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August Book of the Month: Untangling Fear in Lawyering

Untangling Fear in LawyeringUntangling Fear in Lawyering: A Four-Step Journey Toward Powerful Advocacy
By Heidi K. Brown

Reviewed by Andrea Woods, Reference Librarian


This refreshing new book from Heidi K. Brown—litigator, author, professor, and Law Library MCLE presenter on August 9th—soundly dispenses with the tired conventional wisdom surrounding how to handle fear, and instead invites lawyers to distill and untangle their fear. When a new attorney feels daunted at the prospect of facing a cantankerous judge or a 1L worries about an intimidating professor’s use of the Socratic method, the typical advice is to simply “push through” fears, or “fake it till you make it.” But in Untangling Fear in Lawyering: A Four-Step Journey Toward Powerful Advocacy, Brown challenges this approach as being at best, phenomenally unhelpful, and at worst, highly destructive to a lawyer’s on-the-job performance and mental health. Fear is not a weakness, and it is not a motivator. Rather than downplay fear, Brown acknowledges that fear in lawyering is very real and very legitimate—lawyers face stressful situations marked by emotional clients, tight deadlines, and enormous consequences for even a small mistake. In fact, the entire legal profession is a culture built around fear, and lawyers adopt these rights-of-passage as a badge of honor. Brown sees how the culture of fear leads to anxiety, depression, and burnout, and can drive excellent lawyers away from the profession. She posits that legal education and practice can be improved by radically changing how we approach fear.

Brown proposes that we try to understand fear, to tease apart the perceived threats from reality. With self-awareness, we can use specific strategies to manage fear, rather than simply attempting to squelch it with pithy sayings that only wind up amplifying it. She explores the science of fight-or-flight as well as the tangled knot of emotions—shame, rejection, unworthiness, or the false bravado that hides a scarcity mindset—so that we can start to unpack fear’s grip and develop confidence. Next, Brown delves into how other professions approach fear, citing that medical and journalism curricula actively teach students what to do when they make a mistake in their future vocation. Similarly, in the realm of professional sports, the mental and emotional training that athletes receive is instructive on how to stop the onslaught of negative, destructive thought patterns. Brown follows with a four-step program that will cultivate true strength and courage in lawyering, in which we untangle fear, mentally reboot, channel our inner athlete, and build a culture of fortitude. She includes exercises to guide us through this process of learning how to stop repressing fear, and instead, to grow in spite of it. Finally, appendices set forth checklists, teaching strategies for educators, and ideas for law firm managers, and a comprehensive bibliography lists suggested further reading on numerous related topics.

Not only is Untangling Fear essential reading for a lawyer’s own personal growth, but it is also an important assessment of the dysfunctional culture for which the entire legal profession is renowned. As the legal industry continues to study the mental health and substance abuse problems that are all too common among lawyers, Brown makes clear that understanding fear and the emotions that surround it is critical to improving the overall health and culture of the profession.


Untangling Fear in Lawyering was generously donated to the Law Library by author Heidi K. Brown during our May Book Drive. Ms. Brown will be presenting The Introverted Lawyer MCLE program on Friday, August 9th from 12–1 as part of the Library’s Lunchtime Speaker Series.

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May Book of the Month: Closing the Courthouse Door

51o5FtK+zsL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Closing the Courthouse Door: How Your Constitutional Rights Became Unenforceable
By Erwin Chemerinsky
Reviewed by Andrea Woods, Reference Librarian

Esteemed constitutional law scholar Erwin Chemerinsky wrote Closing the Courthouse Door: How Your Constitutional Rights Became Unenforceable after decades of mounting frustration over how Supreme Court jurisprudence has chipped away at the ability of the federal courts to perform their most important and basic task—to enforce the Constitution. He examines how the Court has limited the ability of a plaintiff to sue state and local governments for constitutional violations, expanded immunity protection for government officers, narrowed the instances where the court will find standing for injured parties, restricted access to habeas corpus, thwarted plaintiffs from suing in class actions, and increased abstention by finding more and more cases are nonjusticiable political questions. The result of the Court’s expansion of these procedural doctrines is that many citizens are left with no remedy when their constitutional rights are violated. Chemerinsky eloquently and passionately argues that the role of the Constitution is to hold the government and its officers accountable to those whose constitutional rights have been infringed upon, and if the federal courts are not able to enforce the Constitution, then it is as if those rights did not exist at all.

