One does new and strange things when the federal government shuts down. For example, I read The Florida Bar Journal’s book reviews. The recent review of The Florida Litigation Guide, in particular, caught my attention. The reviewer extolled the guide as an invaluable legal resource for all Florida practitioners — from first-year associates to seasoned veterans, and for litigators and transactional attorneys alike. Perhaps the guide is indispensable, and I was inclined to purchase it, until it became clear that the book reviewer had, conveniently it seems, failed to disclose his close business relationship with the author of the professional guide being reviewed. The reviewer (Jonathan S. Burns) and the author (Marc A. Wites) are two of the three partners of Wites & Kapetan, the law firm that markets the guide. The close business relationship is not detectable in the review or bylines, since the reviewer is not (yet) a named partner of the firm. And, the conflict of interest would not be apparent to an office manager or paralegal who has been instructed, without more, to “go buy copies of this guide for all first-year associates.” I suggest changes to The Florida Bar Journal’s book review guidelines to require — at least for professional texts and other practice aids — disclosure of the financial interests and conflicts of interest that could substantially impair the perceived objectivity of the review.
Benjamin J. Robinson, Washington, D.C.