State Bar of Arizona News


SB 1062 open for business sign_optIn March, I had the opportunity to present at the American Bar Association on the topic of association presidents’ messages—typically magazine or newsletter columns penned by the attorney who helms the bar association for a year.

Since then, however, I’ve come across a message that I wish I could have shared in Chicago. It was drafted by Whitney Cunningham, the State Bar of Arizona President.

Whitney Cunnigham is an attorney at Aspey, Watkins & Diesel in Flagstaff, and I had the privilege of writing a profile of him last summer.

So here was Whitney’s challenge in the April issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine: how to explore a delicate topic made even more controversial by a high-profile and breaking piece of state legislation, without crossing any lines into inappropriate legislative advocacy.

State Bar of Arizona President Whitney Cunningham (photo by John Hall)

State Bar of Arizona President Whitney Cunningham (photo by John Hall)

The topic was a bill called SB1062. I’ll let Wikipedia tell you more about the law here.

Of course, the State Bar of Arizona is a member organization. Among members, there may be many views of this and other laws. And if you cross a line, they let you know.

So how can a Bar President convey the mission and values of the organization, but do so without taking an overt stand on a pending law?

The answer was: Quite well, thank you.

Top to bottom, Whitney never discusses the bill itself, but instead focuses on the value of diversity that runs through the Bar association. He wisely titled his column “Getting Rich,” and then delineates the scores of ways diversity aids the association and the State of Arizona. And then he ends, “As a bar, we are rich and getting richer.”

Read Whitney’s entire column here. And let me know what you think by writing to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Volunteer attorneys participate in the Lawyers on Call phone program, April 8, 2014, on the topic of family law.

Volunteer attorneys participate in the Lawyers on Call phone program, April 8, 2014, on the topic of family law.

Here is a follow-up to a State Bar event, by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona, azcentral.com and 12 News hosted the Lawyers on Call public service program on Tuesday, April 8.

The following is a recap of the program, which focused on family law—divorce, child support, and paternity issues

The volunteer attorneys were: Christa Banfield, Michael Clancy, Tali Collins, Michael Cordrey, DeeAn Gillespie Strub, Wendy Hernandez, Kris Leonhardt, Nancy Khiel, Londa Rivera and Patrick Sampair

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorVolunteer attorneys answered 148 calls on family law issues. An additional 41 consumers were assisted via social media, which gave us an impressive total of 189 people who were helped.

Here is a sample of consumer questions:

  • How do I modify current child support payments?
  • How do I request/establish child support?
  • How do I modify custody and parenting time?
  • How can I request grandparent’s rights? What are my rights as a grandparent?
  • Can I travel outside of the country with my children?
  • What are the differences between a legal separation and a divorce? Pros/cons?
  • How do we divide assets?
  • Do I qualify for spousal maintenance?
  • Do I need to hire an attorney to file for divorce?

Social media continues to be a successful element of Lawyers on Call.  41 consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page and attorney Kris Leonhardt responded with her recommendations/advice.

All 10 attorneys were first-time volunteers.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ bankruptcy and foreclosure questions on Tuesday, May 6.

Bills of mortality preceded modern death certificates, and they suffer from similar challenges.

Bills of mortality preceded modern death certificates, and they suffer from similar challenges.

Years ago, in a job-related field trip, I attended a tour of the medical examiner’s facility in Clark County, Nevada. As the chief office of the pathologist for Las Vegas and its environs, it was a busy place.

Like most of the living, I had never given much thought to the multiple tasks that must be performed on the dead—especially if they died under suspicious circumstances or not under the care of a doctor.

As I learned that day, the task of the M.E. is often a complex one. And nothing is more complex than the element that is often the sole source of interest for others: affixing the single cause of death.

I was reminded of that challenge during a State Bar of Arizona CLE a few weeks ago. There, a pro-con was staged on the legalization of marijuana. Though the wider acceptance of medical marijuana may suggest we’re approaching legalization, the topic is still a thorny one, as evidenced by the vehement dialogue at the CLE.

Sure as no-rain in Arizona, though, a recent death was raised, one that may suggest more questions than answers.

