Let's start the lawyer-love by foreswearing attorney jokes, for one day at least. Be Kind to Lawyers Day no jokes. Snoopy Peanuts cartoon.

Let’s start the lawyer-love by forswearing attorney jokes, for one day at least

Yesterday, I am slightly bemused to note, was Be Kind to Lawyers Day.

Understand, I am not in favor of the opposite. I tend to like lawyers in the aggregate, and many in particular. But there are a few reasons I’m a day late (and a dollar short, as my dad used to say) with my attorney affection.

1. I’m in a vortex in which I miss significant dates by exactly one day. For example, April Fools’ Day came a day late in my mind (and blog). I’m sure it’s some kind of cry for help, but let’s move on.

2. Upon hearing of this “holiday,” my first thought was that the day exists for one reason only: To help blog writers. After all, we have a news hole to fill. And how many of us are willing to muse on the nexus between lawyers and kindness? (OK, not that many.) (And did I just use “nexus” and “kindness” in the same sentence? Someone cite me for contempt.)

3. Finally, yesterday was also Equal Pay Day. Before you start telling me it’s not official or nationally sanctioned, let’s remember that (a) you’re reading a blog and not the Federal Register and (b) you’re rising up in defense of something called Be Kind to Lawyers Day. We really must get over ourselves, mustn’t we?

So yes, it irked just a bit to advocate embracing advocates as others were advocating for equal pay for women and men. As a woman I respect stated, “Annoyed that we even have to have a day about this, so I’ll defer to Queen Bey: ‘smart enough to make the millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.’ Yep, we run the world.”

But today is another day, and the more I think about it, the more the idea grows on me.

So I’m (semi)officially extending the festivities another day. (And won’t attorneys be surprised to be hugged the day after the holiday!? Brilliant, right?)

In case you missed it, here’s how the State Bar’s CLE Department reminded us on Facebook. Good job!

Be Kind to Lawyers Day hug

Bring it in here, buddy.

And if you’d like a reminder of how others celebrate a joyous lawyer holiday, read how I described the festivities surrounding World Intellectual Property Day. As I recall, I recommended you all hug a patent lawyer that day. How many did that? Uh-huh, I thought so.

To encourage the lawyer love, I will happily post a photo of you hugging a lawyer you love (or at least like quite a bit), plus a brief (100 words, tops) explanation of the non-billing-based foundation for your affection.

Let’s get this hugapalooza started.

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.

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

Do you have an opinion on a possible dues increase by the State Bar of Arizona?

I will pause here, as I am sure you’re laughing at my simple-minded question.

pause buttonMy point is that everyone seems to have an opinion on the possibility of an increase, which would be the first since 2005.

If you’re curious to hear contrary views on the topic staked out, this Wednesday afternoon will be a good opportunity.

Maricopa County Bar Association MCBA logoAt 5:00 pm, Wednesday, Feb. 19, the Maricopa County Bar Association is hosting what it calls an “informational session” (let’s hope that means more light than heat). It is free, but they would prefer that you RSVP here.

I spoke with Allen Kimbrough, the MCBA Executive Director, and I’m happy to report that Arizona Attorney content will be part of the dialogue. Attendees will receive copies of our February issue FAQs, as well as our published pro and con.

The Wednesday event will feature two speakers who were our same authors—State Bar President Whitney Cunningham on the pro side, and Bar Governor Sam Saks taking up the con gauntlet.

I look forward to seeing you there. As always, feel free to share your thoughts with me about a possible increase; I may include them in an upcoming blog post.

possible dues increase calculator

AzAt magazine turned to beads 1

Arizona Attorney Magazine provides value coming and going! Here we are living the bead life.

“Remind me to tell you about the great, new upcycling project that involves Arizona Attorney Magazine.”

And so began a dialogue with a driven attorney who decided to get off the bench and offer some legal advice to people who needed it. The work Lora Sanders does is certainly admirable; I’ll get to that.

