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This blog provides a space for conversations about articles and ideas found in AALL Spectrum, the monthly magazine of the American Association of Law Libraries. The previous blog was located at aallspectrum.wordpress.com.
7/5/2012 9:38:09 AM

Book Review--Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement: New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law

McMahon, Joseph A. and Melauku Geboye Desta. Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement: New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar, 2012, 336 pages inclusive of index.  Hardcover, $195.00, ISBN 978-1848441163

I grew up on a farm in Iowa and have lived in several states in which agriculture is a major industry and agribusiness and trade are vital to the state’s economy.  When I saw the title “Research Handbook on the WTO Agriculture Agreement:  New and Emerging Issues in International Agricultural Trade Law,” I jumped at the chance to check it out.  This title, part of the Edgar Elgar series of research handbooks on the World Trade Organization, would be an excellent addition to law libraries that have an interest in international law, agricultural law, international trade, or intellectual property, to name but a few.

The book is a collaborative effort with a multi-disciplinary group of experts from several countries contributing to each of the book’s chapters.  The book is arranged in a logical, orderly format.  The first chapter sets the scene, providing much needed context behind the Agreement on Agriculture.  Other topics discussed in the book include food security, plant intellectual property, genetically modified organisms, biofuels, and climate change.  These are all issues that, according to the editors, have either been lacking in coverage in the rules of the Agreement on Agriculture or have received scant notice in the existing scholarly literature.  The editors have done a commendable job of ensuring that each chapter builds upon the information presented in the previous chapters.  One thing to keep in mind is that each of these topics contains a dizzying array of acronyms.  The editors have included a quick reference section at the beginning of the book containing all of these abbreviations, and each group of authors has included the meanings of the abbreviations within the text of their articles.  I found myself having to refer to the chart at the beginning quite frequently.  While I could figure out that WTO stands for World Trade Organization, I wasn't as adept at always remembering that ASSINEL stands for the International Association of Plant Breeders. 

Each chapter includes a complete bibliography of sources, ranging from scholarly articles to official government publications.  The sources are current (through early 2012) and reputable. 

Of course, I found some topics more interesting than others.  I was particularly interested in plant intellectual property, genetically modified organisms, and biofuels, and those chapters were a fascinating read.  The authors present the facts, scenarios, and then recommend possible solutions to problems.  The issue of food security runs through virtually every chapter.  This is a topic to which many of us give little thought, but is one that is of critical importance in many lesser developed nations.  I found the international focus of the book to be refreshing, as there is not an American-based perspective on the issues.  I appreciated reading the points of view of individuals from other nations.  The cost of the book ($195 USD) can be a bit daunting, but for law libraries with a special interest in agriculture, international law, or any of the topics contained within the book, it would be well worth the purchase.

Timothy Gatton is Reference Librarian for Public, Clinical, and Student Services at Oklahoma City University Law Library.

 

Posted By Timothy Gatton at 7/5/2012 9:38:09 AM  1 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews
7/3/2012 4:42:02 PM

Book Review - Procedural Law and Economics

Procedural Law and Economics, edited by Chris William Sanchirico. Edward Elgar Publishing Company, 2012. 531 pages. $245.00, hardcover edition.

Procedural Law and Economics is a collection of information detailing the effect of economics on the areas of litigation, legal procedure, and evidence. In this, the second edition of this volume, the authors analyze some important aspects of the law and how monetary issues insert themselves in a variety of ways. The authors look at some of the more mundane aspects of the law (e.g., the economics of class actions and fee-shifting) but also some apparent aberrations (e.g., “negative-expected-value suits,” where the final expected judgment is actually less than the cost of litigation).

This volume begins at the very basics, analyzing the economic benefits of both the adversarial and inquisitorial systems. From this basic analysis, the book sets forth its attempt to deal with theoretical issues (e.g., which system should be instituted to make the most economic sense) as much as practical issues (e.g., the actual costs of each system). The authors of this section, and throughout, justify their conclusions through the use of many equations, some of which are beyond this reviewer’s capacity to fully comprehend. But still, even with limited understanding of these equations, one can follow the thought process of the authors through the detailed narrative analysis.

