January 2011


Richard Grand

Last Friday, I reported that I would be headed south—to Tucson—to celebrate an important anniversary.

The event was a luncheon celebrating 10 years of the Richard Grand Writing Competition, held at the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law.

Besides a terrific lunch, attendees enjoyed remarks by Dean Lawrence Ponoroff—who had them laughing in their soup. And then Richard Grand himself delivered his own thoughts, through the power of video. It is one thing to hear from Richard via telephone or e-mail. But to see and hear Richard as generations of jurors have seen him—and been persuaded by him—was a real treat.

After all that, the five winning law students were announced by Professor Suzanne Rabe. They were: Andrew Floyd (1L), Eric Gans (3L), Benjamin Harville (2L), Megan McLean (1L) and James Mieding (1L).

Among the day’s many highlights was the opportunity to see firsthand some of the school’s Richard-abilia. In the library, there are a variety of glass cases housing items evocative of the school’s history. All the cases are important, but there may be none as vibrant as the one dedicated to Richard and his law practice.

Dean Lawrence Ponoroff

It includes clippings from news stories, photographs, and even replicas of exhibits he used in personal injury cases. And it is anchored by his pinpoint jacket and briefcase, both wielded daily by Richard in trials for his clients.

Below, there are a few photos from the case, and of the luncheon.

Finally, I delivered my keynote address, a great honor. They are extremely polite down in the old Pueblo, so no one snored or threw brickbats as I spoke. So in my world, I take that as great praise!

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Here are my complete remarks:

Remarks at Richard Grand Writing Competition Luncheon, UA Law School, Jan. 21, 2011

On Words and Other Tools

Congratulations again to all of you. I have been a judge in this competition for quite a few years now, and as I have told Suzanne many times, it is one of my favorite events of the year. Thank you for your great writing and great thinking, and thank you to Suzanne for her leadership and willingness to include a crotchety old lawyer-editor on her judging panel. It’s been an honor.

This has been a wonderful event, not least of which being due to Richard’s great video. I now empathize with what a trial lawyer must go through when he stands to give his own meager closing argument after Richard has brilliantly chaperoned a jury down the path of justice in his own closing.

Note to self: Never follow animals, children or Richard Grand.

The title of my remarks today is “On Words and Other Tools.” And in case I needed another example of how faulty communication can be, I was reviewing some handwritten notes I had taken myself as I spoke on the phone last month with the Law School’s Nancy Stanley. And I was surprised—and a little intrigued—that I had penned the words, “Also invited to the luncheon are previous sinners.”

Of course, I meant to write winners, but what happens in Tucson stays in Tucson.

Today I’ll talk a little about words, but a lot more about Richard.

My impressions of Richard are formed almost entirely through words—and I will tell you why in a few moments. But I have to comment first on his video tour de force, which is all Richard, from beginning to end.

First, as it opens, we viewers are baffled and intrigued as he starts speaking. It takes a brave man to begin a peroration with “We must do the bitter bookkeeping of death.”

Our bafflement grows as he speaks to us and a larger audience about important matters. And it is not until he reaches the four-minute mark that Richard, ever the showman, lowers the veil just a bit to address us, as audience. Until that moment, we have been witness to a litany of some of Richard’s most effective sentences uttered over decades of law practice.

So the first gift he has provided us today is the opportunity to see him as juries have seen him for years: very brave, a bit puzzling, mildly exasperating, extremely engaging.

That gift of words sends a signal: “You viewers are intelligent and worthy of my highest attention,” Richard conveys. “You have the smarts to figure this out. But I am not handing it to you on a silver platter.”

Richard is enigmatic, maddening and generous — much like law school itself.

I wish I could have gone to the Richard Grand Law School. Unfortunately, he doesn’t enroll students at his school of experience. But he does tender all of us a legal education.

A number of years ago, I heard someone very smart say that it is a pleasure to see the lights go on in law students’ eyes. Since then, I have used that line myself probably a dozen times over the years, in various contexts. But it’s time to come clean. The original speaker was your own former dean, Toni Massaro. Now that I’m standing in her house, I had better credit her.

