Arizona Attorney Magazine


Letterpress BlogAttorneys looking for a strategic edge in a tough economy should take a few minutes to read how some New Hampshire lawyers are enhancing their practices and raising their profile.

Their solution? Blogging. And the lawyers interviewed by the talented Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar Association share the reasons that a law blog makes the difference. Here’s part of the story opening:

“‘I thought [blogging] was a great idea, but I figured other people must already be doing it,’” says [attorney Kysa] Crusco. ‘When I went home and did a web search, it turned out that there weren’t many, if any, family law blogs. The nhfamilylawblog.com URL was available, so I reserved it and contacted Lexblog. They got my blog up and running, and I started writing. I was able to see an immediate effect in articles that I posted and the potential clients that were calling for a consultation.’”

Kysa touches on what continues to be a surprise to me, 15 years after the first law blog was launched (though there’s debate on who was first): The surprise that, all these years later, relatively few lawyers write a blog. And that is a missed opportunity.

Let’s examine the necessary elements:

  1. There are 26 tools—if you count every letter of the alphabet.
  2. There is some modicum of writing ability.
  3. There is some practice knowledge.
  4. There is a small (and shrinking) technology aspect.

We already know that lawyers avoid math, not words, and every lawyer I know possesses a large amount of practice knowledge. So … what’s the boggle?

Typically, it comes down to a misunderstanding of strategy or—more particularly—differentiation. Here’s what I mean.

You probably think that potential clients can distinguish you from other lawyers in your practice area because, um, you went to a good law school. Or because you were in the Order of the Coif. Or served as Assistant Managing Editor on your law journal.

Of course, none of that distinguishes you (except to your mom, who always asks what was up with that “Assistant” in your title).

What does distinguish you is something that is wholly unique. No, not your fingerprint or hair whorl. I mean—writing.

The “creating content is hard” worry may be a significant one to you. But remember that more and more people will gauge your abilities not by your resume, but by a smidgen of content on your website. And they will devour that content; if it’s helpful stuff, they will come to you for more.

New Hampshire Bar Association logoThose who want to buy legal services are not seeking a terrific writer, so don’t let that put you off. But they do seek a person behind the website. They want to hear how you think.

A blog can do that. Sure, it takes a commitment of time. But at least it’s not math.

I was particularly intrigued by some of the findings of the New Hampshire Bar:

“To research this article, Bar News reached out to Bar members to submit information about their blogs and we have compiled a selective list. We also have conducted numerous searches on Google—just as many potential clients do—to find New Hampshire lawyers’ articles and blogs. The results were disappointing. There are only a few freestanding blogs offering timely advice that showcase the ability of lawyers to plainly explain current questions of law. Unfortunately, many blogs or articles on law firm websites are either out of date or populated by content designed not for readers, but for search-engine robots.”

blogging cartoon via AMP

Blogging: It’s just not that hard. (click to enlarge.)

I wonder what my results would be if I were to search for Arizona lawyer blogs. This past year, we did start a Blog Network on which any Arizona lawyer may add their link (and where we currently have more than 60). But there must be more out there.

And before you abandon blogging plans as a fad or idea that doesn’t gel with the profession, remember, as Dan Wise writes, “While SEO techniques are helpful in the 21st century world of digital marketing, certain old-fashioned values still apply: Success comes to those who prepare carefully and commit themselves to a strategy for the long haul.”

Sound like you? I thought so. Now, go back and finish that New Hampshire story.

Please contact me if you ever want to talk about blogging. I’m curious how it affects your practice.

ABA Section of Litigation logoLater this week, I’ll attend a conference focused on litigation. Just in case you can’t be there yourself, I thought I’d ask what you’d like me to cover.

The event is the annual conference of the American Bar Association Litigation Section (follow them on Twitter here). We are fortunate that the national event will be held April 9-11 right here in our state, at The Phoenician in Scottsdale. (The State Bar of Arizona CEO, John Phelps, is an Honorary Chair.)

The three days will have a boatload of seminars, 40 of them:

“including 3 plenaries and feature 150 of the nation’s most respected judges, academics and trial lawyers,as they address litigation development and techniques in trial advocacy. In addition to the education portion, the Section Annual Conference provides for an opportunity for meeting and networking with our distinguished guests and fellow participants.”

Wondering what the seminars include? You can breeze through the brochure here.

The ABA makes it even easier. Here is an abbreviated guide.

the phoenician scottsdale

The Phoenician Resort, Scottsdale, Ariz., site of the annual conference of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation, April 9-11, 2014.

I’ll be in and out of the conference this week, seeking stories and great new article ideas for Arizona Attorney Magazine. I’m developing my week’s calendar now, and I’d appreciate knowing which seminars sound most interesting to you.

