December 2012


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.”

Workers prepared to install a limestone slab that is part of a monument to the Bill of Rights at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. It will be dedicated Saturday. (Joshua Lott for The New York Times)

Workers prepared to install a limestone slab that is part of a monument to the Bill of Rights at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix. It will be dedicated Saturday. (Joshua Lott for The New York Times)

Over the past year, I’ve spoken quite a bit with you about the Arizona Bill of Rights Monument (most recently here). But now the nation’s newspaper of record has even written about it. Time to pay attention.

I was pleased this past week to see the New York Times take note of the remarkable achievement of a man named Chris Bliss—and the fact that Arizona leads the nation on this. Amazing.

Arizona Bill of Rights posterHere is how NYT reporter and Phoenix Bureau Chief Fernanda Santos opens her article about MyBillofRights.org Executive Director Chris Bliss:

“It started as a joke about 10 years ago. Chris Bliss, a juggler and stand-up comedian of Internet fame, had been scanning the headlines for inspiration and discovered the controversy over a granite monument to the Ten Commandments in the rotunda of Alabama’s state judicial building.”

“‘Instead of arguing over whether to leave up or take down these displays of the Ten Commandments,’ he said in a comedy routine, ‘my suggestion is to put up displays of the Bill of Rights next to them and let people comparison shop.’”

(Want to see what she’s referring to when she mentions juggling? Go here.)

Tomorrow morning, December 15, is the dedication of the first capital-city monument to the Bill of Rights. I’m hoping a good-sized crowd comes out to see something that will be there for generations (the limestone, that is; we’re hoping the same for the rights themselves).

To get ready for the day, enjoy this article by the First Amendment Center.

And on Change of Venue Friday, enjoy a time-lapse video of the monument’s installation, followed by detail on tomorrow’s dedication.

Bill of Rights Monument dedication invite p1

Bill of Rights Monument dedication invite p2

The Risk game, an edu-taining endeavor

Risk, an edu-taining endeavor

In my way-back time-machine, I have to thank a board game for raising my geography quotient at least a little.

It was in marathon games of Risk at the dining room table that I (and the rest of my family, I’m sure) learned much about the world’s nation-states. Sure, there was as much disinformation as there was information in the game, but I do recall my 9-year-old reaction to coming across places like Mongolia, Yakutsk and Kamchatka. “Cool” only begins to describe it.

After that, the countries of northern Asia larger slipped under my radar. But then this year, I’m seeing Mongolia more and more.

Ian Neale

Ian Neale

For instance, Arizona lawyer Ian Neale spoke with me about a variety of nations, including Mongolia. Neale participates in a global program that places experienced lawyers in law schools around the world. One of his posts was Mongolia, which appears to be a place ripe with opportunity.

You can read our April 2012 story about Neale here (and some of his photos are in the slideshow at the bottom).

And then this week, the law school at the University of Arizona announced a new dual-degree program that involves Mongolia:

“The University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law in Tucson, Arizona and the National University of Mongolia School of Law in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, have created a dual-degree partnership, recently formalized in a memorandum of understanding signed by the two schools.”

“The agreement allows students from the National University of Mongolia School of Law (NUM) to earn both a Mongolian law degree and a J.D. from Arizona Law in two years less than it would take to earn those degrees separately.”

The press release goes on to say that two students from Mongolia are already attending the UA Law School, courtesy of a scholarship from law firm Mahoney Liotta LLC.

University of Arizona Law School logo(Read the complete release here.)

I have to tip my hat to the law school and to Ian Neale. I mean, the game of Risk is great and all, but a decidedly less warlike stance to nations is even more welcome.

What other international locales do you think will be sites of legal opportunity in the next decade?

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorThis morning, an update from my colleague Alberto Rodriguez at the State Bar of Arizona:

The State Bar of Arizona and Univision 33 hosted the final Abogados a Su Lado (“Lawyers at Your Side”) of 2012 on Monday, December 10. The following is a recap from the public service program.

Summary: Volunteer attorneys answered 93 calls during the two-hour phone bank focused on criminal charges/issues. The following is a small sample of the questions that were received:

  • Can I get my license reinstated after receiving a DUI?
  • How does receiving a misdemeanor charge affect my immigration case/status?
  • How is a potential sentence determined?
  • Should I hire a private attorney or use a public defender? What are the differences?
  • What are the repercussions of getting a DUI?
  • How do I take care of a warrant issued in another state?Univision 33 logo

All the Abogados a Su Lado volunteers were first-time participants. Calls were consistent from 5 to 7 p.m., which led to another successful phone bank.

In 2012, 20 Abogados a Su Lado volunteer attorneys answered legal questions from 284 consumers during three separate phone banks.

The State Bar of Arizona and Univision 33 will continue to provide the Abogados a Su Lado public service program in 2013 and are currently identifying dates and topics for the new year.

Steven Keeva 2005

Steven Keeva, 2005

Yesterday we got the very sad news that esteemed editor and writer Steven Keeva passed away. Keeva was known for many things, but spurring a movement of lawyers with a book and his magazine columns cemented his legacy.

In 1999, he wrote Transforming Practices: Finding Joy and Satisfaction in the Legal Life. Through that book and his other writing, he aimed to help lawyers find deeper meaning in a profession in which many had grown disillusioned.

Keeva died from the effects of early-onset Alzheimer’s. He was 56.

He formerly served as an editor at the ABA Journal, which ran a heartfelt news story on Keeva by Debra Cassens Weiss yesterday.

Steven Keeva Transforming PracticesWeiss quotes lawyer and blogger J. Kim Wright:

“‘Dozens of people have told me that Steve saved their lives,’ Wright tells the ABA Journal. ‘That they were really all alone and hopeless, and they found his book or they found his column, and literally it saved their lives. He made that huge a difference, and left the planet so early.’”

(You can read more about J. Kim Wright here, and be sure to read her blog, Cutting Edge Law.)

Back in 2001, I had the pleasure to speak with Steve Keeva, as we sought permission to publish excerpts from his book. I found him to be a generous and warm man, one whose work we were privileged to publish in Arizona Attorney.

You can read those excerpts, along with a great story on attorney burnout by Tucson lawyer Peter Axelrod, here. (Peter’s own website can be found here.)

Rest in peace, Steve.

Arizona Attorney covers attorney burnout, July 2001

Arizona Attorney covers attorney burnout, July 2001

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