Vol. 80, No. 5, May 2007
By Lauren Stiller Rikleen (New York, NY: Thomsonlegalworks, 2006). 408 pgs. $25. Order, www.thomsonlegalworks.com.
Reviewed by Mary Lynne Donohue
Some of us are old enough to remember My Fair Lady and Henry Higgins turning in great exasperation to Colonel Pickering and yelling, "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" Indeed. That could be the real solution to the problem that Lauren Rikleen explores at length in Ending the Gauntlet: Removing Barriers to Women's Success in the Law.
It is 2007. Women make up one half of most law school classes. In fact, my 1976 law school class was half women. So why are there so few women partners in large law firms or even mid-size firms? Why is there so much dissatisfaction among women in the profession?
Rikleen answers those questions thoroughly and thoughtfully, although only in the context of big law firms. Problems for women run the full gauntlet: brutal (and always growing) billable hours demands, lack of informal networks, difficulty in building business, lack of mentoring and good assignments, and of course, pregnancies and family obligations.
Interestingly, Rikleen's discussion of women's issues refocuses on the practice of law in general. Law firms spend too little time on management; lawyers are poorly trained to manage people and complex business systems; money drives all decisions; lawyers are exhausted and dissatisfied with their practices, and so on.
These issues are not new. We all have talked about the raw deals women lawyers sometimes get and the lack of respect and support. Years ago, the State Bar of Wisconsin began talking about balancing work and family for both men and women. We sat around conference tables talking about changes we could make to increase our satisfaction with practice. Not much seems to have changed, except that, even for those of us not in big law firms, the pressures to produce are greater, and the balance between work and the rest of life seems a more distant dream.
Ending the Gauntlet never acknowledges a world beyond big city law firms. The endless quotations in text from the author's interviews are tiring. Nonetheless, Rikleen has clearly worked hard to identify and develop key issues in the gauntlet run. Her chapter endnotes show good scholarship. But what I like most about this book are Rikleen's concrete proposals to address the issues that affect women, which will help the practice (and men) in general.
Rikleen argues that leadership matters. A good leader can manage real change in the law firm's culture. Real mentoring can be systematized; firms can look at real flexibility instead of the elusive "part time" solution; compensation can encompass more than the billable hour; networking can be taught and encouraged. What is remarkable in all of this, and why men can be as interested in this as women, is that these are good ideas for all firms - big city, small town, private or public, with or without women. Rikleen says the profession is at the tipping point, suggesting that without prompt attention, the profound changes in our profession in the last two decades will lead to more crisis. I'm not so sure about the imminence of the tipping point crisis, but the changes Rikleen suggests would be most welcome.
Fighting Son: A Biography of Philip F. La Follette
By Jonathan Kasparek (Madison, WI: Wisconsin Historical Society, 2006). 332 pgs. $22.95. Order, www.wisconsinhistory.org.
Reviewed by John J. Schulze Jr.
First, a note of explanation: I mean no disrespect when in this review I refer to this book's subjects by their first names, as it is the most expedient way to differentiate one La Follette from another.
Fighting Son: A Biography of Philip F. La Follette is well worth the read for three reasons. First, the book provides an excellent insight into the political environment of early 20th century Wisconsin centered on its most influential player - Philip F. La Follette. Second, it describes the competition among urban socialists, progressive Republicans, and the farm-labor coalition to serve as the preeminent organized liberal party, and how the then-insignificant Democratic Party rose to prominence and took the mantel behind the leadership of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Third, it reaffirmed my impression that the book's literal father figure - "Fighting Bob" La Follette - was the insufferable windbag I always supposed him to be.
Author Jonathan Kasparek does not waste time or words in accomplishing what every good history author should do - integrate several fascinating stories into one congruent tale about the life and times of the subject, here Philip La Follette. Kasparek details Fighting Bob's youngest son's political journey, from Phil's term as Dane County District Attorney cracking down on organized crime in the Greenbush area of Madison, to his three terms as Wisconsin governor and father of the national Progressive Party, and finally his later years as a supporter of General Douglas MacArthur's presidential bid. Phil's rise and fall took place in the forefront of the political battles of the day: the battle between wet and dry politicians; rural progressives' bias against the property tax versus urban legislators' opposition to the income tax; the evils of chain banks; and oleomargarine bans. All this, against the national backdrop of two world wars and the great depression.
