Vol. 84, No. 2, February 2011
101+ Practical Solutions for the Family Lawyer: Sensible Answers to Common Problems
By Gregg Herman (Chicago, IL: ABA Family Law Section, 2009). 702 pgs. CD-ROM. $119.95. Order, (800) 285-2221.
Reviewed by Farheen M. Ansari
This is a great, concise resource for anyone practicing family law. 101+ Practical Solutions is basically a collection of articles written by 94 attorneys, judges, and professors. The editor, Gregg Herman, is a family law attorney in Milwaukee. The authors work throughout the country, from Alaska to New Jersey, and so the practice tips and opinions are not limited to one region.
The book covers the following topics: client relations, fees, custody, support, malpractice avoidance, office practices, discovery, taxes, retirement plans, valuation, settlement, trial techniques, evidence, and after the divorce.
The organization is great: each part opens with an introduction describing the importance of the topic, which is followed by a table of contents listing each article title and a brief description. For purposes of the book review, I read the book straight through. In the future, however, the tables of contents will come in handy when I come across a specific issue and want to read an article about it (and there really does seem to be an article for almost every issue a family law attorney will encounter).
The information in this book is quite varied. From book recommendations (for lawyers, clients, and clients’ children), sample letters, forms, and checklists to extensive explanations, practically every imaginable topic is covered in some way. (I now know the proper steps to take when a parent is traveling abroad with a minor child as well as how to look for hidden “bonus” assets during discovery.) As a new attorney, I know I will benefit from articles like “How to Prepare a Trial Notebook” and “How to Get Electronic Evidence Admitted” and the sample requests for admission, qualified medical child support orders, premarital agreements, and exit-interview checklists. But even more-experienced attorneys will benefit by seeing how other attorneys do things substantively and procedurally and may get good tips to tweak their own practices. One attorney suggests (in the client relations part) giving each client a bottle of champagne as a congratulatory gift upon finalization of the divorce. Most divorce guides focus solely on the legal issues that attorneys take care of, and it was nice to see an example of a personal touch you can add to your practice.
The accompanying CD is nice to have, but I am not sure how necessary it is. A lot of the forms on it are already printed as examples in the book, and the entire CD is in PDF format, so the forms cannot be altered and used like in other sample-forms CDs.
Overall, I think this book definitely belongs on the shelf of every family law attorney. Even if my library expands to hold many books that focus on one issue in depth, I will first come to this book for an initial overview.
Google for Lawyers: Essential Search Tips and Productivity Tools
By Carole A. Levitt & Mark E. Rosch (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2010). 544 pgs. $79.95. Order, www.ababooks.org.
Reviewed by Nicholas C. Zales
Do you want to practice more effectively and efficiently? Google for Lawyers, by Internet information gurus Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch, will help you. Their book reveals a myriad of sophisticated and useful tools Google offers beyond its ubiquitous search engine. This easy-to-read book details how to use Google for information gathering and increased productivity and includes an appendix of case studies showing how lawyers used Google for real cases.
The authors take you through the innocuous-looking “more” tab (which itself has an “even more” tab) located at the top of every Google page. Using narrative and screen shots, they reveal how a basic search works and then how to refine and validate results with advanced search techniques. Often, just an extra mouse click or two is the difference between finding nothing and finding a cornucopia of useful information. Almost every Google function described in this book is free, and the book also shows you in detail how to use Google’s collection of free Web-based productivity tools.
The authors focus on two overall themes: using Google to find information and using Google’s productivity tools. They begin by noting that Google has become a de facto standard for information gathering and that lawyers should use it because judges do. They explain how to use shortcuts to find new and archived information on any subject; set up alerts for new information; search in discussion groups and blogs; find pictures, books, and maps; monitor financial data; and translate Web pages, email, and documents.
