December 2012


New Year's resolutions pen on paperIt seems too soon to have to write something (as I did last year) about new year’s resolutions for lawyers. Perhaps we can all resolve to have time pass more slowly in 2013.

Barring that possibility, I thought I’d rank my success on last year’s very public goals, and then share two recent blog posts that suggest some lawyerly goals for all of us in the coming year.

So, first, here are my 2012 goals, and my grade. Feel free to shoot spitballs:

Write more, “meeting” less: “When I speak dismissively of meetings, I assure you I do not mean meeting with potential or current authors about their ongoing cool project. I don’t mean brainstorming sessions about the evolution of Arizona Attorney’s look and feel. No, I mean the raft of other meetings that the human flesh is heir to. And if I could replace those often nonsensical gatherings with a little more time to write, what a year it could be!”

Grade B plus

(Self-) Grade: B+. I was mostly courageous at pointing out when a meeting was on a topic beyond my dedicated workload or my skill set. But I occasionally let my sense of obligation get me lassoed into a soul-killing gathering. Room for improvement!

Share more in the legal community: “This resolution will require more meetings, but only those of the good variety. Currently, I often try to be away from my desk attending and covering legal events that may be of interest to our readers. In 2012, I aim for even more of that. I also would like to meet more with law firms and legal groups and organizations to discuss story ideas and remind lawyers about the role the magazine may play in achieving their own goals. (In fact, if you have an upcoming event I should attend or speak at, contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.)”

Grade A minus

Grade: A-. Yes, I got out and about more than in the past. And I enjoyed it and found it helped my work. Keep it up!

Collaborate and ask for help: “This final resolution will be mandatory if I hope to achieve our goal of providing even more content in 2012—content in the magazine and online. To do that, we’ll need to identify great idea people whose ideas would shine in our media platforms. We’ll create partnerships with lawyers and nonlawyers who can speak to compelling issues in a changing industry. And we’ll locate even more Arizona lawyer-bloggers who enjoy having their fellows read and comment on their stuff.”

Grade C

Grade: C. I admit I’m a hard grader, but this has been a challenging resolution. I was relatively successful at finding stringers to write some feature stories for the magazine. But to free up more time, I’ll have to redouble my efforts to locate a great freelancer or two who can take on some semi-regular writing. Get on it!

OK, I’m exhausted. I may come up with brand-new 2013 resolutions, but for today I’m done.

What are your resolutions?

To help your thinking, here are two bloggers’ takes on the question. First, Matthew Hickey explores resolutions you can make for yourself and your law practice. And then, tongue (I think) in cheek, Tristan Taylor Thomas explains how lawyers may achieve mediocrity in 2013. Stay positive!

Happy New Year’s. I’ll be back on Wednesday (that’s right, I’m taking New Year’s Day off, perhaps kicking back with a mimosa or bloody Mary).

Park Howell

Park Howell, always looking up.

I sure love a good story.

That’s why, back in November, I found myself sitting in a Phoenix conference room chatting with a small group of people about how best to interest others in our story and to persuade listeners or readers to act on our story.

The conference room was at the advertising firm Park & Co., and the workshop was nimbly led by the firm’s principal, Park Howell. (He blogs here; more on that in a bit.)

He is an adept storyteller himself, and he walked the group through the steps of crafting a tale that leads readers and viewers to a conclusion. In the workshop, he used a 68-year-old video to demonstrate that “the brain is helpless to the suction of story.”

Confused? Here is how Park Howell describes it:

“In 1944, psychologists Fritz Heider and Marianne Simmel created this animated film to test the brain’s compunction to create stories, even out of the most crude stimuli. Of the 114 people that watch this short film, 113 of them knitted together a story of what was happening, and only one said it was just shapes moving around a screen.”

That video and Park’s words struck a chord with me, and I think they would do the same with anyone who has ever argued to a jury. As jury consultant Dru Sherrod told us in a recent Arizona Attorney Magazine, “Jurors bring to the trial this whole lifetime of collected stored scripts. When jurors hear something in the trial that evokes a stored script, they immediately map that life experience onto the trial information.”

So we know on an intellectual level that “story model research” is correct when it instructs about the power of stories to persuade. But practice is what’s needed—and what Howell offered our small group.

park & co logoOn this Change of Venue Friday, I invite you to see more of the stories he spins in his own blog. Whether you are interested in sustainability, marketing or simply in stories well told, take a look. I’m suspecting you may opt to bookmark his insights or opt for the RSS feed.

A recent post of his reminded me that the use of the word “green” may be getting a bit green around the gills. What’s needed, he argues, are not mere catch-phrases, but “genuine stories of sustainability.” True enough, I think, for every industry, including law.

After reading that, head over to his firm’s “Backstories” page, where you can see a selection of the impressive work they have done for clients, many in the most sustainable of industries.

