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FROM: April / May 2005, PAGE 56 BY: Susan Saltonstall Duncan

Legal Information Buyer’s Guide & Reference Manual, 4th Edition

Kendall F. Svengalis. Rhode Island Law Press, 2004. $115.

ISBN: 0-9651032-7-7. (800) 955-4089; www.rilawpress.com.


Kendall Svengalis served as law librarian for the Rhode Island State Law Library for two decades and currently teaches law librarianship as an adjunct professor at the University of Rhode Island. He has written numerous articles on the subject of cost-effective acquisitions and the legal publishing industry. But Svengalis may be best known as the author of the Legal Information Buyer’s Guide and Reference Manual.

Svengalis published the first edition of his award-winning book in 1995. This latest edition, the fourth iteration of the guide, is a comprehensive update that reflects developments in the law and the publishing industry. It provides a host of information about legal materials available through both print publications and computer- assisted research.

The first part of the book serves as an introduction to the issues and contains an overview of trends in the legal publishing industry, as well as strategies for cost-effective purchasing of legal materials for practices of all sizes and settings.

The volume’s second part contains an annotated listing of legal publications organized into 20 categories—including statutes, digests, citators, encyclopedias, periodicals, loose-leaf services, CD-ROMs, Internet resources and other computer-assisted research tools.

In addition, there are more than 300 pages of book reviews for legal treatises organized into 60 specialties, such as computer law, corporations, elder law, environmental law, family law, legal forms, maritime law, torts, securities law and trial practice. There are also more than 100 pages of book reviews organized by state.

Wrapping up the guide, 11 appendices are organized into sections with details on legal publishers, used-lawbook dealers and legal newspapers. The appendices also include details about book prices and the cost of supplementation, as well as a handy list of cost-saving tips.

Purchasers of the print edition can also obtain a CD-ROM version of the book for an additional $45.

Overall, Sevengalis’s book should be required reading for lawyers, librarians and legal support staff who are responsible for acquiring legal reference materials for their firms or law departments. Think of this guide as a Consumer Reports of the legal profession—users will get many times their money back in the savings they achieve in their book and computerized-research budgets.

Michael L. Goldblatt ( mgoldblatt@abanet.org) is Associate General Counsel, Tidewater Inc., in New Orleans, LA.


The First Great Myth of Legal Management Is That It Exists: Tough Issues for Law Firm Managing Partners and Administrators

H. Edward Wesemann. AuthorHouse, 2004. $21.95. ISBN: 1-41841560X. www.author house.com/bookstore.


In his best-seller Good to Great (Harper Business, 2001), Jim Collins analyzes the characteristics of “great” companies. Ed Wesemann’s new book, The First Great Myth of Legal Management Is That It Exists, is like a Good to Great written just for lawyers. Through Wesemann’s vast experience consulting to diverse law practices, he has put together a concise review of law firm management and leadership issues that are commonly misunderstood in the legal profession. He also looks at ways in which a firm might address those issues to establish and maintain greatness within the profession.

Much of what Wesemann has written will hit home for those in law firm management. However, the content of the book—from its analysis of the data to the author’s insights—also speaks to practice group leaders, non-management partners and associates in firms of all sizes.

As a proponent of the importance of strategic planning by every law firm, I am not sure that I agree with all of Wesemann’s views regarding the future of this practice by law firms. Even so, the author really hits the nail on the head when he discusses the 10 “terrible truths” of law firm strategic planning. The bottom line, on which most consultants and strategic planning experts would likely agree, is that law firm leaders do not know how to conduct successful strategic planning programs. Wesemann takes this generally accepted view one step further by discussing the specific reasons that strategic planning is often unsuccessful in law firm settings.

The book also goes into other topics such as the problems with using non-equity partnership classifications, legal services pricing, cross-selling, the means to networking success and mergers as a marketing tool. In particular, the chapter on partner compensation systems is a must-read for every partner or shareholder affected by such systems.

Wesemann observes that in all law firms of more than five members, partners spend more time discussing each other’s compensation than any other management topic. He very concisely points out 10 “terrible truths” about law firm compensation systems, and many firms would do well to understand and acknowledge these common pitfalls. Doing so might go a long way in reducing the significant time, energy and other resources that most firms now devote to this single topic.

Wesemann also provides an entire chapter on the topic of associate marketing. While he acknowledges the excuses associates often give for not being able to market their services effectively, he points out that there are truly only a few strategies that associates can employ to generate business. With those few strategies in mind, the author suggests 10 tactics that associates might employ to develop business “without really trying.”

The First Great Myth of Legal Management is a valuable read for almost any lawyer in private practice. It is especially worthwhile as an additional resource for anyone involved in law firm management.

Thomas C. Grella ( tgrella@mwbavl.com) is Managing Partner of McGuire Wood & Bisette in Asheville, NC, and Vice Chair of the ABA Law Practice Management Section.