Flying Solo: A Survival Guide for the Solo Lawyer
Edited by Jeffrey R. Simons (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section, 2001). 817 pgs. $89.95. Order, (800) 285-2221.
Reviewed by Beth Koepcke
I've always been skeptical of titles that feature self-aggrandizing terms like "survival guide." Not to worry. This opus absolutely is a survival guide, and here's my review in eight short words: If you're a solo practitioner, buy this book.
This is a blueprint for solo practice. It is an extremely well organized, comprehensive reference tool that's as relevant and useful for the seasoned practitioner as it is for the recent law school graduate. More than 40 contributing authors share divergent experiences while projecting a common goal: They all want to see us succeed.
The book has four main sections. Part One steers us through the initial decision to enter solo practice. Of particular note are Deborah Arron's chapter, "Are you cut out for solo practice?" and Richard T. Rodgers' contribution that, as chapter 4 of 55, is puzzlingly entitled, "Epilogue." Rodgers recalls his decision to start a solo practice right out of law school. Commenting on the contributions of his nonlawyer wife, Rodgers observes, "[s]everal skills are necessary for a successful practice; ours are wonderfully complementary. I had the license; she had the brains."
Seven chapters are devoted to solo practice in particular areas of law, including chapters on solo estate planning practice and solo personal injury law, a chapter entitled, "A Solo Can Represent Big Business," and another addressing life as a solo family lawyer. Part One concludes with four chapters on money issues: administrative costs, banking, insurance, and personal cash flow.
Parts Two through Four walk us through our solo careers. There is material about office space, business organization, networking, and acquiring expertise. Subsequent sections address fees, billing, marketing, ethics, staffing, and automation. The final chapters offer advice on making time for vacation, dealing with disability, selling a solo practice, and leaving an outline of things to be done in the event of death. Flying Solo leaves no stone unturned.
Beth Koepcke, Pace 1986, opened a solo practice in 2000. She works with artists and other creative souls in Madison and in the state of New York.
Criminal Procedure in Practice
By Paul Marcus & Jack Zimmermann (Notre Dame, IN: National Institute for Trial Advocacy, 2001). 320 pgs. $49.95. Order, (800) 225-6482.
Reviewed by William Bedker
Most would agree that reading a book about criminal procedure, much like reading a book about exercise, advanced trigonometry, or a statistical analysis of nuclear proliferation during the Cold War Era, is not a leisure-time activity. Of course, the value of such a book is not measured in its ability to entertain. Rather, its value lies in how well it strikes that delicate balance between being comprehensive and detailed enough to address all of the core topics of potential concern, but concise and straightforward enough to be useful to the average practitioner. For the most part, Criminal Procedure in Practice, with text by Paul Marcus and practice commentary by attorney Jack Zimmermann, is up to the task.
The book is divided into 12 chapters, starting with a relatively broad overview of the criminal justice process in the United States, then delving into issues such as the exclusionary rule and its limits, Fourth Amendment search and seizure, the law concerning confessions, basic due process concerns, the right to counsel, bail and indictment, discovery, trial, sentencing, and post-conviction. The text concludes with a chapter dedicated to double jeopardy issues.
Each of these topics is thoroughly, yet concisely covered in a highly coherent manner. Copious endnotes and references to supplementary sources complement the body of the text. At times, however, the treatment of the subject matter tends to be a bit erudite. This occurs with sufficient frequency that, unfortunately, some practitioners might question whether the text was written with them in mind as opposed to the law students who presumably are enrolled in one of the authors' classes.
To the authors' credit, there probably are sufficient practice tips, cautionary notes, tactics, and comments interspersed throughout the text to breathe life into the subject matter to make the book a worthwhile addition to the libraries of many practitioners. And, from an ease-of-use standpoint, the chapters and subchapters are laid out in a commonsense manner that essentially parallels the chronology of a typical criminal case from start to finish. However, for those needing information at a moment's notice in the heat of a courtroom battle, the book's style of binding may disappoint. If the target audience is the practitioner, and not the academic, the publisher might consider using the three-ring binder approach typically used by our own State Bar CLE Books, a style that is better suited to letting one's "fingers do the walking" (quickly).
All things considered, this book's strengths outweigh its drawbacks so that it is worth a look for those in need of building a solid foundation in the practice of criminal law.
The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web
By Robert J. Ambrogi (New York, NY: ALM Publishing, 2001). 370 pgs. $34.95. Order, (800) 537-2128.
Reviewed by Mary Koshollek
Attorney Robert J. Ambrogi, director of the American Lawyer Media's Electronic Publishing and News Service and author of a monthly column entitled "WebWatch" in Law Technology News, captures the best of the Web for legal research in his book, The Essential Guide to the Best (and Worst) Legal Sites on the Web. He attempts to harness the oftentimes transitory nature of the Internet into solid and understandable categories of sites for the legal practitioner.
Ambrogi's intent is to save researchers time by classifying those sites that he considers to be the best on the Web for legal research. He admits the book is not a comprehensive listing of sites, but selective - based on a starred ranking system. His rating methodology is straightforward, ranking sites by their overall usefulness to legal professionals by content, design/presentation, accessibility, ease of use, and innovation. Marginal sites also are mentioned, but Ambrogi notes their deficiencies and ranks them accordingly.