Have a great weekend.

expert definitionHave you ever had difficulty finding just the right expert to help with your legal case or matter?

Through the years, I’ve heard that from many lawyers. What they need is brains, experience and communications skills, written and oral. That whole package is harder to come by than you might think.

In the spring, we’ll publish our annual Expert Witness Guide in Arizona Attorney Magazine. That guide covers a wealth of subject-matter areas and includes a huge swath of the legal experts prepared to help Arizona lawyers.

You should bookmark our 2012 Expert Witness Guide here.

While you’re at it, what is new with you in the world of experts? What article would you rip out and save on the topic if we ran it in the magazine?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

The opening to the 2012 Arizona Attorney Expert Witness Guide

The opening to the 2012 Arizona Attorney Expert Witness Guide

And here is another great piece to bookmark. It is extremely well done, by experts Carole Levitt and Mark Rosch. Though it lacks a link to Arizona’s own best expert guide (only kidding, Carole and Mark), it does cover extremely well the topic of Finding Experts and Verifying Their Credentials on the Web.”

Here is how they open their article:

“When you’re in need of an expert to serve as a witness in your case, to consult on a special matter, or perhaps even to serve as a speaker at your bar seminar, where do you look? Your first instinct may be to use a search engine, or to search a social networking site like LinkedIn, Facebook or Google+. But there are other, deeper places on the Web to find that one right expert you truly need.”

They follow that strong opening with an article you really need to read. Within it are many links that take you to material that could help your practice, today.

I was pleased to learn quite a bit in the article, which appears in the highly bookmarkable Attorney at Work. If that piece gives you any ideas of topics or niches we should cover in Arizona Attorney, be sure to drop me a note.

Credit-cardsIf you happen to be back at work after the holiday, here is a news story that may have an impact on your law practice. And just to be sure it catches your attention, it involves the Internal Revenue Service.

The news came by way of the State Bar of Arizona, and it opens like this:

“The IRS is about to start complicating life for some attorneys.”

“Starting January 1st, attorneys who accept credit cards need to make sure that the names on their merchant accounts match the ones the IRS has on file. Some attorneys may have used abbreviations or acronyms when they opened their accounts.”

“If there is not an EXACT match between the information provided to the credit card processing company and the information on file with the IRS, there may be serious consequences.”

Read the complete article here.

holiday lawyer stockingHelloooo? Anyone reading legal blogs on Christmas Eve?

If so, you deserve a treat. So, though this blog will be dark tomorrow for an enjoyable Christmas Day, I offer an oldie but a goodie—the long-suffering Night Before Christmas, in legalese, written by a long-forgotten but talented writer. You may be familiar with it, but I hope you greet it like you would an old friend.

(A hat tip to my Bar colleague Sarah Fluke for reminding me of this lawyerly gem!)

Enjoy, and have a wonderful holiday.

Whereas, on or about the night prior to Christmas, there did occur at a certain improved piece of real property (hereinafter “the House”) a general lack of stirring by all creatures therein, including, but not limited to a mouse.

A variety of foot apparel, e.g., stocking, socks, etc., had been affixed by and around the chimney in said House in the hope and/or belief that St. Nick a/k/a/ St.  Nicholas a/k/a/ Santa Claus (hereinafter “Claus”) would arrive at sometime thereafter.  The minor residents, i.e. the children, of the aforementioned House were located in their individual beds and were engaged in nocturnal hallucinations, i.e.  dreams, wherein vision of confectionery treats, including, but not limited to, candies, nuts and/or sugar plums, did dance, cavort and otherwise appear in said dreams.

Whereupon the party of the first part (sometimes hereinafter referred to as (“I”), being the joint-owner in fee simple of the House with the party of the second part (hereinafter “Mamma”), and said Mamma had retired for a sustained period of sleep.  (At such time, the parties were clad in various forms of headgear, e.g., kerchief and cap.)

Suddenly, and without prior notice or warning, there did occur upon the unimproved real property adjacent and appurtenant to said House, i.e., the lawn, a certain disruption of unknown nature, cause and/or circumstance.  The party of the first part did immediately rush to a window in the House to investigate the cause of such disturbance.

At that time, the party of the first part did observe, with some degree of wonder and/or disbelief, a miniature sleigh (hereinafter “the Vehicle”) being pulled and/or drawn very rapidly through the air by approximately eight (8) reindeer.  The driver of the Vehicle appeared to be and in fact was, the previously referenced Claus.

Said Claus was providing specific direction, instruction and guidance to the approximately eight (8) reindeer and specifically identified the animal co-conspirators by name: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen (hereinafter “the Deer”).  (Upon information and belief, it is further asserted that an additional co-conspirator named “Rudolph” may have been involved.)