As background, we recall the oft-repeated position of marijuana advocates that not one death has ever been attributed to pot—and compare that with the millions killed by cigarettes and alcohol.

It’s a compelling statistic, one that continues to irk enforcement advocates. And that may be why we have heard advocates mention a Colorado death a lot the past few weeks.

The story (reported here by the Denver Post) is about a young man who jumped to his death after eating marijuana-infused cookies. Here’s the story lede:

“A college student visiting Denver jumped to his death from a hotel balcony after eating marijuana-infused cookies, according to a coroner’s report that marks the first time authorities have publicly linked a death to marijuana since legal sales of recreational cannabis began in Colorado.”

“Levy Thamba, a 19-year-old student at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., died last month at a Holiday Inn in northeast Denver. On Wednesday, the Denver coroner released a report concluding that Thamba’s death was caused by ‘multiple injuries due to a fall from height.’”

“The coroner also listed ‘marijuana intoxication’ from cannabis-infused cookies as a significant condition contributing to the death. The report classifies the death as an accident.”

At the Bar CLE, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery alluded to the death, saying that it punches a hole in his opponent’s argument.

But does it?

An article this month in the New Yorker would suggest any coroner’s conclusion is a more nuanced one. In “Final Forms: What death certificates can tell us, and what they can’t,” Kathryn Schulz explores the history of one of civil society’s most ambiguous documents (you can read some of her great article here; sorry, but a subscription wall prevents you from reading the whole thing). And resting your argument on such a piece of paper may not tell the whole story.

Huckleberry Finn had many skills, but determining causes of death was not one of them.

Huckleberry Finn had many skills, but determining causes of death was not one of them.

Schulz opens by describing the meandering history of “bills of mortality” and the coroners who wielded them. The shift from the publicly published bills to the modern-day death certificates has been accompanied by increasing professionalism—but they still may not be the scientifically accurate document the certainty-loving may hope for.

Along the way, Schulz notes, coroners have been known to alter a cause of death to protect reputations or to soften the blow felt by grieving families of means. But if death certificates may be used to protect the dead, could they also be used politically to throw aspersions on the dead? Sure, but that’s not even the biggest challenge.

The toughest nut to crack for M.E.s may reside in the question posed by us lay-people: “Finally, what was the one thing that killed him?

As Schulz writes, “The why of death remains elusive—practically, philosophically, above all emotionally. And, the more extensively we attempt to document it through death certificates, the stranger and more troubled that project comes to seem.”

So if the accuracy of death certificates faces numerous challenges—as Schulz shows—a primary one “is how we decide what counts as a good answer.”

In that exploration, I was extremely pleased to see her turn to Mark Twain, specifically a passage from Huckleberry Finn. It involves a conversation between the stubborn Huck and the Wilks sisters, who are having none of his malarkey.

“One afternoon,” writes Schulz, “while chatting with the Wilks sisters, Huck spontaneously invents a new disease—a form of mumps so virulent that, he claims, a neighbor is in danger of dying from it.”

One sister objects, but Hucks doubles down, saying it can kill the neighbor because it’s “mixed up with other things,” from “yaller janders” to “brain fever.”

Susan Wilks—whom I hope inspires M.E.s everywhere—will have none of it, reminding Huck that it is therefore not the mumps that may cause the neighbor’s demise:

“A body might stump his toe, and take pison, and fall down the well, and break his neck, and bust his brains out, and somebody come along and ask what killed him, and some numskull up and say, ‘Why, he stumped his toe.’ Would ther’ be any sense in that? No. And ther’ ain’t no sense in this, nuther.”

I leave you with Schulz’s point: “This is precisely the problem posed by death certificates; when filling them out, how far back should we chase the causal chain?

That chain could, I suppose, end with a cookie. But I suspect Susan Wilks would arch an eyebrow at that supposition.

pro bono gavelFans of lawyers and the service they provide (count me in) always look forward to Law Day. Traditionally close to early May, Law Day helps cement the important connection between members of the public, attorneys, judges and the rule of law.

Searching for “law day” in my blog leads to a surprising number of hits over the years. Clearly, I am taken by the pro bono value attorneys provide (here is last year’s post). And this year is no exception.