We all want to use our computers less, not more. Among the Google tools that lawyers will find helpful are Google Scholar and Finance (found under the “more” tab), which lead you to free financial information, case law, and treatises. Scholar has a “cited by” Shepherd’s-like feature you can click to see the citing case. Gmail, Google Docs, Picassa, and Calendar are only a few of the many applications available to allow you to share and find information in new ways. This book shows you how to do so. Using Google, you can save and share your pictures, make phone calls from your computer, and visually search the planet. Lawyers interested in marketing can use Google Analytics, which provides you with detailed information on traffic to your website, and Google Ads, which helps put your ad at the top of a search page. The true usefulness of this book is in exposing you to many useful Google tools you did not know existed. Once you do, you will soon find them indispensable.
Human Rights, Intervention and the Use of Force
Edited by Philip Alston and Euan MacDonald (Oxford Univ. Press, 2008) 294 pgs. Order, www.oup.com.
Reviewed by Lawrence G. Albrecht
Offering a myriad of legal perspectives, this collection of essays addresses the circumstances under which the international community may, indeed must, under the aegis of the U.N. or another institution, militarily intervene in humanitarian crises caused by armed conflict or natural catastrophe.
The editors’ introductory essay frames emerging international doctrines of humanitarian intervention against the push-back of state sovereignty and security principles dating to the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648. Several essays address the limits of state sovereignty, the legality and the legitimacy of the collective use of force for humanitarian intervention, and the targeted killing of terrorist or rogue nonstate actors. By framing the legal architecture supporting humanitarian intervention principles, the essays also address the pragmatic geopolitical and economic implications of intervention.
The international principle of the responsibility to protect (R2P) was formally adopted by the U.N. General Assembly in 2005 and has morphed into an all-purpose duty to protect. Its potential applications have far exceeded its initial doctrinal moorings. This is the theme of an essay entitled “The Schizophrenias of R2P” by José E. Alvarez, president of the American Society of International Law.
In 1958, the German Federal Constitutional Court essentially created a duty to protect individuals from harm by the state or by individuals. Of course, in the United States we have already lost any Pollyanish naiveté regarding any constitutional governmental duty to protect persons in harm’s way: R2P, meet DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Health & Social Services, 489 U.S. 189 (1989), and its progeny (holding there is no substantive due process duty to protect individuals from harm, with very limited exceptions). In the United States, resistance to international R2P obligations is bulwarked by conservative legal theorists for whom compliance with United Nations (or Geneva Conventions) mandates is anathema when in perceived conflict with U.S. military or geopolitical interests.
Nevertheless, the human-rights community has rightly cheered the R2P doctrine of humanitarian intervention, even when its implementation costs innocent civilian lives. Richard B. Bilder, a U.W. Law School emeritus professor, addresses the complex application of seemingly contradictory R2P principles in a detailed case study of the NATO military intervention in Kosovo in 1999. This essay in particular sets forth assessment metrics for both past use-of-force experiences and proposed interventions based on measurable human-rights and geopolitical cost/benefit principles.
As other contributors to this volume suggest, human-rights advocates should adopt this pragmatic and cautious perspective toward R2P. Unless the legal culture supporting the DeShaney nonduty legal regime becomes discredited, the United States may largely be a bystander in this nascent R2P human-rights drama.
The Practical Guide for New Lawyers: Winning Strategies for Changing Times
By Steven E.M. Hartz (Self published, 2010). 316 pgs. $15.99. Order, www.thepracticalguideforlawyers.com.
Reviewed by Kelly M. Dvorak
In this self-published volume, author Steven E.M. Hartz offers thoughtful, detailed, and pragmatic advice to new lawyers. The text is aimed at young lawyers fresh out of law school and headed to “big-firm” style practice, but it also offers a wide range of general advice that will benefit any lawyer in the early years of practice, even if not in a big firm.
At more than 300 pages, the book is a bit lengthy for busy new lawyers, who hardly have the time to add another book to their reading lists, but the text’s organization allows the reader to read single chapters in isolation without having to wade through the entire volume. The author covers everything from getting your first job, legal writing skills, and effective marketing to understanding law firm economics, dealing with ethical issues, and achieving financial independence.