Most disturbing in this snowballing trend is that the procedural doctrines the Court has expanded are entirely the Court’s own creation—they are not based on the Constitution, and they are not founded on federal statutes. For example, the defense of immunity for government officers is not found in the language of section 1983, which creates a private right of action against government officials who deprive a person of a constitutional right. Not only did the Court create this defense, but it found that some tasks warrant absolute immunity, even for the most egregious violations of a constitutional right, and even when officials act in a way that clearly exceeded their authority. Chemerinsky maintains that there is no need for absolute immunity at all because all officials have qualified immunity, but even here, the Court has made it increasingly difficult for plaintiffs to recover for their injuries by continually expanding the scope and availability of the defense.

Throughout Closing the Courthouse Door, Chemerinsky cites example after heartbreaking example where a person was left with no recourse after their constitutional rights were trampled. Because of one procedural doctrine or another, the federal courts were left unable to enforce the Constitution. Chemerinsky notes that this should be a bipartisan issue, and in fact, he surmises that many conservatives should theoretically welcome the idea of holding the government accountable for its actions. He optimistically concludes each chapter with a suggested path forward, where either the Court itself or Congress could act to rectify these erroneous doctrines. In many cases, the changes he presses for would only restore the law to what it was several years ago, before more restrictive holdings were announced. Chemerinsky posits that the federal courts have been diminished as a co-equal branch of government as a result of abstaining from hearing many types of cases, and that we as a nation should want our courts to be able to ensure that constitutional wrongs can be righted.


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April Book of the Month: The Library Book

library-book-medThe Library Book
By Susan Orlean
Reviewed by Courtney Nguyen, Reference Librarian

Fire. Stolen books. Lawsuits. Threats of eviction. Lack of funding.

Susan Orlean writes about nearly everything that a library fears in The Library Book, her fascinating and deeply researched account of the 1986 fire that destroyed the Central Public Library of Los Angeles. Like the best modern public libraries, Orlean’s extraordinary book is difficult to define: The Library Book is a true crime story of an unsolved arson case from the 1980s; a chronicle of the Los Angeles Public Library and her colorful directors, librarians, and patrons; a study of the evolving role of the library in American society; and a memoir of a lifelong reader and library patron. The sprawling cast of characters includes an aspiring actor with a penchant for lying (and perhaps fire); an eighteen-year-old female library director whose father had to walk her home from work because of her age; and a librarian who sneakily read “dangerous” books kept locked in a metal cage in the basement during her lunch break. All of these elements and more come together to form a sweeping panorama of the public library’s unique place in the community and people’s lives.

Just as a library contains different subjects and genres to appeal to a wide audience, so too does Orlean offer something for everyone by looking at the fire and the institution of libraries from various and oftentimes surprising angles. The chapter devoted to the actual April 29, 1986 blaze rivals the intensity of any action film, while her sobering examination of the practice of book burning frames the fire in a new devastating light. Orlean’s search for the possible arsonist is as riveting as any true crime serial, and her journalism background moves to the forefront as she follows suspects, detectives, firemen, city attorneys, and those charged with dealing with the aftermath of the destruction. Library enthusiasts can delight in the (often cheeky) card catalog headings that open each chapter before reading about the inner workings of a modern public library and what librarians actually do all day. Orlean’s book also serves as a history of the library and Los Angeles from the 1800s to the present-day, for a history of a public library will inevitably also be a history of a city and a community.

Orlean writes that “[A] library is as much a portal as it is a place—it is a transit point, a passage.” The same could be said of her book, which serves as both a record of fires and eccentric librarians as well as a portal to thinking about the importance and future of libraries. The book makes a strong case for the idea that libraries are embedded in a city physically and mentally—physically in the form of the actual buildings as well as through the constant transportation of library materials to the different branches, running like veins through the city; and mentally in the knowledge they guard and the memories they hold for both lifelong and casual patrons. Perhaps we are biased, but The Library Book is essential reading for everyone in any community. Find this book in its natural habitat at a public library today, including ours.


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March Book of the Month: The Legal Career

The Legal CareerThe Legal Career: Knowing the Business, Thriving in Practice
By Katrina Lee
Reviewed by Andrea Woods, Reference Librarian

The Legal Career: Knowing the Business, Thriving in Practice is a useful new book from West Academic Publishing that provides a thorough examination of the state of the legal industry today. It is oriented toward law students and aims to help them understand the business of law and how to navigate within the legal profession as they set out on their careers. This book is also appropriate for new lawyers or those with an interest in evaluating the changes that have occurred in law and better positioning themselves for a successful career.

