Volunteer attorneys participate in the Lawyers on Call phone program, April 8, 2014, on the topic of family law.

Volunteer attorneys participate in the Lawyers on Call phone program, April 8, 2014, on the topic of family law.

Here is a follow-up to a State Bar event, by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona, azcentral.com and 12 News hosted the Lawyers on Call public service program on Tuesday, April 8.

The following is a recap of the program, which focused on family law—divorce, child support, and paternity issues

The volunteer attorneys were: Christa Banfield, Michael Clancy, Tali Collins, Michael Cordrey, DeeAn Gillespie Strub, Wendy Hernandez, Kris Leonhardt, Nancy Khiel, Londa Rivera and Patrick Sampair

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorVolunteer attorneys answered 148 calls on family law issues. An additional 41 consumers were assisted via social media, which gave us an impressive total of 189 people who were helped.

Here is a sample of consumer questions:

  • How do I modify current child support payments?
  • How do I request/establish child support?
  • How do I modify custody and parenting time?
  • How can I request grandparent’s rights? What are my rights as a grandparent?
  • Can I travel outside of the country with my children?
  • What are the differences between a legal separation and a divorce? Pros/cons?
  • How do we divide assets?
  • Do I qualify for spousal maintenance?
  • Do I need to hire an attorney to file for divorce?

Social media continues to be a successful element of Lawyers on Call.  41 consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page and attorney Kris Leonhardt responded with her recommendations/advice.

All 10 attorneys were first-time volunteers.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ bankruptcy and foreclosure questions on Tuesday, May 6.

Letterpress BlogAttorneys looking for a strategic edge in a tough economy should take a few minutes to read how some New Hampshire lawyers are enhancing their practices and raising their profile.

Their solution? Blogging. And the lawyers interviewed by the talented Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar Association share the reasons that a law blog makes the difference. Here’s part of the story opening:

“‘I thought [blogging] was a great idea, but I figured other people must already be doing it,’” says [attorney Kysa] Crusco. ‘When I went home and did a web search, it turned out that there weren’t many, if any, family law blogs. The nhfamilylawblog.com URL was available, so I reserved it and contacted Lexblog. They got my blog up and running, and I started writing. I was able to see an immediate effect in articles that I posted and the potential clients that were calling for a consultation.’”

Kysa touches on what continues to be a surprise to me, 15 years after the first law blog was launched (though there’s debate on who was first): The surprise that, all these years later, relatively few lawyers write a blog. And that is a missed opportunity.

Let’s examine the necessary elements:

  1. There are 26 tools—if you count every letter of the alphabet.
  2. There is some modicum of writing ability.
  3. There is some practice knowledge.
  4. There is a small (and shrinking) technology aspect.

We already know that lawyers avoid math, not words, and every lawyer I know possesses a large amount of practice knowledge. So … what’s the boggle?

Typically, it comes down to a misunderstanding of strategy or—more particularly—differentiation. Here’s what I mean.

You probably think that potential clients can distinguish you from other lawyers in your practice area because, um, you went to a good law school. Or because you were in the Order of the Coif. Or served as Assistant Managing Editor on your law journal.

Of course, none of that distinguishes you (except to your mom, who always asks what was up with that “Assistant” in your title).

What does distinguish you is something that is wholly unique. No, not your fingerprint or hair whorl. I mean—writing.

The “creating content is hard” worry may be a significant one to you. But remember that more and more people will gauge your abilities not by your resume, but by a smidgen of content on your website. And they will devour that content; if it’s helpful stuff, they will come to you for more.

New Hampshire Bar Association logoThose who want to buy legal services are not seeking a terrific writer, so don’t let that put you off. But they do seek a person behind the website. They want to hear how you think.

A blog can do that. Sure, it takes a commitment of time. But at least it’s not math.

I was particularly intrigued by some of the findings of the New Hampshire Bar:

“To research this article, Bar News reached out to Bar members to submit information about their blogs and we have compiled a selective list. We also have conducted numerous searches on Google—just as many potential clients do—to find New Hampshire lawyers’ articles and blogs. The results were disappointing. There are only a few freestanding blogs offering timely advice that showcase the ability of lawyers to plainly explain current questions of law. Unfortunately, many blogs or articles on law firm websites are either out of date or populated by content designed not for readers, but for search-engine robots.”

blogging cartoon via AMP

Blogging: It’s just not that hard. (click to enlarge.)

I wonder what my results would be if I were to search for Arizona lawyer blogs. This past year, we did start a Blog Network on which any Arizona lawyer may add their link (and where we currently have more than 60). But there must be more out there.

And before you abandon blogging plans as a fad or idea that doesn’t gel with the profession, remember, as Dan Wise writes, “While SEO techniques are helpful in the 21st century world of digital marketing, certain old-fashioned values still apply: Success comes to those who prepare carefully and commit themselves to a strategy for the long haul.”

Sound like you? I thought so. Now, go back and finish that New Hampshire story.

Please contact me if you ever want to talk about blogging. I’m curious how it affects your practice.

civil rights attorney and Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier

civil rights attorney and Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier speaks at ASU on Wednesday, April 16.