Here are a few I may drop in on:

  • General counsel forum reveals the real deal
  • Janet Napolitano keynote
  • New technologies of evidence coming to court
  • Essential apps and websites for litigators
  • A lynching that forever changed law practice
  • DOMA’s dead: Now what?
  • Hot Internet litigation trends
  • Lean In for lawyers
  • Social media’s implications for litigation
  • Communicating about mistakes with clients
  • Litigating privacy and data breach issues
  • Dealing with difficult judges
  • Business divorces

… and, of course:

  • The Trial of Wyatt Earp

And then after lunch …

Only kidding. I may not have time to attend all of these. But look over the program and tell me what you’d love to hear a synopsis of.

And if you plan to be there yourself, let me know. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. Or reach me on Twitter @azatty. I’ll also be tweeting, and here’s the conference hashtag: #14SAC

Let’s get litigious, shall we?

Feeling squeezed in your office? Shrinking office space is a national trend.

Feeling squeezed in your office? Shrinking office space is a national trend.

My title today—asking about law office square footage—is more than just a snarky opening designed to draw you in. (It worked, though, didn’t it? The title has something for everyone: Big-firm partners who bemoan the loss of space, and the rest of the world that pillories big-firm partners. You’re welcome.)

No, my title reminds me of a quiet revolution occurring in law firm offices (and in hallways, lobbies, common areas and lunchrooms. And don’t get us started on law firm libraries.)

That revolution (or devolution) is yielding smaller footprints, even for (some) bigfoot rainmakers.

A blog post recently sized up the size issue.

Closer to home, commercial real estate expert James Robinson wrote for us last fall in an article titled “Can the Credenza: Technology, Economics Change Law Firm Offices.”

He well describes the changes yielding small spaces, and he says much of the shift is attributable to changing technology. He (kindly) leaves aside the impetus of a bad economy and declining collected fees.

You should read James’s article; it even includes pictures!

What do you think? Is this a tempest in a shrinking teapot? Or could the change in office size signal (subconsciously) decreased horizons for a profession? And does that diminution have a demoralizing influence?

I’m no psychologist (or attorney whisperer); I’m just spit-balling here.

But I’d like to hear what you think. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Congratulations to all of the winners of the annual Arizona Attorney Creative Arts Competition. Each of them is featured in our May issue, which will be avialble in late April.

Because of obvious restrictions, our music winner’s work cannot be published in the megazine. But it is available, here, for you to hear and enjoy. Well done, Doug Passon.

I previously wrote about a film of Doug’s here. Read more about it below.

Here is Doug’s background and bio:

DOUG PASSON has been playing guitar and writing songs since the age of 14. He has been practicing criminal defense in the Valley for almost 17 years. His other creative passion is film. He is President & Creative Director of D Major Films (dmajorfilms.com), which produces commercial and narrative documentaries on topics and for organizations focused on fostering social change. He also teaches and consults with legal professionals nationwide on how to use moving pictures as a tool of persuasion in their court cases.

“No Tomorrow” is a meditation on the joy and pain of living, and a call to live more deeply by embracing the uncertainty of the future.

A compelling and charming film comes to Scottsdale on Sunday, Feb. 23.

As Doug says, he wrote the words, melody and music. “The song is performed by Dan Nichols, a singer/songwriter based out of Raleigh, N.C., and a dear friend of mine. Dan is the subject of a documentary film I recently directed called ‘Road to Eden’ (www.roadtoedenfilm.com). The song is a reminder that life is fragile and temporary and if we are to live fully, we must live fully in the moment. This was inspired, in part, by the life and death of an incredible lawyer, mentor and friend, Darrow Soll.”

Here is Doug’s winning song, “No Tomorrow.”


And here are a few photos of Doug at the magazine photo shoot.

Doug Passon being photographed by Karen Shell, foreground, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon being photographed by Karen Shell, foreground, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon passes the time between shoots, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Doug Passon passes the time between shots, Tempe Center for the Arts, March 3, 2014.

Practical Art Buffalo Girl Dinner April 10 in Phoenix

So who is up for an opportunity that combines, food, drink, art, maybe taking art home, and lively conversation—all in a setting that was originally established by an Arizona Attorney?

Yeah. Me too.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. On our casual day, I am pleased to share news about an April 10 event at Practical Art in Phoenix. The event is called “Buffalo Girl Dinner,” and you should read here to see where the quirky (and highly appropriate) name arose.

Practical Art, a Phoenix shop and gallery, is going as strong as ever, just as it was envisioned by former Lewis and Roca attorney Jane Reddin. (The shop is located at 5070 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85012)

Jane_Reddin 1

Jane Reddin, founder of Practical Art, Phoenix

Back in 2008, I was intrigued when Jane decided to move away from the legal arts and focus on the real arts. I covered her grand adventure here, and have kept up with the amazing shop since—even after her death three years ago.

As you’ll see in the description, the evening is also a fundraiser for the Phoenix Art Museum.

