Law Practice


Susie Salmon, UA Law School

Susie Salmon, UA Law School

Color me nostalgic, but this week I’m offering a few great pieces of content from the departing issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine—in case you missed it.

Today. I point you to our new-ish column on legal writing. Wisely enough, that column is written by an expert in the subject, a legal writing professor at the UA Law School, Susie Salmon.

I have been impressed by Susie’s work from the first time I spotted it. Concise, witty, salted with just enough pop-culture and other references to keep us coming back for more.

This was not the legal writing approach I got in law school, I can tell you that.

(Ironically, Susie and I attended the same law school. I have never asked her about her experience at UC-Hastings as a writing student. Perhaps it was a stellar one; someone had to get the good section.)

Susie’s column in the current issue is spot-on as usual. She takes something you think you can live without knowing—in the June issue it’s the comma spliceand demonstrates that no, no you cannot.

Like all great writing teachers (and writers), Susie shows; she does not just tell.

And sometimes, she’ll tell off—but with courtesy.

When I received her April column, for example, I laughed out loud. For there, right in her lede (don’t know what that is? She explains it here), Susie gently pointed out a point of disagreement between us. You may chuckle (or chortle, if you’re legal-word pundit Bryan Garner), but debates over the Oxford comma are serious business.

Here is how she handled it. (And a sample of her column lede is below.)

Commas may look innocent, but can they be unnecessary? (Sorry, Oxford.)

Commas may look innocent, but can they be unnecessary? (Sorry, Oxford.)

Well, unlike the musings of my own law school professor, I take to heart Susie’s suggestions. And so I am pleased to tell you that since reading her gentle remonstrance, I have (deep breath) … taken a less hardline view that the Oxford comma is a ridiculous relic of a stodgy past.

Yes, I still strive to follow the AP Stylebook, our particular bible. And yes, my skin does break out in a rash when I see that damned O.C. wheel around the corner of a paragraph, grinning the power-drunk grin of a self-satisfied colonial monoglot.

But now, at least, I do not obliterate it with relish, striking it out with a violent Sharpie slash. Instead, I read the sentence multiple times, slowly, over Port, as I imagine baffled O.C. lovers do, considering every possible way a comma’s omission may lead to confusion or a monarchy’s collapse. And then, every once in a while, I allow the comma to remain.

See. I can learn.

Well, so can you. So enjoy Susie’s column now and in the future. But go easy on adding the commas, would you?

 

 

Arizona civil verdicts 2013 gavel

As July rushes headlong to a close, I offer suggestions for two pieces from the June Arizona Attorney Magazine, before it recedes into memory.

The first is related to a decade-long favorite feature article: our annual roundup of the previous year’s largest civil verdicts, written by attorney Kelly MacHenry.

This year’s well-written and -researched story is here. But that’s just part of Kelly’s accomplishment.

For this, our anniversary year, Kelly suggested we also include a roster of the top verdicts of the past decade.

When an author offers a great idea along with the labor and smarts to get the job done, there’s really only one thing an editor should say: “Yes, thank you!”

So enjoy Kelly’s story about 2013 verdicts. But rip out and save her list of the top 100 verdicts of the past decade, which begins here.

Tomorrow, I share a story and news of an upcoming event that should be on your calendar.

LSC_LogoLast Friday, a significant anniversary passed, one that should be marked by anyone concerned about equal access to justice.

On July 25, the Legal Services Corporation noted that it had been established 40 years ago. As it describes itself, it is the single largest funder of civil legal aid in the United States.

“LSC provides federal funds through competitive grants to 134 independent nonprofit organizations with nearly 800 offices in every state, the District of Columbia and the territories of the United States. LSC is headed by an 11-member Board of Directors appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Board is bipartisan: no more than six members may be of the same political party.”

“Every day across America, victims of domestic violence seeking protection, veterans trying to avoid homelessness, and consumers facing wrongful evictions or foreclosures are forced to navigate the legal system alone because they can’t afford a lawyer,” LSC President James J. Sandman said. “LSC’s funding of high-quality legal services for low-income people helps assure fairness in our legal system, and it’s never been more needed, or more important, than it is today.”

Here is an infographic detailing some of the need met by the LSC. You can read important facts and statistics about the LSC here.

LSC Legal Services Corporation logo

(click to enlarge)

Its celebration will be noted in a three-day event in Washington, DC.

 

 

state bars urge attorneys toward rural law practice

Some of us muse on the pleasures of a rural law practice. And others do something about it.

I have written before (like, here) about efforts to transform underemployed lawyers into busy rural attorneys. Not to romanticize the notion, but there is something fulfilling about a law practice in which you know many residents of your community.

Around the country, many communities suffer the effects of too few attorneys to do the necessary work. And a recent story in Associations Now explored the strategy of two bar associations—in Nebraska and Iowa—that devised strategies to address the challenge.