The party of the first part witnessed Claus, the Vehicle and the Deer intentionally and willfully trespass upon the roofs of several residences located adjacent to and in the vicinity of the House, and noted that the Vehicle was heavily laden with packages, toys and other items of unknown origin or nature.  Suddenly, without prior invitation or permission, either express or implied, the Vehicle arrived at the House, and Claus entered said House via the chimney.

Said Claus was clad in a red fur suit, which was partially covered with residue from the chimney, and he carried a large sack containing a portion of the aforementioned packages, toys, and other unknown items.  He was smoking what appeared to be tobacco in a small pipe in blatant violation of local ordinances and health regulations.

Claus did not speak, but immediately began to fill the stocking of the minor children, which hung adjacent to the chimney, with toys and other small gifts. (Said items did not, however, constitute “gifts” to said minor pursuant to the applicable provisions of the U.S. Tax Code.)

Upon completion of such task, Claus touched the side of his nose and flew, rose and/or ascended up the chimney of the House to the roof where the Vehicle and Deer waited and/or served as “lookouts.” Claus immediately departed for an unknown destination.

However, prior to the departure of the Vehicle, Deer and Claus from said House, the party of the first part did hear Claus state and/or exclaim: “Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!” or words to that effect.

Gov. Jan Brewer as she unveils the Tenth Amendment monolith at the Arizona Bill of Rights dedication ceremony, Dec. 15, 2012 (photo: Arizona Attorney, Tim Eigo)

Gov. Jan Brewer as she unveils the Tenth Amendment monolith at the Arizona Bill of Rights dedication ceremony, Dec. 15, 2012 (photo: Arizona Attorney, Tim Eigo)

 On this Change of Venue Friday, I invite you to look at some photos (below) from last Saturday’s Bill of Rights Monument dedication in Phoenix. (I’ve covered this quite a bit; see here for more background.)

And here is an Arizona Republic story on the dedication day.

Congratulations again to Chris Bliss, who spearheaded this effort on behalf of his organization.

More photos are on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Have a great weekend.

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Dec 2012 Arizona AttorneyWhat’s in a name? Shakespeare wondered. And a wise Arizona lawyer pondered the same question as she considered the state of law firm trade names. Through December 31, those marketing terms are a no-no. But after January 1, it’s another story.

Before it passes by your desk unnoticed, I wanted to point out our cover story in the current Arizona Attorney Magazine. It was written by Patricia Sallen, who is the ethics counsel for the State Bar of Arizona. (Pat’s also the Bar’s Director of Special Services and Ethics, as well as the Deputy General Counsel, but who can keep track?)

Her blissfully concise article is worth a read (see the entire piece here). Here’s how she opens it, with a few famous lines from the Bard:

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose

By any other name would smell as sweet.”

“And that which we call a law firm? Will a colorful and creative law-firm name smell as sweet as a lawyer’s plain name?

“Maybe Shakespeare had the answer, as Juliet continues in her famous dialogue from Romeo and Juliet:

“So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d,

Retain that dear perfection which he owes

Without that title.”

“Beginning in 2013, Arizona will see if law-firm names retain that ‘dear’—perhaps even quaint—’perfection’ now that they can be something other than lawyers’ names.

“The state that begat lawyer advertising (remember Bates v. State Bar of Arizona?) will, effective January 1, finally join the vast majority of U.S. jurisdictions and allow private law firms to use trade names. Arizona’s Ethical Rule 7.5(a) will mirror the American Bar Association’s Model Rule 7.5(a).”

The rule change occurred after a comment period that allowed folks to weigh in on both sides. How do you think the rule change will affect law practice?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

And here are a few humorous lawyer-branding images, via this website.

law firm trade name drive-thru

law firm trade name shark


[i] 433 U.S. 350 (1977).

A Bushmaster .233 Remington semiautomatic rifle, one of the weapons used in recent school murders

A Bushmaster .233 Remington semiautomatic rifle, one of the weapons used in recent school murders

What, if anything, should we do with our gun laws?

In the wake of a massacre in Sandy Hook, Conn., that’s just one of the difficult questions facing a nation.

It may be too early to tell, but this tragedy seems to have spurred a deeper impetus for change than previous multiple shootings have done. But the question is: Should changes to ensure safety include changes to laws regarding guns? And if so, what should those changes be?

In the past few days, I’ve spotted a few articles that pitch two straw men against each other. The battle, according to that narrative, is between doing nothing (it’s all fine) to banning all guns.

However, no actual person I’ve ever spoken with sees those as the alternatives. As another has said, we support all the amendments, including the Second. The real question is how to effectuate those enumerated rights in a way that does not infringe upon others.

