Archive for December, 2010

Book Review: From Turmoil to Tomorrow: The Emerging New World of Municipal Finance by Robert W. Doty

Robert W. Doty. From Turmoil to Tomorrow: The Emerging New World of Municipal Finance. American Governmental Financial Services Company (AGFS) 2010. (Four volumes and supplement; $645 print edition, $495 electronic edition, with a discount program for qualified purchasers).

I recommend this work to a small group of law librarians:  those serving patrons who play a role in the municipal finance market or are studying this market.  My recommendation is based on the work’s unique and comprehensive treatment of this subject; however, my endorsement comes with a note of caution.  The presentation of the material could be improved.  In From Turmoil to Tomorrow: The Emerging New World of Municipal Finance, Robert W. Doty prefaces his work with the words: “Municipal Securities Are the Area 51 of the Financial Markets.”  Since securities law is a favorite subject of mine and I once worked for a city that issues bonds, I was intrigued to discover the meaning behind these words.  After reading this multi-volume set, my curiosity was satisfied.

Doty, President of American Governmental Financial Services Company (AGFS), is an expert in the field of municipal securities transactions and offers this work as a diary of recent events in this market—a market reported as Municipal Bond Turmoil at a hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services in the wake of our recent financial crisis.  Doty leads his readers through the nuances of this market, elucidating the differing risks among various types of offerings.  Contrary to cursory news reports, some municipal investments remain safe.

Although books, blogs, news reports and journals address aspects of Doty’s work, his volumes stand unique in presenting a complete picture of recent events related to the municipal securities market.  Coverage of events includes: bankruptcies of cities, townships and districts; private litigation popping up around the country; criminal actions and SEC enforcement activity; and state regulators’ auction rate securities enforcement actions.  This work chronicles legislative and regulatory responses to the financial crisis.  Doty clarifies the congressional intent behind the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act as it pertains to the municipal securities market.  The supplement includes key documents in the legislative history of this Act.  Doty’s set paints a clear portrait of the role of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB) in promulgating rules to protect market participants, including the evolution of this role.  Interwoven with this wealth of facts, we gain the author’s insights and analyses based on decades of professional experience.  Doty shares his opinions with a boldness that is counterbalanced by his acknowledgement of perspectives that differ from his own.

While From Turmoil to Tomorrow will benefit interested readers, it could be improved upon further revision.  As librarians, we often start with the index when consulting a work of this magnitude, yet there is no index to this set.  The detailed table of contents somewhat compensates for the lack of an index, yet it does not replace one.  I found the footnotes wearisome to navigate.  Often footnotes in an early volume refer to later footnotes without indicating where they may be found.  This forces the reader to open more than one volume in search of a particular cross-reference.  Some of the longer footnotes continue for pages that do not include any primary text, which can cause readers to lose their place.  The table of contents includes a note that it may contain “minor page number inaccuracies.”  Overall, this author’s writing would benefit from professional editing and indexing.  A helpful aspect of this work’s presentation is the frequent placement of text boxes containing highlights and bullet points.

Experienced in representing state and local governments, Doty helps issuer officials understand the value of active involvement in performing due diligence, a need which is underscored by the fines the SEC recently imposed on four San Diego City officials under allegations of bond fraud.  Doty instructs his readers to look past the latest headlines that scare us into thinking all municipal bonds are doomed, and he helps us discern the risks associated with each type of offering.  Doty’s work is available in both print and electronic formats.  Given the lack of an index, the electronic format may be preferable for some library users who would benefit from keyword searching. Although these volumes may seem pricey, substantial discounts are offered to certain groups, including state and local government entities, nonprofits, and universities.

Reviewed by Judy Andresen, Reference Librarian, Western State University College of Law

Book Review: Parchment, Paper, Pixels: Law and the Technologies of Communication by Peter Tiersma

Peter M. Tiersma.  Parchment, Paper, Pixels:  Law and the Technologies of Communication.  The University of Chicago Press.  June 2010.  Hardcover.  256p.  $35.00. ISBN: 9780226803067.