If you’re curious what artworks will be available in the evening’s silent auction, get to following the Practical Art blog here. Those talented owner/organizers promise to reveal all soon.

The $35 ticket price gets you in the door, as well as “a $25 donation to the Phoenix Art Museum, a meal voucher for use at the food trucks, eligibility for participation in the art auction, live music by Pick N’ Holler, and drinks.”

Any idea what a good deal that is?

Buy your ticket here. And if you come, prepare to battle me in the silent auction

Enjoy your practical and artful weekend.

Arizona Attorney Magazine cover March 2014The path of a relationship between an attorney and her client may take many twists and turns. But how often should documentation play a role in that sometimes long and shifting roadmap?

Answer: More often than you might think.

Before March escapes us, I point you to the Arizona Attorney Magazine cover story, by lawyer Paul Stoller. In “Practice Protection,” Paul provides a detailed how-to on documenting that relationship with the client. As he says, ensuring that element of your practice complete and up to date will protect not just the attorney, but the client as well.

You can read the complete article here.

And read more about Paul Stoller and his practice here.

Paul L. Stoller, Gallagher and Kennedy

Paul L. Stoller, Gallagher and Kennedy

In every issue, we aim to include content that assists lawyers in practice. Paul’s article, though, falls into that select subset of articles that I suspect are ripped out and saved for future reference.

Are there other areas of law practice you’d like to see us cover in similar depth? How valuable are how-to’s to your practice? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

American Bar Association Bar Leadership Institute 2014 BLI logo

Last Friday, I had the chance to present to leaders of three sizes of bar associations—small, medium and large. Among the three, the best audience was those from bar associations that were —

Hold it. Let me pause before revealing who was the most engaged of my audiences at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute.

creating content that influences member engagement requires a plan and support.But I will tell you now that one thing I learned most as I prepared for my presentation was this: Everyone—even a bar president—seeks to be engaging. Even when we get the opportunity, though, we must have a plan, preparation and sufficient support to execute well.

To kick things off, here is what I opened with to each group:

“My modest charge this morning is to recommend ways for each of you to create phenomenal written content, fearlessly and with joy.”

“How hard can that be?” I may have continued.

It was a real privilege to be able to address attendees on one of their reported biggest concerns—Presidents’ messages or columns. My overall message to them—which I hope they appreciated—is that the primary job of a bar president is Chief Engagement Officer. And that there are techniques they could adopt that would help them create compelling content.

I wrote about this presentation a few weeks ago, and I thank those who offered suggestions for content and messages. As promised, those who shared ideas that I borrowed got a shout-out in my PowerPoint. Thank you especially to Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar, Brad Carr of the Alabama Bar, and Rick DeBruhl right here at the Arizona Bar. I also benefited from the insights of the past 15 years of Arizona Bar Presidents, a huge portion of whom responded generously to my queries about what makes an effective column.

My PowerPoint—minus its animated possibilities—is here. (It begins on the fourth page.) If I can figure out how, I may upload the robust version to SlideShare.

In my 14 years as editor at Arizona Attorney, I’ve read more than 150 such columns in our own magazine. Plus, I receive about 20 other bar magazines monthly—and yes, I try to read those, too. So I’ve come to be highly attuned to the challenge a president faces when she or he takes pen to paper. That’s why I ended my presentation with a toast (PowerPoint style).

Law and Order: "If you can lead your bar well, while making your practice thrive and keeping your family happy, I toast you."

“If you can lead your bar well, while making your practice thrive and keeping your family happy, I toast you.”

Finally, let me share the unofficial results of my assessment of audience engagement. I’d have to say that, all else being equal, the small and medium-sized bar groups were each highly engaged. If I were forced to choose, I suppose the medium group came in a nose ahead.

Let's give it up for ... the ABA BLI 2014 medium-bar group!

Let’s give it up for … the ABA BLI 2014 medium-bar group!

Both of those groups laughed and nodded in all the right places and ended with a bunch of questions. And the medium-bar group shouted out queries that even surprised me (“What was your favorite president’s column?” is something I am chagrined to say I had never considered—though I managed a response.)

Small but mighty: ... the ABA BLI 2014 small-bar group

Small but mighty … the ABA BLI 2014 small-bar group

So the large-bar group—my own people, you could say—take the number-three spot. But I won’t be too critical. After all, it was the final session of three, so they may have been a little shell-shocked. And as I headed into my third presentation, I faced a dry-mouth quandary, so my own delivery may have been on the decline. We got through it—together.

Don't be a (sleeping) giant ... the ABA BLI 2014 large-bar group

Don’t be a (sleeping) giant … the ABA BLI 2014 large-bar group

But what a privilege: To take some time to consider an important subject and to share ideas with smart and curious people—that may be one of the markers of a rewarding day job.

