The Lawyer’s Guide to Family Business Succession Planning: A Step-by-Step Approach for Lawyers, Business Owners, and Advisors
By Gregory Monday (Chicago, IL: ABA Business Law Section 2020). 174 pgs. $84.95. Order, www.shopaba.org.
Reviewed by Thomas G. Gardiner
I had the pleasure of reviewing Gregory Monday’s book, The Lawyer’s Guide to Family Business Succession Planning. Monday is a partner at Reinhart Boerner Van Deuren sc. This book is a must read for any lawyer who does work with family businesses.
Monday subtitles the book “A Step-by-Step Approach for Lawyers, Business Owners, and Advisors.” The subtitle, however, understates the book’s value. Many step-by-step books are simplistic or comprised of innumerable checklists with little analysis. What makes Monday’s book excellent is that it is readable, and the analysis supporting each topic area is spot-on.
The book starts with considerations involved in representing a family business and takes the reader from the engagement as the family business’s lawyer to the retirement of the principal owner of the business. Along the way, Monday covers business valuation, business continuation plans, restructuring, governance models, contractual arrangements, estate planning, and wealth-transfer mechanisms. He addresses relevant considerations for lawyers when offering options to family businesses.
It is easy for lawyers to do work for family businesses as it comes in – a contract here, an estate plan there, and so on. But the true service to business clients that lawyers perform is planning. It is in this realm that the lawyer acts as the artist in creating plans that allow the business to continue despite the difficulties that come with mixing family with business and work, by respecting what is commonly the genius and hard work of the founder while still ensuring that others can carry on.
For the newer lawyer, this book does a great job introducing a complex and important area. For those attorneys, like myself, who have represented family businesses for many years, the book is a relatively brief, but still comprehensive, consideration of key areas that will cause the experienced lawyer to consider the needs of existing clients and reflect on whether current planning can be improved.
Thomas G. Gardiner, Northwestern 1981, is a partner in Gardiner Koch Weisberg & Wrona, located in the firm’s Lake Geneva office.
VERDICT: It’s a Keeper
Smallbone Deceased: A London Mystery
By Michael Gilbert (Poison Pen Press, 2019, originally published by Hodder & Stoughton, London 1950). Novel. $12.92. Order, www.amazon.com.
Reviewed by Douglas E. Baker
Picture if you will a venerable London law firm, specializing in estate planning for members of the British aristocracy, a firm so elegant that the files for its most valued clients are stored under lock and key in hermetically sealed lockers. Picture too a firm whose veneer has begun to fade as its income drops when post-World War II Britain moves toward social equality and the moneyed upper class mostly fades into history. Picture finally the uproar when one of those hermetically sealed lockers turns out to contain a rotting corpse whose presence suggests an inside job.
Picture all that and you have the setting for Smallbone Deceased, a tight little British murder mystery, a classic of the genre except that much of the sleuthing is done not by a police detective (though one is present) but by a recently hired member of the firm. A story that, as it unfolds, paints a fascinating picture of law practice in a time and place long gone.
The deceased Marcus Smallbone was, as his name might suggest, an abrasive little man, of modest income and social skills, who had developed an unlikely friendship with Ichabod Stokes, a client of Abel Horniman, one of the founding partners of Horniman, Birley, and Craine. For reasons known only to Mr. Stokes, he insisted on making Marcus Smallbone one of two co-trustees of a testamentary trust, the other being Attorney Horniman. Mr. Smallbone being an unpleasant man to work with, no one cared when he stopped dropping by the firm – until Attorney Horniman himself died, and Mr. Smallbone’s input was required in his capacity as co-trustee to the Stokes Trust.
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The inconvenience of Smallbone’s absence was nothing compared with the uproar caused by his sudden and malodorous reappearance in the locker containing the Stokes Trust files. “It isn’t every solicitor’s office,” as the lawyer helping with the investigation points out, “that has an undetected murderer working in it.” Clues, red herrings, and another murder follow as the investigation unfolds, and the ending is both surprising when revealed but obvious in retrospect.
The writing is crisp, and the author, who was himself a partner in an upscale London law firm, paints a believable story that would make a good televised drama, a tale whose description of interoffice relationship, inter-partner disagreements, and interpersonal sexual politics would perhaps seem at home in any modern American firm.
One unexpected delight, at least to this reviewer, is the incidental picture painted of law office procedures at the dawn of modern technology. The firm’s filing system – “The Horniman System” – was considered among the city’s most elaborate, with its stacks of cross-referenced index cards, a system as relevant today as the old public-library card files. Reference is made to a new development in “automatic accounting machinery,” into which punch cards were inserted (Fortran, anyone?) so that “the machine would then perform any operation of addition, subtraction, proportion, collation or extraction which the abstrusest fancy of the accountant might dictate.” In other words, tasks any smartphone might effortlessly handle today. There’s even a careful explanation of how a document might be joined together by the use of “transparent adhesive stuff—map-makers’ tape, I believe it’s called.” Or, as we might call it today, packaging tape.
For all the above reasons, I’d rate this a definite keeper.