In year 19, ASU continues to invite great people to deliver its A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations. Tonight’s offering, by civil rights attorney and Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier, promises to keep in that tradition.

The event is free, open to the public, and requires no RSVP. But seats are often at a premium.

Guinier’s remarks are titled “Rethinking Race and Class.” She will speak tonight at 7:00 pm, in the Carson Ballroom of Old Main on the Tempe campus.

As ASU says,

“Guinier challenges conventional thinking on the issues of race and class. This lecture focuses on the ways that those who have been excluded (based on race or class) are like canaries in coal mines: their vulnerability signals problems with the larger atmosphere affecting us all.”

More information on the Lecture and Guinier is here.

And here is background on the Lecture’s namesake:

“The A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations was created in 1995 to perpetuate the work of a man who had devoted his life to the idea of racial parity. As professor and chair of sociology at Arizona State University, A. Wade Smith worked tirelessly to improve race relations on the ASU campus and within the greater community.”

I never had the opportunity to know Wade Smith, but I know and think very highly of his family. I am so pleased to see the Lecture continue and thrive.

Bills of mortality preceded modern death certificates, and they suffer from similar challenges.

Bills of mortality preceded modern death certificates, and they suffer from similar challenges.

Years ago, in a job-related field trip, I attended a tour of the medical examiner’s facility in Clark County, Nevada. As the chief office of the pathologist for Las Vegas and its environs, it was a busy place.

Like most of the living, I had never given much thought to the multiple tasks that must be performed on the dead—especially if they died under suspicious circumstances or not under the care of a doctor.

As I learned that day, the task of the M.E. is often a complex one. And nothing is more complex than the element that is often the sole source of interest for others: affixing the single cause of death.

I was reminded of that challenge during a State Bar of Arizona CLE a few weeks ago. There, a pro-con was staged on the legalization of marijuana. Though the wider acceptance of medical marijuana may suggest we’re approaching legalization, the topic is still a thorny one, as evidenced by the vehement dialogue at the CLE.

Sure as no-rain in Arizona, though, a recent death was raised, one that may suggest more questions than answers.

As background, we recall the oft-repeated position of marijuana advocates that not one death has ever been attributed to pot—and compare that with the millions killed by cigarettes and alcohol.

It’s a compelling statistic, one that continues to irk enforcement advocates. And that may be why we have heard advocates mention a Colorado death a lot the past few weeks.

The story (reported here by the Denver Post) is about a young man who jumped to his death after eating marijuana-infused cookies. Here’s the story lede:

“A college student visiting Denver jumped to his death from a hotel balcony after eating marijuana-infused cookies, according to a coroner’s report that marks the first time authorities have publicly linked a death to marijuana since legal sales of recreational cannabis began in Colorado.”

“Levy Thamba, a 19-year-old student at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., died last month at a Holiday Inn in northeast Denver. On Wednesday, the Denver coroner released a report concluding that Thamba’s death was caused by ‘multiple injuries due to a fall from height.’”

“The coroner also listed ‘marijuana intoxication’ from cannabis-infused cookies as a significant condition contributing to the death. The report classifies the death as an accident.”

At the Bar CLE, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery alluded to the death, saying that it punches a hole in his opponent’s argument.

But does it?

An article this month in the New Yorker would suggest any coroner’s conclusion is a more nuanced one. In “Final Forms: What death certificates can tell us, and what they can’t,” Kathryn Schulz explores the history of one of civil society’s most ambiguous documents (you can read some of her great article here; sorry, but a subscription wall prevents you from reading the whole thing). And resting your argument on such a piece of paper may not tell the whole story.

Huckleberry Finn had many skills, but determining causes of death was not one of them.

Huckleberry Finn had many skills, but determining causes of death was not one of them.

Schulz opens by describing the meandering history of “bills of mortality” and the coroners who wielded them. The shift from the publicly published bills to the modern-day death certificates has been accompanied by increasing professionalism—but they still may not be the scientifically accurate document the certainty-loving may hope for.

Along the way, Schulz notes, coroners have been known to alter a cause of death to protect reputations or to soften the blow felt by grieving families of means. But if death certificates may be used to protect the dead, could they also be used politically to throw aspersions on the dead? Sure, but that’s not even the biggest challenge.

The toughest nut to crack for M.E.s may reside in the question posed by us lay-people: “Finally, what was the one thing that killed him?

As Schulz writes, “The why of death remains elusive—practically, philosophically, above all emotionally. And, the more extensively we attempt to document it through death certificates, the stranger and more troubled that project comes to seem.”

So if the accuracy of death certificates faces numerous challenges—as Schulz shows—a primary one “is how we decide what counts as a good answer.”

In that exploration, I was extremely pleased to see her turn to Mark Twain, specifically a passage from Huckleberry Finn. It involves a conversation between the stubborn Huck and the Wilks sisters, who are having none of his malarkey.