That line reminded me that Richard Grand likes to help turn on those lights, too. But his approach to legal education is less Socratic, and more autodidactic. He’s a believer in the notion that the student who stumbles about a bit in his or her own darkness will be more likely to find the light switch. And Richard has no need for the student who demands a Clapper.

Richard calls himself a “merchant of words,” and that is a worthy avocation to which we all should aspire.

In the video, when Richard finally completes his juror conversation and speaks directly to us, what does he open with?

“I have been in love with words during my entire life. And you, if you want to become lawyers, must learn to love words.”

As a lawyer and a writer, I say, Right on, Richard. You are a lawyer and law school all in one.

This past month, I thought a lot about the writing process—which can be both a blessing and a curse.

I recalled teaching writing to college freshmen, many of whom were convinced that such a skill would provide no discernible return on investment. One student, in particular, appeared to take it as a personal challenge to disembowel the English language. I will never forget his thesis statement in an argument paper on a great work by Edgar Allen Poe: “The Fall of the House of Usher is about a big house that falls in a lake.” I think about Andy occasionally, and hope he never became a lawyer. And if you see Aristotle, please apologize to him for my failed efforts.

But simple need not be simplistic. You may recall Ernest Hemingway’s response to a challenge that said he could never write a good story in six words. And yet he wrote: “For sale: Baby shoes. Never Used.” He called it his best work.

Richard Grand, too, is the master of evocative simplicity, as we saw in his video. In every one of our 15-minute conversations he and I have had over the years, he provides me the unique and sometimes startling experience of re-creating three years of law school. In turns, I am stunned, mortified, edified and delighted. At the end, I am always far richer, and not a penny poorer (which is how I know that it’s not really law school).

Now, I am not a speaker who will wax poetic about the glories of law school. I leave the rapture to others. My experience was that it was difficult—probably more difficult than I expected. I found that it could be obtuse and nonsensical, and that its pendulum swung maddeningly between expecting too little of us students, and far too much.

But law school gave me—and I hope you too—something important. It gives us what Chaucer called tyme and space—time and space—both of which are necessary ingredients for us to examine the world anew. In that endeavor, we use foreign tools and weak muscles. Those three years, as frustrating as they can be, are a sheltering sky. At the time, we believe it to be an impending hurricane, but truly, it is a small clearing on a deserted beach, where we carve new tools for ourselves. Sure, it can be a little Survivor and a lot Lord of the Flies, but the tools that we use—including the words we became familiar with—are to stay with us for the rest of what we hope will be fulfilling careers of service.

That may be what Richard offers all of us. He holds his hand out, and it contains no Mai Tais on that beach. His secrets to success will not shield you from the scorching sun of what can be a very difficult profession. But his words, when ruminated on, offer a path to something even better. They may even lead us to that light switch.    

What can I say that I know for sure about Richard Grand? In a way, I know very little. He avoids events like this like the plague, and prefers to remain outside the limelight. Of course, with Richard, he is never entirely beyond that light. We always detect in the shadows his pinpoint suit, his smile, and his strongly felt judgment masquerading as genial opinion.

Elsewhere, he often may be. Absent, he never is. As someone once said to me, Richard hovers among us and among everyone who loves words, ready to offer insight like a deus ex machina. The machina may be writing competitions like this, or it may be YouTube. But he is in service to us all.

Of all the tools Richard offers, we are most of all always and everywhere in the presence of his words. Let me tell you how present.

When Nancy Stanley first contacted me about speaking at today’s special ceremony, I was delighted— you’d have to possess a far smaller ego than mine to be unmoved by such a generous invitation.

But … I paused. I knew that this event could draw in some serious legal firepower as speakers. Not to disappoint you, but you should know the truth: You probably could have gotten to listen to an Arizona Supreme Court justice, or the State Bar President.

I suspected that the firm, guiding hand of Richard had “suggested” my name to the law school. And for that I am extremely grateful—though you may take a different view.

But why should Richard request me? Well, we get along famously, and I even have written about him a few times. We share similar interests, and we may even be friends, of a sort. At least, I am hoping we are.

