October 2011


This Thursday evening, the State Bar of Arizona will participate once again in a successful gathering that brings together various industries.

Joining with the Arizona Society of CPAs and the Risk Management Association of Arizona, the Bar aims to bring together lawyers and representatives of industries that affect their practices.

In past years, bankers, valuation experts, law-office management firms and marketing professionals were among the firms participating. Last year, almost 300 people attended.

The event will be held at the Tempe Center for the Arts. Registration includes admission to the event and art gallery, appetizers and a drink receipt.

The event’s signature sponsor is Van Hansen & Company.

Event Sponsors are:

Register online through the ASCPA by clicking here.

Here is the information. I hope to see you there:

Date: Thursday, Nov. 3, 2011

Time: 5:30-8:00

Place: Tempe Center for the Arts

700 W Rio Salado Pkwy.

Tempe, AZ 85281-5293

View Map

I wrote yesterday about the terrific programs offered at the NABE Communications Section workshop. In that post, I bemoaned the fact that I had failed to snap a photo of some participants.

Barry Kolar, of the Tennessee Bar Association, righted that wrong by sending me the evocative photo below (click to make the great picture larger).

Congratulations again to the panelists in “The Title Fight: Print v. Digital”:

Nashville, a city for music and creativity

When was the last time you wrote a song? And when was the last time you had a truly fine educational experience?

For me, the answer to both questions is “Last week.” And, yes, they were related.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. I wrote before about attending an annual workshop in Nashville, where communicators from bars across the country gathered to share ideas, trends—and the odd song or two.

If you have ever sat through a continuing legal education seminar—or any educational seminar—the prospect of days of them can give you pause. For although a large number of them are well done and conveyed in a compelling way, a substantial portion of them may be, let’s just say, lackluster.

And is a little luster too much to ask for, I wonder? Am I shooting for the moon to expect that a subject-matter expert might lend a moment or two’s thought to the manner of presentation?

I say that is not shooting for the moon, and that we should expect nothing less.

Well, I am pleased to report that the seminars were pretty uniformly stellar. They engaged me and others, and they delivered important material without any of the drip drip drip of the educational I.V., draining a pedagogical bag while doing the same to attendees’ spirits.

Dan Wise, New Hampshire Bar Association

Of course, these presenters are communicators. Our jobs require that we focus not just on content, but also on presentation (like how I did that, how I shoehorned my own non-presenting self last week into the ranks of those who actually performed? Pretty good, eh? That’s what communicators do!).

But amidst all the good programs, let me explain how a few truly captivated attendees, not through a bludgeon or a tantalizing promise of a pee break. No, they did it by engaging people on a deep level.

I have to remind readers that I did not attend all the seminars offered, because the two tracks competed for attendees’ time. So these stories are examples, not a complete picture. But each of these developed a strategy that put the listener first, rather than subjected them to the grandeur and majesty of the material.

One of the most appealing was titled “The Title Fight: Print vs. Digital.” Audience members likely arrived expecting a mildly rousing rendition of some of the trends facing publications today.

What we got was quite a bit more. In the 10 minutes between sessions, panelists dervished through the hotel conference room, lofting chairs up, down and into a huge semi-circle. Perspiration on brows, they raised an old-time prizefight microphone. And then, in a moment of genius, a bowtie was affixed to the collar of the event’s moderator–referee, Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar Association. Stunned and surprised, I failed to snap a picture of the redoubtable Dan—my last disappointment of the day.

A spirited seminar led by Dan Wise, referee

So before even one word had been uttered about pages or bytes, the panel had already busted their you-know-whats to serve the audience.

Their delivery was just as impressive. Staccato yet substantive, Wise and his cornermen (and -women) launched us through multiple rounds of challenging topics. Speaker lectures and audience questions could not drag on, for a ringside bell (via an iPhone) would signal a new topic. It may have been a prize fight, but audience members were the winners.

A second notable event was a seminar titled “The Un-Conference.” There, the Tennessee Bar Association’s CLE Director, Mindy Thomas-Fulks, led attendees to the water of conference alternatives, and encouraged us to drink.

Now, I don’t put on too many conferences, but I was interested in how to increase reader engagement, which is a similar topic. How do we encourage participation and make people feel at home in our pages or our conference rooms?

