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This Wednesday, September 17, we get another in a popular series of analyses from the recent U.S. Supreme Court Term.

Organized by the State Bar CLE folks, it will include the thoughts of Judge George Anagnost as moderator, as well as panelists ASU Law Professor Paul Bender, Arizona Summit Law Professor Dave Cole, and attorney–scholar Bob McWhirter.

As they describe it:

“This symposium will review significant cases for the October 2013 Term including the Hobby Lobby and the Town of Greece case. The program will feature scholars on the Court focusing on cases presenting important questions of law, comments on individual justices’ legal perspectives, and a preview of petitions for certiorari for this coming October Term 2014.”

More information is here. I hope to see you there.

Screen-shot from Federal Bar Association video on its Women and the Law conference, to be held on July 11, 2014.

Screen-shot from Federal Bar Association video on its Women and the Law conference, to be held on July 11, 2014.

How do you visually preview your events? Not at all? Maybe you need a new plan.

I became a convert to the in-person conference about a decade ago. That’s when I attended some events that provided an educational experience that could not be replicated in a webcast or podcast.

Many people agree with that sentiment. But far too few use all available channels to tout their upcoming event. Among the channels that are underused? Video.

Federal Bar Association FBA logo_optI previously shared my take on how the State Bar of Arizona and Niche Media proclaimed their coming educational conference. (And more on Niche later this week.)

But today’s thumbs-up goes to the Federal Bar Association. Many of you attorneys who practice in federal court may already be FBA members (and if not, you should consider it).

On July 11, the FBA hosts its Women in the Law Conference. You can read more about it here.

If I were in DC later this week, I would attend. But in the meantime, thank you to Stacy King, the FBA’s Deputy Executive Director, for sharing the organization’s video touting the conference. Here it is:

Well, if there’s one thing all my conference experience has taught me, it is to replicate the best ideas you see floating around. So congratulations to the Federal Bar Association for a terrific video; hello to wideo, a portal I will grow familiar with as I muddle through creating my own video.

Is anyone else planning to make a video in the near future? Let me know if you try wideo. Let’s get people looking even more at our content.

If a license plate is named after one of the deadly sins, you might want to avoid it (unless you're Al Pacino).

If a license plate is named after one of the deadly sins, you might want to avoid it (unless you’re Al Pacino).

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to be in Los Angeles—which I really like, before you start with the grimaces. But maybe my pleasure came partially from the fact that I was not driving. The few times I had to travel about the freeway system, battle-weary cabbies did it for me.

My passenger status allowed me the luxury of looking at my surroundings as they flew by in a blur. But L.A. traffic jams also allow a more relaxed view of Southern California, and that is when I got to see my share of vanity license plates.

A strange thing, the vanity plate. Many (to me) are merely inscrutable, making me wonder why someone would spend money on an inside joke. (Of course, I’m famously clueless about deciphering the words. Years ago, I gazed at a plate, muttering, “Flaming Oz?” over and over. Until my daughters realized I was being dense, not funny, and they kindly informed me the plate meant “flamingoes.” Which was still stupid, but whatever.)

I’ve remarked before on the presence of lawyer license plates, and Above the Law has had some fun at the drivers’ expense.

Well, this past weekend, I saw one of my favorite attorney plates ever. As we drove east on the 10 out of Santa Monica, traffic ground to a near-halt as we entered the lane to head south on the 405. And that’s when a gorgeous black Porsche 911 Carrera slipped in ahead of us. It took me a moment to stop savoring the vehicle itself and for me to glance down at the plate: “Mns Rea.”

lawyer license plate mens rea

Yes, counselor, we’re very impressed. (Click for larger version.)

Even in the required shortened form, I understood immediately we were behind Mens Rea. Can’t recall law school? Well, it’s that quotable bit of Latin that refers to criminal intent, a necessary element to establish guilt.

Why a lawyer would gleefully holler “malice” from his plate, I don’t know. But it seems to fall in nicely with the humblebrag, the sly sharing of mundane personal information that covertly tries to toot your own horn.

An Arizona license plate of a decidedly different variety. immigration Anti SB1070

An Arizona license plate of a decidedly different variety.

Not impressive enough that the driver’s in a Porsche? Well, he (or she, I couldn’t tell) is also happy to let you in on the secret that a successful lawyer career paid for that machinery from Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen.