Throughout his political career, Phil's two fundamental beliefs always were present. First, government can "do good," and second, any problem can be solved with the right kind of government intervention. While better minds than mine can debate whether good government is an oxymoron, Kasparek consistently shows that Phil's decision making was driven by idealism, not by a desire to consolidate power or reward campaign contributors.
The book is painstakingly researched and referenced, the author having obviously spent much time at the Wisconsin Historical Society mining speeches and letters, and conducting interviews.
Potential readers should be warned - this is not a tawdry behind-the-curtains' peek at the "real" La Follettes. Yes, the book describes the strained relationships between Phil and his father and between Phil and his brother Robert La Follette Jr. However, Kasparek's intent is not to expose, but rather to chronicle the life and times of Wisconsin's first family of politics, with the emphasis on Phil.
In doing so, Kasparek proves the old saw that history repeats itself. Phil's attempt to form a national Progressive Party that was not a cult of personality mirrored the fate suffered by Ross Perot's Reform Party. While Phil was unsuccessful in his attempt to get federal waivers so he could combat the great depression with a system based on work rather than government handouts, more than 50 years later Gov. Tommy Thompson's attempt was successful and resulted in his welfare reform initiative. Ironically, both Phil and Tommy's proposals were called "Wisconsin Works."
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The Landscape of Reform: Civic Pragmatism and Environmental Thought in America
By Ben A. Minteer (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2006). 272 pgs. $28. Order, (800) 405-1619.
Reviewed by Cara V. Coburn
In The Landscape of Reform, author Ben A. Minteer seems to accomplish his goal: to show that a way of thinking about the environment that falls between two extremes existed in the approaches of four early 20th century conservationists and planners - people whose work Minteer argues has been oversimplified and miscategorized. Minteer uses various "isms" to describe the two extremes, most frequently naming them anthropocentrism and biocentrism. Anthropocentrism is about valuing nature solely for how it serves human needs, while biocentrism is about appreciating nature for and of itself, a nonanthropocentric environmental ethic. Between these two is what Minteer calls a "third way environmental tradition."
Three of the four third-way figures the book discusses - horticulturalist Liberty Hyde Bailey, regional planner Lewis Mumford, and conservationist Benton MacKaye - are not well-known. Minteer speculates about their theoretical influences and about how to best characterize their environmental philosophies (pragmatism, pluralism, metropolitanism, wilderness constructivism, pragmatic conservationism, and so forth), not failing to acknowledge that "surely speculative arguments about intellectual debts must proceed with caution."
About halfway through these chapters I got so frustrated with the wordy academic prose that I had to pick up A Sand County Almanac, written by the fourth third-way figure, Aldo Leopold - forester, philosopher, celebrated author, and part-time Wisconsinite. My Aldo Leopold break was like coming in from the cold to sip cocoa after shoveling a long driveway full of snow.
In the last two chapters of Minteer's book, the discussion gains momentum for readers seeking more than theory. Here the author raises pressing policy questions: for example, must productive work be inherently destructive? He discusses contemporary examples of the third way - ecological services, sustainable agriculture, and new urbanism.
The possibility that rural and urban development and environmental health are not inversely related is exciting. While The Landscape of Reform might have dug more into policy and practice, it presents a compelling history of what may have been the seeds of current third-way approaches and encourages expansion of third-way ideas to address human and environmental health today.
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Education Savings Planning Guide, Including 529 Plans
By Karen P. Schaeffer, CFP (Riverwoods, IL: CCH Inc.). 330 pgs. $59. Order, www.amazon.com
Reviewed by Ted Kafkas
The Education Savings Planning Guide, Including 529 Plans is a helpful book for professionals or anyone wanting to plan for children's education. This CCH book covers opportunities for saving and paying for college.
