November 2012


In the madcap schema that is Change of Venue Friday, today’s story fits like a glove. For today I share something that may be the farthest afield from law practice, and that still involves practicing lawyers.

Today’s topic is … moustaches.

Specifically, it’s about those men who grow moustaches in the month of November, and occasionally raise money during the growth period. And they do all of that in service to medical research.

Confused yet? Let me put it this way: These are the guys who transform November into Movember. Here is how the organizers describe it:

“During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in the US and around the world. With their Mo’s, these men raise vital awareness and funds for men’s health issues, specifically prostate and testicular cancer initiatives.”

“Once registered at http://www.movember.com, men start Movember 1st clean shaven. For the rest of the month, these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts.”

“Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health. The funds raised in the US support prostate cancer and testicular cancer initiatives.”

The hair-lipped copy goes on to say that the Mo Bros and Mo Sistas often celebrate with a Movember party at the end of the month.

Local angle? Yes, we’ve got one. It comes to us from those dedicated and occasionally hairy lawyers at Polsinelli Shughart.

I heard from Polsinelli shareholder Leon Silver, who pointed me toward their dedicated team page.

Leon tells me that firm shareholder Brian Flaherty is a cancer survivor and participates every year. But for 2012, they decided to make it an office-wide event. Go to their page to view the leaderboard and read the crazy-comment ticker (which includes photos of the lawyers’ kids with moustaches). Congratulations to all who participated.

Moustaches, huh? I remember three years ago when I spent the better part of November writing a legal novel (a novel!), as part of the national NaNoWriMo effort. Meanwhile, other guys stop shaving for a month and they’re heroes. Whatever, Leon.

Because a terrific event deserves a video, enjoy the following one from Bloomberg Law. In honor of Movember, they feature famous legal faces that were moustachioed.

Have a great—and barbate—weekend.

Five or 10 years from now, will folks recall, “I was there at the University Club when Mark Lassiter called bull**** on the legal profession”?

I leave history to decide that, but his presentation at the State Bar of Arizona Business Law Section, titled “Sea Change: Inside the Changing Legal Market,” pulled no punches and delivered an uneasy prediction for a troubled profession.

Mark Lassiter at the University Club, Nov. 28, 2012

The Wednesday breakfast event at the University Club in Phoenix was before a packed room of lawyers and law students. Lassiter’s message was clear as he opened with the trailer for an upcoming documentary titled “Tsunami.” Video of a massive wave crashing onto a shore filled with unsuspecting people was a sobering entrée into his tale about what’s happening to law practice.

As Lassiter opened, “The situation is not as bad as you think; it’s actually far worse.” And that was just one of his gulp-inducing moments.

His three-plus years of research on the topic tells Lassiter that 21st-century law practice will be characterized by commoditization and the dominance of technology. And both those challenges could spell doom for traditional law firm practice.

Dissection of the “legal process outsourcing:” (LPO) industry, mainly to India, shows an area where American law practice is especially vulnerable. As he viewed slide after slide documenting this offshore outflux, an attendee may have suspected he was sitting in a protectionist-lawyer revival meeting. But then the evidence mounted, and the dire situation appeared to be more real. Could people and companies really get all the lawyering they need overseas? Could LegalZoom put me out of business? The gulps continued.

Lassiter went on to describe the traditional law firm model, which he says is at risk of crumbling beneath its own massive overhead. That “pyramid scheme” model, he argues, is unsustainable. In that view, he is supported by a mass of commentators both national and international.

Throughout his presentation, Lassiter gave credit to great commentators who have come before and who still speak to the changing market. They included Jordan Furlong, Bruce MacEwan, Mitchell Kowalski, Richard Susskind and Richard Granat.

If his Act I was the awful situation, and his Act III—the outcome—won’t be known for years, what was Lassiter’s Act II? What are some possible solutions to this dilemma? Is all hope lost?