What do you think of vanity plates? If you catch a photo of one that makes you laugh—or seethe—send it to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Georgetown Law Report on the Legal Market 2014It’s still early in the year, so legal experts continue to offer predictions about the path of 2014’s legal economy. Today, I share a rather good report, this one from Georgetown Law School, specifically its Center for the Study of the Legal Profession. Perhaps not surprisingly, it’s titled “Report on the State of the Legal Market.” (Legal profession experts should begin hiring great headline-writers; they really should.)

I will let you dig into the blissfully brief (15-page) report. But I share just two of their charts so you can see the trajectory we’re on.

The first chart is in regard to legal demand:

Georgetown Law Report on the Legal Market legal demand chart

And the second table I share reflects the continued gap between hours worked, hours billed and (gulp) hours collected on:

Georgetown Law Report on the Legal Market rate progression chart

Here is a good summary of the Georgetown report, from the Wall Street Journal.

And I must offer a hat tip to the ever-watchful Katie Mayer of The Artigue Agency Public Relations for spotting the WSJ article. Thanks, Katie!

I continue to stumble across the notion that the challenges in the legal market center around the need for changes in approach and imagination (says the guy no longer in practice; easy for me to say). But I urge you to look at a previous post in which a change in view led to increased service delivery, increased client satisfaction—and, we assume, increased profitability.

Of course, that related to the medical profession. But who knows; we may learn something.

Almost 20 years later, what are NAFTA's effects?

Almost 20 years later, what are NAFTA’s effects?

Has NAFTA been a success or a failure? The answer to that affects not only free trade, but the willingness of leaders to back future treaties.

That thought occurred to me as I read an article about the North American Free Trade Agreement. The story in the Tucson Sentinel points out what may be true about any such agreement: Some like it, and others don’t. As the article opens:

“Two decades after a pact initiated here created the world’s largest free trade area, economists are calling the North American Free Trade Agreement a resounding success, crediting it for fueling unprecedented trade and creating millions of jobs in the United States.”

“The agreement between the U.S., Mexico and Canada, ratified 19 years ago Saturday, also made two of Texas’ land ports among the country’s busiest and delivered a multitrillion-dollar cumulative gross domestic product for its member countries.”

“But unions and consumer-advocacy groups say NAFTA has had negative effects in Mexico and the U.S. They say that resulting outsourcing and lower wages have hurt the United States’ domestic economy and that Mexico’s rural industries have destabilized.”

The complete news story is here.

Unlike many other treaties, though, NAFTA was a high-profile battle—not entirely resolved—and it affects us right here in the United States. That element, probably more than anything else, distinguishes it from the mass of agreements that Americans may barely notice. And that lack of notice is what may often give political cover to Senators exercising their advice and consent; Americans barely notice international affairs, especially those far from our shores.

But maybe the NAFTA effect is having a worldwide impact. That occurred to me as I read some fascinating and well-executed analyses of an important international development: the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

The analyses were published last week in the New York Times, and they included voices on both sides of the debate. The lead piece was by Georgetown Law Visiting Professor Catherine Powell, and here’s how it opened:

“Tuesday’s vote on the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities was a disappointing moment for the U.S. Senate. Turning its back on a bipartisan approach to assuring disability rights forged under the landmark 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act, which was signed by President George H.W. Bush, the Senate capitulated to the worst fear-mongering tactics related to individual choice and American sovereignty. Neither would have been limited by this treaty.”

You can read all the viewpoints here.

A hat tip to Suhrith Parthasarathy, a writer on the legal blog of Thomson Reuters, who brought my attention to the New York Times package. (You can follow him at @Suhrith).

There may be a lot of reasons for the failure of agreement on the Persons With Disabilities Convention. But perhaps the queasiness about international treaties goes back a few decades, to NAFTA, ratified 19 years ago.

What do you think? Has one close-to-home pact that had public backlash soured Senators on agreeing to politically charged pacts?

I am in Denver this week (my first time here; can you believe it?), where I’m attending a great communications conference. While here, I am pleased to be leading a panel on how to manage the avalanche of content that seems to overwhelm us (rest assured, our actual title is much nicer than that).

Whenever I travel for work, I try to find great ideas to steal learn from. And that’s what takes me to an award-winning blog site: Solo in Colo

I invite you to look it over. The website, created by the Colorado Bar Association (“Colo”) aims to give voice to the wealth of solo-lawyer knowledge and experience. (The Colorado and Denver Bars are also hosting this week’s national conference, so they’re talented and generous!)

I am used to my own avalanche of content that I must create, curate, rewrite and post. But even given the horrorshow that is my daily calendar, I am in awe of this site. It includes a breadth and depth of value that continues to amaze long after they launched it.

