Vol. 79, No. 11, November
By David Feige (New York, NY: Little, Brown & Co., 2006).
288 pgs. $24.95.
Reviewed by Kevin J. Cords
Indefensible provides a day-in-the-life look at a Bronx
public defender. The author, a former Bronx public defender and a 1991
U.W. Law School graduate, provides back stories, extended exposition,
and examples so that the import of the various daily events are fully
felt. The author also gives one a sense of the agony of waiting - both
at the court house and in the local jail - that goes hand-in-hand with
being accused of a crime.
This book is accessible for a wide variety of people, both in the
legal profession and outside it. While it will be of most interest to
people working in the field of criminal law, it provides an invaluable
insight into the practice of law and its operation and is a forthright
and genuinely sincere exposé of the reality of our legal system.
The book serves as a useful reminder of the travails of practicing law,
and the positives and negatives the author notes will be familiar to any
practitioner. Policy makers also could put the book to valuable use.
The pace is fast and the tone is surprisingly upbeat and positive,
despite the many problems the author identifies. His humanity comes
through repeatedly, especially when he admits doubts and pressures. This
depth is lacking at the outset but it develops throughout.
New law students may be particularly well served by reading this
book, as an insight into the practice of law and as an exposure to a
type of practice that many will never see. Unlike in A Civil
Action, readers of Indefensible do not see one case from
beginning to end, although large portions of the stories are shared.
What Indefensible best conveys is the human side of the law,
something that should not be forgotten in our educations and
Top of page
Guide to Winning in Small Claims Court
By Jeffrey A. Isaac (San Diego, CA: The Lawyer in Blue Jeans
Group, 2006). 65 pgs. $29.95. Order, (619) 683-2345.
Reviewed by Jason Hanson
This book, a 65-page spiral bound handbook, is written by Jeffrey
Isaac, a California lawyer who hosts a radio show called "Blue Jeans
Law." The book apparently is written for pro se litigants who are
prosecuting or defending actions in California small claims courts.
Most of the book is very specific to California and contains
information that would be very misleading, if not wrong, for Wisconsin
litigants. For example, the book indicates that a small claims litigant
cannot be represented by an attorney and cannot file more than two small
claims cases per year, and that a small claims plaintiff cannot appeal
an adverse decision. These statements may all be true in California, but
they are not true here. Wisconsin residents who read the book, which
contains no admonition that it applies only in California or that law
varies from state to state, may make bad choices if they follow some of
the rules specified in the book.
The book contains several typographical errors, such as missing words
or punctuation, and improper capitalization. The book also has a few
strange aspects - as one example, it provides an order blank for
ordering other books in the series but neglects to provide a mailing
The book does contain a decent overview of the small claims hearing
process. It also provides good general advice on how to determine
whether pursuing a claim makes sense, given the time and expense of even
informal court proceedings, and the difficulties in collecting on
judgments. It would be a good guide for a California resident
considering a small claims suit, albeit a bit expensive at its $29.95
retail price. A Wisconsin resident would be better served by using the
many resources available from the State Bar of Wisconsin, the state
court system, and local law libraries.
Top of page
Your Lawyer: A User's Guide
By Lawrence J. Fox & Susan R. Martyn (Charlottesville,
VA: LexisNexis, 2006). 100 pgs. $12. Order, www.lexisnexis.com/yourlawyer.
Reviewed by Martha C. Carlson
Published by Lexis Nexis, Your Lawyer: A User's Guide seeks
to fill the void in the existing literature by giving clients a quick
introduction to the experience of working with a lawyer and the ethical
obligations that their lawyer must adhere to. At 100 pages, A User's
Guide provides a brief outline of the following topics: lawyer
advertising, lawyer referrals, attorney fees, conflicts of interest, how
to handle client-attorney problems, improper attorney conduct, reporting
attorney misconduct, and alternative dispute resolution. The cartoons
satirizing the professional life of an attorney keep the book light and
easy to read.
From an attorney's perspective, the most important sections of the
book address conflicts of interest and the ethical obligations of our
profession. Written in a question and answer format, A User's
Guide explains what a client's lawyer cannot do (for example, pay
the client's rent in lieu of fees, lie to the court on behalf of the
client, engage in a sexual relationship with the client). Although much
of the book will feel like a regurgitation of the Lawyers Code of
Professional Conduct, many clients are just not aware that there are
certain limitations on their lawyers' behavior.
The book also includes a glossary of legal and professional terms,
including "billable hour," "expenses," and "reasonable." A User's
Guide does a nice job of explaining the different kinds of fee
arrangements, including contingent fees, fixed rates, and hourly
While this book may not be an essential component of the
practitioner's library, at a retail price of $12, it is a relatively
inexpensive way to provide clients with a brief background of the
attorney-client relationship before a consultation.