“There is a close relationship between the nature of a text and how that text tends to be interpreted.”  This is one of the primary themes in Peter Tiersma’s Parchment, Paper, Pixels, which traces the evolution of legal texts in their migration from parchment, to paper, to pixels.  Tiersma, a professor of law at Loyola Law School in California, focuses his attention on four core texts:  wills, contracts, statutes, and judicial opinions.  For each text, he describes its origins, its historical development, and the current trends that are shaping its nature and treatment today.  It is a fascinating read for anyone interested in law, language, legal history, textual interpretation, and the transformative role of technology.  Its ability to touch on so many topics of interest to lawyers and non-lawyers alike make it a worthwhile purchase for any law library (academic, public, and law firm) and for other academic and public libraries, as well.

Parchment, Paper, Pixels is well-organized and systematic in its approach.  Tiersma lays the foundation for his work by discussing the differences between speech, writing, and text.  Each chapter that follows is devoted to analyzing one of the four core texts:  wills, contracts, statutes, and judicial opinions.  He demonstrates how each text has undergone the process of “textualization,” which he describes as the “tendency for the text of those writings to become increasingly authoritative.”  Tiersma contends that texts generally follow a three-step process from (i) being a purely oral arrangement, to (ii) serving as evidence of the arrangement, to (iii) becoming the sole authority of the arrangement.

Tiersma’s analysis yields important insights on the unique nature of legal texts and how ever-increasing access to accurate copies of texts has affected how lawyers and judges utilize and interpret them.  In tracing each text’s history, Tiersma shows how the level of textualization differs among the texts.  For example, he describes how wills tend to be much more textualized than many contracts, and how United States common law is more textualized than English common law.

Tiersma also highlights how the textual conventions of the legal world differ from ordinary textual practices, and how modern technology can widen the gap between them even further.  Reference librarians who assist the public can attest to this fact; we frequently encounter individuals who are confused as to what makes a given document official or authoritative.  In each chapter, Tiersma provides proposals for reform that seek to remove the dissonance that exists among the different textual practices.  He acknowledges that some of the proposals are more feasible than others, such as his “whimsical suggestion” that “wikilaw” might be a future innovation for drafting statutes.

Parchment, Paper, Pixels would be even better if it included more discussions of pixels and their implications for legal texts.  Tiersma does not specifically address the ramifications of several issues that have received attention among law librarians in recent years, such as free PACER access, Law.gov, the Durham Statement, the advent of WestlawNext, the Government Printing Office’s use of authenticated PDFs, and the increased use of e-readers and similar devices.  Nonetheless, Tiersma’s work provides a solid historical foundation and contributes important insights on the nature of legal texts that are relevant to such issues.

The book’s descriptions of the historical underpinnings of core legal texts will help a variety of audiences:  a first-year law student who struggles to grasp the parol evidence rule, a library school student or a social sciences librarian who desires a better understanding of what sets legal texts apart from other texts, a practicing attorney who seeks to explain to a client the reason why there are so many formalities required to execute a will, and a law librarian who debates whether to transition a collection from parchment, print, or pixels.

Reviewed by David McClure, Faculty Services Librarian at the Wiener-Rogers Law Library, William S. Boyd School of Law, University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Book Review: Dancing on the River by Mark Susnow

Dancing on the River: Navigating Life’s Changes, by Mark Susnow. Available for purchase on Mark Susnow’s website.

Dancing on the River: Navigating Life’s Changes is an enjoyable read for anyone who has wondered how to approach life. Mark Susnow, a former trial attorney, life coach, and author, shares his own story in order to illuminate the idea that change is expected. I was intrigued by the idea that a successful, former trial attorney (for 30 years) embarked on a new career and trained as a life coach. After reading Dancing on the River, I see that it was a wise choice. Susnow is a writer who isn’t afraid to “put it out there.” He boldly shares the struggles he encountered throughout his life in order to highlight the point that life, like a river, isn’t always going to be serene. Change is inevitable – to be alive is to be confronted with change.

Dancing on the River is divided into fifteen easily digestible chapters. Susnow begins with the story that inspired the title of his book. At the age of thirteen, he nearly drowned on a river-rafting trip in Colorado. He learned eight lessons from that experience – find and live life from the center, get out of your comfort zone, learn to let go of resistance, be prepared, be willing to be connected, develop the practice of gratitude, be curious, and embrace the great mystery. These lessons formed the foundation for this book.