Written in a casual, conversational tone, the offered advice is practical and current. The author addresses the current economic climate in a frank and honest manner, encouraging new lawyers to be positive, persistent, and flexible in the face of a dearth of available legal jobs. He also strongly disavows the notion that only the students with the best law school grades will find success in the legal market.
Hartz also touches on areas that may seem like no-brainers but that law schools tend to ignore with alarming frequency despite being essential practice skills. Things like effective time management, email and telephone etiquette, fundamental legal writing skills, and understanding the economics of law practice are all areas in which legal employers expect a basic level of proficiency from new lawyers but for which, sadly, new lawyers are often unprepared.
Hartz then delves into more complex matters, like achieving financial independence. His premise is that personal financial management must be at the core of any lawyer’s career development because attorneys who cannot manage their own affairs cannot successfully manage their clients’ matters. He advises lawyers to educate themselves about the basics of financial planning, save cash, pay off credit card debt, invest in stocks and bonds, and contribute as much as possible to a 401(k) plan if one is available. He also discusses the importance of insurance, particularly life and disability insurance, and counsels lawyers to obtain sufficient insurance while they are young and healthy.
Finally, Hartz briefly discusses women and minorities in today’s law firms, stating that although both groups continue to be drastically underrepresented in the upper echelons of large law firms, legal organizations are, more than ever, realizing the need for diversity. He advises both groups to be confident in their skills and to not hesitate to ask for what they want or need.
Well-organized and packed with practical, concrete advice, this book is a must-read for any new law graduate and will serve as a useful guide for any lawyer in the early years of his or her career.
Watchdog: 25 Years of Muckraking and Rabblerousing
By Bill Lueders (Madison, WI: Jones Books, 2010). 302 pgs. $16.95. Order, www.jonesbooks.com.
Reviewed by Susan B. Walker
Whether you are new to legal practice in Madison or just occasionally possessed by the feeling you have joined a program already in progress, Watchdog: 25 Years of Muckraking and Rabblerousing may be the crib notes to the Madison legal and political life you have been missing. Author Bill Lueders, news editor of Isthmus, is an award-winning writer and reporter whose investigative, legal, business, and column writing has earned acclaim from peers and rebuke and indignation from those in the hot seat. Lueders’ work is valuable to lawyers and other advocates because it is anchored in shared hallowed ground: the rights and liberties of the individual, robust free speech, and open and ethical government.
Drawing from the archives of Isthmus and Milwaukee’s Shepherd Express (formerly the Crazy Shepherd), Watchdog is divided into three sections, each organized in chronological order from the mid-1980s to 2009. The first section, “My Opinion,” includes brief and sharp glances through the author’s eyes on local and national politics, corruption and scandal in Wisconsin’s state legislature, county government, law enforcement, University of Wisconsin animal testing labs, and Madison journalism. The selections are succinct and factually dense without sacrificing readability or humor.
“Investigations,” the second section, follows with longer accounts of life in Wisconsin prisons, local trials and attorneys of note, tribal gaming, the author’s experience with a primate, and the ethics crisis in state government. Lueders’ concentration on the intersection of law and politics is central to many of the investigative reports and makes particularly interesting reading for lawyers.
Watchdog’s third and closing section, “Getting Personal,” goes for the throat and the heart. Lueders gets emotional writing a farewell letter to his father and an introductory letter to his newborn child. The personal narratives also include selections recounting a skydive, a gym stint, and the slaughter of a Thanksgiving turkey. Affectionate descriptions of Wisconsin’s natural beauty and outdoor life round out the collected stories and leave a warm impression.
Lueders evokes the best of Wisconsin’s spirited tradition of the everyman firebrand with a crackling and expertly constructed blaze in his gut. This collection of his witty jabs and biting uppercuts is a worthwhile read.