While the authors analyze the economics of such items as appeals, class actions, evidence, and fee shifting, one of the more interesting chapters (at least to this reviewer) was the chapter on “negative-expected-value suits.” As previously stated, this chapter analyzes suits where the cost of litigation is expected to outweigh the expected judgment. Even with the expected costs outweighing the potential judgment, many Defendants still agree to settle such suits in a manner which makes these negative suits result in a positive gain for the Plaintiff; the authors take an economic approach to this puzzle to determine why Defendants would agree to such settlements.

Procedural Law and Economics is written in manner that is suitable for both economists and lawyers.  Each chapter gives a basic introduction to the area of law in a manner that provides a basic understanding of the area of litigation being discussed; economic formulas are discussed sufficiently in detail to allow lawyers to grasp the concepts that are being discussed.

This volume is a valuable tool for those interested in procedural law, economics, and the convergence of the two. While much of the volume is theoretical, much of Procedural Law and Economics provides tools to understand why parties act certain ways when litigating. Still, a reader of this item must remember at all times while reviewing these chapters that Procedural Law and Economics only analyzes these topics based on financial incentives and disincentives; there may be many other non-economic reasons affecting how parties act throughout litigation, but Procedural Law and Economics leaves these justifications for other authors to analyze.

Posted By Paul Venard at 7/3/2012 4:42:02 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews
6/29/2012 3:33:36 PM

Book Review: The Lawyer's Guide to Microsoft Word 2010

Ben M. Schorr, The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Word 2010, Chicago, Ill: American Bar Association, Law Practice Management Section, 2011, 267 pages inclusive of index.  Softcover, $69.95, ISBN 978-61632-949-5

 

The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Word 2010 is an informative, accessible, and eminently useful addition to any law library or law office.  With easy-to-understand explanations and multiple screenshots for the visual learners, The Lawyer’s Guide will help people get everything possible out of one of the most-used applications in Microsoft Office.

Author Ben Schorr has previously written The Lawyer’s Guide to Microsoft Word 2007 (as well as guides to Microsoft Outlook) and brings that perspective to this guide, which opens with a rundown of the ways in which Word 2010 has been enhanced and updated since Word 2007.

As I typed my first draft of this review on Word 2010, I could easily see some of the new and improved features discussed in the book.  Some of them I already knew about and use with regularity, but (just to give one example) the ability to see the full contents of the Clipboard from the Ribbon was an excellent feature, and I’m sure I will make use of it in the future.

After an introduction to the changes and enhancements, we move on to the basics of documents.  This section raises another excellent feature of the guide, the tips and tricks and cautionary points sprinkled throughout the text.  Many of these discuss the mistakes and inefficiencies that lawyers were (and are still) prone to in Word (reusing an existing document for a new client, editing it, and then accidentally saving the new version over the old is a pitfall pointed out in Chapter 3).  From the basic, we continue into the specifics of tools so necessary for lawyers using Word: lists and footnotes, tables of authorities and tables of contents, sharing documents, protecting them, and finding templates to help in crafting the most professional of filings. 

Throughout, the writing style strikes just the right note: casual without being condescending.  Explanations and accompanying illustrations walk the user through new (and previously-undiscovered) features.  For example, Chapter 5 is “Stuff Lawyers Use.”  The first “stuff” discussed is a template for pleadings.  Schorr points out that Word has had a template for pleadings in the past, but that many people did not know this because it was not easy to find.  He then reveals the Word 2010 pleading templates via a quick and easy search in the New Document Window.

That is just one example.  The Lawyer’s Guide assumes that its target audience is not made up of a lot of computer science majors.  Chapter 8 shows how to create Building Blocks and macros, but it is not “required reading,” and the reader is advised to simply skip to the next chapter if the subject does not appeal to those with a less technological bent.  Overall, the book is useful without being burdened with too much jargon that the target audience may not understand (or care about). 

In short, The Lawyer's Guide makes a great “go-to” for the novice Word user, and even the most seasoned of writers will likely find some time-saving tips and techniques to allow them get the most out of Word 2010.  Highly recommended.


Stephanie Ziegler is a reference librarian at Ohio State University’s Moritz Law Library in Columbus, Ohio

Posted By Stephanie Ziegler at 6/29/2012 3:33:36 PM  0 Comments
TOPICS: book reviews