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September/October 2006


Winning Alternatives To The Billable Hour:
Strategies That Work (Second Edition)

Editors, James A. Calloway and Mark A. Robertson
American Bar Association, 2002,
286 pages

Reviewed by Janet H. Moore

"Is hourly billing truly ‘the rule’? If so, why?” ask the authors of Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour: Strategies that Work.
The book explores the merits of 15 different fee structures including: contingent fee (fee depends on the results achieved), relative-value method (assigning a “relative value” multiplier to each kind of task performed), and retrospective fee (agreeing on factors to determine the fee once the matter concludes). More important, the book sets forth the advantages and disadvantages of each fee structure.
The book encourages attorneys to focus on the value of legal services-—and to look at “value” from the client’s perspective. It also describes how to figure out such value, build a billing method, and evaluate the results of alternate billing methods.
The authors recognize the importance of billing as a client communication tool. Although not an exhaustive discussion of this critical topic, the book shares some good tips for writing clear bills that emphasize the value of services rendered.
Winning Alternatives to the Billable Hour also covers the role of technology in billing, and addresses issues specific to solo and small firm practitioners. Its helpful appendix includes sample letters documenting various fee arrangements, among other resources. Lawyers wanting to offer a variety of fee structures—or at least to explore alternatives to an hourly rate—will benefit from this book’s suggestions.

Janet H. Moore, JD, provides executive coaching and consulting for lawyers through International Lawyer Coach, Inc. She is a member of the editorial board of The Houston Lawyer


Business and Small Commercial Litigation in
Federal Courts

Robert L. Haig, Editor-in-Chief
Eight Volumes and CD $960.00
Thomson & West, 2006

Reviewed by Jim McConn

"Business and Commercial Litigation in Federal Court is a remarkable work providing as much as one could imagine in aid of a federal court practice in business and commercial litigation. It presents the practitioner with step-by-step legal analysis and strategy, from investigation through trial, appeal and enforcement of judgment. There are thousands of citations to current cases, statutes and rules. There are 36 substantive law chapters on subjects most often encountered by commercial litigators. There are more than 500 pages of forms and jury charges in print and on CD-ROM.
Editor-in-Chief Robert L. Haig is a partner at Kelley, Drye & Warren in New York City and handles commercial, products liability and other civil litigation. He recruited the 199 principal authors, including 17 distinguished federal judges, who wrote about their areas of expertise. The authors include a number of Houston and Texas attorneys, including Blake Tartt of Beirne, Maynard & Parsons; Honorable Barbara Lynn; James Coleman Jr. and David Coale of Carrington, Coleman; Honorable David Hitner; Eric Nichols of Beck, Redden & Secrest; Barrett McNeil and Noel Hensley of Haynes & Boone; John McElhaney and Vincent Hess of Locke, Liddell & Sapp; Steven Susman and Barry Barnett of Susman, Godfrey; Harry Reasoner, Allan Van Fleet and Edward Carr of Vinson & Elkins; and Daniel Steinway of Baker Botts.
The first edition of the treatise published in 1998 received an enthusiastic reception from the legal press, reflected in more than 130 federal book reviews and bar journals and legal newspapers throughout the United States. The 80 chapters from the first edition have been increased to 96. It now contains 9,000 pages and features a separate appendix that contains tables of all jury instructions, forms, laws and rules, and cases discussed in the Second Edition. The appendix will be replaced annually, making it easy for readers to find precisely what they are looking for in one place.
Those familiar with the prior edition should be aware that the 16 new chapters added for this edition include case evaluation, discovery of electronic information, litigation avoidance and prevention, techniques for expediting and streamlining litigation, litigation technology, litigation management by law firms, litigation management by corporations, civility, director and officer liability, mergers and acquisitions, broker-dealer arbitration, partnerships, commercial defamation and disparagement, commercial real estate, government entity litigation and e-commerce. They add not only new substance of law material, but practice management and technology-assisted practice material as well.
The publisher advises there is no other book on commercial litigation in the federal courts. It is not only the quantity of the material but the approach and presentation that is impressive as the authors point out the interplay between the rules of procedure and substantive law as strategies for the representation of a plaintiff and defendant. In short, it represents a wealth of experience in business and commercial litigation in the federal courts. Any law office that practices in that arena will have made a wise investment in acquiring this treatise and its companion CD.

Jim McConn is a shareholder at Hays, McConn, Rice & Pickering. He practices a wide range of commercial litigation in both state and federal courts.


Anonymous Lawyer

By Jeremy Blachman
Henry Holt and Company, 2006,
274 pages

Reviewed by Tamara D. Stiner

"Jeremy Blachman makes his debut with this comical novel about life at a major law firm as seen through the eyes of the hiring partner. Written in the form of a weblog, Anonymous Lawyer chronicles the devious acts of the hiring partner and the torture he unabashedly bestows upon associates, paralegals, and all those who are not within the partnership ranks. He has one goal, and one goal only—to become chairman of the firm. However, he must beat out his arch nemesis, The Jerk, for the position.
With the backdrop of the start of the summer intern program, Anonymous Lawyer (not surprisingly the alias the hiring partner assumes for his blog) writes of his ruthless pursuit of the chairman’s job, while making unexpected allies along the way. Although Anonymous Lawyer’s quest for the chairman’s job is his top priority, he must continue to carry out his duties as hiring partner by giving summer interns the impression he cares. Thus, lavish social events, expensive lunches and dinners, and a plethora of firm paraphernalia are thrown at unsuspecting summer interns to lure them into the rank and file of big firm life. Their reward? A six-figure salary. Their price tag? A life of servitude and the unattainable goal of becoming partner.
While the book exaggerates life at a big law firm, some sections are amusingly familiar. For example, in his blog, Anonymous Lawyer mocks a second-year law student who asks for his insight on how to tell one firm from another. Anonymous Lawyer’s pitch: “We’re a leading full-service international law firm with a proven track record for meeting the needs of our clients. . . . Here, you’ll find the atmosphere of a small firm combined with the resources of a large firm. . . . We just bought another floor in the building. The views are amazing. The artwork is unbelievable. The bathrooms are sparkling. We’re in the best part of the city. . . . We place a premium on collegiality. . . . We are committed to diversity. . . . We provide coffee. We provide bagels. We provide brand-new laptops. . . . [W]e’ll teach you everything you need to know. . . . We have an open-door policy. . . . It’s all about the people. We have great people. I’m constantly amazed by the people here. The people here are like nowhere else.”
Despite his callous behavior and heartless attitude, it is hard not to root for Anonymous Lawyer in his quest to capture the chairman’s position. This deviant character who champions the mental and physical abuse of associates somehow manages to get the reader in his corner. Will Anonymous Lawyer become chairman? There’s only one way to find out. The book is a quick, light read and especially appealing to those with a wry sense of humor. As a preview, check out Blachman’s popular blog (www.anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com) to get a glimpse into the perverse mind of Anonymous Lawyer.

Tamara D. Stiner practices with the firm of Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. She is a member of The Houston Lawyer editorial board.


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