Thursday, June 10th, 2010

Around Convention

The State Bar Convention continues to serve as one of the best gathering places in the year. Here are a few photos.

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Closer and Closer

Is it just me, or are the eyes on the Lawyers in Transition poster following me as I cross the lobby at the State Bar Convention? In fact, it seems to get closer and closer to me …

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Ethics Game Show

With Rick DeBruhl as the emcee, and Lynda Shely and Pat Sallen as ringleaders, the annual Ethics Game Show was once again a raucous—yet educational—good time.

The esteemed panel, plus three volunteer-savants from the audience, answered ethics questions a la Jeopardy. The popular seminar was packed to the gills. In fact, a sea of people yearning for ethics information in a game-show format covered every chair and even lined the floor surrounding the huge ballroom.

Here are a few photos.

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Overheard at the Convention

“When you take their picture, you steal their soul.”

“Have you seen who’s in the picture?”

“Oh yeah, too late.”


“Why are you on the panel?”

“Sometimes they just need a good-looking guy to round out the group.”

“So why are you on the panel?”


“Hmmm, my room has a view of the stadium.”

“Mine overlooks the 101 freeway.”

“I guess I win.”

Serving Clients in New Ways

This morning, a panel spoke about the urgent need for lawyers to provide alternatives to full legal representation, as well as the pitfalls that can occur if the attorney doesn’t attend to details.

The panel, titled “Unlocking the Door to Justice,” kicked off with Nancy Greenlee talking about the ethical rules that are implicated when you engage in representation on discrete elements of a client’s matter. One of the important elements that the Ethics Committee member highlighted was the need to have a written fee agreement even in pro bono or limited-representation matters. “It will remind the client, clarify the issues, and make sure they understand.”

There was also a conversation on the panel and among the audience about the propriety of “ghostwriting” pleadings and other paperwork for a client who wishes to represent herself. Greenlee said that there was nothing ethically requiring a lawyer to disclose to everyone that she was assisting on the papers. Although it might be nice to know, “It may be better for a pro per to get some guidance,” even if unacknowledged, than to get nne at all.

Some raised the question of whether lawyers who assist pro pers right up to the courthouse door are leading them to the brink of disaster when the pro per then tries a case himself.

Lawyer Diane Drain said that she recommends to those people that they sit through a court proceeding that is similar to their own case. After they see that, she said, many opt to retain competent counsel.

Drain then spoke about the balancing act bankruptcy courts must do, as more and more people seek to represent themselves. She said that 20 percent of the filings this year are pro se, and the number is expected to rise.

“We’re a cowboy-type society in Arizona,” Drain said, “and people have a right to file on their own.” But judges and others warn litigants that the self-representation path is a dangerous one.

Drain described some efforts by the bankruptcy bar and the courts to help litigants, and to help the lawyers who want to assist those people. A DigiCounsel video serves as a primer on bankruptcy law, primarily Chapters 7 and 13 of the Internal Revenue Code. Litigants who would like to meet with a bankruptcy attorney for 20 minutes at no charge must first view the video and complete a questionnaire.

Self-help may only go so far, though. Drain said that former Bankruptcy Chief Judge Redfield Baum used to open public seminars on the topic with a simple phrase: “Go get an attorney.”

More information is on the Web at the court’s website.

Also presented was information about the Native Education Legal Line (NELL) and other media that provides legal information to an Indian audience. At last count, NELL provides more than 100 recordings in various legal areas.

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What’s the Best Thing You Learned At The Convention So Far?


In a seminar there were some good discussions about the equitable subrogation of loans. I have some cases that touch on that topic, so it was helpful. – Hon. Joseph Heilman

We learned more about how it is necessary to have a fee agreement even in pro bono representation. That will help us advise people better at the Florence Project. – Noel Fidel

Yesterday there was good information on ethics and understanding legal malpractice insurance. – Jennifer Lynn Krieps

There was good information on the various types of subrogation of mortgages and loan modification. – Erin McGuinness

How to handle mechanics’ liens and how to address the confusion that may arise in real estate deals in regard to lenders. – Raymond Asay

Michael Bidwell’s message yesterday was good. And I appreciated Lynda Shely’s comment that even when things go south in law firms, remember to act like grownups. – Hon. Nikki Chayet


Some shots of conference-goers at this week’s State Bar Convention (courtesy of Willa Eigo).

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Got swag?

Let’s admit it: Swag may be one of the prime reasons conference-goers enjoy exhibit halls at conventions. I mean, who doesn’t like a new pen, a squishy stress-relief ball, or a desk calendar.

This year’s conference has all that—and more. We decided to gather some of the more unique offerings at this year’s Bar Convention, shoot them quickly and put them up here for your enjoyment.

Have a favorite? Comment below or write to the editor at

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A Wee Bit of the Grape

Singer-songwriter Sarah Vanell

A grand Convention tradition continued last night with a Wine Tasting Event. Stations arrayed around the room held a few choice bottles, each hosted—or should I say “guarded”—by their own sommelier.

The wine was good. (I liked the Sangiovese, and I heard the Prosecco was primo.) Like all things at Convention, though, the conversation was even better.

It was a pleasure to catch up with friends and colleagues in a relaxing setting after a long day. Add to that a wide array of cheeses (Dinner? Who needs dinner?), and you’ve got almost a perfect evening.

All that you’d really need to top it off? Ahh, I know. How about some music?

And that’s where the Convention Committee had another stroke of genius. They invited back Sarah Vanell, a phenomenal singer-songwriter. She entertained wonderfully, and even took requests. In fact, my daughter Willa sends a special thank-you to Sarah for performing an Evanescence song!

(And yes, my 14-year-old daughter accompanied me to a wine-tasting. But she was there to take photos for the magazine blog—see below. And she had taken photos, lugged equipment, and even interviewed attendees for the 12 hours before the evening event. And at the wine soiree, I made sure she stuck to bottled water. Thank you for your help, Willa!)

A packed roster of CLE is a wonderful thing. But the gathering-and-chatting part of the Convention is what raises it to a higher level.

Here’s looking to even more networking on Thursday and Friday.

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