Books

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

First, a shameless plug; then, back to business.

The plug: I’ll be giving my “book talk” about The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law in several locations in the next couple of weeks, including in a conference room at Skadden and in auditoriums at the law schools of Northwestern and Indiana University. If you have a group that might be interested in the talk, please contact me. We’ll sneak you into one of the upcoming talks, and you can decide whether my spiel would actually fit your occasion.

Now, the business. And it’s real business this time around — a business issue that has caught the attention of an awful lot of in-house counsel. The issue has to do with the Financial Accounting Standards Board’s deliberations over whether to alter corporate disclosures about loss contingencies. (Sorry, guys. No pictures of naked Canadian judges after the jump here. You’ve gone from the sublime to the ridiculous, or vice versa.)

Here’s the backstory: Investors legitimately want to know whether companies are about to lose a ton of money in litigation. So investors want companies to make fulsome disclosures about their “loss contingencies,” which picks up a lot of territory, including pending or threatened litigation.

Companies, on the other hand, are reluctant to disclose publicly that they anticipate losing a lawsuit. If companies were to make that type of disclosure, their litigation opponent would be energized and the settlement value of the case would skyrocket….

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Natalie Lee (aka Cavanaugh Lee)

Might we be seeing a new trend, namely, federal prosecutors moonlighting as novelists?

Last year, as part of Above the Law’s Career Alternatives series, we profiled Allison Leotta, an assistant U.S. attorney in D.C. who wrote a well-received thriller, Law of Attraction. Today we introduce you to Natalie Lee — an assistant U.S. attorney in Savannah, former associate at Alston & Bird, and author of a new novel, Save as Draft. (When looking up the book, please note that Natalie writes under a pen name, “Cavanaugh Lee.”)

Like Law of Attraction, Save as Draft has garnered some nice reviews. A post on Chick Lit Reviews, for example, praises the book as a “fantastic read that all of us technology addicted Chick Lit fans will absolutely fall in love with, a must read!”

The reference to technology addiction relates to the novel’s ingenious premise. I discussed that premise — along with other topics, such as the inspiration for the book’s law firm partner / villainess, a products-liability litigatrix named Rose — in a recent interview with Natalie Lee….

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If everyone hates this lady, why is her book selling so incredibly well? Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother has been a blockbuster, ranking in Amazon’s top five last week. Parents have had no trouble laying down $25 and sacrificing five hours of late-night television to soak up Chua’s story.

— bestselling author Po Bronson, writing in New York magazine about Yale law professor Amy Chua and her new, highly controversial book.

Ed. note: This is the latest installment of Inside Straight, Above the Law’s new column for in-house counsel, written by Mark Herrmann.

First, a story; then, an attempt to find a job for an unemployed former editor-in-chief of the Chicago-Kent Law Review.

Here’s the story: After I wrote The Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law, I thought about how to maximize sales of the book. I had the clever (if I do say so myself) idea of sending free copies to the editors-in-chief of a bunch of law reviews. I figured that those folks were likely to (1) read a book and (2) be “opinion leaders” on their respective campuses, so word of the book would spread.

But there was a fly in my ointment. If you send a law student a book, the student is likely to read the book and pass it on to a friend, who will do the same in turn. That generates readers (which is nice), but it doesn’t generate sales (which is nicer).

How do you prevent this?

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Jed? Yes, Jed. Ms. Chua’s husband plays a large role in this story, even if he is made to sound like her hapless foil. He is presented as a handsome, charming and amazingly patient man, especially since his mother and wife had some similar traits. (His mother, according to the book, was once “aghast” at the cheeses Ms. Chua chose for a party and demanded better ones.)

Jed is the fixture without which Ms. Chua’s book would not be possible. And he is often wrong, wrong, wrong about child rearing, which means that the reader will think he is right.

Janet Maslin, in her New York Times review of Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, the new parenting memoir by Yale law professor Amy Chua (wife of fellow YLS professor Jed Rubenfeld).

Amy Chua

If you’re going to be a diva, then own it. Was this lesson lost on Yale law professor Amy Chua, the author of an incendiary essay in last weekend’s Wall Street Journal, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, and a new book about Eastern versus Western parenting styles, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother?

