three hundred years old at the time."

    This collection is not for the casual reader. Many of the articles are insightful, but some are slightly off their intended target, making it difficult for the reader to extract bites of timely and relevant information. On balance, however, for those readers committed to understanding the effect of new media and technologies on democracy, Democracy & New Media will hit its mark.

    Eric G. Barber, U.W. 2004 magna cum laude, is with Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe LLP, Madison. In January 2006, he will begin a clerkship with Judge Richard Wesley of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.

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    Compensation Plans for Law Firms, 4th Ed.

    By James D. Cotterman (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2004). 192 pgs. $94.95. Order, (800) 285-2221.

    Reviewed by Kara M. Burgos

    This book is for firms that wish to examine compensation systems for their shareholders, partners, and associates. The editor is a principal with Altman Weil Inc., which has provided consulting services to law firms for 35 years. Altman Weil annually publishes reports regarding compensation and management practices, and the editor prefaces his tome by noting that there is no one best compensation system and that what makes the difference to the firm is not the type of system but rather the decisions that flow from using the system and the employees within the system.

    Cotterman notes that compensation systems need to be aligned not only with law firm business objectives and firm culture but also with market reality. A compensation system can protect the firm and its members, but if not operated properly, it can be disastrous. It can produce negative consequences that include low productivity, high turnover, client dissatisfaction, low morale, and disputes with former partners and employees. Cotterman expands this overriding theory into five chapters that discuss compensation for: partners or shareholders, of counsel, associates, paraprofessionals, and other staff.

    According to Cotterman, there is a universal rule regarding compensation: "Every compensation system works, and every compensation system fails." Before speaking specifically about different types of legal entities, Cotterman provides a broad-based analysis of compensation systems in general and their common qualities. Each chapter provides an overview of the manner in which owner compensation should be addressed. The editor provides statistical data to illustrate general trends in the legal field relative to hours spent (billable and nonbillable) and compensation differentials. Helpful to many practitioners reviewing compensation plans are tips for administering compensation systems. Although on the whole, the book is designed for use by larger firms, its practical pointers can be helpful even for firms of two to three people.

    At times, the book becomes very technical in devising and structuring compensation packages, and the reader merely looking for a general overview might be inclined to scan sections. However, within each analysis are snippets of valuable information that might be applied to existing compensation systems in the reader's firm.

    Chapters on associate compensation, paraprofessionals, and other staff also are helpful. The book is worthwhile for administrators in charge of personnel issues, especially those related to recruiting and retaining paraprofessionals and staff. The associate compensation chapter provides valuable information on the need to develop programs to retain the right associates, not just through compensation and benefit packages. Lastly, the book contains several appendices for developing and implementing new compensation programs and information.

    On the whole, the book provides a start for firms that may be looking to change their compensation systems.

    Kara M. Burgos, Marquette 1995, is a shareholder with the law firm of Moen Sheehan Meyer Ltd., La Crosse. She also serves as a circuit court commissioner and is on the special preliminary review panel for the Office of Lawyer Regulation.

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    The Lawsuit Lottery: The Hijacking of Justice in America

    By Douglass S. Lodmell & Benjamin R. Lodmell (Phoenix, AZ: World Connection Publishing, 2004). 149 pgs. $15.95. Order, www.worldconnectionpublishing.org.

    Reviewed by Mark N. Mathias

    The Lawsuit Lottery: The Hijacking of Justice in America is populist in its appeal and chock full of platitudes, but it lacks meaningful analysis or solutions.

    The basic point of this commentary is correct - there are problems with the U.S. legal system - but the causes aren't as simple as the authors assert. They blame the current woes on attorney advertising, entitlement mentalities, and an erosion of the rule of law, rugged individualism, and the meritocracy that had made America great. Predatory tort lawyers and their greedy, often undeserving clients are eager to redistribute the nation's wealth into their own pockets at the expense of the rest of us. The sheer expense and uncertainties of defending these champertous attacks causes defendants to settle regardless of merit. As a consequence medical care is less available, products are more expensive, and economic growth is suppressed. Moreover, the public's regard for attorneys is increasingly negative.