Mindy Thomas-Fulks, Tennessee Bar Association

A few of the topics Fulks covered included opportunities for hands-on learning, more audience involvement, even changing how we create nametags and handle registration. Each of those steps in the conference process, Fulks pointed out, is a chance to engage attendees and lead them to adopt the meeting as their own.

Could we create alt-conferences for every single portion of our meetings? Probably not, Fulks said. But altering even part of the experience may lead to more involved and attentive attendees.

Fulks did not just talk to us about these topics. She encouraged us to interact with each other and develop our own ideas. Despite my more solitary inclination, I have to admit that it was, well, fun.

The last example from Nashville also has to do with sharing ideas—and songwriting.

Gary Burr

The “Songwriter Session” was led by four noted (you guessed it) songwriters. They divided the attendees into two groups, and we brainstormed and wrote a song.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t that, but it was certainly enjoyable. The session opened with audience members offering song titles that would anchor our efforts. The winning idea was “I Drink Because,” served up by Stacy King of the Federal Bar Association. Now that’s a federal mandate we can live with.

Our group’s assigned songwriters were Gary Burr and Jim Photoglo, accomplished industry professionals both (go ahead, click their sites and even Google ’em). They exemplified the creative process for us communications folks, and they did it with humor and talent. At the end of 40 minutes or so, we all had collaborated to pen a hilarious rendition.

Jim Photoglo

I’ll see if I can post some audio from the song. In the meantime, though, here’s what I took away:

Creativity requires engagement. Engagement must be encouraged. Encouragement requires creativity.

Congratulations to those who put together a successful workshop. Now let’s see how much creative encouragement we can muster in our own shops.

Have a great—and creative—weekend.

Although this is National Pro Bono Week, you still may be stymied as you consider the widespread need for legal services all over Arizona. Where could you even begin to make a difference?

One suggestion would allow you to create positive change in the lives of youngsters and their families. You could be part of that change by collaborating with the Juvenile Legal Assistance Partnership.

The JLAP, as it’s called, is an initiative at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. It’s housed within the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice Programs. (You can see the list of Center programs here.) The Center is headed by Sarah Buel, a nationally recognized expert on “legal advocacy on behalf of family violence victims.”

This week, I heard more about the program from Soo Chang, an ASU law student, who explained the unfilled need faced by those confronted by juvenile justice issues. That need would be better met by the involvement of more lawyers offering some pro bono hours.

JLAP meets clients at three locations, and they aim for weekly visits—three to four hours of volunteered time meeting with three to four different clients.

With JLAP, the lawyer meets with clients along with up to two law students. According to information from the Program, “Appointments are made by the clients directly to the Juvenile Court at Durango (each appointment is about an hour). The more common issues that we see are: dependency, custody, termination of parental rights, adoption, divorce, and child support. Attorneys normally help fill out paperwork with the clients.”

Sarah Buel

Like many legal assistance groups, JLAP has a core of hard-working volunteer lawyers, but the court receives more calls than the volunteers can handle. Having more attorneys participate would have a profound impact on the lives of youngsters and their families.

What follows is additional information about the program. But you’re busy, so I’ll repeat that most important last line here:

To get involved as a pro bono attorney please contact Erin Biencourt, ebiencourt@gmail.com or (602) 561-9080.

Juvenile Legal Assistance Program

The goal of the Juvenile Legal Assistance Program (JLAP) at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is to acknowledge the continuous legal conflicts surrounding children and juveniles; to recognize the need for volunteers concerning issues governed by juvenile law; to provide legal services to those involved in various conflicts; and to provide law students opportunities to further their interest for public service and juvenile law alike.

JLAP provides law students and pro bono attorneys to work with the Maricopa County Juvenile Court to provide free legal advice and information clinics regarding matters involving children and their families. Other projects that JLAP participates in include National Adoption Day and Baby Court with Judge Eddward Ballinger.

The clinics are offered several times a month at the Juvenile Court at Durango and the Tempe YMCA. Additionally JLAP partners with Homeward Bound, a transitional housing program for homeless and domestic violence families with children, to provide monthly clinics as well. The matters most commonly seen include guardianship, dependency, termination, and adoption issues. At Homeward Bound, clients frequently present custody, child support, domestic violence, and other family law related issues.