Author Katrina Lee is well-versed in the legal profession. She is a San Francisco native who attended UC Berkeley, became an equity partner in a large law firm, served on the Board of Directors of the Bar Association of San Francisco, and is now an associate clinical professor at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. With her vast experience, she takes readers on an insiders’ tour of the legal industry, beginning with the traditional law firm business model, and then exploring how legal process outsourcing and legal services outsourcing have transformed the modern practice of law. Lee goes on to examine how in-house practice is evolving and also drives further change in the legal field in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Subsequent chapters cover the seismic advances in legal technology that have transpired, changes in ethics and the unauthorized practice of law as some states move to allow legal technicians, how the legal field is changing to serve low and middle income people, innovations in legal education to equip new lawyers for this brave new world, and finally, how to find satisfaction and even happiness amid the pressures and stress of law practice.

In all, The Legal Career is exceptional in the amount of detail and insight it provides into the inner workings of the legal profession and the fast-paced changes that are currently shaking it up. Most notable are the in-depth interviews that Lee conducts with industry insiders that span everyone from knowledge management professionals and legal tech entrepreneurs, to Big Law associates and “alternative model law firm” founders. This invaluable insider information is the gem of the book.

The Legal Career was kindly donated to the Law Library by author Katrina Lee.


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February Book of the Month: Becoming

BecomingBecoming
By Michelle Obama
Reviewed by Ruth Geos, Reference Librarian

Even if you don’t remember the fist-bump, begin with the beginning of Becoming and you will hear the vivid voice of a first-class storyteller with a full tale to tell. She is not just the former First Lady here but a narrator with a fascinating perspective of time and place. Michelle LaVaughn Obama describes growing up in a loving family in the South Side of Chicago, with her own evolution from a feisty little girl always ready for the next challenge, to Princeton and then to Harvard Law School, and — skipping ahead, as we already know — eventually to the White House, with her own initiatives and advocacy as First Lady over the two terms of the Obama administration. The Preface is an exceptional essay in itself, with an articulate grace and the kind of direct honesty that every good story needs, and history demands:

…until recently, I was the First Lady of the United States of America—a job that’s not officially a job, but that nonetheless has given me a platform like nothing I could have imagined. It challenged me and humbled me, lifted me up and shrank me down, sometimes all at once. I’m just beginning to process what took place these last years — from the moment in 2006 when my husband first started talking about running for president to the cold morning this winter when I climbed into a limo with Melania Trump, accompanying her to her husband’s inauguration. It’s been quite a ride…

It’s an intriguing story, starting with Becoming Me (the other sections are Becoming Us, and Becoming More) — a personal recounting of growing up in a largely African-American community, beginning to understand her own close family dynamics and community, and seeing how the history of deep discrimination had thwarted dreams and desires in her family and across the South Side. The story she weaves is anything but didactic, but a clear tracing of the cumulative impact of discrimination, such as how one grandfather’s dreams to be an electrician and to get a good union job were blocked, and others in her family circle limited to work in which there was no way to rise and push ahead.

Of course, before the White House lawn becomes a model garden, there are miles to go — piano recitals, marriage and children, campaigns, and many high-level professional positions. Ultimately, Becoming is a narrative of one woman’s intelligence, frustrations, humor, style, and perspicacity, with an inborn jolt of courage and personal daring, across history and her own personal way. Not the least, it also offers a fresh reminder of eight years of a White House not that long ago—and an altogether fascinating read. As Mrs. Obama says: “Your story is what you have, what you will always have. It is something to own.”


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January Book of the Month: Representing Children in Dependency and Family Court

Representing ChildrenRepresenting Children in Dependency and Family Court: Beyond the Law
By Rebecca M. Stahl and Philip M. Stahl​
Reviewed by Andrea Woods, Reference Librarian

Representing Children in Dependency and Family Court: Beyond the Law is a thoughtful new book from the ABA that guides legal representatives of children in dependency and family court through the professional and emotional challenges they will encounter. As the subtitle indicates, it takes readers “beyond the law” and delves into the complex psychological issues that children experience prior to and during these proceedings that their lawyers must understand. Authors Rebecca and Philip Stahl begin by examining the unique attributes that a child’s representative must have, noting that they need a fundamental curiosity about their child clients and a willingness to understand their motivations, feelings, and experiences. Only with this deeper level understanding of the child’s perspective can a lawyer adequately inform the judge what decisions the court should make, and the authors emphasize that the judge’s entire comprehension of the child will come from the lawyer’s ability to know and communicate the child’s views. In fact, the authors urge a new interpretation of the lawyer’s role, in which the lawyer uses the concept of an imaginary friend to guide their representation. In this model, the child retains a sense of autonomy and is able to use the lawyer to make sense of the adult world. This is especially relevant for children who are enmeshed in high-conflict situations, in which their parents are likely to put their own needs before their children’s.