This book is not an introduction to the Web, but instead is a resource for those already comfortable with Internet technology who seek a guide to mine its resources without wasting time. The organization of The Essential Guide adds to its ease of use. Some screen shots are included to assist the user with identification and navigation.
Ambrogi offers this low-tech but highly organized approach to make the resource user-friendly for the legal professional who needs guidance on a particular subject. Topical legal areas covered include: bankruptcy, corporations, criminal, environmental, estate planning, family, intellectual property, employment, Internet law, real estate, securities, and tort law. Other chapters include basics of search engines, ethics resources, state laws, medical sites, and a review of U.S. Supreme Court information. Some list-serves also are mentioned.
Although an excellent reference tool and a helpful start to an organized and ongoing personal list of favorite sites, readers should be reminded about potential traps in using the Web. Sites may change or disappear completely without notice. Some guidance on Internet information quality or how to properly evaluate new legal or law-related sites also would be useful. Evaluation criteria would assist a searcher in being more selective when encountering new sites.
Despite these minor omissions, Ambrogi's book remains a bright-line reference to what has become a torrent of information on the law and legal topics from the Web. As the Internet grows, more legal professionals are attempting to make its rich resources understandable and accessible. The Essential Guide is one of those works that both the seasoned searcher and Web newcomer will welcome for this purpose.
Keeping Kids Out of the System: Creative Legal Practice as a Community Child Protection Strategy
By Leigh Goodmark (Chicago, IL: ABA Center on Children & the Law, 2001). 121 pgs. $25. Order, (800) 285-2221.
Reviewed by Barbara Reinhold
Under the federal Adoption and Safe Families Act, states are required to "achieve permanency"; that is, to find a permanent, safe home for each child placed outside his or her family home for 15 of the last 22 months. Permanency can be achieved by reuniting the child with his or her family of origin, placing the child with a relative caretaker, or through adoption or guardianship.
Increasingly, however, communities are beginning to recognize the need to provide permanency for children who are at risk of becoming involved in the child protection court system before they become involved with the court. This book describes several such programs.
In the case of families affected by AIDS, the book focuses on three programs that help parents establish guardianships and make plans for how their children will be cared for if their AIDS becomes terminal. In each program, the goal is to have the parent, not the court system or a government agency, make the permanency plan for the child.
Another group of programs assists parents who otherwise would be at risk of losing their children because of mental illness or chemical addiction. One such program seeks to keep mentally ill and chemically addicted parents together with their children by providing assistance to these parents in the areas in which they are most vulnerable to become involved with child protection authorities: by assisting with housing, food, and income as well as by offering mental health and/or substance abuse treatment services.
Federal statistics show a trend toward more and more grandparents raising their grandchildren because of their adult children's inability to do so. Because children often are placed informally with grandparents rather than placed there by the court or a social services agency, many grandparents end up with financial problems and needs for childcare services while they work outside the home, respite care, and other services. Yet, these families often are reluctant to ask for such assistance through regular social services or court channels, fearing that the children will be taken from them and placed in regular foster care with a stranger. The book discusses three programs in which assistance is provided through a variety of community legal, medical, and social services groups.
Programs involving special education and incarcerated mothers also are featured in the book. The programs differ widely in the populations they seek to serve and the services provided, but they have a common thread of seeking to provide a stable, safe, and permanent home for children and their families before they become involved in the child welfare system. Each program also involves "creative lawyering"; that is, lawyers working together in equal partnership with social service, medical, and other professionals to keep families together and provide needed services before court intervention becomes necessary.
Medical Evidence: Acquisition and Use
By Robert C. Strodel (Tuscon, AZ: Lawyers & Judges Publishing Co., 2001). 352 pgs. $115. Order, sales@lawyersand judges.com.
Reviewed by John A. Kornak
Every lawyer practicing personal injury law should have a reference book in his or her library dealing with medical evidence. In every case, and on virtually every day of a P.I. attorney's practice, questions arise about how to get medical evidence, and what to do with it when you get it. This book goes beyond what the title suggests, offering suggestions as disparate as "Guidelines for Establishing Attorney-Physician Professional Relationships" to "Employing Adversing (sic) Techniques of a Defendant Physician at Deposition or Trial: Setting the Scene and Psychological Impact." When the book sticks to its premise, it usually delivers what it promises. When it deviates from its premise, it often suggests courses of action that are not of general application.
We can all learn from seasoned practitioners. Strodel has a wealth of knowledge, and he imparts it in varying degrees in this book. Of particular use to the P.I. lawyer are the chapters on "How to Find and Acquire Evidence from Hospital Records" and "The Important Legal Ramifications of Death and Dying." In the chapter entitled "Projecting Damages and Injuries at Trial," Strodel outlines an effective direct examination of a surgeon in a medical malpractice case. The direct examination in question illustrates damages in a chronological and coherent fashion; it is just the type of information promised by the book's title. Other areas of the book, however, are problematic.
