Vol. 79, No. 10, October
High Conflict People in Legal Disputes
By Bill Eddy (Calgary, Alberta, Canada: Janis Publications Inc.,
2006). 272 pgs. $19.95. Order, www.janispublications.com.
Reviewed by Dustin Woehl
Doesn't this book's title seem to describe all litigation attorneys
and most litigators? While the author focuses on understanding and
managing four types of personality disorders that he characterizes as
"high conflict" personalities, his observations and suggestions apply
broadly to the extent high conflict personality traits are found to
varying degrees in anyone involved in litigation.
The author discusses personality disorders generally and provides a
detailed discussion of four high conflict personality types. For each,
the author explains the basics of the disorder using identifying
characteristics, formal diagnostic criteria, and examples. The author
then discusses how each personality type creates problems in dispute
resolution and how the personality type affects the person's
relationships with professionals such as lawyers and mediators.
The second half of the book presents a four-step method for managing
persons with high conflict personalities. For each step, the author
describes specific, concrete skills to effectively manage relationships
with such individuals. The author offers suggestions tailored for
advocates, dispute resolvers (mediators and judges), and "targets of
High Conflict People in Legal Disputes uses an accessible
conversational style. The mental health jargon is balanced with concrete
examples from case law and the author's experience as a dispute
resolver. The book's organization is superb. The chapter headings are
informative and descriptive. Each chapter begins with a cartoon and ends
with a succinct chapter summary. Thus, a quick look at the table of
contents and chapter summaries provides a useful recap of the entire
I highly recommend this book for all mediators and for attorneys who
practice in family law, where the effect of high conflict personality
types is most obvious. I also recommend the book to any attorney as a
useful tool for understanding and managing professional relationships
with "difficult" clients, whose personality disorders might distort
their expectations of their attorneys and of the litigation process.
The ABA Guide to Marriage, Divorce &
Families: Everything You Need to Know About the Law and Marriage,
Domestic Partnerships, and Child Custody & Support
Edited by Robert A. Stein (Chicago, IL: ABA, 2006). 240 pgs.
$16.95. Order, (800) 285-2221.
Reviewed by Sara Kornely
Marriage, cohabitation, raising children, divorce _ each of these
major life events has great emotional significance as well as important
legal and financial consequences for everyone involved. Most often,
people experiencing key life changes are consumed by the stress and
intense feelings associated with these changes. The ABA's family law
guide provides a matter-of-fact summary of law and money issues that are
coupled with these intense circumstances.
Updated from a prior version to address same-sex unions and domestic
partnerships, the guide also presents basic legal information on a
variety of family law subjects. The book addresses premarital
agreements, requirements for marriage, wills, marital property, taxes,
children, abortion, adoption, property division, maintenance and
support, custody, and the various ways to end a marriage. Especially
helpful are the bullet points included at the end of each chapter that
briefly summarize the chapter's most important lessons.
The book also includes a chapter on deciding whether to divorce that
discusses personal considerations as well as legal and financial issues.
The ABA's sensitivity to all facets of life change makes the guide
accessible to a wide range of people.
The ABA designed this book for the nonlawyer, and it is indeed a
basic primer. Practicing attorneys will not find in-depth discussions of
cases or comprehensive descriptions of each state's laws. As such, this
guide likely is not a must-have for the lawyer's library. However,
attorneys may wish to point new clients to this book in preparation for
a first consultation. Clients can ready themselves for attorney meetings
by reading a chapter entitled "Working With an Attorney." Also,
inexperienced attorneys may consult this guide to gain a basic
understanding of the issues and vocabulary surrounding family law.
In all, the ABA produced a comprehensive yet understandable survey of
family law for nonlawyers.
Overcoming the 6-Minute Life: How and Why the
Legal Profession Should Free Itself from Billable Hours
By Bently J. Tolk (The 6-Minute Life LLC, 2005). 258 pgs. $29.95.
Reviewed by Richard E. Garrow
The theme of The 6-Minute Life is that there are many
unhappy lawyers. The author argues that the scheme of billing in
six-minute increments is the major reason for this unhappiness. A few
times, he also mentions the quarter-hour measurement.
