Verdict: It’s a Keeper
Lifestyle Analysis in Divorce Cases: Analyzing Spending and Finding Hidden Income and Assets
By Tracy Coenen (Chicago, IL: ABA Family Law Section, 2014). 204 pgs. $129.95. Order, www.shopaba.org.
Reviewed by Barry J. Boline
Presented in an outline, but not quite checklist, format, this book takes the reader through the process of preparing for and performing an analysis of the financial lifestyle of a party involved in family law litigation. The early part of the book contains very basic information about the purposes for performing a lifestyle analysis and acquaints the reader with concepts such as “standard of living” and different definitions of income and then moves into a very good description of the steps needed to properly prepare for and ultimately undertake an analysis of a party’s lifestyle to determine whether income or assets are being hidden during divorce litigation.
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While not meant to be a primer on how a lawyer should analyze a party’s lifestyle, the book suggests which steps a family lawyer should take before and after engaging a financial expert to assist the lawyer in preparing a “lifestyle” argument. The author points out that the type of case will dictate the type of financial expert to hire and gives ideas as to what skills different types of experts will bring to the litigation. Some cases, for example, may require a CPA while others will require a certified fraud examiner.
The author does a very good job of breaking down the different areas that a family law attorney should examine when reviewing documents to determine whether a party is hiding income or assets. She suggests which documents should be obtained through discovery and gives tips on red flags to look for in determining whether certain documents should be relied on. With two chapters devoted to hidden income and assets, Coenen gives examples and suggests specific ways that parties hide items of value before and during divorce litigation, and provides the reader with tips for uncovering evidence of those hidden assets.
The outline format makes the book tough to read cover-to-cover, but the author includes checklists throughout the chapters that a reader will find helpful when undertaking any analysis of a party’s financial statement. Four appendices break down the items to request in financial discovery, list national standards for monthly living expenses, and show a sample analysis with an example of a federal income tax return.
Although written for lawyers of all experience levels, and perhaps a little basic in the early chapters, the book will give even the most seasoned family law attorney ideas to consider when faced with a situation in which a party’s income is different from the lifestyle that the party lives.
Barry J. Boline, Drake 1994, is the family court commissioner for Ozaukee County.
VERDICT: Not for Me, Maybe for You
A Triumph of Genius: Edwin Land, Polaroid, and the Kodak Patent War
By Ronald K. Fierstein (Chicago, IL: Ankerwycke, 2015). 672 pgs. $35. Order, www.shopaba.org.
Reviewed by John A. Becker
Edwin Land was an engineering genius who holds more U.S. patents than anyone in U.S. history except Thomas Edison and Elihu Thomson, who merged their companies to form General Electric in 1892. Edwin Land developed polarization, a process still used in many products today, including sunglasses. Most notably, Land founded the Polaroid Company and developed the instant camera.
A Triumph of Genius begins with a short biography of Land and then gets into how he developed polarization and the process of instant photography. At that time, Kodak was the dominant company in the photography market but did not produce an instant camera.
The book details how Polaroid initially worked with Kodak. Polaroid developed the process for film to be developed instantly, and Kodak provided the film. Ultimately, Kodak decided to develop its own instant camera, which it began marketing in the 1970s.
Polaroid immediately commenced a patent infringement suit against Kodak. After nine years of discovery, trial, and appeals, Polaroid ultimately prevailed. The author worked for the law firm that represented Polaroid in the lawsuit.
Most lawyers have probably had a case that involved interesting people, interesting facts, and interesting legal questions. Often, when a lawyer involved in such a case starts telling the story, the lawyer gets into excessive detail and the listeners begin to lose interest. That is the situation in A Triumph of Genius. The bare bones of the story are the short biography of Edwin Land, his development of the instant camera, and the litigation with Kodak. To make the story interesting, meat must be added to the bones. The problem is that a lot of fat has also been added.
The book talks about the development of the instant photography process, a discussion that is repeated when the author describes the discovery process, the trial testimony, and the appellate issues. It is an interesting story, but the excessive detail makes it laborious reading.
A photography enthusiast or patent lawyer might appreciate the detail, but for the average reader, the excessive detail drags down an interesting story.
John A. Becker, U.W. 1982, is in practice with Becker French & Durkin in Racine.
VERDICT: Not for Me, Maybe for You
The Milwaukee Mafia: Mobsters in the Heartland
By Gavin Schmitt (Fort Lee, NJ: Barricade Books Inc., 2015). 300 pgs. $12.50. Order, www.amazon.com.
Reviewed by Lance E. Mueller
The Milwaukee Mafia is designed to familiarize the reader with characters generally linked to the Milwaukee underworld beginning around the start of the 20th century when, according to the author, scoundrels had Milwaukee “streets flowing with blood and illicit booze.” Milwaukee has settled down considerably since then, and the author selected events that took place in the meantime to explain the evolution of organized crime in Milwaukee.
The stage is set with a description of the social and political climate in Milwaukee in the early 1900s. Coverage of mob-related crimes follows, and includes mysteries that remain officially unsolved. Specific crimes aside, individuals who figured prominently in the advancement of the Milwaukee mafia and their background, family history, mob connections, and accomplishments are described in revealing fashion.
Exhaustive research went into this book. The author’s attention to detail and depth of knowledge concerning the subject are on display throughout. Much of the information, however, seems to have been reproduced almost directly from official records such as police reports, FBI investigative materials, and the like, in a style that is challenging to read. Minutiae pertaining to individual events or people seemed to distract from the theme of the book at times.
