August 2010


Can magazines learn lessons from a smoothie?

In a few hours, I’ll be in a meeting that explores some important questions: How should we (re)create the Arizona Attorney Magazine web page? What can and should we include on it? And how can we do all that with few (people) resources?

But as I prepare for the discussion, an intriguing news story crossed my desk. It reports that McDonalds expects to hire up to 1,000 new Arizona employees as quickly as possible.

What’s the rush, fast-food giant?

Well, the skinny on the fattening-food provider is this: The demand for their newest beverage offerings—including their smoothies that seek to grind Starbucks’ beans into dust—is so great that they need lots more people.

In fact, the demand for that one family of products is so great that they are ramping up hiring. So many customers crave the sweet, sweet libation—which is dispensed by pushing a button—that a thousand new hires are required in one state alone.

A McCafe Mobile Dispensary

Not only that: Around the globe, they’ve launched an old-school mobile strategy, which includes vans with trailers that swoop down on unsuspecting consumers to offer samples of “The Gateway DrinkTM.” People who had no idea that they deserved a high-calorie liquid meal between meals are being introduced to a bevy of beverages.

As the proprietor of a product and service myself, let me be the first to say: I’m jealous.

At this morning’s meeting about the magazine, a few of us will try to decide whether to include blogs, videos, podcasts, surveys and news streams to the magazine’s web offerings. (I’m going to vote “Yes.”) Coupled with our print offerings, these products would be valuable services that enhance our readers’ work, and maybe bring smiles to their faces.

But out of all that, it’s hard to predict if we’ll land a category-killer like McDonalds has.

To help aim for that, though, maybe I’ll pitch a new idea: The Arizona Attorney Webaccino. Fewer calories, more bytes, accessible via your mobile device, no drive-through necessary. Sure, an hour later, you’ll say, “I can’t believe I consumed that.” But that’s the price we pay for progress.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how our meeting went. And I’ll share a few of the other magazine websites we reviewed as we seek best practices in magazine web pages.

And who knows: Maybe we’ll decide that nothing would improve the reader experience more than a side of fries.

Here is the McDonalds news story.

We're crafty ... and looking for ideas.

August ends tomorrow, and I am nearing completion of our 2011 Editorial Calendar for Arizona Attorney Magazine. But there is still time to pitch your own idea for a story or a topic we should cover.

I previously posted our magazine mission – thanks to those who already responded.

To boost your creative juices, here is our current (2010) Editorial Calendar. Post your comments on the blawg, or write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

January

International Courts

Pro–Con: Attorneys’ Fees

February

Prisons & Detention

Water Law

March

Lawyer Discipline Revised

Committee & Award Nominations

Expert Witness (Advertising) Guide

April

Marketing Ethics: FaceBook & More

Pro–Con: The Mandatory Bar

Member-to-Member Referral (Advertising) Guide

May

Creative Competition Winners

Board of Governors Candidates

Law Office & Trial Support Services (Advertising) Guide

June

Top 10 Civil Verdicts

Forum Selection

July/August

Pro–Con: Character & Fitness

New State Bar President

September

The Legal Ideas Issue

Convention Highlights

October

Environmental Law/Renewable Energy

Privacy Since Griswold

November

The Voting Rights Act at 45

Pro–Con: ADR vs. The Jury Trial

Mediation & ADR (Advertising) Guide

December

Bush v. Gore 10 Years Later

The Illustrated Amendment

The best news I received the other day came to me in an e-mail, when I was cc’ed on a note from our magazine printer to Michael Peel, our Production Manager. Here is the complete e-mail:

“Michael,

“We have confirmed with the US Post Office that you are hereby officially considered a “droop free publication”. Congratulations!

“Thanks,

“Chad”

Those words, from our great printer Prismagraphic in Phoenix, meant a lot to us at Arizona Attorney Magazine. And to understand why they meant a lot, you have to understand what the Post Office thinks of magazines.

In two words, the answer is “Not much.”

We’ve all heard how the Postal Service is bleeding cash, and they are bound and determined to make it up however they can. Early on, postal bosses knew that raising the price of a first-class stamp a penny or so every year would only take them so far. The real cash cow, ready to be milked dry, was the collection of biggest domestic mailers—publications.

Our periodicals rate has risen faster than your stamp-rate has, but recently the Postal Service has found even more ways to locate magazine dollars. And that leads them to the “droop test.” Any piece that fails the test will be charged non-automated postage rates. And that is a really big deal.

Because the Postal Service is a quasi-governmental agency, their instructions for the droop test are complex and cover about four pages of single-spaced text. But the test boils down to this: We lay our magazine on a flat surface and let 5” hang over the edge. If it droops more than 3”, it fails the test.

Easy squeezy, right? It should be, but you really want confirmation from the Post Office. After all, one man’s 2.75” droop may be another’s 3.25”. (And we all know painful that can be.)

Well, we passed, and so we can relax—until the next round of regulation changes and enforcement.

Here is a video to see how you pass the dreaded droop test.

And here is a story about it.

Have a great weekend.