Author Tolk says the billable hour measurement was created by lawyers
for lawyers beginning in the 1950s. He identifies three centers of
income revenue: partners, associates, and paralegals. The follow-up
question is how many billable hours are there per year: Tolk has a range
of 1,500 to 2,500 hours. The book is 258 pages of easy reading.
Three-quarters of the book details, with many examples, the deleterious
effect of the 1/10th hour measurement tool including long hours,
shortened vacation time, lack of family life, no time for nonlawyering
activities, no introspection time, and so on.
Tolk has a chapter listing in descending order of satisfaction,
lawyers' niches in the profession. The list begins with judges and
continues with law professors, public interest or special interest
lawyers, government lawyers, in-house lawyers, small firm lawyers, and
solo practitioners and ends with lawyers at large law firms. Tolk's book
focuses primarily on this last group.
Tolk devotes 10 pages to reviewing American Bar Association efforts
to promote alternatives to billable hours, with ABA works dated 1989,
1992, 1996, and 2002. Tolk posits that the ABA has not focused on his
theme, which is the damaging effect of billable hours on the personal
lives of attorneys who are required to use billable hours as a measuring
Although the book is an easy and quick read, I do not recommend that
it be added to attorneys' libraries. While the book champions the
author's view of the down side of this measuring tool, large law firms
already know the pros and cons of keeping time in 1/10 of an hour
In the interest of full disclosure, the reviewer is a solo
practitioner of many years and most often charges what he thinks clients
will pay for his services. In contrast, the author has been in practice
for 40 fewer years (than the reviewer) and is a member of a large law
firm in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Academic Freedom After September 11
Edited by Beshara Doumani (Cambridge, MA: The
MIT Press, 2006). 327 pgs. $21.95. Order, (800) 356-0343.
Reviewed by Susan M. McCabe
The Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on targets in the United States have had
far-reaching repercussions throughout our society. In Academic
Freedom After September 11, a collection of essays by scholars and
educators, the various authors argue that today academic freedom in the
United States is confronting its most serious threat since the 1950s'
McCarthy era. This collection of essays grew out of a 2004 conference,
and focuses on how government agencies, private advocacy groups, and
special interests are subjecting institutions of higher learning to an
increasingly sophisticated infrastructure of surveillance, intervention,
and control. The authors assert that this campaign of censorship and the
increasing commercialization of knowledge are combining to "reshape the
landscape of intellectual production" and erode civil liberties in
education and the larger society.
The essays address a variety of topics including the history and
structure of the concept of academic freedom in higher education. One
essay traces the impact of the global war on terrorism on both academic
freedom and civil liberties and examines the chilling effects of
government actions such as HR-3077 _ The International Studies in Higher
Education Act (which would establish an advisory board of political
appointees to monitor and control federally funded foreign language and
area studies programs) and passage of the USA PATRIOT Act in October
2001. Another essay dissects the concepts of academic freedom _ derived
from values that attach to the special professional role of the scholar
such as freedom of teaching and freedom of research and publication _
and First Amendment rights that are held by every citizen. Other authors
focus on the impact of government and special interest groups' responses
to 9/11 on the study of languages, cultures, and the concept of
multiculturalism in American academics, the availability of grants and
funding for research, the role of foundations and think tanks in
knowledge production and dissemination, the function of dissent in
academics and the larger society, and the curtailment of student rights
such as speech and affiliation.
This book includes an appendix of materials such as the Ford
Foundation's Memorandum on Grant Language and the American Association
of University Professors 1940 Statement of Principals on Academic
Freedom and Tenure that allow the reader to evaluate key sources
discussed in the essays.
Although written by scholars and intended for an academic audience,
these essays raise legal, political, and philosophical issues central to
notions of democracy and civil liberties that affect all Americans.
These forcefully argued and carefully researched essays provide the
reader with a road map of the central issues and questions that all
Americans _ not only educators, students, and parents _ must address as
we pursue the global war on terrorism while preserving our democratic
and Constitutional freedoms.
The Death Penalty on Trial:
Crisis in American Justice
By Bill Kurtis (New York, NY: Public Affairs, 2004). 192 pgs. $25.
Reviewed by Douglas E. Baker
When Walter Cronkite says a book is written with "a novelist's
touch," and Scott Turow says it has "the hallmarks of the best
journalism," the book is not likely to excel in either realm. The
Death Penalty on Trial, though, comes close in both.