The Milwaukee Mafia deals with organized crime in Milwaukee between the early 1900s and somewhere in the 1950s. No mention was made of later events, including the period that might be referred to as the Balistrieri years. This was somewhat surprising – pictures of Balistrieris appear on the book cover – and disappointing in that those years seemingly represented a significant and colorful period for the Milwaukee mafia.
If you are familiar with Milwaukee and interested in its history and local mafia dealings, you might appreciate this book. Family names and various buildings, streets, and locations in Milwaukee and surrounding areas are clearly recognizable. Any elements of storytelling, however, are overshadowed by more direct recitation of historical fact. The book did not capture my interest despite my fascination with Milwaukee history.
Lance E. Mueller, U.W. 2002, practices business law and litigation in Milwaukee.
Verdict: It’s a Keeper
Divorce in Wisconsin: The Legal Process, Your Rights, and What to Expect
By Linda S. Vanden Heuvel (Omaha, NE: Addicus Books, 2015). 255 pgs. $14.70. Order, www.amazon.com.
Reviewed by Kelly Kramer
As a family law attorney, I’m familiar with many of the questions that potential divorce clients typically have, and I was hoping that this book would be a valuable resource for Wisconsin residents who are considering divorce but are not sure where to begin. One of the most challenging aspects of explaining divorce to individuals who have never been through it is conveying necessary information in a clear, straightforward manner, while trying to avoid legalese as much as possible.
This book does a good job of accomplishing this task. Information is presented directly and candidly; however, because legalese is sometimes unavoidable, the book contains an extremely handy glossary, without which many readers would likely have more questions than answers. The book also contains samples of the typical documents involved in a divorce, such as a petition, a financial declaration, and a parenting plan. This is helpful for clients who may have a general idea about the purpose of a document such as a financial disclosure, but need an example to fully understand its role in the divorce process.
The book also does a great job of attempting to completely cover all aspects of a divorce, from practical topics such as custody, placement, property division, and maintenance, to additional considerations that might be overlooked, such as coping with stress during a divorce and how to work with a lawyer. Basic statutory factors for each topic are presented in easy-to-read lists.
However, although the author attempts to present the divorce process in as complete a manner as possible, in some places, this has the potential to overwhelm the reader. A clearer explanation of the fact that every divorce is different, such that not all the same steps necessarily will be taken, or that some steps could be taken out of order, depending on the particular circumstances, would be helpful. For example, the book provides in-depth information about depositions, which may not be necessary, particularly if it is an amicable divorce. Readers might come away thinking that they are a mandatory part of every divorce, when in many, if not most, divorces, they are completely optional.
Additionally, while the book provides an excellent general overview of the divorce process and an introduction into the often complex world of divorce, most sections and chapters conclude with advising the reader to speak with a lawyer to learn more. This advice is understandable, because the circumstances of each divorce are unique, but readers might be left wondering why they bothered to purchase the book at all if they were simply going to be told to talk to a lawyer. Nevertheless, as long as readers understand that it does not offer a “do-it-yourself” approach to divorce and is not meant to replace the services that a lawyer can provide, this book is definitely helpful for individuals who are completely new to divorce and the divorce process.
Kelly Kramer, Hamline 2013, is a freelance writer and a family law attorney at Herrick & Hart S.C., Eau Claire.
VERDICT: Not for Me, Maybe for You
Dying in the Twenty-First Century: Toward a New Ethical Framework for the Art of Dying Well
By Lydia Dugdale (ed.) (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2015). 224 pgs. $29. Order, mitpress.mit.edu.
Reviewed by Fritz Knaak
No lawyer with a small practice has not seen clients who, whether or not mortally ill, are anxious about planning for their death or worried about what will happen to them if they are in a hospital and have no direct control over the kind of care they will receive. After all, estate planning has been a bread-and-butter part of legal practice for centuries. Health care directives, and trying to wrestle with long-term and acute-care options for elderly parents, relatives, or clients, have not been part of that legacy, however, and no good, tried-and-true method has been put together to guide lawyers and clients toward a truly dignified, or “proper” death.
For most of human history, life was shorter and death far more present in daily life. People shared common expectations. Those disappeared, at least in western Europe, with the plague that ravaged Europe in the 14th century. Cities all but disappeared. Whole families died. Priests died. No one was around to know what to do.
What the Catholic Church produced in response was, in essence, a written codification that endured for many centuries: Ars Moriandi, the art of dying, which laid out what to expect. A good death was a death in the community with family members and friends around. Reconciliation of grievances and relationships with survivors, as well as acceptance of the finality of death, were part of being able to “die well.”
Thanks to remarkable achievements in science over the past century, human beings live more than twice as long as they used to and are more likely to die alone in a hospital than surrounded by family and friends at home. While everyone agrees that the scientific advances generally are a very good thing, there appears to be equal agreement that we have lost something very central to being human: the ability to die well.
Into this ongoing void enters Lydia Dugdale, M.D., a medical ethicist at Yale School of Medicine, who has compiled a very interesting collection of 10 essays on the topic of how we come to a new understanding of dying well in our brave new world. In one, by M. Therese Lystraught, there is a suggestion that we bring back many of the primary objectives of Ars Moriendi, as an expected standard, but integrating current technology and providing a greater degree of patient control. Another essay on the relatively new problem of elder care and, in particular, the problems associated with lingering dementia, is provocative and compelling.
In none of this, however, will a reader looking for a new Ars Moriendi find one. The essays are often fascinating and a thoughtful lawyer will find much to think about, but the book offers little guidance. The book does highlight, however, the compelling need to provide a common framework for allowing each of us the rightful expectation of being able to die well in a world of science and hospitals.
Fritz Knaak, Minnesota 1978, is with Holstad & Knaak PLC, St. Paul, Minn.