Susnow does an excellent job of helping the reader take hold of the idea that enjoyment and appreciation of life is not dependent on what might happen in the future; enjoying life in the moment is what counts. He also shares tools to help the reader cope with change – tools that will not only sustain a person during the changes, but also will help them emerge stronger for it.

As the remaining chapters unfold, Susnow examines the lessons he learned from his experience on that river in Colorado and from his own river of life. He uses real examples from his own experiences to illustrate the techniques he has employed in order to deal with the changes. At the end of each chapter, Susnow gives the reader the opportunity to reflect on the chapter. He encourages journaling – a tool that is underutilized and often difficult to develop.

Meditation is an important tool that helps Susnow on his journey. He emphasizes the need to take time for yourself everyday in order to maintain a healthy life. Although reluctant to try it at first, Susnow acknowledges that meditation is a critical to his overall happiness. He is more content and connected to everyone and everything when he meditates. In chapter 4, Susnow explains how to get started meditating.

Susnow goes on to explain that our intentions must be in line with our life’s purpose; however, there are no magic wands or secret spells that will align the stars and cause everything to fall into place. It takes work. The inner work requires a commitment to spiritual practice.

In the remaining chapters, Susnow tackles the five remaining lessons that he learned on the river so many years ago. Each one encourages self-reflection, and challenges the reader to take the time to explore what impediments to success are in place. Susnow explores the important concepts of gratitude, forgiveness, and connections in order to reiterate the need to take notice of the little things in life.

Dancing on the River was an easy read. It inspired me to think about my life and the journey that I’m on. I recommend it for anyone who has struggled to find happiness – personally or professionally.

Maureen H. Anderson, Associate Professor & Reference Librarian, University of Dayton School of Law

Book Review: Expert Witness Training by Judd Robbins

Expert Witness Training: Profit from Your Expertise, by Judd Robbins; 2010, Presentation Dynamics; 302 pgs, paperback, $45.00

“Expert Witness Training” is the latest offering from Judd Robbins, labeled in the book description as “an internationally recognized expert witness since 1986 . . . best-selling author of computer training books . . . created more than 25 training (expert witness) DVD’s and videos.”  Robbins had over twenty years of expertise in the computer field before transitioning into expert witness training, and a quick glance at some of his publications on Amazon.com shows this (you’ll find he has written books on everything from DOS to Lotus).  I found this book to be an informative and easy read, and it would be an ideal purchase for anyone looking to profit from expertise in their profession through serving as an expert witness.  It might also prove useful to attorneys who typically hire or depose expert witnesses, as it contains sources as to where to find these witnesses, questioning tips for depositions, and information on billing and pay rates.

The book is in an ideal format for those who are new to the field of providing their expertise as a paid witness, and begins with a discussion as to who generally gets hired as an expert.  Robbins assumes the reader has very-little-to-no knowledge of the legal field, and gives a brief description of the court system and the rules of evidence which allow experts to testify.  After the introductory chapters (covering such things as “Stepping Into the Legal Games,” “Money and Ethics,” and “Getting Hired by Lawyers”), Robbins begins discussing how to deal with lawyers and others one might typically encounter, and then gets into a more substantive discussion on trial preparation, testifying, and cross-examination.

In addition to the information contained within each chapter of the book, Robbins peppers the text with various bold script section he has labeled as “Tactics.”  For example, on page 206 in his discussion on trial preparation, there appears: “TACTIC: Use post-its when rereading depositions to temporarily mark certain pages that you want to discuss with your retaining attorney, or comment on during the trial.”  In addition to these real world tips that he says have benefited him throughout his career (they appear approximately every two or three pages), he provides a summary at the end of every chapter which highlights all the major points in a paragraph or two.