“One afternoon,” writes Schulz, “while chatting with the Wilks sisters, Huck spontaneously invents a new disease—a form of mumps so virulent that, he claims, a neighbor is in danger of dying from it.”

One sister objects, but Hucks doubles down, saying it can kill the neighbor because it’s “mixed up with other things,” from “yaller janders” to “brain fever.”

Susan Wilks—whom I hope inspires M.E.s everywhere—will have none of it, reminding Huck that it is therefore not the mumps that may cause the neighbor’s demise:

“A body might stump his toe, and take pison, and fall down the well, and break his neck, and bust his brains out, and somebody come along and ask what killed him, and some numskull up and say, ‘Why, he stumped his toe.’ Would ther’ be any sense in that? No. And ther’ ain’t no sense in this, nuther.”

I leave you with Schulz’s point: “This is precisely the problem posed by death certificates; when filling them out, how far back should we chase the causal chain?

That chain could, I suppose, end with a cookie. But I suspect Susan Wilks would arch an eyebrow at that supposition.

pro bono gavelFans of lawyers and the service they provide (count me in) always look forward to Law Day. Traditionally close to early May, Law Day helps cement the important connection between members of the public, attorneys, judges and the rule of law.

Searching for “law day” in my blog leads to a surprising number of hits over the years. Clearly, I am taken by the pro bono value attorneys provide (here is last year’s post). And this year is no exception.

Like last year, the State Bar of Arizona’s approach will be to offer free legal advice clinics, in the Valley and in Tucson. The clinics will cover a wide variety of legal topics, including landlord and tenant; bankruptcy and foreclosure; immigration; and divorce, child support and paternity.

Volunteer lawyers will conduct the 90-minute “information sessions.”

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_Color“Guests can participate in one or more sessions at one of the five partner locations.”

The events will be held on Saturday, April 26. Please spread the word and share this post with anyone you think might benefit from some free legal advice.

All the detail, including times and specific locations, can be found here.

Later this week I will share another Law Day event, hosted by an independent legal organization. The more the merrier.

beam replicator cat on TV

Here’s what happens when you let engineers near the Interwebs: A beam replicator cat sees into your soul.

As you read this, I’ll be attending the annual conference of the ABA Litigation Section. Yes, it’s at the Phoenician Resort, so it’s not exactly digging ditches. But you and I still deserve an easy-squeezy Change of Venue Friday.

How about a video?

It comes to us from the folks at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Why am I looking at IEEE content?

I often find that the best ideas I can steal borrow for Arizona Attorney Magazine come from other industries. So I routinely plunge into the offerings of those in fields like hospital design, construction, high technology and more.

I recommend that approach for everyone, no matter what you do. It gets you off the homestead, and out amongst people who do things differently.

One thing that other magazines (with larger staffs – sigh) is able to pull off is great video content. And I suspect you’re going to enjoy this one. As the hilarious narration says in the video, “Hold onto your spinny chairs, people.”

Hilarious, right? And how brilliant to do that sideways-doorway thing. Trippy.

Be sure to see what else is going in the engineering world by going here.

Have a great—and well-engineered—weekend.

Today’s post is really not simply a ruse to feature one of the cuter bunny-lawyer combos available on the Interwebs. But I will not pass up the moment. Here you go.

Bunny lawyer (even keeping time!) by LilithImmaculate

Bunny lawyer (even keeping time!) by LilithImmaculate

You’re welcome.

Instead, today I share news of an event this Saturday, April 12, at which another bunny relative—Jeremy Jackrabbit, to be precise—will make an appearance.

Rodney and Sasha Glassman, co-authors of the Jeremy Jackrabbit series.

Rodney and Sasha Glassman, co-authors of the Jeremy Jackrabbit series.

Jeremy is a character in a book co-written by two married Arizona lawyers, Sasha and Rodney Glassman. They and their book will participate in an event Saturday at the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix.

Here is how the Phoenix Public Library press release opens:

“Phoenix Public Library, in partnership with the Arizona Science Center, will host a celebration to launch Sasha and Rodney Glassman’s newest book in their Jeremy Jackrabbit series, ‘Jeremy Jackrabbit Captures the Sun,’ 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the Arizona Science Center, located at 600 E. Washington.”

“Illustrated by children from throughout the metropolitan area, including Scottsdale, Laveen, Chandler and Phoenix, more than 52,000 copies of the book will be distributed free of charge to every kindergarten student in Maricopa County.  Councilwoman Laura Pastor and Councilwoman Kate Gallego will read the book at the event after which the young artists will be available to sign the pages in the book which they illustrated.”

“Sasha Glassman is an attorney and member of the Madison Elementary School District Governing Board. Rodney Glassman, PhD, in arid land resource sciences and a former Tucson city councilman, is an attorney with Ryley Carlock & Applewhite.”

Jeremy Jackrabbit Glassman 1

Jeremy Jackrabbit, himself.

Congratulations to Sasha and Rodney on the continued success of their resourceful jackrabbit.

For more information, call 602-262-4636 or visit here.

And here is a list of the talented children who helped illustrate the book.

Jeremy Jackrabbit invitation

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