But it was really all about the words. Here is one of the more interesting parts of our friendship—and why our relationship is formed almost purely through words: Richard Grand and I have never met each other in person through all the years we’ve known each other.

My interactions with him have been flashes via e-mail, the telephone, or his new display case here at the law school. I have conversed with Richard as he and Marcia lived in Tucson, visited their daughter in San Francisco, or strolled between shows in the West End of London.

How very Socratic of us! And how appropriate for Richard, who operates so well in the spoken environment.

I recently read an article about Richard from the Tucson Citizen.

In it, he said, “I don’t want to be recognized. I don’t want to be noticed. I want them to hear me.”

His life and career of being heard came to mind as I thought about recent events, when many of us have begun to wonder what kind of state and nation we live in.

It has become unpopular to say that recent tragic events here in Tucson may be related to politics or slanted popular messages.

But this we know: There has been a coarsening of conversation, a willingness to rely on vitriol rather than reason, and to hijack language in the service of partisanship.

There has been a failure of what many of us hold dear: a failure of words.

Chief Judge John M. Roll

In that regard, it strikes me as one of the more poignant of bittersweet truths that the last word uttered by Chief Judge John Roll may have been his heartfelt greeting “Hello.” Having known Judge Roll, I can say that he was a considerate and dynamic man, whose simple greeting possessed more eloquence than most of us can muster in a day’s worth of blathering. He had that skill that Richard Grand admires perhaps most of all: to craft “crisp sentences that wrap up a bale of thought.”

Through that lens, Richard and all of us who cherish words must illuminate a better way. Macabre yet wise, he reminds us, “We are born astride a grave.”

“Dead yesterday, unborn tomorrow, there’s only today.”

It is time for boldness, of the Richard Grand variety. Boldness in search of truth and of justice. And boldness wedded to quite a bit of wit.

I congratulate all of you here, who know that words have consequences. Let’s take up Richard’s charge: “Be bold.”

Thank you.

First-place winners: Hamilton High School

On January 12, I once again got to sit as one of the lucky judges on the We the People competition (I wrote about it here). That’s an annual event where middle school and high school kids bring their well-developed smarts to a gathering and display their knowledge of the United States Constitution.

The students never fail to impress, and that was the case this year, as well.

We’ve received news of the schools’ rankings that day. They include the top three finishers overall, as well as the top team for the various units that comprise the textbook covering the Constitution:

  • First Place: Hamilton High School, Team 4, Room 131
  • Second Place: Corona del Sol, Team 7, Room 135
  • Third Place: Marcos de Niza, Team 2, Room 103
  • Fourth Place: Lake Havasu High School, Team 10, Room 233
  • Unit 1 Award: Prescott High School, Team 9, Room 232
  • Unit 2 Award: Gilbert Classical Academy, Team 1, Room 101
  • Unit 3 Award: Skyline High School, Team 8, Room 231
  • Unit 4 Award: Maricopa High School, Team 6, Room 105
  • Unit 5 Award: Rio Rico High School, Team 5, Room 133
  • Unit 6 Award: Red Mountain High School, Team 3, Room 230

Desert Sands Middle School students

Hamilton High School

will represent Arizona at the National Competition in Washington, DC, on April 30-May 2, 2011.

Congratulations to all of the students. And thanks to Susan Nusall at the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. She not only coordinates this massive event, but she puts up with some of us annoying judges and our pestering questions. Well done, Susan.

For more on the We the People program, see the Foundation’s website. Or Like the WTP Alumni Network on Facebook (no, you don’t have to be an alum).

Here are a few more photos (most courtesy of the terrific Foundation staff):

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Richard Grand

Today, I am honored to be delivering the keynote remarks at an event at the University of Arizona Law School.

The event is a luncheon marking 10 years of the Richard Grand Legal Writing Competition. Ten years of that esteemed trial lawyer and his wife Marcia giving of themselves in service to better writing, thinking and lawyering.

The title of my speech is “On Words and Other Tools.” I’ll tell you how it comes off.