Belly up to the Knowledge Bar at Phoenix Law

Passing through my Twitter stream today, I saw this compelling instruction from the Phoenix School of Law (@phxlaw):

“Visit our Law library blog!”

Having once gone to law school, I tend to comply when ordered by a law school to do anything. So I clicked, and I was immediately charmed. You can do the same.

Charming? How so?

First of all, it’s titled Footnotes. You’ve got to love a sense of humor that chuckles at the defining feature of legal scholarship. To emphasize their point, they have added a superscript “1” to their title. For good measure, the footnote reads “1A Blawg from the Phoenix School of Law Library.”– love it.

Blawg-namer Jessica Cruz, Phoenix Law 3L

“Footnotes1” 

One of their posts tells us that the name was selected from almost 100 submitted by law students and others in a name-the-blog contest. The winning entry, by the way, came from 3L Jessica Cruz. Well named, Jessica!. (Now why didn’t we think of that?)

The blawg also provides useful commentary. I just read on it about HeinOnline and Google Scholar, as well as links to stories about social media in divorce cases and the new Bluebook (who better to cover that than Footnotes?).

Finally, its tone is inviting. Law students may never have an extra minute, but when they do, they may enjoy clicking through to see what the library staff is providing.

Now that’s a pretty cool way to dish out legal knowledge.

Click here to visit the Phoenix School of Law blawg.

The September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine just mailed and will be online September 1. Here is what I wrote about our cover feature for the first of what will be our annual “Legal ideas Issues.”

Part of Walk of Ideas by Scholz & Friends

Is it self-defeating to announce our first-annual “Legal Ideas Issue”? I mean, what exactly is it that we’ve been publishing all these years?

Maybe so, but I still welcome you to what I hope will be a yearly feature. Who better to ask than our readers: What changes can and should be made in the legal world? In a perfect situation, what modifications should be implemented—tomorrow—to make our society a better place?

The basic concept of the Idea goes back all the way to Plato. Entire categories of philosophy are devoted to determining what an Idea is, and how it relates to the world around us.

In reading about Ideas (yes, that’s what I do), I came across a remarkable series of sculptures dedicated to the many benefits that gray matter has spawned. They are called—not surprisingly—The Walk of Ideas—and are sited—again no surprise—in Germany.

The set of six sculptures, displayed in 2006 only, commemorated books, medicine, music, sport—even Einstein’s work on relativity. The sculptures are massive monuments to human intelligence and ingenuity.

We wondered: Could we create a similar monument in these pages? Could we ask our readers to share their ideas, however nascent? Would that be insightful and helpful, or putting Descartes before the horse?

You can probably guess what we decided. In this day and age, more thinking, even when it’s embryonic, is welcome.

Thank you to those who replied. And to those who thought of something but held back? Here’s hoping to hear from you next year.

The Geosocial Universe, by Jesse Thomas of digital creative agency Jess3

Rankings of all kinds serve a few purposes—sometimes competing ones. 

An infographic (don’t you love that term?) making the rounds this week shows in pictorial fashion the relative size of social network usage. It also points out how much of each social media channel is accessed by mobile devices.

This is a fascinating and useful way to communicate information. The graphic is clear and compact, and attractive, to boot.

But it can cause anxiety—much of it needless.

For instance, when I look at it and see Skype as the biggest piece of the pie, I have to wonder what I’m missing. You see, my name is Tim, and I am Skype-free (“Hello, Tim”).

In fact, my narrow view of Skype’s capabilities is challenged every time I talk to my 14-year-old daughter about it. I initially thought of Skype as a cool way jet-setting international types avoided long-distance call charges. You know, VOIP with a French accent.

I also thought it was purely video-chatting. But after I shared my clueless commentary, Willa just rolled her eyes, spoke with short words, and informed me it’s much more than that. In fact, I could use it without video.

I was chagrined, but also a little disappointed. After all, Facebook is nice and all, but Skype had seemed oh-so-Jetsons to me. I could use it as audio-only? Not so madcap after all.

But back to the infographic.

As you gaze at the relative pools of channel users, you have to wonder: Am I on the rising or declining wave in my channel? Should I allow my leaky raft to drift toward the siren songs? “Gowalla wants you.” “Foursquare means you’ll never be square again.” Their numbers are small, but are they growing, or are they yesterday’s coolio idea?

Can you hear me now?

And then, I take a deep breath. I remember that choices in channel are driven by choices in goal and mission. I remember that I have only so many hours and brain cells. And I remember that no stinkin’ social media channel is going to head off my squareness factor.

Now if only the Jetsons and I could get my Skype to work in my hovercraft.

More about that cool graphic is here.

Today’s odd news story comes out of Nevada (I’m pretty sure that’s not the first time I’ve ever written that sentence).

It arises from a state court judge who was confronted with a routine criminal case. Matthew Palazzolo had been arrested for selling marijuana to a police informant in a Lake Tahoe casino parking lot (which is odd, because I thought that’s what casino parking lots were for).