Professor Chua seems to have it all: brains and beauty; an incredible academic career, with an endowed chair at Yale Law School; a hunky husband, fellow YLS prof Jed Rubenfeld; and two lovely and accomplished daughters. (Speaking of Chua’s kids, does anyone know where her oldest girl, Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld, is attending, or applying to attend, college? To Asian parents, sending a child to a top college is the ultimate vindication.)

Sophia Chua-Rubenfeld

But Amy Chua may need to work on her bitch-goddess qualities. After her controversial essay about the superiority of Chinese mothers and hard-ass Asian parenting set the blogosphere on fire — and sent her book rocketing to #5 on the Amazon bestseller list — Chua backtracked a bit, instead of defiantly standing her ground.

In interviews with the San Francisco Chronicle, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Times, among other outlets, the self-proclaimed “Tiger Mom” seemed to turn into a pussycat….

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Amy Chua: Yale Law professor and Tiger Mother.

Right now the legal world is abuzz about an essay published over the weekend in the Wall Street Journal by Amy Chua, a prominent (and pulchritudinous) professor at Yale Law School. The essay’s title, Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior, pretty much says it all. The piece is based on Chua’s new book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, described by its publisher as “[a]n awe-inspiring, often hilarious, and unerringly honest story of one mother’s exercise in extreme parenting, revealing the rewards-and the costs-of raising her children the Chinese way.”

What does raising children “the Chinese way” entail? It’s not hard to guess. Here’s a good summary from Vivia Chen (one of the many Asian-American females to write about Chua; see also Jen Chung of Gothamist and Elizabeth Chang of the Washington Post): “Chua is an überachiever who’s hell-bent on raising her kids to be at least as accomplished as she is. Chua seems to delight in playing up to the stereotype of the pushy, academically obsessed Asian mom. So much so that I thought (for a moment) that she was pulling our legs. But she’s serious.”

Very serious. Let’s take a look at how Chua and her husband — Jed Rubenfeld, a Yale law professor, overachiever, and certified hottie, just like his wife — raise their two daughters, Sophia and Louisa Chua-Rubenfeld….

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Although I have a blog and accounts with Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and even Plaxo, I am not a big “rah rah” social media cheerleader for the sake of being one. There is much about social media that is overhyped, which is probably why I liked G.M. Filisko’s article in the January edition of the ABA Journal, “Social Media or Snake Oil: Does Social Media Measure Up to the Hype?” I saw many parallels in it in terms of how I have used social media and thought it offered some honest advice.

After the jump, I will point out a few things that have helped me along the way with social media — and reveal its biggest “not-so-secret” secret….

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Now that you’ve figured out what to give your secretary this holiday season, what about the lawyers in your life? Many of you have friends or family members who are lawyers or law students, and if you haven’t done so already, you need to get them — forgive the expression — Christmas presents (or holiday gifts, if you prefer).

Lawyerly types can be tough to shop for. As we’ve previously discussed, lawyers aren’t great about giving gratitude, and they’re often very critical — so your gifts might not be warmly received. Also, many lawyers earn good incomes, meaning that when they actually need or want something, they often just go out and buy it themselves (or let their firm to buy it for them — e.g., the iPad).

So what should you get for the lawyers in your life this holiday season? We have some suggestions….

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I’m on record as being generally uncomfortable with hate crime designations. I’m not against hate crime laws across the board. You show me a guy with a demonstrable history of bigotry who then goes around beating people of some particular group, and I’m all for enhanced punishment. But in general I don’t think the state should be involved in punishing what’s in a man’s heart. If you murder someone, you are a hater; does it really matter why you hated the person?

And hate crime laws seem to force law enforcement into ridiculous positions. They’ve got to try to use physical evidence to prove or disprove what people were thinking when they did something. That’s like trying to figure out why I smoke based on my ashtray.

A great example of the problems with hate crime legislation is what’s going on at Harvard University right now. People found books in one of the undergraduate libraries were soaked in urine. But the books were about LGBT issues. HATE CRIME ALERT!

Or is it? Harvard police don’t really know, so they are being forced to say some absolutely ridiculous things…

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