I have been one of the competition’s judges for quite a few years now. This year’s other judges were: 

  • Hon. Andrew D. Hurwitz, Vice Chief Justice, Arizona Supreme Court
  • Hon. Sarah Simmons, Pima County Superior Court (Juvenile Division)
  • Sarah A. Bullard, Assistant Pima County Public Defender (Juvenile Division)
  • Bunkye Chi, Deputy Pima County Attorney (Juvenile Section)

You may enjoy reading what I’ve written in the past in Arizona Attorney Magazine about Richard and his unique take on trial practice and legal education. Here is an article from 2008, and one from 2006.

Have a great weekend.

I previously covered efforts by lawyers and law students to support the arts. Here are two items I’ve received in the past day or so from this dynamic group of people.

(Thank you for the information sharing to Megan Scott. Megan is a J.D. Candidate at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law (2012), President of the Volunteer Legal Assistance for Artists, VP of the Entertainment, Sports and Entertainment Law Students Association, and Co-Founder and Senior Articles Editor of the Sports and Entertainment Law Journal.)

The Phoenix Art Museum, Volunteer Legal Assistance for Artists and the Arizona Commission on the Arts are partnering to present a three-part “know your rights” series for artists, collectors and patrons of the arts. The presentations are done by attorneys that specialize in the area discussed. This is an invaluable opportunity to make sure that you are protecting yourself, your art, and your rights as best as you can. We look forward to seeing you there!

The events are free; e-mail education@phxart.org if you plan to attend.

  • January 19, 6pm: Contracts and Legal Forms: This session addresses common contract terms and concepts artists, museums and gallery owners might face.
  • February 2, 6pm: Copyrights and Fair Use: This session is an overview of copyright law, how it applies to artists and protects them, as well as the way to obtain a copyright.
  • February 16, 6pm: Tax Issues and Taxes: This session reviews issues that artists and art collectors should know when preparing their taxes.

All three seminars will be held at:

Phoenix Art Museum

1625 North Central Avenue (NE corner of Central and McDowell)

Phoenix, Arizona 85004

And here is an opportunity from the VSA—The International Organization on Arts and Disability. VSA is an organization dedicated to working with disabled artists. It is looking to expand its current board structure. If you are interested in joining the VSA, please e-mail Amara at amara.edblad@gmail.com by the end of January. Though they are looking for new board members in general, the specific areas that they are looking to develop are:

  • Disability Community
  • Artist Community
  • High Net Worth Community
  • Board Experience
  • Marketing Knowledge
  • Fundraising Experience
  • IT Profession
  • Gender Balance
  • Ethnicity Balance
  • Tucson Representation
  • Educator
  • Legislative Representation

So busy has January been that the holidays seem very long ago. But one thing that reminds me of December gifts still sits on my desk—where I expect it to stay for a long time to come.

I wrote before about gifts that trickle into offices during the holidays. There, I focused on presents of a caloric variety, like cakes and candy. But today I write about a gift that turned up the hotness quotient in another way.

Bowman and Brooke LLP have been out there lawyering now for 25 years. Because no one can describe a firm better than the lawyers themselves, here they are, in their own words:

“In less than 25 years, Bowman and Brooke LLP has become a nationally recognized trial firm and the fourth largest product liability practice in the country. The firm’s 150 attorneys defend a variety of corporate clients, including many Fortune 500 and internationally-based companies, in widely publicized catastrophic injury and wrongful death verdicts, and other complex litigation throughout all 50 states.”

Very nice, of course, but hardly the point of today’s essay—though it is connected.

Paul Cereghini

As the Bowman firm looked about for a way to mark their anniversary, they may have pondered Lucite plaques, coffee mugs, and even pens. Fortunately for us history and law buffs, though, they kept thinking, and came up with a great idea: a book of photographs of American courthouses.

Of course, there is a tie to the firm. As their press release says, “Anywhere. Anytime. Any Courthouse gathers an array of photographs of the 250 courthouses nationwide where Bowman and Brooke lawyers have tried cases.” (Read the complete release here.)

Boasting? Sure, maybe more than a wee bit. But the massive tome makes an impression on a reader (and on his lap!), and it is a wonderful visual tribute to those physical locations where we are pleased to report that the business of justice gets done.