The index and appendixes of the book provide comprehensive information, and like the first few chapters of the book, would be especially valuable to those new to the field.  Appendix A is a glossary of legal terms, provides eighteen pages of basic definitions.  As an example: “ANSWER: In a civil case, the defendant’s written response to the plaintiff’s complaint.  It must be filed within a specified period of time, and it either admits to or (more typically) denies the factual or legal basis for liability.”  Appendixes B and C list all the Federal Rules of Evidence and Civil Procedure which apply to expert witnesses (and all of them are previously discussed in the text of the book as well).  The last three appendixes provide samples of expert reports, fee agreements, and a proper Curriculum Vitae.

Lance Burke, Access Services Librarian, Elon School of Law

Book Review: The Upward Spiral: Getting Lawyers from Daily Misery to Lifetime Wellbeing

Hyman, Harvey. The Upward Spiral: Getting Lawyers from Daily Misery to Lifetime Wellbeing. Piedmont, Cal.: Lawyers’ Wellbeing, Inc., 2010. 378p. $19.95.

As someone who has enjoyed and benefited from my share of self-help literature, I jumped at the chance to review The Upward Spiral: Getting Lawyers from Daily Misery to Lifetime Wellbeing. I was primed for the topic because I had recently completed a display and webpage for Pursuit of Happiness Week and had finished reading a slew of popular works on happiness during the process of reviewing another book on lawyer happiness. The Upward Spiral succeeds as a real guide for lawyers struggling with deep unhappiness, anxiety, depression, and alcohol or drug abuse to make sense of their situation and find hope for recovery. I wholeheartedly recommend it to lawyers and family members of lawyers, interested in learning how anger, stress, chemical dependence, anxiety and depression affect lawyers specifically, and finding guidance in the form of concrete steps towards leading a more balanced life. I recommend it to all law libraries, especially those that serve practicing lawyers.

In The Upward Spiral, Harvey Hyman, a long-time lawyer and sole practitioner, shares his personal struggles with stress, anger, alcohol problems, and depression that ultimately resulted in his hospitalization. Besides sharing his experiences, Hyman shares the knowledge learned from extensive reading of psychology, medical, and self-help literature, as well as the wisdom gained from his own recovery process. What sets this book apart from similar self-help books on happiness or well-being is Hyman’s perspective as a lawyer and sole practitioner.  The book is precisely tailored to lawyers in crisis and gives lawyers concrete steps to becoming healthier and happier.  Hyman’s advice is valuable because he knows what it is like to be an angry, stressed, unhappy lawyer and he knows what life changes are possible and reasonable given the legal profession’s requirements and expectations. The Upward Spiral fills a much needed gap in the existing literature which contains very few legal practitioner-authored works about how to deal with the serious problems of excessive stress, anger, alcoholism, anxiety, and depression affecting unhappy lawyers.

Part I, “Daily Misery of Law Practice,” examines why lawyers, in particular, are miserable, uncivil, angry, stressed, chemically dependent, depressed, or suicidal. Each chapter includes information for determining whether one has a problem with alcohol, anger, etc, and then discusses concrete steps involving behavior and attitude changes to address the issue. Part II on “How to Create Lifetime Wellbeing” details ways to develop relationships, improve communication and use practices like meditation and exercise to be well and to feel happier. Each chapter concludes with suggested readings that include works from positive psychology, medicine, self-help, and more.

The Upward Spiral has its flaws, but they are minor ones.  The book is subdivided into very small sections which I found distracting.  Also, the typesetting seemed amateurish, for lack of a better term.  Some of the later chapters on wellbeing make the mistake of trying to include everything under the sun: from vacation planning to the benefits of eating nuts to how to talk to a spouse on the phone to exercise motivation.  Otherwise, I enjoyed the book immensely.  Hyman writes in a very accessible style and the book is highly readable and refreshingly non-academic in tone.  Surprises like a quote from the Ben Stiller comedy Dodgeball (p. 52) and a description of law offices as so dull “[y]ou almost wish someone would fart just to lighten the atmosphere” (p. 170) made me laugh and helped paint Hyman as a person I’d want to take advice from.  The preface begins, “Your wellbeing really matters to me,” and throughout the book, you believe that Hyman does care.  Most importantly, his caring has produced a book good enough that it might actually be able to help someone.

Reviewed by Jennifer Duperon, Legal Information Librarian & Coordinator of Electronic Services at Boston University’s Pappas Law Library.



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