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    Book Reviews

    • Motorcycle Accident Reconstruction and Litigation • Lawyer’s Guide to Modern Payment Methods • Lawyer’s Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet • Literature and the Law • Life is Short, Art is Long • Adoption: Unchartered Waters


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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 7, July 2008

    Book Reviews

    Motorcycle Accident Reconstruction and Litigation, 3d ed.

    By Kenneth S. Obenski, Paul F. Hill, Eric S. Shapiro & Jack C. Debes (Tucson, AZ: Lawyers & Judges Publishing Co., 2007). 621 pgs. w/CD-ROM. $99. Order, (800) 209-7109.

    Reviewed by John A. Kornak

    There are many decent textbooks on accident reconstruction. But very few deal specifically with reconstructing motorcycle crashes. Because there are unique aspects of motorcycle accident litigation that are not covered in the standard reconstruction textbooks, this book is a tremendous addition to a personal injury litigator's library. This text is well-written, easily understandable (for the most part), and well thought out.

    By reading this text, I learned that the fatality rate for motorcycle riders per number of accidents is more than seven times higher than for passenger car occupants and 11 times higher than for truck occupants. A possible explanation for this difference is that motorcycle drivers and passengers are less protected than drivers and passengers of cars and trucks. According to this book, however, it is the failure of other motorists to see the motorcycles that accounts for most motorcycle crashes. This is one in a long series of tidbits of information that makes this book a good text to have in your library.

    I also learned that motorcycles react differently in accidents than do other vehicles. This fact seems self-evident, but the authors go into great detail about this issue. In fact, this book covers practically every conceivable circumstance under which a motorcycle crash can occur. This is a good thing, especially if you are faced with prosecuting or defending a claim involving a motorcycle crash for the first time, and you know next to nothing about how motorcycles work and are operated.

    If you are looking for a text that delves deeply into the mathematical aspects of accident reconstruction, however, you likely will be disappointed. The authors assume the reader is already familiar with accident reconstruction and the commonly used mathematical formulas in that line of work. Even though the authors make this assumption, readers do not have to be mathematically adept to understand the concepts contained in this book. After all, isn't that what experts are for?

    For a rather short book it is chock full of (mostly) nonmathematical information. For anyone litigating motorcycle accident cases, this is a well-done, concise, and helpful text.

    John A. Kornak, Valparaiso 1986, is in private practice in McHenry, Ill., at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Popovich P.C. Licensed to practice in Illinois and Wisconsin, he worked eight years as a criminal prosecutor. He currently limits his practice to catastrophic personal injury, wrongful death, traumatic brain injury, and medical negligence cases.

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    The Lawyer's Guide to Modern Payment Methods: ACH, Credit, Debit, and More

    By Frederick H. Miller (Chicago, IL: ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division, 2007). 199 pgs. $59.95. Order, (800) 285-2221.

    Reviewed by Kevin J. Cords

    The detail given in the title of this book tells readers all they need to know. This book is specifically geared to lawyers involved in commercial transactions. It also could be useful to nonlawyers working in commercial lending departments, finance and purchasing departments, and financial institutions generally. Although the book leads the reader through the nature and underlying processes of each payment method, its primary purpose is setting out the applicable legal standards.

    The various methods are tied together by a fact situation reminiscent of law school, which should be no surprise given the author's long career at Oklahoma University School of Law. His qualifications in the field are numerous, including serving as president of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws and as chair of the permanent editorial board for the Uniform Commercial Code (UCC). This experience is reflected throughout the book in extensive UCC cites, examination of and reference to conflicting case law, observations of potentially inconsistent overlaps in competing legal standards, and discussion of the convergence of once very different methods through technological change.

    Each chapter focuses on a particular type of payment method, with extensive citations to model acts, federal statutory and regulatory law, state statutes, operating rules of associations such as the National Automated Clearing House Association, and state and federal case law. Although secondary sources are well researched and documented, the primary sources should be sought out. This book allows one to do that will little trouble, with ample citations and a list of additional research resources at the end of each chapter. The chapters also include endnotes that provide additional detail and discourse on specific areas of interest.

    Chapter topics include letters of credit (and documentary transactions), fund (wire) transfers, credit and charge cards, checks (which comprises roughly a third of the book), and a catch-all chapter on other payment methods, including stored value and PayPal. The last chapter, which primarily discusses newer methods, suffers from a lack of references to applicable law. The author acknowledges this and offers observations on potentially applicable laws when no clear applicability exists. While the legal citations throughout the book appear up-to-date, some of the statistics used in the last chapter come from 2003, which raises some concern when discussing developments in technology.

    Included with the book is a CD-ROM, which contains forms in both editable Word files and PDFs. The forms also are found throughout the book, with requisite disclaimers as would be expected from a legal work. Also included are checklists for things attorneys should include or address. There is a detailed index, which includes the cases cited in the book, and an appendix. The appendix is short but does contain helpful diagrams illustrating the various payment methods discussed in the book. These resources are invaluable to the book's overriding purpose of providing readers a convenient starting point for their research.

    Kevin J. Cords, U.W. 2002, is an attorney at Balisle & Roberson S.C., Madison, focusing on family law.

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    The Lawyer's Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet, 3d ed.

    By Carole A. Levitt and Mark E. Rosch (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2006). 850 pgs. $99.95. Order, (800) 285-2221.