Those places have great psychic and emotional power, which we saw again this past week, as the Ninth Circuit ordered flags flown at half-mast in honor of Chief Judge John Roll. As I reported, it is moving simply to gaze on the Circuit’s buildings fronted by flags.

Jeff Brooke

And so it is in this book. I found myself traveling page by page through the 282-page volume, looking with interest at courthouses I have no connection to and that I may never visit. And the lack of narrative was no deterrent. Or rather, the subtle narrative of American justice as wrought in buildings great and small made the page-turning easy.

I sat down and spoke with Bowman and Brooke’s own Paul Cereghini and Jeff Brooke about their courthouse book project.

Cereghini is the firm’s Executive Managing Partner. Brooke is a Founding Partner and the firm’s General Counsel. And both of them were excited to talk about a book of photos.

First, of course, we talked about the firm and its accomplishments. And there was much to discuss: The firm is lead defense counsel in Yamaha Rhino cases, and in Toyota unintended acceleration cases. It also has played important recent roles for clients like Altria and Briggs Pain Pumps.

Arizona Attorney Magazine covered the firm way back in December 2003. Back then, I spoke with them mainly in regard to their automotive/motor vehicle/products liability defense work. Today, Cereghini says, the firm has added more work in mass tort defense, class actions and national pattern litigation.

And, he adds, the firm has more than two dozen lawyers who have first-chair experience in defending catastrophic injury cases. And that, he says, is where the book idea came from.

Initially, Cereghini says, the firm considered a more traditional book focused on major trials. But that would necessarily have meant it would focus on particular individuals—lawyers and clients—rather than on the firm as a whole.

With about 684 confirmed trials under its belt, the firm moved toward a different idea: a book featuring a photo of every courthouse in which a Bowman and Brooke lawyer had handled a case. That would have meant about 350 buildings; Cereghini finally settled on about 250.

Cereghini admits he is moved by the photos, knowing that “someone from our firm passed through the doors of each one.”

Just as moving, the photos are unaccompanied by commentary—except for occasional enlightening quotations, which we’ll cover in a moment.

Jeff Brooke came to know quite a few of those courthouses firsthand. Semi-retired now, he said he had driven from Washington State to the firm’s office in Minneapolis. When he got there, he heard from a firm marketer.

“She was surprised I had driven across the country—and not told her!” She was gathering material for the book and had a database of courthouses, most of which the firm had hired professional photographers to shoot. But there were gaps.

“She said, ‘I need Bismarck. I need Fargo!’”

So Brooke, an accomplished photographer, agreed to take a more leisurely drive southwest, to Phoenix. Along the way, he and Sheila, his Australian Shepherd, stopped and shot about 20 courthouses. Later, he drove north through Northern California, photographing as he went.

His favorites?

“Some of the best pictures I took were in Iowa,” Brooke says. “But my favorite is of a courthouse where I tried a case, in Tierra Amarilla, New Mexico. It’s very pretty.”

The book went as far afield as to shoot courthouses in Canada and Puerto Rico, but none are featured from the two states in which the firm has had no litigation: Delaware and New Hampshire.

Cereghini is pleased to share credit for the outcome with Dan Vermillion, in Phoenix, who handled post-production on all the photos. And their publisher in Minnesota, Brio, printed about 2,000 copies of the striking book.

The book’s jacket features images of courthouses from the firm’s first two office locations: the St. Louis County Courthouse in Duluth, Minnesota, and the Cochise County Courthouse from right here in Bisbee.

“Paul invested a lot of himself into this,” says Jeff Brooke. “Praise for the vision, the prose, the physical layout—that really goes to Paul.”

The prose, little that there is, compels the reader to pause and read. Along the way, we read inspirational musings by quite a few heavy hitters. Let’s end with a few of those quotations.

Muhammed Ali: “If you even dream of beating me, you’d better wake up and apologize.”

Harper Lee, in To Kill a Mockingbird: “But there is one way in this country in which all men are created equal—there is one human institution that makes a pauper the equal of a Rockefeller, the stupid man the equal of an Einstein, and the ignorant man the equal of any college president. That institution, gentleman, is a court.”