Just as distracting is the position that the national conversation should just be about mental health. It’s certainly true that our country must establish better methods to address those who are a danger to themselves and others. But surely we can manage to wrestle with more than one concept at a time. Can it really be true that as a nation we must rank the challenges we face (mental health, easy access to large-magazine weapons, school security) and propose solutions to only one?

A hint that the conversation may go farther this time arises in a New York Times story yesterday. It explores the decision of the corporation Cerberus to divest itself of the nation’s largest gun company. That decision goes far beyond previous efforts to address a too-recurring tragedy.

The story is titled “In Unusual Move, Cerberus to Sell Gun Company,” and it opens:

“Sitting in their offices high above Park Avenue late on Monday, the private equity executives who own the country’s largest gun company received a phone call from one of their most influential investors.”

“An official at the California teachers’ pension fund, which has $750 million invested with the private equity firm, Cerberus Capital Management, was on the line, raising questions about the firm’s ownership of the Freedom Group, the gun maker that made the rifle used in the Connecticut school shootings. Hours later, at 1 a.m. on Tuesday, Cerberus said that it was putting the Freedom Group up for sale.”

“‘It is apparent that the Sandy Hook tragedy was a watershed event that has raised the national debate on gun control to an unprecedented level,’ Cerberus said in a statement.”

So I ask for your thoughts: Is this truly a watershed event? And what should or can change in our laws to address it?

Here are a few other resources that cover the topic:

The New York Times has another story, this one on what some state leaders are proposing:

“The first concrete responses to the massacre in Newtown, Conn., began emerging on Tuesday, as state leaders proposed measures to curb gun violence, corporations distanced themselves from an event that has traumatized the nation and the White House pointed to gun control measures that President Obama would champion in the months ahead.”

“The reactions were considerably more broad-based than what had followed previous mass shootings, coming from Republicans as well as Democrats, from gun control advocates and those who have favored gun rights in the past, and even from the corporate and retail worlds. Proponents of stricter controls on firearms said they were cautiously optimistic that, perhaps this time, something concrete and lasting would be enacted.”

And here is an examination of whether proposed laws conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court’s historic ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller:

“Despite the sweeping language of a 2008 Supreme Court decision that struck down parts of the District of Columbia’s strict gun-control law, the decision appears perfectly consistent with many of the policy options being discussed after the shootings in Newtown, Conn.”

“Legal experts say the decision in the case, District of Columbia v. Heller, has been of mainly symbolic importance so far. There have been more than 500 challenges to gun laws and gun prosecutions since Heller was decided, and vanishingly few of them have succeeded.”

Finally, the Arizona Republic has published multiple opinions on the way forward.

social-media-word-cloudA headline for a blog post yesterday made me pause:

“Is Online Social Networking Worth My Time?”

Gulp. If The Lawyerist takes up the topic, and declares social media a waste of said time, won’t that provide conceptual cover to many lawyers who are seeking—desperately—permission to stop thinking about the topic? Instead, I suppose, those lawyers would like to return to practicing law the way it’s been done for a generation (whatever that means).

But then Lawyerist founder Sam Glover answered the question posed in a reasonable way:

“Sure, in the same way that email is worth your time. Online social networks are, like offline social networks, a way to stay in touch with family, friends, and acquaintances. If you use social networks — online or offline — for that purpose, they will be worth your time in the same way watching the Super Bowl with your college friends or having lunch with your rich aunt are worth your time.”

I’m beginning work on a social media presentation that I’ll deliver in Dallas in February. And as I ponder what to tell bar executives about the topic, it helps to keep in mind that social media is just another tool. And, as Sam says, it’s not a tool that does just one thing all the time. It can be used to sell—occasionally—but it also can inform, amuse and infuriate. Just like any relationship we have.

In print and online, we always must remember that our readers have many parts in their brains. The best social media—the best content provider—will help exercise multiple parts of those brains. And that is where a valued relationship is best developed.

A mug for coffee and case names is just one idea for lawyer gifts.

A mug for coffee and case names is just one idea for lawyer gifts.

As if I needed more evidence that I’m living in the past

Last week, a colleague commented that she guessed next Friday afternoon will be pretty quiet around our office’s hallways.

Only half paying attention, I asked why that would be.

She gave me a sideways glance, apparently thinking I was pulling her leg.

“Um, it’s the start of the weekend before Christmas … ?”

“No way,” I responded with confidence. That event is still two full weeks away, not one, I asserted.

She smiled at my idiocy. And my smile faded.

And so it is the case. The holidays are far closer than I suspected, and with them their attendant challenges.

So if you, like me, have been blindsided by a season creeping in like cat burglar, you may be in need of certain last-minute ideas.

Fortunately, the Washington State Bar provides that very thing: a quick-and-easy holiday gift list for lawyers.

You can read all their ideas here. What would you add to the barrister’s bucket list?

Good luck with putting the “ease” back into “season.”

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