The first step, he said, was to recognize the challenge, which many lawyers will not do.

I wondered about that aspect when I read an ABA Journal news story this morning. The dean of the Case Western Reserve Law School is bugged, the story says, about the doom and gloom being fostered about the legal profession.

Dean Lawrence Mitchell is quoted:

“In 1998, only 55 percent of law grads obtained jobs at law firms. In 2011, the number was 50 percent. A 9 percent decline from a previous low during the worst economic conditions in decades hardly seems catastrophic.”

You can read the whole article here, but I have heard the dean’s view repeated to me by lawyers and academics over the past year. Do they have a point, or are those protests just wishful thinking? Should we just “move along” because there’s nothing to see here? Or should those commentators be reminded that delusion ain’t just a sport in the winter Olympics? (go on; say it slow)

Mark Lassiter at the University Club, Nov. 28, 2012

Lassiter’s challenge was overt when he turned to two members of the State Bar Board of Governors who were attending. Is the Bar leadership aware of the dire facts of the legal profession, he asked? What are they doing about it? And what can they do about it? The Governors marshaled a response, but the gulps continued. If anyone was on the fence before, they could see now that the issues are intractable.

For Mark Lassiter, an important part of Act II will be project-management expertise—which he happens to possess. That skill, he argues, will allow lawyers to provide detailed analysis to skeptical clients, who will be reassured by the transparency offered by lawyers sharing—and valuing—every step in legal processes.

If the 2012 Altman Weil Chief Legal Officer survey results are accurate, Lassiter may be on to something. Besides listing “greater cost reduction” as their top concern (well, duh), the other leading concerns essentially have to do with the predictability of pricing. Lawyers who can provide that predictability will prevail and be hired. And the only lawyers who can do that are those who have already done the hard work that yields a roster of all their most-common steps, and what each one costs.

Lassiter’s project-management advice may be sound when directed to entrepreneurial-minded individual lawyers. In fact, so rousing was the speaker’s call that I almost wished I were still in practice so I could quit a big firm and strike out on my own! (But that sentiment passed quickly.)

More uncertain, though, is the impact his words may have within a large law firm. Can project management and a better analysis of every discrete cost really drive down a firm’s massive overhead in a substantial enough way? Where do they turn in a shrinking market? What is their tsunami-shield?

As you might guess, I think we will cover all of this in an upcoming Arizona Attorney. The “how” is something you can help with.

Here are a few of the articles I envision (based on 24 hours’ thought):

  • Something detailing the problem (which Mark Lassiter could do pretty well).
  • A view into what large-firm refugees are doing well, without the sizable overhead.
  • A view into what other solos are doing, and how they are surviving (or not).
  • Insight into the challenges faced by the newest graduates. Where is the hope for them? If something’s working, what does that model look like?

Interested? Should we cover that? Do you have ideas or want to be a part of it? Contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Arizona Bill of Rights posterIf you heard a loud rumbling throughout November, it may have been the sound of liberty.

Over at the State Capitol in Phoenix, the ground was prepared and limestone monoliths began to arrive on the site of what will be the nation’s first capitol-city monument to the Bill of Rights.

I’ve written about the topic before (here and here, for example), and November has been an incredibly busy month for the project and its Executive Director, Chris Bliss. Let me tell you a little about what’s going on, and point out that the effort is thiiiiis close to its financial goal. I’m sure Chris would agree that the next rumbling sound he’d like to hear is you reaching for your wallet.

For all the Bill of Rights have done for us, it’s the least we can do. When those monoliths are finally placed on Wesley Bolin Plaza, I’m confident we’ll all come together to agree, “Those courageous founding fathers had some stones.”

Anyhoo, one thing you should be sure to see is E.J. Montini’s Arizona Republic column on the monument or, as he calls it, “Arizona’s Monument to Compromise.” Wisely, the columnist quotes Bliss, whom I call “the most quotable limestone monument organizer in America.” As Chris says:

“Those 10 amendments to the Constitution are like our marriage vows. If we could put a monument to them in each state capitol we could have a powerful daily reminder of what should be guiding us forward.”