What do you think? Should the State Bar of Arizona take on such a task? Do Arizona’s lawyers—particularly its solos—have any wisdom to impart? (That’s a trick question. They do.)

In what I am sure is no coincidence, the Denver conference includes as a speaker Merrilyn Astin Tarlton, of the great website Attorney at Work. She will speak on (Re)Building Your Blog:

“Using the real-life example of Attorney at Work, Partner/Catalyst Merrilyn Astin Tarlton shows how to create and manage a multi-author blog. She will discuss building readership, creating interaction, creating presence, content development, daily blog management and more. Plan to take good notes so you can head home with a plan to launch or spruce up your own bar blog.”

Any site whose slogan is “One Really Good Idea Every Day” and that manages multiple contributors is worth stealing learning from. Here’s to great ideas!

I return from the Mile-High City Friday evening, laden down with a treasure trove of “borrowed” ideas (and a smile that comes from cooler weather). But I’d like to hear your take on SoloInColo and Attorney at Work, and what you think of getting more voices “out there.”

Although this is National Pro Bono Week, you still may be stymied as you consider the widespread need for legal services all over Arizona. Where could you even begin to make a difference?

One suggestion would allow you to create positive change in the lives of youngsters and their families. You could be part of that change by collaborating with the Juvenile Legal Assistance Partnership.

The JLAP, as it’s called, is an initiative at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. It’s housed within the Diane Halle Center for Family Justice Programs. (You can see the list of Center programs here.) The Center is headed by Sarah Buel, a nationally recognized expert on “legal advocacy on behalf of family violence victims.”

This week, I heard more about the program from Soo Chang, an ASU law student, who explained the unfilled need faced by those confronted by juvenile justice issues. That need would be better met by the involvement of more lawyers offering some pro bono hours.

JLAP meets clients at three locations, and they aim for weekly visits—three to four hours of volunteered time meeting with three to four different clients.

With JLAP, the lawyer meets with clients along with up to two law students. According to information from the Program, “Appointments are made by the clients directly to the Juvenile Court at Durango (each appointment is about an hour). The more common issues that we see are: dependency, custody, termination of parental rights, adoption, divorce, and child support. Attorneys normally help fill out paperwork with the clients.”

Sarah Buel

Like many legal assistance groups, JLAP has a core of hard-working volunteer lawyers, but the court receives more calls than the volunteers can handle. Having more attorneys participate would have a profound impact on the lives of youngsters and their families.

What follows is additional information about the program. But you’re busy, so I’ll repeat that most important last line here:

To get involved as a pro bono attorney please contact Erin Biencourt, ebiencourt@gmail.com or (602) 561-9080.

Juvenile Legal Assistance Program

The goal of the Juvenile Legal Assistance Program (JLAP) at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is to acknowledge the continuous legal conflicts surrounding children and juveniles; to recognize the need for volunteers concerning issues governed by juvenile law; to provide legal services to those involved in various conflicts; and to provide law students opportunities to further their interest for public service and juvenile law alike.

JLAP provides law students and pro bono attorneys to work with the Maricopa County Juvenile Court to provide free legal advice and information clinics regarding matters involving children and their families. Other projects that JLAP participates in include National Adoption Day and Baby Court with Judge Eddward Ballinger.

The clinics are offered several times a month at the Juvenile Court at Durango and the Tempe YMCA. Additionally JLAP partners with Homeward Bound, a transitional housing program for homeless and domestic violence families with children, to provide monthly clinics as well. The matters most commonly seen include guardianship, dependency, termination, and adoption issues. At Homeward Bound, clients frequently present custody, child support, domestic violence, and other family law related issues.

Law students work alongside attorneys to satisfy client inquiries. Students are encouraged to actively engage in counseling clients and conduct legal research regarding juvenile law matters. All students have Westlaw and Lexis access and all sites have computer access. Attorneys provide clients with advice, information, and ideas. They do not advocate for or represent clients in court and they do not prepare documents for the clients, although they often explain how the documents are to be filled out.

Attorney volunteers are required to sign up with the Volunteer Lawyers Program, as they provide malpractice coverage. JLAP provides training twice a year for our new volunteers. Attorneys with juvenile law exposure may be able to waive this requirement by doing on-site training with Peggy Tinsley or by a showing of sufficient juvenile and/or family law experience.

To refer potential clients to JLAP, have them call (602) 506-4533 (West Valley clients) or (602) 506-2544 (East Valley clients). When calling they should ask to schedule a JLAP appointment.

To get involved as a pro bono attorney please contact Erin Biencourt, ebiencourt@gmail.com or (602) 561-9080.

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