Like last year, the State Bar of Arizona’s approach will be to offer free legal advice clinics, in the Valley and in Tucson. The clinics will cover a wide variety of legal topics, including landlord and tenant; bankruptcy and foreclosure; immigration; and divorce, child support and paternity.

Volunteer lawyers will conduct the 90-minute “information sessions.”

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_Color“Guests can participate in one or more sessions at one of the five partner locations.”

The events will be held on Saturday, April 26. Please spread the word and share this post with anyone you think might benefit from some free legal advice.

All the detail, including times and specific locations, can be found here.

Later this week I will share another Law Day event, hosted by an independent legal organization. The more the merrier.

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_Color

Here is some great news about a monthly State Bar event in which lawyers volunteer their time. Thanks for the news to Alberto Rodriguez.

The State Bar of Arizona, azcentral.com and 12 News hosted the Lawyers on Call public service program on Tuesday, March 11. Volunteers answered viewers’ calls regarding their employment and labor issues.

Eight volunteer attorneys participated:

  • Denise Blommel
  • Richard Galvan
  • Richard Klauer
  • Stephanie Leach
  • Leah Lewandowski
  • Dawn Sauer
  • Paul Sheston
  • Sandra Shoupe-Gorga

The attorneys answered 83 calls on employment and labor law. An additional 34 consumers were assisted via social media, which means a total of 117 people were helped.

Here is a sample of the consumer questions:

  • Since Arizona is a right-to-work state, what does that mean to me and my issue?
  • Can employers harass and discriminate against its employees?
  • When are you covered by workers’ compensation?
  • I haven’t been paid overtime wages. How do I go about getting them paid?
  • I was fired for reasons I believe to be unfair; what can I do?

Several questions regarding employment discrimination were asked, including in the areas of age, pregnancy, ethnicity and disabilities.

AZBAR labor and employment lawyers on call 03-11-14

Volunteer Arizona labor and employment lawyers answer consumer questions, March 11, 2014.

The azcentral.com and 12 News teams were successful in adding a social media component to the phone bank. Thirty-four consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page, and attorney Stephanie Leach responded with her recommendations/advice.

Four of the eight attorneys were first-time volunteers.

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ family law questions on Tuesday, April 8.

Bill Klain AZBAR member of the year 2013

Bill Klain, State Bar of Arizona 2013 Member of the Year

’Tis the season … to honor someone who deserves it.

I’m pleased to report that you still have a few days left to nominate an Arizona attorney for a prestigious award from the State Bar of Arizona. The awards will be given at this June’s Bar Convention in Tucson, and there may be no better way to recognize the highest commitment to the legal profession.

To give an idea of how moving the awards can be, here are the words of Bill Klain, who was the Bar’s 2013 member of the year:

“Receiving the Member of the Year award was both gratifying and humbling. While I greatly appreciate the Bar’s recognition of my work to improve civil practice and procedure through my committee service and involvement with continuing legal education, the award results from the collective efforts of a large number of people devoted to improving our justice system and with whom I have had the good fortune to collaborate. I am proud of the work we have accomplished and appreciative of the opportunity to contribute to these group efforts.”

In your own life and practice, you have likely come across an attorney or two worthy of recognition. Here is a description of what the Bar seeks:

“Each year the State Bar of Arizona honors members of the legal profession who go above and beyond. We want to know who you think should be recognized this year. Take a look at the awards listed below and think about lawyers you know who make a difference. There is even an award for a non-lawyer who helps the public understand justice and the legal profession.”

The deadline to submit nominations is March 26th at 5 p.m. That’s this Wednesday. Nominating is simplicity itself. Just write a letter telling the Bar about the person’s achievements and why they deserve the award. Send it to:

State Bar of Arizona

Awards Committee

c/o Nina Benham

4201 N. 24th St., Suite 100

Phoenix, AZ 85016-6266

Or email it to her at Nina.Benham@staff.azbar.org

The Bar has created a helpful page that provides detailed descriptions of the nine awards. It also includes a link to a list of previous winners.

Now the ball is in your court. You have two days to write a letter (brief or otherwise) nominating someone for an award. Get to drafting.