The story reveals that the lad worked at a Sacramento law firm (I’m pretty confident that the past tense is appropriate for the previous sentence). Unfortunately, nothing more is said about what he did at the firm—maybe he was in charge of snacks.

In any case, Palazzolo had initially gotten a California prescription for medical marijuana after crying “sore back” to a doctor. The pot he was arrested for selling? It was home grown.

The judge decided to take a unique route toward rehabilitation. As the story says, “District Judge Dave Gamble ordered Matthew Palazzolo to write a report on what the judge called the ‘nonsensical character’ of California’s medical marijuana law.”

(Yes, I know. His name is Judge Gamble. I don’t make this stuff up.)

Judge Gamble ordered the defendant to write a paper that displays Palazzolo’s realization that pot led him to use more powerful drugs.

This may be unique in court history. I know other defendants have had to demonstrate their contrition in unique ways, sometimes even in essays. But asking a defendant to write a paper which argues that a law is incorrect?

It sounds like it wasn’t just one defendant on trial there. Judge Gamble’s going after California voters.

Now wouldn’t we all enjoy reading that report? It’s due in 90 days—let’s hope it’ll be published (hello, Las Vegas newspapers?!).

Read the news story here.

I just constructed a chair for our 9-year-old daughter, Thea.

Well, “assembled” is the more accurate term. It is an Ikea PS Lomsk (minus the umlaut over the o, which I cannot decipher whether the iPad is capable of).

She’s asked about it for at least a few years now, but we always thought it was a little expensive for a wee chair. Finally, though, we decided to give it a whirl.

After I put it together, Thea smiled, climbed in with her iPod and a book, and closed the retractable hood. She stayed in for quite a spell.

Apparently, it was a small price to pay for some comfortable privacy!

Chair

No, the title “Bar Art” is not a mistake, and it doesn’t refer to velvet works a la “Dogs Playing Poker.” Today, as I promised last Friday, I am sharing some art from a surprising source. That site is the State Bar of Arizona.

In the past few weeks, the Bar has had all of its current art changed out for new stuff. How was the Bar able to achieve that? Let me tell you.

Bar Art: The State Bar of Arizona did better than this.

As in the past, the art comes to us via the Larsen Gallery in Scottsdale. And as before, the art requires no out-of-pocket expenditure on the Bar’s part (I know some of you were wondering about that). Instead, we run their beauteous ad in Arizona Attorney Magazine.

You can see a few of Larsen’s recent ads here, here, here and here.

Our relationship with Larsen extends beyond art on the walls. Every year, Arizona Attorney features the terrific winners of our annual Creative Arts Competition, and in May 2008, we photographed our winners at Larsen’s terrific space. (More about Larsen Gallery is here.)

Our Arts Winners, May 2008, at the Larsen Gallery, Scottsdale

If you want to see how that arts issue came out, click here.

The path to new art began when the Bar’s CEO, John Phelps, looked around at the office walls. As he did, he began to think some of our art was getting a bit long in the tooth. That led to a few staffers being put on the case, including Executive Assistant Ann Leslie and our own Art Director, Karen Holub. They began interacting with Larsen to make better choices for the space. The only explicit request was that John wanted the art to reflect the southwest.

Most everyone here thinks it’s a great improvement. No art is going to please everybody—one piece adored by a colleague may cause a furrowed brow for another. But overall the change is astounding. And it’s not uncommon this week to see staff pausing in the hallways to talk about—art!

They done brought culture to the Bar. Thank you to everyone involved.

Below, you’ll see some of the Bar’s new art, which I photographed myself. But I have a few caveats:

First, I know: It takes real skill to photograph artwork, which I clearly do not possess. To achieve my creative output, I used our simple department Canon PowerShot (SD 890 IS, for those who care about such things). No, I’m not blaming the machinery; I’m just saying.

Second: Yes, the Bar’s hallways can be narrow in spots, which is why the shots are often angled from the side. Get over it.

Until we publish next year’s Creative Arts Competition winners in Arizona Attorney, sit back and enjoy viewing some of what now adorns our walls. And have a great weekend. 

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Escapee John McCluskey being arrested, Aug. 19, 2010

Can’t Arizona do better?

Yes, it’s great news that the escaped convicts who have made national headlines are now back in custody. But even in the success story of their arrest, Arizona had to earn a drubbing in the media.

The photo accompanying the arrest shows a shirtless John McCluskey as he’s arrested near the Sunrise Ski Resort. The photo raises two questions.

Couldn’t the U.S. Marshal’s Service have tossed the guy a shirt before snapping the photo? I mean, no one wants to see that.

And second, was anyone really surprised to see that he had the banner “ARIZONA” tatted across his torso?

I’m not sure what the state’s tourism budget is, but I think that photo may have added a swirl to the sound of dollars going down a toilet bowl.

Adding to the carnival atmosphere is this line about McCluskey’s co-fugitive deep into the Arizona Republic story:

“Investigators say Welch, who is both McCluskey’s cousin and his fiancee, …”

Well, of COURSE they’re cousins. Just another day of bad news in the Grand Canyon State.

The news story is here.

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