Douglas E. Baker, Creighton 1989, is an attorney emeritus and retired longtime attorney-editor with the State Bar of Wisconsin.
VERDICT: Not for Me, Maybe for You
Be Happy in Both Worlds: You Can Have a Successful Career and a Happy Family
By Sarah L. Ruffi (independently published, 2019). 102 pgs. $14.95. Order, www.amazon.com.
Reviewed by Tressie Kamp
When author Sarah Ruffi, a lawyer in Wausau, wrote her book, Be Happy in Both Worlds: You Can Have a Successful Career and a Happy Family, she could not have envisioned that it would be published the year before a battalion of tired, overstretched parents would attempt to balance work, child-rearing, and adult relationships during a global pandemic. Nor could she have envisioned that 2020 would be the year of women leaving the workforce in numbers not seen in decades. Based solely on this book’s timeliness, I would recommend it to a certain cohort of women attempting to build their legal reputation while raising children.
While Ruffi’s book provides a practical examination of issues that affect all women in the legal workforce – networking, mentorship, and teamwork – much of the book focuses on issues that uniquely apply to starting, growing, and maintaining a private law practice. The author understandably focuses on these issues based on her real-life experience opening and expanding a private firm while supporting a family. For attorneys in the public or nonprofit sector, however, the book will be less useful.
Ruffi’s book reads almost like a practical lecture on work-life balance, complete with mnemonics and assignments, rather than a philosophical treatise. The digestible format is just what the book’s intended audience needs. However, the book declined to go beyond the nuts and bolts of law practice to some of the larger issues that still face women in the legal field. Why do women still not have equal representation with men on partnership tracks at large private law firms? Why must women attorneys still balance the need to advocate for clients against the antiquated expectation that women not be as adversarial as men? Discussion of these more difficult issues would have made the book a more robust and broadly applicable read.
Nonetheless, I valued Ruffi’s honest story and appreciate that the author intentionally wove mentions of mindfulness and self-care into her explanation of how to balance parenthood and legal practice. In a field still disproportionately occupied by men, it’s important to take every opportunity to hear, respect, and learn from women attorneys’ success stories.
Tressie K. Kamp, Benjamin N. Cardozo 2010, is an assistant attorney general at the Wisconsin Department of Justice and a member of the State Bar of Wisconsin’s Environmental Law Section Board.
VERDICT: It’s a Keeper
Putting Government in Its Place: The Case for a New Deal 3.0
By David R. Riemer (Milwaukee, WI: HenschelHAUS Publishing Inc., 2020). 447 pgs. $29.95. Order, www.amazon.com.
Reviewed by Alexander J. Kostal
Don’t let its lengthy title fool you: David Riemer’s policy-centric 2020 release, Putting Government in its Place: The Case for a New Deal 3.0, puts forth a compelling and easy-to-understand argument on the need for a 21st-century New Deal to save America’s social safety net and standard of living. There can be no denying that Riemer, who has held several positions in government and the private sector in Wisconsin and nationally, is a domestic policy expert and writes from a deep position of knowledge on the subject. One’s opinion of the book itself understandably will be tied to one’s opinion of the public policy solutions he puts forward throughout the surprisingly quick-reading 268 pages (not counting multiple appendices at the end).
Riemer’s main thesis is that the New Deal and its continued expansion since the 1930s (which Riemer considers the New Deal 2.0) did much to bring about American domestic success but also had several key failures. The failures, he argues, need to be addressed via the creation of a contemporary New Deal further expanding “broad-based economic security guarantees” and enhanced market regulation. Riemer makes prodigious use of statistical breakdowns and graphs, which could have been distracting or overly complex but instead successfully strengthen his arguments. Although one’s personal political views might influence how convincing Riemer’s argument is, he frames his issues well, and provides powerful evidence that supports his conclusions.
There can be no doubt that this book is a work of personal passion for the Riemer. Links to a website set up by the author with additional charts, facts, and figures are interspersed throughout the text, which makes the book read as much like a position paper from a think tank or political campaign as a political science text. Riemer’s subject is overwhelmingly broad, spanning more than 80 years of American domestic policy, and at times I would have appreciated a deeper look into the material conditions that led to some of the policy outcomes of the original New Deal legislation, as well as its continued enhancements that Riemer consistently refers to as the “New Deal writ large.”
Near the end of the book, Riemer lays out a lengthy summary of 14 specific changes he deems necessary for the federal government to include in a contemporary New Deal. Riemer perhaps is most compelling here, arguing for a fundamental shift in the federal government’s approach to the Gordian knots of American domestic policy from access to college and student loans to health insurance coverage. While some of Riemer’s proposed solutions are somewhat controversial, most of his ideas will strongly resonate with an audience that already believes, or is open to being convinced, that a large federal response to America’s numerous domestic ills is the solution. Ultimately, I enjoyed Riemer’s work, and will continue to ponder his suggestions for improving our society long after it is placed in my bookshelf. WL
Alexander Kostal, Marquette 2017, is an assistant state public defender and bibliophile. He is the creator and host of the policy podcast Mil-talk-ee with Alexander Kostal.