Vol. 78, No. 11 November
Democracy & New Media
Edited by Henry Jenkins & David Thorburn (Cambridge, MA:
The MIT Press, 2004). 440 pgs. $22. Order, (800) 405-1619.
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
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.
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Compensation Plans for Law Firms, 4th
By James D. Cotterman (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice
Management Section, 2004). 192 pgs. $94.95. Order, (800)
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
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.
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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,
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
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.
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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,
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
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
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
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.
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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