    To support these claims, the text is sprinkled liberally with quotations and statistics but usually without the context from whence they were drawn or citation information for the original source. The authors also trot out the typical anecdotal stories, like the McDonald's hot coffee case, as proof of the absolute absurdity of the tort system. As a solution, the authors call for broad political, legislative, judicial, and educational reforms in order to restore the rule of law and return America to its meritocratic path. In the meantime, they explain in a cursory fashion how people can protect their assets and otherwise make themselves judgment proof without sacrificing their lifestyles or violating the tax code.

    In the end, this book didn't provide much new information or insight. If you're interested in a meaningful discussion of this subject matter, I don't recommend this commentary.

    Mark N. Mathias, Thomas M. Cooley 1985, maintains a law office in Eau Claire.

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    The Lawyer's Guide to Increasing Revenue: Unlocking the Profit Potential in Your Firm

    By Arthur G. Greene (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2004). 156 pgs. CD-ROM, worksheets. $79.95. Order, (800) 285-2221.

    Reviewed by Mark E. Schmidt

    Firms often focus on cost cutting to improve the bottom line. Yet, Greene cautions that owing to the fixed nature of law firm expenditures, many firms mistakenly cut vital muscle and bone when attempting to trim the fat.

    Instead of focusing on savings, firms should identify areas for revenue growth through mechanisms such as value-based billing, better use of paralegals, and increased billing collection. In order to do this, firms must develop a "revenue mindset" among attorneys and staff.

    The essential element of the revenue mindset is a client-centered approach. Since law is a service industry, Greene's key to unlocking a firm's profit potential revolves around the client. A firm should identify and represent the types of clients it wants, rather than take matters on an ad hoc basis. Attorneys should frankly discuss goals, be up-front about fees, and establish concrete expectations. Firms should strive to provide excellent service and communicate regularly with clients, especially when there is bad news.

    Satisfied clients are good for business. They not only pay their bills, but also pay on time, thus increasing a firm's realization while reducing write-downs, write-offs, and costly collection efforts. Happy clients provide a firm's best advertising and will attract more desirable clients.

    One of the ways to make clients happy - and increase the bottom line - is value-based billing, in which firms bill for specific services rather than by the hour. Clients appreciate value-based billing because costs are known up front, eliminating unpleasant billing surprises. Firms benefit from being able to take advantage of investments in time and technology while avoiding write-downs and write-offs.

    The appendix contains several worksheets (also provided on CD-ROM) that provide practical steps for analyzing the firm's financials and implementing value-based billing.

    This book provides a comprehensive revenue-enhancing guide in a digestible format. Attorneys responsible for minding the business side of their firm will find it a useful addition to their library.

    Mark E. Schmidt, George Mason 2004, is a litigation associate in the Milwaukee office of Godfrey & Kahn S.C.

    To Review a Book...

    The following books are available for review. Please request the book and writing guidelines from Karlé Lester at the State Bar of Wisconsin, P.O. Box 7158, Madison, WI 53707-7158, (608) 250-6127, org klester wisbar wisbar klester org.

    Publications and videos available for review

    • The Attorney's Guide to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals (3d ed.), 15 authors (Madison, WI: State Bar of Wisconsin CLE Books, 2005). 600 pgs.
    • Hero Island, by Stephen B. Wiley, J.D., poems (Largo, FL: Oasis Publishers, 2005). 72 pgs.
    • Lowering the Bar: Lawyer Jokes and Legal Culture, by Marc Galanter (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Press, 2005). 430 pgs.
    • Obtaining Discovery Abroad, 2nd Ed., by ABA Antitrust Law Section (Chicago, IL: ABA Antitrust Law Section, 2005). 361 pgs.

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