Law students work alongside attorneys to satisfy client inquiries. Students are encouraged to actively engage in counseling clients and conduct legal research regarding juvenile law matters. All students have Westlaw and Lexis access and all sites have computer access. Attorneys provide clients with advice, information, and ideas. They do not advocate for or represent clients in court and they do not prepare documents for the clients, although they often explain how the documents are to be filled out.

Attorney volunteers are required to sign up with the Volunteer Lawyers Program, as they provide malpractice coverage. JLAP provides training twice a year for our new volunteers. Attorneys with juvenile law exposure may be able to waive this requirement by doing on-site training with Peggy Tinsley or by a showing of sufficient juvenile and/or family law experience.

To refer potential clients to JLAP, have them call (602) 506-4533 (West Valley clients) or (602) 506-2544 (East Valley clients). When calling they should ask to schedule a JLAP appointment.

To get involved as a pro bono attorney please contact Erin Biencourt, ebiencourt@gmail.com or (602) 561-9080.

We are all accustomed to asking for what we want. But sometimes, we get more than we asked for.

That was the case today, when I opened my email and read a note by an Arizona lawyer.

Dan Riley practices at Curry, Pearson & Wooten in Phoenix. His note to me was in response to a call I made for pro bono stories, all in recognition of the National Pro Bono Celebration.

(Connections with the firm go deeper than that: In Arizona Attorney Magazine, we once published a story about a firm partner, Michael Pearson, who is not only a lawyer but also an air-traffic controller. And the CPW law offices are about half a block from my house, so I get to see their attractive vintage building every day.)

I received the essay in the morning, but many tasks kept me from reading it until the day was nearly complete. But when I did, I saw this was something out of the ordinary.

Dan Riley

Almost every lawyer I’ve ever worked with has contributed some of her or his time for free. And that is often the story one reads, about an attorney’s experience giving back. It’s a great story, one that never disappoints.

More rare is the story of what led the lawyer down a path to a point where they decided to repay goodwill that had been extended to them. Such a story is not better than the tale of the pro bono activity itself, but it is more revealing of the person behind the act.

That personal story is what Dan shared. His story opens:

“October 23-29 is National Pro Bono Week, and the Bar Association has asked attorneys to share their pro bono experiences. Rather than donate yet another ‘war story,’ I’ve decided to explain why I do pro bono work. I donate legal services, because I know what it’s like to not have a voice.”

That quiet opening ends with the telling word “voice,” and you should read Dan’s essay to see how well chosen the word is. Click here to read his story.

Dan Riley, age 11, speaking at his fourth-grade play

You can read more about Dan and his law practice here.

I’d welcome your own tale in regard to pro bono, whether it’s about your experience of representation or the effect it had on your life and practice.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about an opportunity to provide some of your time and experience to juvenile clients and their families—both of whom may need your help to locate their voice in the justice system.

Recently, I wrote about the launch of the National Pro Bono Celebration this fall. This week is one important part of that recognition.

Organizers at the American Bar Association have set the bar high this year: They would like to encourage a nationwide conversation on pro bono and ask questions about best practices, sustainability and even more.

Law bloggers play an important role in that conversation. And that’s why I was so pleased to see my colleague Ashley Kasarjian at Snell & Wilmer write on the topic today. Her daily work is in employment law (and her blog was recognized recently as best-in-the-nation in that category). But she took some time to share her thoughts on pro bono. And you can do the same.

In case you missed it, I have an article in the October Arizona Attorney Magazine that looks at a unique approach to pro bono: offering legal services overseas. What you find is that such a practice is pretty rewarding.

Here’s my opening:

Many things come to mind when the phrase “pro bono” is spoken. Lawyers provide free legal services in courtrooms, businesses, law offices, homes and even television studios, when they respond to caller questions.

“But some attorneys find their calling farther afield—though few think of Guyana as a typical site for pro bono services.

“And yet that is exactly where Phoenix lawyer Mark Nadeau found himself, as he participated in a global effort by his firm.”

To read the whole story, click here.

And feel free to contribute to the conversation yourself, whether you blog or not. More information is here.

Last week, Nashville was the site for a great conference attended by me and a few Arizona colleagues. Now, I’m pleased to report that the Bar won awards in two communications categories at the National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) workshop.