Maya Angelou: “Nothing will work unless you do.”

Louis Pasteur: “Chance favors the prepared mind.”

Abraham Lincoln: “Things may come to those who wait, but only the things left behind by those who hustle.”

Finally, Dizzy Dean: “If you done it, it ain’t braggin’.”

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Law School Admissions Council logo

Should the LSAT be required by law schools? Does performance on that exam bear any correlation to later success as a lawyer?

For years, the American Bar Association has answered with an emphatic “Yes.” But more and more people have openly wondered whether that’s the case.

Now, the ABA is scratching its own head and re-opening the conversation. A news story today reports that an ABA panel is “leaning toward” recommending an end to the requirement.

The story is a good backgrounder on the issue. It quotes experts who are at least tentatively aligned with the probable approach (though the Law School Admissions Council, which runs the LSAT, said that “the organization was not commenting until the ABA issues a final recommendation”).

If you’re new to this conversation, you may be wondering what’s the big deal? There’s this non-mandatory organization of lawyers considering a non-binding decision that may alter admission to law school.

To see some of the decades of vitriol that resides behind the ABA’s review, scroll to the very end of the news story. There, you will hear from the dean at the Massachusetts School of Law, which engaged in long battle with the ABA over this exact high-stakes exam.

And in case you thought that the pending ABA decision will heal old wounds, read Dean Velvel’s comments on how he claims the ABA keeps “the poor and the lower middle class out of law schools and the legal profession.”

What do you think? Should the LSAT be abandoned? Or should the ABA at least allow schools to decide for themselves if they’d like to use it?

And what about the claims that high-stakes exams like the LSAT keep the applicant pool far less diverse than it would be otherwise?

More on this story as it develops.

Last June, I wrote about a growing national boycott of Arizona by musicians in response to its passage of SB1070, our immigration-criminal law. The boycott was organized by Sound Strike, a coalition of musicians.

This week, we learned that Arizona activist (and possible Phoenix mayor candidate) Kimber Lanning landed a national convention of the Alliance of Independent Media Stores. One of the headliners will be the band Calexico.

To read Kimber’s letter imploring support for the February event, go here (or scroll to the bottom of this post).

For more on the story from the Republic, go here.

Here’s Kimber’s letter:

My friends,

Calexico

I have worked to secure the national convention of music industry professionals here in Phoenix from Feb 2-6. We will have about 100 folks in town from around the country and we’re trying to put a good face on Arizona. Six months ago, the organizers were considering boycotting Arizona, but we convinced them to come by outlining several concerts that would be a tribute to our Latino culture and heritage, which they are all very excited to see.

Calexico is my favorite Arizona band of all time (http://www.myspace.com/casadecalexico/music) and that’s saying a lot since I’ve been in this business for 25 years. They do a wonderful job combining indie rock with Mariachi and their live show is simply amazing. We are doing the show at Corona Ranch (http://www.coronaranch.com/), which if you haven’t been is truly a hidden gem here in town – at the base of South Mountain, it’s everything we are proud of here in Arizona. Opening the show will be Sergio Mendoza with Salvador Duran (http://www.myspace.com/ylaorkesta/music) and Mariachi Pasion (http://www.mariachipasion.com/).

I am asking all of my friends to please, please grab your partner, your family and friends, and come help us celebrate Arizona heritage with our guests from around the country. Calexico, as you may know, is very, very close to Gabby Giffords, and this will be their first appearance after the horrors in Tucson. We need to come together as Arizonans to celebrate and to heal.

If you only see one show this year, please let this be the one.

Friday, February 4th, 7 PM, tickets are available here or at Stinkweeds, Hoodlums, or Zia.

Lastly, a percentage of the proceeds will be going to Ear Candy Charity, an organization working to put musical instruments into the hands of children, which we hope will teach them compassion and tolerance. Music is the universal language, after all.

Thanks in advance, for your presence.

Kimber Lanning

P.S. please help me spread the word by inviting others I may not know who appreciate the importance of this occasion.

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