But I must admit that I was intrigued by her mention of the magazine and upcycling in the same sentence.

I wrote about Lora in my October Editor’s Letter in Arizona Attorney Magazine (see image below). There, I described how she meets in a coffee shop—Songbird Coffee & Tea House in downtown Phoenix—to answer what questions she can and refer those she can’t.

AzAt October 2013 Editor's Letter

In a minute, I will share with you my Q&A with Lora. I hope it inspires a few other attorneys to get a coffee and offer some advice.

But first, let me explain the magazine upcycling.

In a labor-intensive process, Sanders said that the magazine pages are removed (after being read first, she assured me!) and rolled tightly into jewelry beads. They then could be fashioned into bracelets and sold to assist parents who must set life and job aside to accompany children during long hospitalizations.

I’ve never been so pleased to hear that people had ripped up the magazine. Arizona Attorney—that’s how we roll.

Cafe O Law Lora Sanders 1 Niba delCastillo

Lora Sanders, right, consults at Songbird Coffee & Tea, Phoenix (photo by Niba delCastillo).

Here, finally, is my conversation with attorney Lora Sanders:

Me: What is the general timeline of Café O’Law? When was your first “seating,” and how many have you had?

Lora: I began Café O’Law several years ago, in 2010, and we would meet irregularly, every few months, often at a friend’s former restaurant. I was trying to develop an appropriate format (speakers? breakout sessions? networking?), but also spending the summers in Sweden, so it was an evolving project. The name came from my meeting clients and potential clients all over the Valley at coffee shops, usually because it was more convenient than meeting at my office, or they required a meeting time outside of conventional business hours. So there I was with my cafe au lait at Café O’Law.

Summer 2013, I was gradually preparing to resume a more active family law practice, as my husband was finishing his book. I was already meeting people at the Songbird, so I asked Jonathan & Erin [Carroll, the owners] whether I could plan a regular meeting there. I decided to make it a casual one-on-one question & answer meeting, just like any other brief consultation. We have met perhaps a dozen times, but just resumed at the Songbird in June 2013.

On a broader, more personal note, all four of my grandparents were immigrants and I often think how astonished and amazed they would be (especially my grandmothers) to see the life I lead and to know that I graduated from law school. My father, who would have been 100 this year (he died at age 94), put himself through college, graduate school, and law school (eventually amassing more than 300 college credits) as the child of non-English-speaking immigrants—the real American success story. I am always mindful that, no matter how many complaints we have about our country, its government, or bad people, this is an amazing nation and it is still the land of opportunity.

Me: When are your next few seatings scheduled?

Lora: We always meet on the first Mondays of each month, from 4-7 pm at the Songbird. So, Monday, October 7, November 4 and December 2.

Cafe O Law and Songbird logosMe: How many people do you estimate you’ve served?

Lora: I have met with, exchanged emails and Facebook messages with dozens of people, just this summer.

Me: Have other lawyers been involved?

Lora: Yes, I have had several attorneys, some of whom are friends, or have introduced themselves to me, meet with me, and chat or meet with some people who have questions more specific to their practice. I would rather not mention anyone, without naming all, but I am happy for any attorney to join me; I am always glad to know more attorneys for referral of potential clients and questions.

Me: And those paper beads! Do you craft them yourself? What do you do with the beads, how are they sold, and what organizations benefit?

Lora: My friend, Julie Vu, and I were discussing volunteer projects last spring. She told me that her young daughter wanted to get involved in volunteering, but was too young for most of the projects that could be found at handsonphoenix.org and volunteermatch.org. I told her about In2books.com, which I participate in every school year. You are paired as a mentor with an elementary-school reader, the child selects the books and you read them together and exchange emails through the teacher. E-volunteering at its best! Julie has young twins, one of whom had a lengthy hospitalization after birth. She told me about spending many long, lonely hours at the hospital, and that she would like to raise money to help those parents who are similarly situated and provide them with some company and things to do.