NABE is an affiliate of the American Bar Association. Last week’s meeting was the annual gathering of the NABE Communications Section, one of NABE’s oldest and most established (I am privileged to be a member of the NABE Communications Section Council, though I was not a judge in this year’s awards).

In addition to the many great educational programs the Section offers at the annual meeting, it also honors bar products and services in multiple categories and based on bar association size (the State Bar of Arizona is considered a large bar). This year’s awards were sponsored by legal research service Fastcase, which is a partner to a growing number of bar associations nationwide (click here to see the list).

At Friday’s awards luncheon, State Bar products were recognized in two categories: Website Design (click here for the Bar’s site) and Special Publications (recognizing the annual report).

Congratulations to everyone who helped brainstorm, design and produce the projects.

Here are a few photos from the event:

State Bar of Arizona Chief Communications Officer Rick DeBruhl and Art Director Karen Holub, center, hold Luminary Awards. Also pictured: Christina Steinbrecker, Fastcase Bar Relations Manager, and Philip Rosenthal, Fastcase President

2011 Luminary Award winner representatives, National Association of Bar Executives Communications Section, Nashville, Tenn., Oct. 21, 2011

 

I flew down to Nashville this week—and boy, are my arms tired.

OK, that’s a pretty tired line. But welcome to Change of Venue Friday, this week coming to you from the Music City, where I’m attending a great communications conference.

Because it’s Nashville, I point you to a few brief items with Music City roots.

First, I posted a few random photos on Tumblr. That fall into the category of my tumblog as “law-ish things.”

Second, here is a Nashville story about a unique approach to homelessness—essentially, lock ’em up.

Richard Stewart, who was arrested 47 times in 2010, recently spent 20 days in jail for trespassing and littering. Stewart, No. 4 on the Metro Police chronic offender list, has been arrested 274 times since 1998. / JOHN PARTIPILO / THE TENNESSEAN

Here’s the lede:

“A controversial police program aimed at reducing crimes by homeless people has saved taxpayers money since it was launched this year, but it also has drawn pointed criticism that it violates due process rights and does little to curb quality-of-life offenses in the downtown area.

“The program focuses on people like Richard Stewart, who last week completed a 20-day jail sentence. Stewart’s crime? He was found seeking shelter under the loading dock behind the downtown Sheraton during a thunderstorm, and arrested on charges of criminal trespassing and littering.”

Anyone who lives in a mid-sized or large city is faced with homeless people every day. What do you think of Nashville’s response? Send your thoughts to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

The last item isn’t so much a story as a website. If you’ve tracked law school news over the past year, you’ve probably heard about the Law School Transparency Project—an effort to make available more accurate information about law schools. And this Project is not shy about calling foul when they spot facts and figures that they claim the schools have fudged.

What I had never noticed about the Project is that its home is Nashville. Founded by a Vanderbilt grad, it has made quite a few waves, maybe even in a law school near you. And they have not left the ABA alone, which it has faulted for allowing the law school industry to put out questionable numbers that take applicants down a garden path.

Just today, the ABA released a response to criticism on the topic from Sen. Barbara Boxer—criticism that arose largely due to facts and figures the Project provided. Here is the ABA’s response.

In speaking with many lawyers and law students about this, it seems to me that your own law school experience—narrow though it may be in the big scheme of things—colors your response to those questions. Of course, you may have a feeling about the Project independent of your own school experience—everyone’s mileage may differ.

So how has the Project done? Go to their site and review the large amount of information they’ve gathered.

Do you think they provide a valuable service, or have their claims of widespread misrepresentation in schools gone too far?

Have a great weekend. I’ll be back in Arizona and its “unseasonably warm weather” (ha!) this weekend.

Finalists and Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. L to R: Ryan Nelson, Matt Storrs, Justice O'Connor, Jodi Weisberg (first place), Trevor Cox and Bob Howard

Lawyer jokes rarely sit well with the profession, and for good reason: Those jibes are often mean-spirited and, worse, inaccurate.

But an event last week turned that rubric on its head. The John J. O’Connor Humor Competition offered up some of the funniest people in the profession, all for a good cause.

It was held at the monthly meeting of the Phoenix Rotary 100, generous and gracious hosts. And as you may have guessed by the event title, the effort is founded on a legal legacy.