Bill Kurtis, a member of the Kansas Bar, has spent his entire
post-law school career (Washburn University 1966) as an investigative
reporter, primarily in criminal law. He says the genesis for this book
was the 2003 decision by then-Illinois Governor George Ryan to commute
the death sentences of everyone on Illinois' death row. Ryan did so
because, after the death penalty had been reinstated, at least 13
convictions had been reversed or commuted because of evidentiary or
trial irregularities. Because that number was one more than the number
of people who had been executed during the same period, it seemed to the
governor that the entire process was (pardon the pun) fatally flawed. "I
was shaken in the same way as George Ryan," Kurtis writes. "If these
death row verdicts were wrong, how reliable was the system?" He set out
to investigate death penalty cases, beginning with a general discussion
of the system in Illinois, and ending with a recitation of the arguments
against the death penalty across the nation. Those chapters bookmark
specific stories of two men, each convicted, sentenced to death, and
The novelist in Kurtis emerges best as he describes crime scenes and
the day-to-day life on death row. The first subject is Ray Krone, a
once-respectable mailman charged with the heinous rape and murder of a
barmaid. Krone is convicted, twice, but ultimately exonerated by DNA
evidence. The defendant in the second case, Thomas Kimbell, is the dark
counterpoint of Krone. He is a drug addict and petty criminal convicted
of brutally murdering three children in a trailer park home, but
ultimately released after a second trial. The prosecutor, in true
novelistic style, emerges as a morally ambiguous character, not
necessarily an evil person, but under considerable pressure to quickly
resolve the case. The journalist side of Kurtis rises to the top as he
describes the trials, including the frustrations of and the mistakes
made by usually well-intentioned court-appointed defenders. Both cases,
says Kurtis, are exemplars of how things can go wrong. That, he
concludes, is the crux of the issue, and the dispositive argument
against the death penalty: "Lawyers are human beings who make mistakes.
But where death hangs in the balance, we can't afford mistakes."
The book's strength is in forcing the reader to see _ since the death
penalty had been reinstated _ the death penalty, and those sentenced to
it, as more than abstractions and statistics. It also presents a brief
overview of criminal procedure and a litany of tactics defense counsel
should watch for and avoid. The book's weakness is its occasional lapse
into inflammatory oversimplification, such as the assertion that "[t]he
odds are still only 50-50 that the jury's judgment will be the truth."
One would hope and expect that, whatever its flaws, the American jury
system is still considerably better than a crapshoot. Likewise the
statement that "a trial is all about selling your case to the
jury.... It's all about razzle-dazzle." Maybe that's how they teach
justice at Washburn (but I doubt it). In any event, few of us are in
Kansas anymore, Toto.
Finally, the following discussion of prison machismo seems to have
experienced an editorial lapse: "And if a guy even acts like he's
disrespecting you, you gotta flair up, you gotta do something about it."
Unless we're talking peacock-type displays, the proper word is
Top of page
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
ABA Legal Guide to Home Renovation, principal author Robert
Yates (Chicago, IL: ABA, 2006). 224 pgs.
Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the
Law, by Lauren Stiller Rikleen (New York, NY: Thomsonlegalworks,
2006). 408 pgs.
Executive Compensation and Related _ Party Disclosure: SEC Rules
and Explanation, by James Hamilton (Riverwoods, IL: CCH, 2006).193
Fighting Son: A Biography of Philip F. La Follette, by
Jonathan Kasparek (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2006). 332
Guiding Those Left Behind in Wisconsin, 2d Ed., by Amelia E.
Pohl, with Dale M. Krause (Boca Raton, FL: Eagle Publishing Co. of Boca,
2003). 243 pgs.
Insincere Promises: The Law of Misrepresented Intent, by Ian
Ayres and Greg Klass (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press, 2006). 306
The Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental
Thought in America, by Ben A. Minteer (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press,
2006). 272 pgs.
Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches,
by Nolan McCarty, Keith T. Poole, & Howard Rosenthal (Cambridge, MA:
The MIT Press, 2006). 240 pgs.
Religion and the Constitution: Free Exercise and Fairness, by
Kent Greenawalt (Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press, 2006). 480