Minority Bar Convention 2014 spring training for lawyers revised

It’s spring, so our days are filled with events. Today I mention an annual event, sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona, which is always helpful to lawyers in practice.

Formerly called the Minority Bar Convention (more on that in a minute), the Bar’s “Spring Training for Lawyers” covers a wide variety of practice topics. Maybe it’s something in the air at the location (the Desert Willow Conference Center), but I’m not sure I’ve ever sat through a weak seminar at the annual event.

Before I go on and one, here is where you can register. The conference is next week, on Thursday and Friday, March 27 and 28.

And the complete agenda and seminar descriptions are here.

Now to the name change.

I was a little surprised to see the longtime Minority Bar Convention transform into a baseball metaphor. Shifting from a storied brand is quite a change. Happily, the Bar has a video teasing the event, and it includes a discussion of the name change, as described by the co-chairs, attorneys Kami Hoskins and Chad Bellville.

Here is the video:

No matter the name, it appears that the event will continue its strong focus on quality. And for that, we must thank the State Bar of Arizona Committee on Minorities and Women in the Law.

My one passionate takeaway from the video? Buy a tripod, won’t you, State Bar? Let’s rifle through the closets; I’m sure we’ve got one somewhere.

Again, the location is the Desert Willow Conference Center, 4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85040. Here is a map.

Tim Corcoran, LMA President, speaks in Phoenix on Thursday, March 13, at the State Bar of Arizona.

Tim Corcoran, LMA President, speaks in Phoenix on Thursday, March 13, at the State Bar of Arizona.

This Thursday, an event at the State Bar of Arizona is absolutely worth your time. Here are 3 reasons you should attend:

  1. The presenter’s first name is Tim.
  2. The presenter is a committed blogger.
  3. The topic is law firms and money. You like money, don’t you?

The event is a production of the Southwest Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, a group I’ve been privileged to collaborate with numerous times before (here’s the most recent).

The title of the event is “Demystifying Law Firm Finance for Marketing and Business Development Professionals,” and it occurs Thursday, March 13, from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm.

More detail and a registration link are here.

As the LMA describes it:

Legal Marketing Association logo“This interactive discussion will cover how law firms made money yesterday and how they will make money tomorrow. Tim Corcoran will discuss the role of Alternative Fee Arrangements (AFAs), Legal Project Management (LPM), Business Process Improvement (BPI), Legal Process Outsourcing (LPO) and Big Data on the law firm of the future. This program is designed to demystify law firm finances so legal marketing and business development professionals can sit at the table as equals with finance professionals and firm leadership.”

“Tim will also provide an overview of the changing face of law firm finance, from the long-time R.U.L.E.S. approach to the more modern Learning Curve approach.”

Corcoran is the 2014 President of the LMA, and we are fortunate to have him come to Phoenix. The experienced executive “advises law firm leaders how to profit in a time of great change, with particular emphasis in strategy, business process improvement, legal project management and business development.”

And, as I alluded to at the top, he is the author of Corcoran’s Business of Law blog.

I am disappointed to say that as this program begins, I’ll be en route to Chicago for a presentation of my own. But I look forward to hearing about Tim’s message.

Again, here is a link to register.

Would I take professional advice from this woman? Um, yup, in a heartbeat. The smart and hilarious Roxie Bacon (on right) with a friend in New Zealand.

Would I take professional advice from this woman? Um, yup, in a heartbeat. The smart and hilarious Roxie Bacon (on right) with a friend in New Zealand.

What equals success? Do old measures of success still apply, especially in a tradition-bound profession like the law?

Those were a few of the questions raised recently in a brief book review by the so-very-talented Roxie Bacon.

Roxie is a great lawyer, as well as a former President of the State Bar of Arizona. She climbed the ladder of big-firm partner success, so when I spotted a book about women lawyer leaders, I thought immediately that she should review it.

So before February passes into history, I wanted to be sure you saw her review in our February issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

The book she was charged with reviewing is a publication of the American Bar Association titled Learning To Lead: What Really Works for Women in Law.

learning to lead book cover v2

Maybe it was the title’s “really” that initially set Roxie off. But she ultimately offered her not-entirely-salutary view of the book’s messages. Yes, she said that the suggestions were good, as far as they went—if you still buy in to the success measures adopted a generation ago. But Roxie points out that huge numbers of lawyers—men and women—are voting on those measure with their feet, as they decide to tread hallways other than those covered in the most expensive hand-knotted rugs.