And here is where the project is as we enter the home stretch, as reported by Bliss himself:

Nov. 5: As of last week, we are within $25,000 of fully funding America’s 1st monument of the Bill of Rights, at the Arizona Capitol. This last $25,000 gift was given as a matching challenge grant for that amount, good from now through December 15th. Help us make history for future generations, and double the impact of your gift.

Arizona Bill of Rights monoliths November 2012

As of November 12: All ten monoliths have been completed, and we now expect to make our target dedication date of December 15—Bill of Rights Day.

Nov. 14: Executive Director Chris Bliss poses for the obligatory ground breaking photo on the site of the soon-to-be first monument of the Bill of Rights, across the street from the Arizona Capitol complex.

Bill of Rights Chris Bliss Nov 2012

A man, a plan, a shovel: Chris Bliss breaks ground, Nov. 14, 2012.

Nov. 19: Incredible work from lead designer Joseph Kincannon and project manager Holly Kincannon. Joseph and Holly poured their talent and passion into every detail; from the shapes, sizes, site layout and landscaping right down to the font choice and layout of the words on each amendment monolith. The monoliths ship from Kincannon Studios tomorrow morning! (November 20)

Nov. 21: The latest photo from the site (below), courtesy of our project manager Jeff Esgar of Sundt Construction, who’s put together a terrific team. The monoliths will be brought in and placed by crane on December 4th. The front trench is where the electrical for the individual spotlights for the monoliths will be located.

Arizona Bill of Rights site preparation, November 2012

Thanks, Chris. I couldn’t have said it better myself. I am looking forward to December 15, Dedication Day. I’ll share more details when I get them.

In the meantime, follow the project on Facebook, and read all the details (and donate) on the website.

Finally, enjoy a brief video, which has the comic Lewis Black explaining “why he supports MyBillofRights.org.”

Last week, we received an announcement about new leadership at an Arizona law school.

The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law announced that Marc L. Miller had been selected as dean. It is on an interim basis while the school conducts a national search, but the UA method is that Marc is the Dean, capital “D,” no “I,” until we hear otherwise.

UA Dean Marc L. Miller

UA Dean Marc L. Miller

In its selection, the school found a dynamic, funny and smart man. And in that regard, he is similar to the man he replaces, Larry Ponoroff. Let me speak for a moment to Dean Ponoroff’s leadership time there.

As I’ve written before, deaning in this day and age is no picnic. The budget challenges are rough ones, and they are exacerbated by the (sometimes wise) hesitancy of potential applicants to plunge into an expensive three-year endeavor, whose outcome is uncertain.

In a recession, deans must make difficult and sometimes unpopular choices. Their legacy will rarely be that of those who glided through law school on the easiest of streets.

Larry Ponoroff has now returned to the ranks of the faculty, where he will reside in a well-deserved lower profile. But from this outsider’s view, his legacy is this: He was unfailingly upbeat, courteous and visionary. And, perhaps most important, he was (and is) one of the funniest leaders I’ve ever met, in law or out.

Former UA Law Dean Lawrence Ponoroff

Former UA Law Dean Lawrence Ponoroff

As law schools try to move forward in a boggy economy, there are worse things than having a sense of humor. Good luck and thank you, Dean Ponoroff.

As I opened, though, the school has chosen someone else whose wry muscle is fully developed. Besides being funny, Marc Miller is involved in more varied initiatives than a black-ops team. I have worked with Dean Miller on a few endeavors, and I am confident that the school will benefit from his vision—if it can keep up with his legal velocity.

Here is part of what the school announced about Dean Miller:

“He is the editor of two leading casebooks, one on criminal procedure and the other on the law of sentencing. He co-founded the Federal Sentencing Reporter, the leading journal on sentencing law and policy that for 20 years has focused on nurturing an ongoing conversation between scholars, judges, lawyers, probation officers, and policy-makers.”