The authors’ discussion of psychological issues provides the bulk of the book’s content, and it covers in detail trauma, child development, the impact of domestic violence on children, high-conflict separation and divorce, alienated-resistant children, and special circumstances such as neglect, immigration status, oppositional defiant disorder, and sexual abuse. Readers will benefit from the authors’ expertise with these complicated topics. With a thorough understanding of the ways that psychological issues manifest themselves both emotionally and physically, and what conditions are needed for a child to heal and recover, the lawyer can learn the proper way to communicate with their client and provide the best representation possible. The authors note that trauma-sensitive interviewing requires considerable patience and self-regulation on the part of the lawyer, and an awareness of the child’s reaction so that the representative can help the child client release emotion but also move forward. Again, the authors emphasize how critical it is for a child’s representative to understand why a child behaves in a certain way, rather than to focus on what the problematic behavior is.

The last three chapters of the book are devoted to the personal and professional challenges that a child’s representative will experience directly—ethical issues, bias, and personal impact. The authors acknowledge that the ethical issues are bound to be unique because of the tendency for the child’s representative to be the only legally trained person on the case other than the judge, as more and more litigants in these types of proceedings represent themselves. Furthermore, there is an inherent tension between the best interests of the child model and the child client’s personal autonomy that the lawyer must navigate. The authors’ comprehensive discussion of the types of bias that a child’s representative must grapple with is insightful and recognizes the difficulty of this type of work. They observe that children’s lawyers must be so fully trained in understanding bias that they can also recognize the biases of their own clients, unlike other areas of law practice where this is not necessary. Finally, the authors discuss the emotional and physical toll that representing children in dependency and family cases will have on their lawyers. With an understanding of how legal practice differs from healing professions, and the resulting limitations in terms of what children’s representatives can do that they must accept, the authors provide thoughtful advice on how to avoid compassion fatigue and continue to find reward in representing children. The authors do not suggest that there are easy ways to reconcile these personal and professional issues, but their knowledge and the breadth of their experience in representing children provides ample guidance.


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December Book of the Month: Corporations Are Not People

Corporations Are Not PeopleCorporations Are Not People: Reclaiming Democracy from Big Money and Global Corporations
By Jeffrey D. Clements
Reviewed by Aaron Parsons, Reference Librarian

In Corporations Are Not People, author and San Francisco Law Library MCLE speaker Jeffrey Clements argues for and enlists readers’ help in passing a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United. This 2010 Supreme Court decision invalidated or weakened campaign finance laws like McCain-Feingold, and has allowed billions of dollars in corporate funded influence and “attack ads” to drown out average citizens’ voices, ideas, and opinions, in favor of narrow and powerful moneyed interests. This corporate influence, Clements argues, produces an anathema to the democratic protections that were written into our Constitution “of the people, for the people, and by the people.”

Clements discusses similar historical upswings of organized corporatism and traces the current tide as the long-term effect of a push back against environmentalists beginning with the first Earth Day in 1970. The corporate response was an organized attempt to curtail environmental and other regulation, and was led by Lewis Powell—a corporate lawyer and tobacco corporation executive, who would take a new wave of corporate activism onto the U.S. Supreme Court where he wrote corporation-favoring precursor cases to Citizens United, such as First National Bank of Boston v. Bellotti. Under Powell’s influence, corporations “gained vastly increased political power at the expense of average citizens.”

But what is a corporation, and what are corporate rights, asks Clements? He says that, strangely, the definition of a corporation is left vague and described in “word clouds” in Citizens United and other decisions that Justice John Paul Stevens called “glittering generalities.” These generalities allow corporations, as government created entities, to wear sheep’s clothing at the same table that people enjoy, where they are protected by laws, including the Bill of Rights. Clements provides statistics showing the billions spent on lobbying and on saturation advertising in elections by a handful of corporations. He argues that those efforts promote the interests of a few giant corporations at the expense of both conservative and liberal points of view.

Clements offers many resources and avenues to get involved in changing government to work more effectively for the people instead of for a few massive corporations, including his organization, American Promise, that seeks to enact a 28th Amendment to the Constitution and is backed by an increasing number of states, politicians, and Americans from across the political spectrum.

Corporations Are Not People was generously donated to the Library by Mr. Clements.