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    The Labor and Employment Lawyer’s Job – A Survival Guide

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    Wisconsin LawyerWisconsin Lawyer
    Vol. 81, No. 11, November 2008

    Book Reviews

    The Labor and Employment Lawyer’s Job – A Survival Guide

    By Dipanwita Deb Amar (Chicago, IL: ABA General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Division, 2007). 152 pgs. $59.95. Order, (800) 285-2221.

    Reviewed by Nilesh Patel

    Most attorneys have the analytical skills and broad educational foundation to figure out how to tackle a problem for a client. However, considering so much of legal practice and expertise comes from experience, how is a new attorney to know if his or her proposed solution or approach is appropriate?

    Having a mentor to turn to can certainly help a new lawyer with this difficult transition from law school to legal practice, but mentors are busy and sometimes, as a teaching moment, expect new attorneys to figure things out themselves. Rather than spin your wheels, wouldn’t it be nice to have someone who spells out what is expected of you as well as what big picture issues you need to keep in mind?

    In the area of labor and employment law, I very much encourage law students and attorneys to consider reading The Labor and Employment Lawyer’s Job – A Survival Guide. The book provides an overview and roadmap of the major issues in labor and employment law that are so necessary for success in litigation planning and client counseling.

    At approximately 150 pages, the book is a quick read and yet still provides a good foundation for spotting troublesome issues. Although written for junior associates, the book is a useful tool for attorneys in solo practice and for law students. The book’s three major parts focus on 1) preliminary employment matters such as investigations and administrative agencies, 2) employment litigation issues, and 3) employment counseling issues during stages of the employment relationship. An introductory section provides important practice tips applicable to any area of law.

    Each section provides an overview of the major questions and problems an employment attorney will face. For example, what is the proper way to conduct an employment investigation? Should the matter be handled by internal staff, by the general counsel, or by outside counsel? Are these investigations protected by attorney/client privilege? The largest section is about employment litigation and covers topics such as case management, pleadings, discovery, motion practice, trials, and alternative dispute resolution. The section on employment counseling covers issues in hiring, termination, and employee management such as leaves of absence, reasonable disability accommodations, wage and hour matters, and noncompete agreements.

    Missing, however, are litigation topics such as issues during employee discipline, retaliation by employers, privacy concerns, and managing electronic discovery in employment cases. Also, a discussion on developing good client counseling skills would have been useful because employment attorneys should not only put out litigation fires but also advise clients on how to avoid problems in the first place by developing good business policies and practices.

    Nilesh P. Patel, U.W. 2002, is an advisor with the U.W. Law School’s career services office. He also is the principal of the Mahadev Law Group LLC, Madison, which focuses on employment law issues for employers.

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    Federal Justice in Indiana: The History of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana

    By George W. Geib & Donald B. Kite Sr. (Indianapolis, IN: Indiana Historical Society, 2007). 350 pgs. $29.95. Order, (317) 232-1878. 

    Reviewed by Thomas Shriner

    To survive to a respectable age is thought praiseworthy, although luck often plays as big a part as anything else. Institutions nowadays celebrate three-digit anniversaries by commissioning histories of themselves. Federal Justice in Indiana: The History of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana is a cut above the average court history, marked by a determination to say more about the court than that it has been around for nearly 200 years. George W. Geib, a history professor at Butler University, and Donald B. Kite Sr., a private practitioner in Indianapolis, set out to “describe, explain, and evaluate the work” of the court in that time, surely an impossible task in 272 pages of text.

    Perhaps inevitably, the authors focus on the judges, whose philosophies and proclivities give a court its particular personality. Until 1925, when the state was effectively split into two districts, there was just one district judge in Indiana. Only in 1954 did the Southern District get a second judge. Until then, with single judges serving terms measured in decades, the court was essentially “the judge.”

    These judges often were characters. Walter Gresham was a Civil War general before he was appointed judge by President Ulysses S. Grant. Gresham clashed frequently with one lawyer, Benjamin Harrison, even threatening him with arrest for his trial conduct. Gresham ran against Harrison for the Republican presidential nomination in 1888 (without resigning from the bench). Albert Anderson, the judge who sat through the early Prohibition Era, once fined a bootlegger $500. As the offender was led away, he told the judge the fine was “all right”; he had the money in his hip pocket. The judge invited him to look in his other hip pocket to see if he could find six months. The “hard-boiled” Depression-era judge, Robert Baltzell, confessed to his successor in tears that he feared for his salvation because years earlier he had sentenced a murderer to death.

    But focusing on the judges to tell the story of the court has a downside. By 1966, the court had four judges (now five), and it is no longer possible to call tales about a disparate group of judges the history of “the court.” The late Judge Hugh Dillin described his job under the modern arrangement as “a pretty lonely business.” “[Y]ou would run your calendar and everybody else would run his calendar the way he wanted to and you really didn’t get together all that often.” So, we learn that Judge Holder did this, while Judge Steckler did that.

    The book succeeds as a history of the court through World War II. But the challenge of writing a real institutional history of the last half century’s multijudge court proves to be too much even for this superbly written and edited effort. There may be a cautionary lesson here, although we have some time to ponder it: The 200th anniversary of Wisconsin’s first federal court isn’t until 2036.