“Dean Miller currently serves as a series editor for Summits—books focused on issues at the intersection of environmental law, science, and policy. The Summits series is a collaborative effort between the law school, the UA Institute of the Environment, the Udall Center for Studies in Public Policy, Biosphere 2 and the Biosphere 2 Institute. The first two books in the series are Conservation of Shared Spaces: Learning From the United States and Mexico, and Navigating Climate Change Policy: The Opportunities of Federalism. A third volume, Stitching the West Back Together: Conserving Working Landscapes and Biodiversity in the American West, is forthcoming. University of Arizona scholars have played the central role as editors and authors.”

You can read the school’s entire announcement here. Congratulations, Dean Miller. Break a leg.

citizenship-counts-logoThis coming Saturday, Dec. 1, we have the opportunity to hear from two remarkable women on a variety of topics. Billed as an “inspiring conversation,” Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Gerda Weissmann Klein will sit down for a moderated discussion. The event is sponsored by Citizenship Counts. (I wrote about Gerda and Citizenship Counts here.)

As the organization says, “Both of these amazing women will share personal anecdotes and stories from their lives, as well as speak about the importance of education and giving back to the community.”

Former ASU President Lattie Coor will moderate the event, which will be held at the Sandra Day O’Connor ASU College of Law, from 3:30 to 5:00 p.m. It will be in Armstrong Hall.

Reserve your spot by clicking here.

Citizen Counts 12-01-12 event with Sandra Day O'Connor

turkey: somebody call my lawyerDoes anyone (anyone?) read a law blog on that shorty-short day that blocks our glide-path to Thanksgiving?

I’m guessing not, so let me simply wish you all well. May your meal be hearty, your family and friends happy, and your Friday as shopping-filled or -free as you’d like it.

Because I will be engaged in festivities, this blog will go dark until next Monday, Nov. 26. But in the meantime, enjoy this essay from a favorite site, Bitter Lawyer. It’s called “5 Downsides to Thanksgiving Break.”

I also share this annual story of ridiculousness about the annual occasion of the U.S. President “pardoning” a turkey (or two) on the day before Thanksgiving. I understand President Obama is in Burma this week, but I’m confident that arrangements will be made to spare some poultry the chopping block.

turkey presidential pardon

As his daughters look on, President Obama spares a turkey’s life in 2011.

And, to demonstrate that I am exercising the legal muscle right up until giblet (or tofurky) day, here is a story that takes that “pardon” angle down a new path. In it, NPR’s Ari Shapiro tells us “Tough turkey: People have a harder time getting pardons under Obama.” (strikingly similar to an NPR story by Frank James from 2010 that covered the same subject; I guess the holidays aren’t the only things that recur).

There you go: Justice, of the courthouse and barnyard variety.

Happy Thanksgiving.

turkey and girl

A girl and her turkey (meal)

Last week, attorney Lonnie Williams, Jr., delivered ASU Law’s John P. Morris Memorial Lecture. His title: “What is your personal responsibility in addressing the challenges of diversity in our multicultural society?”

That’s an excellent question, and I was sorry I was unable to attend. Fortunately, there’s a news story that describes his lecture.

Lonnie Williams Jr., Arizona Attorney, Oct. 2001

Lonnie Williams Jr., Arizona Attorney, Oct. 2001

Among the life lessons Williams imparted:

“If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music, sweep streets like Leontyne Price sings before the Metropolitan Opera. Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well. If you can’t be a pine at the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley.”

Back in 2001, we featured Williams in the pages of Arizona Attorney, where he was similarly eloquent. You can read the article here.

Congratulations to Lonnie, and to the law school for its excellent selection of honoree.

Lonnie Williams story, Arizona Attorney, Oct. 2001

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