John O’Connor contributed much to the profession and to the Rotary, as well as to his community and family. He and his wife, Sandra Day O’Connor, made a huge impact on the state.

Jodi Weisberg

Given that impact, it is not surprising that friends of the family asked the O’Connors what they could do to commemorate John’s life—a scholarship, an annual lecture?

What was surprising was the O’Connor family response: Let’s integrate some comedy to recognize John’s love of humor.

And so the competition idea was born. Winners would receive real dough–$3,000 for 1st place down to $500 to 4th place, all of which was to be funneled back to law students or law schools.

Specially selected comedy judges culled the group of applicants to a manageable number. And then on October 14, the final five lawyers and law students strode up to the stage and offered their best three to six minutes of comedy. To add to their pressure of playing in front of a full house, Justice O’Connor herself kindly attended (and she smiled and laughed occasionally, too!).

Lawyer Scott Rose outdid himself as emcee—he should have gotten a little of the winner’s purse himself!

(Thank you to UA Law’s Nancy Stanley, who got me a ticket to the event and who served as a pretty humorous lunch partner herself!)

To capture the day’s spirit, I will share the best joke or two from each finalist. That determination was made by me, based on my own laughable comedy standards—and the room’s response that day. Complaints or disagreements should be sent to the appropriate department.

In reverse order:

Fifth Place: Ryan Nelson, 3L at Phoenix School of Law

  • As the school year goes on, law school gets to be a more and more competitive place. In fact, you’re more likely to find Moammar Quaddafi in the library than a copy of the 2011 Probate Statute Book.

Fourth Place: Trevor Cox, 1L at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University

  • I’m a law student, so naturally I’m here because I smelled lunch.
  • Benjamin Franklin said the only thing more expensive than education is ignorance. Clearly he never went to law school.

Third Place: Matt Storrs, 1L at Phoenix School of Law

  • My mom told me that God never gives us anything we can’t handle. He must have a blind spot when it comes to mortgages.

Second Place: Bob Howard, lawyer at Jekel, Howard & Thomas, Scottsdale

  • My practice is in divorce, or, as I call it, anti-family law.
  • There are two marital statuses: single and pre-divorce.

First Place: Jodi Weisberg, Solo practitioner, Phoenix

  • As I get older, I find I care so much less about so much more.
  • When I was growing up, if I had ever told my parents I had googled myself or someone else, I would have been in big trouble.
  • When I was 7, my brother told me I was adopted. I asked my mom, who said, “Yes, dear, it’s true. But they returned you.”
  • Despite what you may have heard, women lawyers don’t now and have never suffered from subpoena envy.

Congratulations to all those who took part in this fantastic event.

More photos from the event are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

On Thursday morning, the Arizona Superior Court for Maricopa County made an announcement that many lawyers will be happy to see. It explains that a new, speedier way to enter the courthouse is now available for attorneys.

Here is the complete release:

Judicial Branch of Arizona

Office of Media Relations

Old Courthouse

125 W. Washington

Phoenix, Arizona 85003-2205

602.506.7570

www.twitter.com/courtpio

“Equal Justice Under Law”

Contact:           Karen Arra, Media Relations Director, 602.506.7570

New Express Attorney Entrance

Attorneys will now have shorter lines and wait times to get into Superior Court if they use the new express attorney entrance located in the East Court Building.

Any attorney presenting his/her bar card can use the attorney line located on the east side of 1st Avenue. The other court entrances will still remain open to both attorneys and the public. 

Superior Court Presiding Judge Norman Davis said, “We are continually exploring ways to reduce the time court users are required to wait to clear security screening each day.  Since September 19, 2011 we have experimented with an attorney entrance at the east entrance of theEastCourtBuilding.  The results are favorable enough that we have decided to keep this entrance in place to expedite the attorneys entrance into the court complex at least until the Criminal Tower is opened next February.”

Courthouse security continues to be a growing concern for Superior Court. Last year, the Superior Court screened 3.7 million court visitors and confiscated more than 34,000 weapons and 60,000 prohibited items in 53 court and probation buildings across the county.

Although the number of people screened over the past five years has remained constant, the court has witnessed an increase in weapons, prohibited items and threats against judges and court staff.

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