In Nebraska, the solution is a Rural Practice Initiative. In Iowa, a committee aims to alter the dynamic. And these are just a few of the organized efforts.

Would such efforts bear fruit in Arizona? Evidence suggests our rural areas face similar challenges. Let me know what you think.

In a video screen-shot, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (center) describes a proposed judicial selection plan.

In a video screen-shot, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (center) describes a proposed judicial selection plan.

The dialogue over how we select judges continues in earnest across the country, and retired Justice Sandra Day O’Connor continues to be in the thick of it.

As Justice O’Connor recently said, “The courts are the bulwark of our democracy, and we can ill afford to see them undermined.”

Last week, we read an announcement that a new proposed plan had been released, and it is named the O’Connor Judicial Selection Plan. (The complete plan is here.)

The new proposed plan was issued by the Advancement of the American Legal System.

The new proposed plan was issued by the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System.

The proposal comes out of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS). You can read more about the news here.

According to plan advocates, the plan “was the outgrowth of work by Justice O’Connor, IAALS and the Advisory Committee to its Quality Judges Initiative, chaired by former Arizona Chief Justice Ruth McGregor, who is a member of the Justice at Stake Board of Directors.”

As described by Justice at Stake, the plan includes:

“a judicial nominating commission to screen judicial applicants and identify the best qualified candidates, appointment by the governor of one of those candidates, broad-based and objective evaluation of judges’ performance on the bench, and periodic retention elections.”

(Yes, that is very much like the Arizona system, at least in three counties.)

Justice at Stake logoWould you like to see where your state stacks up in its judicial-selection method? The IAALS, at the University of Denver, breaks it down here.

In case you’re thinking the conversation is of interest merely to court wonks, read a new study by the Defense Research Institute, which calls itself “the voice of the defense bar.” Its report titled “Economics of Justice” details the facts behind its position that financial blows suffered by the judicial branch are inflicting “widespread economic harm in communities.”

A press release and link to the full report are here.

Finally, for a quick synopsis of the O’Connor Plan, watch this video with the Justice herself, along with retired Arizona Chief Justice Ruth McGregor and IAALS Executive Director Rebecca Love Kourlis.

 

FIRRP Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project logoWhen the planning for this Friday’s educational seminar on unaccompanied minors in federal custody occurred, would anyone have guessed the topic would grip the nation?

Attorneys have been invited to attend the immigration CLE by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. Space for the Phoenix event is limited to 180 people. As the Florence Project says, “Please share this with your colleagues at your law firms and with other attorneys who may be interested in helping detained immigrant children.”

The cost to attend is $75 until July 22, and all proceeds benefit the Florence Project. You can register and pay online here (be sure to indicate “CLE” on the “purpose” line). Questions? Contact the Project’s most excellent Pro Bono Program Director, Tally Kingsnorth, at tkingsnorth@firrp.org.

Here is more information about the event, to be held at the Fragomen law firm, 3003 N. Central Ave., Phoenix, AZ 85012, from 9:00 a.m. to noon. Reception is at Suite 1200, but the seminar will be in the basement auditorium.

Please note that parking for this CLE will NOT be validated and will be at your own expense. Seating is limited to first come, first served.

The training will begin with a discussion of the current UAC situation along the Mexico–U.S. border, ORR custody, and background on children in removal proceedings. Next, the instructors will briefly cover the mechanics of an SIJ case for minors in removal proceedings (Note: the Florence Project presented on SIJS last year and will be scheduling another more intensive CLE on this topic later in the fall). Finally, the presenters will review U visas, T visas, and asylum claims for children.

Instructor Bios: This CLE opportunity will be led by Laura Belous and Golden McCarthy. Before joining the Florence Project’s staff (for a second time), Laura worked as a Staff Attorney with the Pima County Office of Children’s Counsel and represented over 450 children in dependency proceedings. Previously, she was the Mental Health Equal Justice Works Fellow with the Florence Project and represented clients with serious mental illnesses in Eloy, Florence, and Phoenix for two years. Golden spent four years as an ESL teacher and then director of an adult education program in Brooklyn, New York. While in law school, Golden was President of CUNY Law Moot Court and a Fellow for the Center on Latino and Latina Rights and Equality (CLORE) under the directive of the Honorable Jenny Rivera. She also participated in the Economic Justice Project and the Immigrant and Refugee Rights Clinic at CUNY Law.

This CLE may qualify for three hours of CLE credit.

This past week, two lawyers contacted me, asking how to be included in the Arizona Attorney Blog Network.

Fortunately, they contacted the right guy. After a few questions and a quick view of what kind of content they were posting, they were listed on our site.

But then I wondered, as I often do: What do those lawyers and law firms get out of the blogging experience? What are their goals for using the medium? And do they feel they’ve been successful?

