Thursday, May 02, 2013
Our Blogger Emeritus
Long time blog subscribers surely remember our co-founder, Mark Herrmann, who wrote for the blog for over three years, until late 2009. Then, for his own good and sufficient reasons, he gave up the practice of product liability litigation and went in house at Aon, the insurance giant. For a while, Mark stayed in Chicago, but as its worldwide chief litigation counsel, it was probably inevitable that he’d move to Aon’s corporate headquarters – London – where he’s now happily expatriating.
As it turns out, one thing Mark could not give up was blogging. Instead of product liability, he now blogs about life as in-house counsel – including his frustrations with out-house counsel such as us (that’s an indefinite us, since we’ve neither approached Mark for work, nor has he sent us any) – for Above the Law under the title “Inside Straight.” When he was blogging here, he was always the funny one, with Bexis playing straight man. That hasn’t changed. Inside Straight is loaded with Mark’s (usually) understated humor. While we wouldn't ordinarily recommend drawing to an inside straight, we do recommend reading it.
Mark can repurpose (yuck, jargon), too. “Inside Straight” also happens to be his relatively new book, which has become the third Herrmann-authored tome to grace our bookshelves – after his essential “Curmudgeon’s Guide to Practicing Law” and his useful treatise on “Statewide Coordinated Proceedings.” Talk about something that’s a breeze to write! This latest book is essentially a compilation of the greatest hits from his ATL blog, along with a few of the more noteworthy comments he received, and not necessarily the most complimentary. It’s a good book, and like “Curmudgeon” is intended to be instructive. Folks like us, who practice in “biglaw,” as Mark calls it, would be well-advised not just to read, but to reflect on, many of his observations, which range from “Avoiding E-Mail Stupidity,” to “Interviewing to Retain Outside Counsel,” to “The Sins of Outside Counsel,” to “The Mutual Menace of One Bad Partner.” Rest assured, Mark hasn’t changed since his DDL days. He still is congenitally unable to sugarcoat things, including things that should be obvious to us all, but evidently aren’t.
Mark’s occasionally bugged us to do the same thing with posts from DDLaw, but unfortunately that just won’t work. First of all, our focus is much more limited. There wouldn’t be much of a market for a list of our greatest posts. Second, we get relatively few comments, and even fewer of the pungent ones that help spice up “Inside Straight.” Third, there’s the competition problem. Bexis has already written a book in the field, the Drug and Medical Device Product Liability Deskbook,” and in the boilerplate of the author’s agreement from back in 2002 he promised not to write any competing books (thank God nobody thought of blogs back then). So Bexis contents himself with his twice-yearly book updates, which like many of his blogposts are really, really comprehensive.
Speaking of drug and device books…. Mark has one of those on the market as well. With Mark’s gift for timing, it also came out last year – two years after he had stopped practicing in the field. It’s called “Drug and Device Product Liability Litigation Strategy,” and Mark wrote it along with friend-of-the-blog Dave Alden. That book is essentially what it purports to be, which is a strategy primer. One way to tell is by chapter size. The Strategy chapter on MDL practice (always one of Mark’s favorite topics) is 72 pages long, whereas the chapter on “Legal Issues and Theories” runs only 35 pages. By comparison, the two primarily legal theory chapters in Bexis’ book comprise more than 400 pages (almost the length of Mark’s whole book). Mark’s book is definitely advice on “how to,” while Bexis’ book is a treatise on “what is” – with considerable overlap in both directions, of course.
Mark’s chapters on MDL and jury selection have no real counterpart in Bexis’ book, whereas Bexis’ chapters on non-manufacturer defendants and punitive damages (OK, half a chapter, but they’re longer) have no real counterpart in Mark’s book. Also, Mark is content with illustrative cases, whereas Bexis often seems to be striving to include every citation known to man. Finally, while Bexis’ book is updated, Mark’s isn’t set up that way, which is fortunate because we doubt his current employer would allow that kind of now-extraneous work on firm time. We plan to keep both on our bookshelves, as the two books are actually quite complimentary in their coverage.
Wouldn’t the logical thing have been for Mark and Bexis to collaborate on a book – like they collaborated on this blog? We think so, and evidently so did Mark’s publisher, since it initially approached the both of them. Unfortunately, by that time Bexis had not only agreed to write, but already published, his book … and there’s that pesky no competing publications clause. So if our readers want complete coverage of the Drug and Device Product liability, they should have both books, just like they might want to read both blogs.