    Reviewed by Nick Zales

    The Internet has become as integral to the practice of law as the briefcase. The problem is separating the wheat of Internet content from the chaff. You might think reading a book about the Internet is counterintuitive to the goal of getting more from the net, because you could be surfing it instead. Therein lies the problem: We spend so much time doing things online the same way that we lose track of the wealth of factual and legal information that is not always just a search away.

    This book continues to set the standard for online research for lawyers and paralegals. There is not, however, a great deal of new substance in the third edition despite the ever-changing nature of the Internet. All the book's Web page screen shots have been updated and verified, and the book has been expanded to include a chapter on blogs and podcasts. The book's 20 chapters deal with everything from the basics of Web browsing and searching to in-depth descriptions of Web sites in specific areas such as finding people, accessing public records from government resources, investigating experts and backgrounding companies, and finding medical and scientific information. Using a combination of narratives and screen shot pictures of the Web pages being reviewed, this book gets you to the best Web sites quickly and authoritatively.

    Each book contains a CD-ROM with checklists for building net searches and hyperlinks to every link in the book. The disk alone is worth the price of the book. New with the third edition is a postcard for a free bi-monthly email-based updating service that will keep your copy current and provide new legal links.

    I highly recommend this book for lawyers who do most of their own online research. You do not have to read every chapter to get at what you want, which is the best and most reliable information. From acronyms to zip codes, this very easy-to-read book sets forth the best Web sites on the topic, tells you the pros and cons of each site and whether or not it is free, and allows you to decide which links you choose to pursue, all at a glance. The Lawyer's Guide to Fact Finding on the Internet will help you to conduct more efficient and productive searches and may, by leading you to some unexpected Web pages, take your research in a whole new direction.

    Nicholas C. Zales, Marquette 1989, of the Zales Law Office, is a sole practitioner focusing on civil litigation and appellate law and is a State Bar governor representing Milwaukee County (District 2).

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    Literature and the Law

    By Thomas Morawetz (Frederick, MD: Aspen Publishers, 2007). 588 pgs. $60. Order, www.aspenpublishers.com.

    Reviewed by Laura Tollefson

    Literature and the Law is a textbook for a "literature and the law" course, which the author considers a necessary component to all legal educations. According to Morawetz, "the essential job that law and literature courses play is to refocus legal education on the inescapable truth that law is about individuals _ their needs, goals, vulnerabilities, and unique characters."

    The book contains seven chapters, each covering broad topics. Within each chapter, the author addresses several subtopics and provides excerpts from literature and suggestions for further reading. All subtopics are followed by several questions carefully designed to inspire thought and group discussion. Chapter one, "Fiction's Window on Law and Lawyers," thoroughly examines lawyers as they play their role, both in society and in the legal profession. Chapter two, "The Meanings of Law," looks at the role of law itself in society. Chapter three, "Freedom and Crime," discusses the law's role in limiting individual freedoms. Chapter four, "Criminal Minds," investigates the offender's state of mind and how society and those within the law view the offender's motives and life experiences in relationship to the act. Chapter five, "Trial and Punishment," addresses the purpose, method, and severity of society's punishments. Chapter six, "Finding Meaning," deals with the task of drawing significance and lessons about the law from literature. Chapter seven, "The Law of Literature," takes an approach contrary to the rest of the book and "looks at literature from the standpoint of the law," rather than looking at law through literature.

    Morawetz includes excerpts from a diverse body of literature, ranging from commonly read materials, like To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee, to the less frequently taught The Paradise of Bachelors, by Herman Melville. This book will encourage thoughtful discussion in classrooms and beyond.

    Laura Tollefson, Marquette 2005, works as a client services coordinator in the traffic department of a Madison media company.

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    Life is Short, Art is Long: Maximizing Estate Planning Strategies for Collectors of Art, Antiques, and Collectibles

    By Michael Mendelsohn & Paige Stover Hagu (New York, NY: Wealth Management Press, 2006). 424 pgs. $24.95. Order, www.invest- store.com/wealthmanagement/.

    Reviewed by Melinda Gustafson Gervasi

    What is art? It has been said that art itself is hard to define, and that it is more process than end product. Regardless of the term's ambiguity, if your practice includes estate planning, it would be worth your while to read Life is Short, Art is Long. As an art succession planning practitioner, Michael Mendelsohn provides readers with a glimpse into the art world and supplies a thorough list of legal strategies to minimize taxes and preserve art.

    The book's strongest feature is that it educates attorneys on the importance of asking clients questions about possible art, antiques, or collectibles owned and their potential value. During the initial client meeting the value of a home, individual retirement account, lake property, business, stocks, and the like are routinely discussed. However, the client's hobby of collecting 19th-century pottery or carvings from South America may go unmentioned. After reading this book, an attorney will know to ask every client probing questions about collections and pieces owned.

    Life is Short, Art is Long discusses the art world at length and is written more for aspiring collectors than estate planning attorneys. Despite the sluggish start, the second half of the book provides abundant information for attorneys. Topics discussed include the ramifications of heirs removing art from a home before probate, the benefits of donating pieces to a museum, the importance of appraisal, and the disastrous results of unknowingly selling pieces for less than their value.

    Whether your practice includes only the occasional will or you focus on estate planning, Life is Short, Art is Long is a wonderful way to supplement your knowledge about the ever growing practice of amassing art, antiques, or collectibles. The format is easy to read, with news blurbs interspersed throughout the text.

    Melinda Gustafson Gervasi, U.W. 2001, is the founder of Gustafson Law Office, Madison, and focuses on estate planning and probate matters.

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