So I came up with the Arizona Attorney paper beads project, to be crafted into bracelets. To date, I have crafted the beads. We are just getting under way and Julie and I will host some bead-making/bracelet parties and we will work on how they will be sold, funds raised, etc.

Me: What made you decide to launch Café O’Law? Why do you enjoy doing this?

Lora: My original inspiration was an attorney in the San Fernando Valley, CA, named Kim Pearman, who operated a hot dog stand called “Law Dogs” for 25 years, selling Plaintiff Dogs, Police Dogs, etc. I lived in L.A. in the 1970s and 1980s, and everyone knew about Mr. Pearman, who would dispense free legal advice with a hot dog. (Here is an article on Pearman from a 1984 People magazine.)

Cafe O Law Lora Sanders headshot

Lora Sanders

He was out there every week, without benefit of email or smart phones. He even took on the pro bono representation of certain clients. I thought that what this man did was absolutely heroic.

As an attorney, it is easy to forget how difficult it is for people who have not been to law school to negotiate their way through the endless stream of forms, statutes, procedures, regulations, applications, leases, contracts that are a regular part of our lives. On one difficult case I was working on, after spending two hours on the phone trying to get some guidance from public officials, one very nice woman said to me, “I’m sorry; I can’t help you. You will have to hire an attorney.”

I am happiest when I can put someone’s mind at ease, and offer them that small bit of reassurance, or send them to a resource that can take care of a problem. 

Me: What benefit do you think questioners get from the conversations?

AzAt magazine turned to beads 3

Arizona Attorney Magazine, transformed into beads.

Lora: It is a very casual and comfortable way to ask questions in a non-threatening environment, without the cost and uncertainty of seeking out and hiring a lawyer. The true benefit is that an individual does not have to determine what type of lawyer or professional can guide them, or worry whether it is worth the investment of their time and money to ask for advice or guidance. I believe that the most common legal mistake made by people, that I see, is waiting too long to ask for advice. I understand completely that people do not want to spend money unnecessarily, but it always hurts me when potential clients come to me in a panic with a disaster that has been forming for a period of years, or tell me that they are due in court next week or next month, and they have never even consulted with an attorney.

Me: If other lawyers are interested in doing this kind of thing, what advice would you give them?

Lora: Utilize social media and let your clients, former clients and friends know that you are willing to offer this service or something like it. Volunteer your time and energy to any kind of volunteer project that interests you, not just as an attorney. Be grateful. As an attorney, in spite of hardship or hard work, remember that you occupy a position of great privilege, so use your talents and gifts where you can, for good, not just for profit. Finally, take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself so seriously.

Me: Could other lawyers participate with you, or start their own Café O’Law, or both?

Lora: Yes, and yes! I am happy to hear from any attorneys who would like to attend a Café O’Law meeting, or start their own. I do not have a designated website and I do not anticipate getting involved in any large scheduling or organizing project; however, I am always open to suggestions. I have lived in Arizona since 1987, and I love the downtown Phoenix energy and long-awaited, growing sense of community. If any attorneys have ideas for a similar event or variation in their neighborhoods, they should contact me. If they would like to host Café O’Law sessions at the Songbird, but on a different date or time, that would probably work as well.

Cafe O'Law signup sheet (coffee not included with consultation!).

Cafe O’Law signup sheet (coffee not included with consultation!).

State Bar of Arizona logoHere is some great news I pass on from the State Bar of Arizona. Congratulations to all the lawyer–leaders of the Bar Leadership Institute.

Sixteen attorneys from across the state have been selected to participate in the State Bar of Arizona’s 2013-14 Bar Leadership Institute (BLI).

For the seventh year in a row, the BLI will provide its participants with a nine-month leadership program that will foster their professional growth and enhance their leadership skills.