The book examines college costs and the value of a degree and emphasizes the need for early planning. The author provides helpful suggestions for avoiding common college planning pitfalls, such as failing to act early and not understanding the increasing expense of college. As part of saving for college, the author suggests considering income tax implications, financial aid, control of assets, gift taxes, and estate tax issues. The author also identifies low-cost options, such as attending a community college for introductory courses, and includes helpful cost-cutting strategies like earning college credit through advanced placement exams.
In this age of coaching children to be responsible for themselves, the author suggests involving the student in college planning, and warns that the failure to involve the student in higher education decisions can become an Achilles heel.
The author covers the financial aid process, financial aid resources, cash flow considerations, the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and sources of aid other than the federal government. The book includes tools such as Coverdell Education Savings Accounts (ESAs), Section 529 Plans, bonds, scholarships, employer-provided educational assistance, and student loans. Some of the suggestions for avoiding scholarship scams might save some clients time, money, and grief. Tips to avoid filing mistakes and other checklists are helpful, and the coordination of Section 529 Plans with other incentives is especially street smart. The book includes checklists, budget worksheets, a life insurance worksheet, loan analysis aids, illustrations of federal tax forms, a directory of resource Web sites, and more.
I recommend the book. If you are looking for more financial guidance, you can buy this book as part of the Financial and Estate Planner's Desk Reference Set. This is a good value, because the books cost more if they are purchased separately.
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Guiding Those Left Behind in Wisconsin, 2nd Edition
By Amelia E. Pohl with Dale M. Krause (Boca Raton, FL: Eagle Publishing Co. of Boca, 2006). 243 pgs. $24.95. Order, www.eaglepublishing.com.
Reviewed by Melinda Gustafson Gervasi
As Benjamin Franklin said, "in this world nothing is certain but death and taxes." It is this principle that motivates the authors of Guiding Those Left Behind in Wisconsin. The book, which aims to provide the general public with a comprehensive explanation of the probate process, is part of a national series, with similar books available for Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. The purpose of the book is twofold: 1) give readers an understanding of what needs to be done when someone dies; and 2) provide information on how readers can arrange their own affairs to avoid common probate problems.
Organized into nine chapters, the book starts at the very beginning of the probate process, thoroughly discussing the first week following the death of a loved one. Topics addressed include autopsy policy and procedures, funeral planning, and getting a death certificate. Other chapters explore the issues of giving notice of the death, locating assets, paying bills, identifying beneficiaries, passing possession of property, and developing an estate plan for Wisconsin residents. Included in the text are useful Web site links, statutory and code citations, a glossary, and a statute index.
The book's overall organization and the authors' writing style makes this an efficient read; it is possible to sit down and absorb the information in an afternoon. The book's most striking limitation is its out-of-date references to the gift tax and the estate tax exemptions. While obvious to any practitioner working in the area of estate planning and probate, this detail could have been footnoted, indicating to the general reader to be alert for changes.
While targeted at the general public, Guiding Those Left Behind in Wisconsin is a useful resource for any attorney who practices in or may delve into the world of probate. The book is not as comprehensive as the State Bar CLE Books Probate Forms and Procedures manual but nevertheless is useful for readers familiarizing themselves with Wisconsin's probate process. Of significant value would be the inclusion of checklists and other "to do" task lists throughout the book.
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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. Reviewers may keep the book they review. Reviews are published in the order in which they are received.
Publications available for review:
- The Story of Cruel and Unusual, by Colin Dayan (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2007). 100 pgs.
- Executive Compensation and Related_Party Disclosure: SEC Rules and Explanation, by James Hamilton (Riverwoods, IL: CCH, 2006). 193 pgs.
- Hostile Environment, by Atty. Patrick C. Crowell, novel (Austin, TX: Synergy Books, 2007). 396 pgs.
- 10 Steps to Successful International Adoption: A Guided Workbook for Prospective Parents, by Brenda K. Uekert (Williamsburg, VA: Third Avenue Press, 2007). 296 pgs.