    Thomas Shriner, Indiana Univ. – Bloomington 1972, practices litigation at Foley & Lardner, Milwaukee.

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    The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, 3rd Edition

    By Gregory H. Siskind, Deborah McMurray, & Richard P. Klau (Chicago, IL: ABA, 2007). 192 pgs. $84.95. Order, (800) 285-2221. 

    Reviewed by John J. Schulze Jr.

    Lawyers are terrible marketers and do not rush to embrace new technology, but mid-size firm partner Gregory Siskind (with Deborah McMurray and Richard Klau) is trying to change that situation for those attorneys who read the The Lawyer’s Guide to Marketing on the Internet, 3rd Edition.

    The book does touch on using the Internet as a general workplace tool, for instance to recruit attorneys and communicate with employees. However, the book’s aim here is to help attorneys become as familiar with Internet marketing as they are with using an ATM machine, and it succeeds. It is a business development resource guide that offers specific tools to increase business traffic and establish lawyers as subject matter experts. The book is chockablock with examples of successful law firm Internet marketing efforts, including cost-effective Web page designs, podcasts, and email newsletters. A few Wisconsin firms are featured. The authors even provide methods for attorneys to measure the results of their efforts and the return on their investments.

    Some of the authors’ advice took me back to my previous career in public relations and message development. The authors concede this point, by writing “success comes back to good old fashion marketing.” However, the vast majority of their ideas make this book the authoritative guide for marketing legal services via the World Wide Web, for example, using the firm’s Web address to convey branding and message, not just as a locating device. As this is the third edition, the authors spend some time closing the door on old Internet ideas like guestbooks and previewing leading edge Internet tools like RSS feeds and case bidding. The book also includes practical information on “netiquette” and Internet marketing in relation to the rules of professional conduct.

    My criticisms of the book are extremely minor, but I would be remiss not to note them. First, the book is written for firms of all sizes, but I believe it would be improved if it focused on midsize, small, and solo firms because 100-plus attorney firms presumably have the means to hire someone to implement their Internet marketing strategy. Second, unless the reader already knows what “vertical sites,” “breadcrumb navigation,” and “portal style” are, he or she will need to occasionally consult the tech dictionary, like I did.

    In total, this book is informative and well organized, and the authors provide a wide range of practical advice. At only 192 pages of well-spaced text, it is a much better investment in your firm’s bottom line than another client dinner at Flemings.

    John J. Schulze Jr., Marquette 2004, is with American Transmission Co., Waukesha. He formerly worked in public relations.

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    Risk Management: Survival Tools for Law Firms, 2nd Edition

    By Anthony E. Davis & Peter R. Jarvis (Chicago, IL: ABA Law Practice Management Section & Center for Professional Responsibility, 2007). 176 pgs. w/CD-ROM. $89.95. Order, (800) 285-2221. 

    Reviewed by Andrea L. Murdock

    Attorneys spend a great deal of time advising their clients how to manage and minimize risk but often pay very little attention to the risks inherent in their own practices. Establishing, evaluating, and improving risk management procedures seem always to fall to the bottom of the to-do list, giving way to other, more pressing, tasks. With the growing prevalence of professional discipline and malpractice claims, however, risk management must be given the attention it deserves.

    Risk Management: Survival Tools for Law Firms, 2nd Edition, is a practical, hands-on book that guides attorneys through the maze of risk management within their own firms through the use of self-audits. The book is divided into three sections. First, the authors explain the importance of risk management, the role of self-audits, and how to conduct a self-audit. Second, the authors provide eight survey questionnaires focusing on different areas of risk management evaluation and designed to give a sense of which areas need attention in any particular firm. Third, the authors help attorneys analyze the survey questionnaire responses and determine remedial steps to take in areas in which risk management is lacking.

    The book’s first section got me thinking about how important risk management is and where my own firm could improve its practices. The authors emphasize that every firm is unique, and the ills that plague one firm may be adequately treated in another. For that reason, the self-audit process is designed to be flexible and adaptable to any firm of any size with any degree of policies and procedures already in place.

    The authors give detailed instructions and guidelines for administering a self-audit, along with suggestions for encouraging participation and support by all firm members. The self-audit begins with completion of survey questionnaires on the following topics: management structure, risk management oversight, new client/matter intake, client relations, docket and calendar systems, practice and human resource management, trust accounts, and disaster recovery planning. The attorney or firm can answer the questionnaires in one session or more than one, depending on the level of motivation and the availability of time and resources.

    As with any good textbook, the answers are in the back of the book. The completed questionnaires are intended to be reviewed against the answer and analysis sheets in the book’s third section, so that attorneys can understand what practices and procedures are already in place and recognize where gaps exist. Once the gaps are identified, appropriate steps can be taken to minimize risk.

    As an avid list-maker myself, I found the survey questionnaires to be both practical and helpful. The book comes with a CD-ROM that contains the eight survey questionnaires in Word format. The questionnaires can be easily printed and distributed for use in the self-audit process. This truly is a book that can be used by any attorney for any firm. My only criticism of the book is that it contains more than a few typographical errors. The authors are great with risk management but could use some help with proofreading.

    Andrea L. Murdock, Marquette 2006, is a shareholder at Halloin & Murdock S.C., Milwaukee.

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