Tomorrow, I recommend to you the efforts of a law school that examines how the legal profession should be reinvented. I had heard of its work, but I learned more from someone who also spoke at the Bar Leadership Institute. But you’ll have to wait another day to know more.

chicago bar association cba logo

When I find myself in a city other than Phoenix, I like to look around at what the area’s legal community has to offer. My stomping grounds this week are in Illinois, specifically Chicago. So let me point you to some law-practice-helpful content from two great bar associations.

First, I recommend some content related to law practice management technology (say that three times fast), available on the website of the Chicago Bar Association.

The lawyer-friendly material includes some how-to videos by the talented Catherine Sanders Reach. Now THERE are some ideas worth borrowing! (Follow Catherine here.)

Here, for example, is a video on editing or removing Linkedin endorsements:

And over at the Illinois Bar Journal (published by the state bar), I recommend a few things.

Illinois State Bar Journal 2014First, their magazine includes a series of short articles the comprise “Law Pulse.” In it, the author is able to cover a variety of compelling and timely legal topics, all without straining your patience with massive length or endless footnoting.

Good examples of their form are here and here.

Like most bar journals, the Journal focuses on state laws and cases. But in the magazine’s feature story area is an article that may catch your attention, no matter what state you’re in. Titled “The Ratings Game,” it examines the world of Avvo: “Sites like Avvo that rate lawyers and encourage consumer reviews are evoking reaction positive and negative in the legal community—and posing interesting ethical challenges.”

The article includes a useful sidebar that explains how Avvo says its formula works.

Illinois State Bar Association ISBA logoMany of you may belong to multiple bars. If so, I’d love to hear from you about what content from varying bar publications you’ve found helpful to your practice. Maybe we can borrow some ideas from fellow bar magazines!

A clean desk: Is that what we aspire to? Really?

No, this desk is NOT the winner of a prize for revealing workspaces.

And the winner is …

Wait wait wait! Taking a tip from the Academy Awards, I have to stretch this out for a bit.

Back in January, I offered a prize—a book of legal poetry—to a reader who shared a photo of their desk, messy or not. A description was invited but not required.

You may recall that my desk-psychosis grew deep as my own workspace got lost under piles. And I started to wonder what a clean or dirty desk says about each of us. Like my paper piles, that musing got pretty deep; read it here.)

I am happy to report that my messiness concerns resonated with readers. I heard from a number of folks who reported the state of their workspaces’ messiness levels.

As promised, I randomly selected a winner, and she is … K Royal. Congratulations, K!

K Royal's desk photo won her a book of poetry (though storage bins might have been a better prize!).

K Royal’s desk photo won her a book of poetry (though storage bins might have been a better prize!).

And here is K’s description of her space:

“Your note about a messy desk made me laugh out loud, so although not noteworthy, here is mine. Yes … double monitors, family photos … including my dog, shoe tape dispenser, diamond post it note holder, Dutch slippers, m&m coffee mug, and although you may not be able to see them … shoe phone holders for two cell phones and a Hedwig mug to hold pens.”

She ends with a cheery but noncommittal “May your organization remain exactly what you need it to be!”

By coincidence (yes, it’s a coincidence), I’ve known K from when she was at ASU Law School. She’s gone on to other things (including a stint in Texas), and she’s now Privacy Counsel at Align Technology in San Jose, California.

Privacy Counsel? Hmm, am I allowed to mention that?

In any case, I hope K enjoys “Poetic Justice” as much as I did.

K, send me a note at arizona.attorney@azbar.org with your snail-mail address and I’ll get this posted tout de suite.

K Royal's desk photo won her this book of poetry!

K Royal’s desk photo won her this book of poetry!

court rule aids lawyers who are military spouses

This month in Arizona Attorney, we published an article on assistance now available for lawyers who are married to active-duty servicemembers.

Given how unpopular taking a bar exam is for most lawyers, I cannot imagine the challenge of following a military spouse around the country, where you would face varying admissions rules and exams. It would be enough to go inactive.

And that’s exactly what has faced many attorneys, and state supreme courts have been listening—thanks largely to a few women who have raised the issue nationwide. And among those people are two woman with Tucson ties named Mary Reding and Rachel Winkler.

Former Tucson resident Mary Reding, founder of the Military Spouse JD Network.

Former Tucson resident Mary Reding, founder of the Military Spouse JD Network.

Together, Reding and Winkler started the Military Spouse JD Network, “a national association that works to find solutions to the challenges of lawyers who happen to have military spouses.”

Read a great story about their work here.

And you can Like the network on Facebook here.

Our Arizona Attorney story is one written by Rodney Glassman. He is a lawyer and airman, and he describes well the changed Arizona rule that makes our state a leader in assisting military spouses.

Read Rodney’s article here.

And here is a list of requirements in the Arizona rule.

court rules aids military spouses bullet points

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