One major area of concern arises in the chapter entitled "How to Handle Medical Expert Witnesses." In this chapter, Strodel uses a letter he wrote to a retained expert in a medical malpractice case as an example of how to prepare an expert for trial. In the letter, Strodel alerts the expert about potential areas of cross-examination, outlining particular areas of potential attack by the defense. In the last paragraph, Strodel advises the expert, in capital letters, to read, digest, and then destroy the letter. This suggestion is problematic on several levels, primarily because it could subject the attorney following it to sanctions. This reviewer strongly suggests that Strodel's advice in this example not be followed.
In spite of the deficiencies described above, this book generally is well written and conceived. Except for some areas that are heavy on war stories, and suggestions that are not prone to general application, I recommend the book.
Qualified Retirement Plans for Small Businesses
By Barry R. Milberg (Riverwoods, IL: CCH Inc., 2000). 248 pgs. $49. Order, (800) 248-3248.
Reviewed by Martin Tierney
In Qualified Retirement Plans for Small Businesses, Barry Milberg approaches the extraordinarily complex legal subject of qualified plan design from the standpoint of a small business owner. Coupled with detailed notes and examples, qualified retirement plans are described in terms that small business owners can easily understand.
A qualified retirement plan provides immediate deductions for employer contributions, retirement security for employees, and competitive employee benefits for employee recruitment. The massive economic impact of these qualities is described straightforwardly. Milberg also describes the administrative burdens associated with tax qualified retirement plans and why small business owners should use qualified plans regardless of such burdens.
The financial resources available to a small business owner often limit the owner's ability to acquire good consultant services and solid legal advice. Although this book certainly should not replace good consulting and the need for a lawyer, it allows the small business owner to understand the advantages and implementation of qualified retirement plans. This book provides the fundamental framework necessary to understand which form of the qualified retirement plan is best suited to the employer's business. More importantly, the small business owner knows his or her business far better than any pension consultant.
The combination of the business owner's personal knowledge of his or her business and qualified retirement plan knowledge provided by this book will allow a small business owner to be an active participant in the creation and upkeep of a qualified plan arrangement.
The first nine chapters include the basic features of tax-qualified retirement plans. There also are individual explanations of profit-sharing plans, simplified employee pension plans, 401(k) plans, SIMPLE plans, money purchase pension plans, employee stock ownership plans, defined benefit pension plans, and cash balance plans.
Throughout the first nine chapters, a case analysis of each type of qualified plan is included, as is a dialogue between a consultant and a small business owner. These provide insight into the goals of the business owner and the legal limitations that are placed on each type of qualified plan.
Milberg also describes the basic position of the plan fiduciary, which, in the case of a small business, tends to be the owner. Such fiduciary duties often are overlooked inadvertently by a small business owner, due usually to the relative complexity and detail of the law that imposes the fiduciary duties.
A discussion of the various documentation and reporting requirements follows. Failure to comply with the reporting requirements can be very costly. Milberg's description of the reporting requirements is not exhaustive, but it describes the basic timing for filing forms with the Department of Labor, Internal Revenue Service, and Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation.
The author wraps up with a discussion of the multitude of service providers that are available to help with planning, implementation, reporting, and administration. Included in this discussion is a checklist that a small business owner can use to help determine what services should be provided by different service providers.
In addition to small business owners, consultants and practitioners who do not focus solely on qualified retirement plans can benefit from this book's description of the concerns of the small business owner (from cash flow to employee communication).
Although well written and extraordinarily helpful, this book does not replace legal advice and it should not be relied upon as the final word on the legal requirements associated with qualified plans. This is not a negative comment. The law regarding qualified retirement plans is extraordinarily complex and changes regularly. As noted in the book, many of the limits that are described in the book ceased to be applicable as of the end of 2001. Some of the numerical limitations will increase automatically and others have changed fundamentally due to the passage of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001. Fortunately, the value of this book is not so much in recitation of legal details as in the author's ability to describe the qualified plan framework to small business owners.
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, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Publications and videos available for review
- Cardinal Rules of Advocacy: Understanding and Mastering Fundamental Principles of Persuasion, by Douglas S. Lavine (Notre Dame, IN: National Institute for Trial Advocacy, 2002). 280pgs.
- Endangered Species Act: Law, Policy, & Perspectives, edited by Donald C. Bauer & Wm. Robert Irvin (Chicago, IL: ABA Environment, Energy, & Resources Section, 2002). 606 pgs.
- Eyewitness Testimony: Challenging Your Opponent's Witness, by Brian L. Cutler (Notre Dame: IN, National Institute for Trial Advocacy, 2002). 188 pgs.
- Human Factors in Traffic Safety, by Robert E. Dewar & Paul L. Olson (Tucson, AZ: Lawyers & Judges Publishing Co., 2002). 736 pgs.
- Who Knows What's Right Anymore?, by Earle F. Zeigler (Victoria, B.C., Canada: Trafford Publishing., 2002). 274 pgs.
- Wisdom, Tips, and Musings on Marketing and Public Relations, by Jane E. Hosmanek Kaiser (Franklin, WI: Communicator for Hire, 2002). 48 pgs.