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Books

Every Issue

Cite as: December 2015 89 (12) LIJ, p.64

This month's books cover Harper Lee's recently released novel, crime fiction, administrative justice and professional services marketing. 

Go Set a Watchman
Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman, Random House, 2015, hb $45

It is difficult not to approach Harper Lee’s first book as a sequel.

Jean Louise Finch, “Scout”, is 26 and returning home to Macomb, Alabama from university in New York. The characters are familiar. Home, however, is anything but familiar.

Atticus is the now elderly respected lawyer but largely in the background. Uncle Jack, the doctor who has benefitted from Atticus’ early investment in his education dispenses views and attitudes that are confronting to Scout, and Calpurnia, the cook, is resigned to the injustices her race suffer.

Scout is confronted by challenging changes and revelations. Atticus once joined the Ku Klux Klan to find out what men in town were behind the masks.

He is on the board of directors of the Maycomb Citizens Council, a council of concerned white men preparing to preserve the Southern way of (white) life. This particular revelation sets Scout off on a bewildering journey. She is in denial that Atticus is a member of the “trash” – the ignorant, fear-ridden, law-abiding, one hundred per cent red-blooded Anglo-Saxons.

It is confirmed when she looks down on the meeting proceedings from the “coloured” balcony of the town courthouse, where Scout and her brother Jem used to sit and watch their father in court. From where they watched the trial of Tom Robinson, the accused rapist defended by Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird.

There is no flashpoint trial but the story is rich. The language brings to life the slow flow of time and the confronting face of prejudice in the deep south of America. Where nothing much happens but a lot happens, too. Scout struggles with the attitudes of those closest to her who bemoan the empowerment of African-Americans.

Does Go Set A Watchman stand on its own? Probably no. It is hard to think there is an engaging narrative without the context of To Kill a Mockingbird, but that does not detract from the book. Despite the controversy about how to classify it and the merit of its publication, it highlights the brilliance of Harper Lee.

Jamie Bolic, managing legal counsel, Coles Group
The Unbroken Line
Alex Hammond, The Unbroken Line, Random House, 2015, pb $33

Will Harris is a criminal defence lawyer, creation of former Melbourne insurance lawyer Alex Hammond.

This is legal crime fiction but it is not a courtroom drama. Like the practice of law in real life, most of the negotiation happens away from the court – in law offices and in hospital wards. There is death and violence and love and office politics.

Harris is the son of Justice Sheehan. It is his mother who asks him to take on his big case of this novel. Justice Sheehan is an intriguing character who moves with gravitas and distance.

I love the opening scene car chase. Of course it doesn’t end well.

“Eva pushed the door open and got unsteadily to her feet. Will clenched his jaw as he dragged himself through the shattered remnants of his side windows. Pain shot through him as his stomach clenched around old wounds. It was as though razor wire had twisted down his torso.”

Will Harris is already injured at the beginning of this book, before he begins to get into more trouble.

A key player in this novel and possibly crippling lawyer readers with fear is the Legal Services Commissioner.

If this is your first taste of the Will Harris series there is also the debut novel Blood Witness available, published in 2013, for which Alex Hammond was shortlisted for the Ned Kelly Award for Best First Crime Novel.

Accordingly, fans of Jack Irish, the Ned Kelly Award winning series, will probably like this.

Wider reading will show that a TV series featuring Will Harris has been optioned. This is eagerly awaited. Also a third novel in the series is finished but not yet published.

At around 350 pages this is the perfect length for a return flight to Bali.

Tasman Ash Fleming, barrister
Administrative Justice and its Availability
Debra Mortimer (ed), Administrative Justice And Its Availability, The Federation Press, 2015, hb $145

If my memory serves me correctly, I was the only one of the law students I studied with who enjoyed administrative law. This trend continued when I became a practising lawyer. I never understood why this was so: surely one of the reasons we became lawyers was to ensure that “the executive” operated strictly in accordance with the rule of law and that the citizenry had someone to turn to when they were on the receiving end of bureaucratic overreach?

This may sound like lofty idealism but from my experience providing administrative law advice to clients, it is so much more than that. Understanding the ins and outs of judicial and merit review, the prerogative writs and other administrative law tools is vital to advising clients faced with an adverse administrative decision.

In his foreword, Federal Court Chief Justice James Allsop AO described administrative law as follows: “. . . this important work, reveal[s] the centrality of the subject of administrative law and its concern with the proper exercise of power. This is not some dry exercise of delimitation or boundary setting for institutions. It requires the understanding of power, its character, its importance and its effects on institutions and on government but, most importantly, on people”.

Administrative Justice and its Availability is a welcome addition to this important field of law. This publication is a collection of papers presented at the 2014 Federal Court of Australia and Law Council of Australia conference bearing the name of the publication, as well as reports on the panel sessions that include the questions and answers asked at each session.

Stephen Newman, executive counsel, Hope Earle Lawyers
Professional Services Marketing Handbook
Nigel Clark (ed) with Charles Nixon, Professional Services Marketing Handbook, Kogan Page 2015, pb

This book is targeted to marketing and business development (MBD) professionals working with large and often global professional services firms and their “savvier and more sophisticated” commercial clients.

This book will be most relevant to MBD professionals in big law firms, but will resonate with those in any law firm with its key themes, innovative ideas, practical case studies and advice. Changes in the markets for professional services firms are key drivers for MBD, especially changes in client needs from a product or service to advice and guidance, and more recently to solutions and experience. This puts pressure on professional services to move away from the role of service partner to professional adviser and ideally business partner.

The book is structured around five themes – growth, understanding of client needs, connecting, relationships and managing and influencing the organisation in marketing. Each theme includes three to four articles by expert contributors with a summary of key points by the editor. The contributors work with global to mid sized professional services firms in the UK and Europe with one article on Asia Pacific. Many contributors have deep experience in global law firms, others with engineering and consulting companies.

Overall, contributions are well written. With multiple authors, there is a tendency to high level commentary about modern marketing practice and an assumption of marketing theory knowledge. Many contributors comment on how it used to be 10 to 15 years ago and changes since.

The definition of marketing and business development is explored. Interestingly “. . . lawyers are particularly adverse to the idea that they are in sales”.

Are professional services different? The impact of the structure “where owners and managers are one and the same” drives differences in culture and style.

There are areas that will strongly resonate with legal MBD professionals such as the new tensions of clients also seeking value and efficiency contrasting with lawyers training to focus on quality and effectiveness.

Judith Bennett, lawyer, business adviser and coach, www.business4group.com

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