You can read Roxie’s whole essay here.

I’m sure the review did not please the ABA. But since publication, I’ve heard from a number of people who enjoyed her view very much. They also compare the ABA book to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In, which some also believe sends dated messages to young women professionals.

What are your thoughts on how women (especially) may best succeed in law firms? Do the old measures of success still apply? Should they?

Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg

AZ StandDown 2014 1 v2

I grow accustomed to learning about the great amounts of volunteerism about Arizona lawyers. That demonstrates how many attorneys recognize the value and importance of providing pro bono assistance.

But a communication I received from Bar colleague Alberto Rodriguez knocked me for a loop. Below, he reports on the volunteers who participated in the annual Arizona Veteran StandDown event. The amount of participation, by lawyers, law students and others, is stunning.

More photos from this year’s StandDown are here.

Thanks and congratulations to everyone who took part. Here’s Alberto:

On Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15 the State Bar of Arizona and 23 of its members participated in the 2014 Arizona Veterans StandDown. The State Bar and volunteer attorneys joined several service providers at the three-day event that offered a variety of health and human services to nearly 1,700 homeless and at-risk veterans in our state. Volunteer attorneys from across the valley fielded legal questions via one-on-one consultations with veterans seeking legal advice.

AZ StandDown 2014 2 v2

The “Civil Law Clinic” organized by the State Bar offered legal consultations by members who practice Family Law, Bankruptcy/Foreclosure/Tax Law, Probate/Trust Law, Elder/Mental Health Law, and Real Estate/Landlord & Tenant Law. In addition, Community Legal Services, Project Salute, and the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU participated in the civil law clinic.

Volunteer attorneys provided 177 consultations during the two-day civil law clinic for the 160 veterans who were seen. In addition, many attorneys offered pro-bono legal services after the StandDown to veterans who needed representation. Adding to the legal services provided for veterans, on-site courts coordinated by Gary Kula, Director of the City of Phoenix Public Defender’s Office, saw 937 veterans who needed to address court-related issues.

The following is a list of civil attorney and logistics volunteers:

Attorney Volunteers

  • Dorothy Brogan, Law Office of Dorothy E. Brogan
  • Robert C. Brown, Dickinson Wright
  • Rebecca E. Browning, Browning Law Office, PLLC
  • Kristen Coyne, CKGH Law
  • Rachel Frazier Johnson, Rachel Frazier Johnson Law
  • Steve Gervais, Land Advisors Organization
  • Sean D. Greengard, Community Legal Services
  • Peter Gustafson, Gustafson Law Office, PLLC
  • Taylor House, Taylor House Law, PLC
  • Christine Jensen, Christine Jensen, PC
  • Billy Miller, Law Firm of William A. Miller
  • Judy M. Miller, Judy M. Miller, PC
  • Maya Milovic, Tijjani, Milovic & Phillips, PLC
  • Matt Nelson, Project Salute
  • Nicole L. Pavlik, Forakis Law Firm
  • Bret Rasner, Community Legal Services
  • Jennifer Ryan-Touhill, Touhill Law Offices, PC
  • Bree Stamper-Gimbar, Community Legal Services
  • John Starkey, John Starkey Attorney at Law
  • Nina Targomilk, Community Legal Services
  • Jim P. Webster, James Portman Webster Law Office, PLC
  • Debbie Weecks, Weecks Law
  • John Withee, Withee Law Firm, PLLC

Certified Limited Practice Students (from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU)

  • Laura Anderson
  • Tory Beardsley
  • Christine Bolton
  • Marcy Karin, Clinical Professor of Law
  • Ryan Lockner

Logistics Volunteers

  • Rodrigo Antillon, Lambda Sigma Upsilon
  • Jesus Enriquez, Lambda Sigma Upsilon
  • Jerry Herrera, Community Legal Services
  • Denise Lopez, Magellan Health Services
  • Charles Wilson, Lambda Sigma Upsilon

AZ StandDown 2014 3 v2

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