(I know; I could simply ask them those questions. Well, they really just wanted us to post their content without a lot of jibber-jabber. But maybe next time.)

I admire those lawyers who opt to blog. They not only carve time out of busy practices; they also weather the critique, overt and covert, of others, who insist that blogging is either a time-sink or an ethical minefield—or both.

If you’ve ever wondered about the same issues, and if you think the answer is to abandon blogging, take a look at an interesting post from the U.K. Titled “Are Blogs Any Use to Law Firms?” it examines some of the elements that may make a blog not worth a lawyer’s time.

But if you’re nodding in agreement, you should pause your head-bob to read Joe Reevy’s complete post carefully. No; he’s really not saying that blogging is a waste of time—quite the opposite. Instead, he makes concrete suggestions that may yield more positive results for your legal blog.

If you consider and implement Reevy’s three strategies for success, you will likely see a spike in engagement with your audience. And that—not just increased billings—is what it’s really all about.

CLE By The Sea 2014: The Last Beachhead

CLE By The Sea 2014: The Last Beachhead

Those of you attending CLE By the Sea this week may be unaware that you’re in the midst of an historic event.

In case you haven’t heard, this will be the last year for CBySea. I suppose a number of factors contributed to its being sunsetted. Among those factors are declining attendance and higher costs.

But I have heard from lawyers who have gone year after year, ever singing its praises. Let’s hear their stories.

So I wonder:

  • If any of you there at the Hotel del Coronado would like to share one favorite moment from this week?
  • And if any of you would like to share a great memory or two from any of the many years of the event?

Economics and shifting interests may have led to the elimination of the event. But I’d be happy to send it out in style, atop a sedan chair bedecked with memories and photos.

Contact me with either at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Tucson, Ariz., in 1909 (Wikipedia)

Tucson, Ariz., in 1909 (Wikipedia) (click to enlarge)

Imagine a legal system in which your property rights could not be assured, and where your land holdings could be stripped of you based on your marital status.

That scenario is not beyond imagining. As you might surmise, that situation was faced by approximately half of the U.S. population at one time (and continues for many more globally today).

In the June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we were privileged to feature a story that occurred right in Tucson not so very long ago.

It was titled Anna’s Story, and here is how author and attorney Marjorie Cunningham opened the real-life tale:

“Buying, selling and trading land has been a part of Arizona’s booms and busts since colonial times. One shrewd and successful land speculator during the 1800s was a French woman named Anna Charauleau. Ms. Charauleau also exhibited the strong will and relentless nature needed to pursue the protection of her legal rights. Those qualities became important in Arizona legal history, as she was a party to several landmark cases decided by Arizona’s Supreme Court in the 1870s and 1880s in which women’s property rights were at issue.”

Read the whole article here.

And be sure to read carefully the excerpts from the Supreme Court opinion regarding the land matters. Here is how a wise justice analyzed things:

“Before her marriage, the law presumes [a woman] competent to buy and sell and convey property, and supposes she acts in such matters as intelligently as if she were the opposite sex; but during the existence of the marriage relation somehow this condition of ignorance and stupidity is supposed to settle down upon her, to benumb her faculties, to cast a cloud upon her intelligence, to be lifted only by the death of her spouse or other severance of the marriage. … ”

“We are certain that the presumption contended for by the counsel, that a woman of mature years, and an American wife, ceases from the day of her marriage to know what she is doing in the execution of a conveyance until advised … should no longer obtain in a court of justice.”

Thank you to our author for sharing such a compelling piece of Arizona history.

Are there other historic stories that are evocative to you? Contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

ethics scales of justice

Today I urge you to consider something that I understand is often on the minds of Arizona lawyers: whether the current ethical rules (among other things) are a help or a hindrance to the practice of law.

For a long time (OK, forever), I have heard some say that the ethics structure fails to keep pace with the realities of law practice. Now, you have an opportunity to offer your views.

Patricia Sallen is the State Bar’s Director of Special Services & Ethics/Deputy General Counsel, but I just call her our ethics guru. And she and others have heard similar statements, and they are examining whether Arizona ethics and the regulatory scheme are meeting all of their multiple challenges. Here is Pat:

“A new Arizona Supreme Court committee will look at whether Arizona ethical and other regulatory rules should be amended because of the changing nature of legal practice in a technologically enabled and connected workplace and the growing trend toward multistate and international law practice.”

“Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer is chairing the new committee. A copy of the administrative order establishing it is here.”

“The committee’s charge specifically includes examining whether the current regulatory model – regulating the practice of law based on a lawyer’s physical location – should be changed and whether conflict-of-interest rules for both private and public lawyers should be clarified.”

“Should the rules be changed? If yes, what would you change? Email your ideas, thoughts and suggestions (as well as any questions!) tochangingpracticeoflaw@azbar.org.”

Time to share your thoughts.

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