Top of page
Mr. Tutt's Case Book
By Arthur Train (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons,
Reviewed by Douglas E. Baker
"It is not enough for a lawyer to know either the law or the judge,
or even both. To succeed in his profession he must, above all else, know
his fellow man." - From The Liberty of the Jail Something
compelled me to pull the book from the free-books bin outside the local
half-price bookstore. It couldn't have been the faded olive-green cover
with illegible flecks of gold gilt lettering or the pile of musty books
around it. But something did. When I opened it, a vaguely sophisticated
odor of pipe tobacco drifted out, creating a passing mental image of a
smoking jacket in a darkly paneled home library, in which rows of books
stood smartly at the edge of the yellow reading light, waiting to share
old confidences and reflections. The pages, reflecting every one of
their 60-some years, were yellowed and stiff. But I recognized the title
on the flyleaf and found myself drawn into Mr. Tutt's Case
Book, a collection of 26 stories about the practice of law in the
1920s and '30s, the way it was - or ideally would have been -
I had a passing acquaintance with the firm of Tutt & Tutt, having
come across it in a short story collection years ago. That familiarity
inspired me to take the book home and further investigate. I soon came
to know and appreciate Ephriam Tutt, a tall, urbane, older, gentleman
attorney equally at home in the courtroom, the board room, and the
barroom, with his (even then) old-fashioned stovepipe hat and penchant
for smelly cigars. To some extent he seemed an American Horace
Rumpole,1 committed to the pursuit of
justice, which usually involves defending the "little guy" against
moneyed interests and their pompous advocates. Like Rumpole, Mr. Tutt
(as he is invariably called by everyone) is given to spouting poetry
whenever it strikes him as apropos of a particular situation. Their
primary difference is that Mr. Tutt possesses the wealth and
sophistication that Rumpole seems to simultaneously desire and
The other half of Tutt & Tutt is the younger and stouter Samuel
Tutt (no relation to Ephriam and never referred to as "Mr.") who does
the legal grunt work and trial preparation. The junior Tutt tends to
argue purely on the side of the controlling law, reasoning that because
"the law is wise, based on generations of experience," it ought to be
presumed that the legal answer is the end of the question. Mr. Tutt is
more drawn to the equitable side of the law: "In a word," the author
writes, "he applied to any given situation the law as it ought to be and
not the law as it was." This interplay between Mr. Tutt and Tutt
provides much of the intellectual savor of the book, resulting, as the
author deftly puts it, in Mr. Tutt "always tilting like Don Quixote at
some imaginary windmill, dragging a very unwilling Sancho Panza after
him, in the form of his reluctant partner." Over the years each has come
to appreciate and rely on the other, and the fact that the firm prospers
is a testament to the ability of each partner to rise above his
individual prejudices and to find an answer that satisfies both
The stories are well-crafted, fun, and elegant, most involving a
series of interesting and all-too-human recurring regulars, with the
occasional appearance of a transient and evil villain. The plots seldom
reach beyond the realm of credulity, invariably reaching a plausible, if
sometimes a bit forced, ending in which right is done after all.
Train, in his nonliterary hours, served as assistant district
attorney of New York County and special deputy attorney general of New
York State, and his stories reflect his experiences and his legal
background. Each story is followed by a sort of brief, in which another
attorney traces the legal issues raised in the story, including the
then-current authority usually supporting - but occasionally refuting -
the outcome of the story. These annotations often seem quaint and
Olympian, reflecting a long-gone era when the practice of law was
seriously considered a profession and an art, rights and justice
arguably mattered more than money, and the sums in dispute were
incredibly paltry by modern standards.
The stories are not perfect, however. For one thing, they sometimes
rely on period references that seldom make sense to modern readers. More
disturbing, though, are occasional lapses into casually racist comments,
usually in the form of references to biases and phrases that seem to
have been a part of the lingua franca of the day. A similarly subtle
sexism also appears, in that, although there are plenty of old ladies
and damsels in distress, there are almost no female authority figures.
The one exception might be the firm's "chief clerk" and moral compass,
Miss Minerva Wiggins, who does have a law degree. But she never appears
in court, and Train goes out of his way to describe her as "a maiden
lady of forty years."
Disappointing though such unconscious flaws can be, it might be said
that they also impart value to the stories, suggesting that even the
gilded age of the practice of law had its imperfections, and reminding
us that not everything lost was worth keeping.
Mt. Tutt's Casebook is a delight, and one of several
collections of stories about Tutt & Tutt that appeared in the first
half of the 20th century. You would do well to pick one up - if you can
find it. [Editor's Note: A search at Amazon.com produced several
1If you don't know Horace
Rumpole, don't expect me to deliver you from your ignorance here.
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.
The Electronic Evidence and Discovery Handbook: Forms,
Checklists, and Guidelines, by Sharon D. Nelson, Bruce A. Olson,
& John W. Simek (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section,
2006). 768 pgs. CD-ROM.
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, 2nd 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 & 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.
The Laws of Simplicity, by John Maeda (Cambridge, MA: The
MIT Press, 2006). 176 pgs.
The Myth of Judicial Activism: Making Sense of Supreme Court
Decisions, by Kermit Roosevelt III (New Haven, CT: Yale Univ.
Press, 2006). 262 pgs.
Nonlegal Careers for Lawyers, 5th Ed., by Gary A. Munneke,
William D. Henslee & Ellen Wayne (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice
Management Section, 2006). 208 pgs.
Peace Mom: A Mother's Journey Through Heartache to Activism,
by Cindy Sheehan (New York, NY: Atria Books/Simon & Schuster, 2006).
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.
Software Licensing Handbook, by Jeffrey I. Gordon (Raleigh,
NC: Jeffrey I. Gordon, 2006). 248 pgs. Review copy is in PDF format.
Call Wisconsin Lawyer associate editor to discuss reviewer's
Top of page