2013-14 Participants:

  • Jason Barraza, Veridus, LLC
  • Brandon Brown, Pima County Attorney’s Office
  • Patrick Camunez, Solo Practitioner
  • Thomas Chiang, Maricopa Public Defender’s Office
  • Charity A. Collins, Goodyear City Prosecutor’s Office
  • Joni Lawrence, Thermo Fluids Inc.
  • Francesca Montenegro, Wood Smith Henning & Berman LLP
  • Nora Nuñez, Federal Public Defender’s Office
  • Javier Puig, Schiffman Law Office PC
  • Andrew Reilly, Office of the Attorney General
  • Denise Ryan, Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community
  • Brenda Sandoval, Federal Public Defender’s Office
  • Laura Schiesl, Farhang & Medcoff
  • Natalya Ter-Grigoryan, Tiffany & Bosco PA
  • Michael Valenzuela, Office of the Attorney General
  • Janina Walters, Pinal County Attorney’s Office

Bar Leadership sessions cover topics ranging from leadership, ethics and career development to conversations with judges, government attorneys, in-house counsel and executives. Participants can receive up to two years of CLE credit.

The participants were selected based on their legal and non-legal community contributions, as well as their statements of interest and qualifications. All participants must be active Bar members in good standing. The participants represent a diverse range of racial, ethnic, cultural, and religious communities, among others.

Upon completion, the BLI participants must commit to a full year of active involvement with the State Bar and/or the community.

More information on the Bar Leadership Institute is here. For more detail, contact Elena Nethers at 602-340-7393.

Here is a photo of the BLI’s recent graduates from the 2012-13 class, whom I reported on here.

State Bar of Arizona BLI graduates 2013

2013 BLI Graduates—Back row, L to R: Brad Martin, Blair Moses, Elizabeth Kruschek, Buck Rocker, Doreen McPaul, Ray Ybarra Maldonado. Front row, L to R: Chris Tozzo, Tabatha LaVoie, Nicole Ong, Laura Huff, Annamarie Frank, Cid Kallen, Jessica Sanchez. Not pictured: Heather Baker.

pro bono gavelHere is a challenge I offer to you today: Share a law-related item via social media or email.

Whoa, pretty easy, right? I bet you thought I was going to ask for some major heavy lifting. Instead, it is a simple click, share, send, done.

The item is connected to a topic I covered before: a State Bar of Arizona Law Day event that will offer free legal information to those who need it.

Really, truly, honestly free. The information will be provided by generous Arizona attorneys who know that the gap between legal services and people who need them is too, too wide. Those volunteers are offering their time pro bono to help shrink the gap just a bit.

All of the pertinent details are here. If you share nothing else, send this link to anyone you know who may be able to use it. As the State Bar says:

“The 2013 Law Day Legal Aid Clinics will serve as a free legal resource where members of communities from across the Valley and Tucson can attend information sessions on a variety of legal topics.”

“The information sessions will be conducted by volunteer lawyers and will last 90 minutes. Lawyers will provide guests with a presentation on a specific legal topic, as well as reserve time for a question and answer period. Guests can participate in one or more sessions at one of the five partner locations.”

Are you connected via social media or email to any groups that could benefit? Send it their way. Post it on your Facebook timeline. Share it on your neighborhood association listserv. Ask your firm administrator to post it prominently.

Your sharing news of Saturday’s event can help guarantee its success. Possible attendees have to be informed about the locations, the topics, the opportunity on offer. Success of the event, as measured by attendance and questions answered, will help ensure that it can be done—again and again.

For at least a part of the morning, I will be at the event staged at Phoenix’s Burton Barr Central Library. I want to hear some of the information offered, and I want to thank the lawyers who are offering it—and their Saturday.

I hope to see you and your friends there. And if you missed that link, here it is again.

Attorney Richard D. Grand, 1930-2013

Attorney Richard D. Grand, 1930-2013

I am sorry to report some very sad news: Tucson trial lawyer Richard Grand has died.

I have written about Richard before, both in print and online multiple times, including here. And I have always been equal parts impressed and amused by Richard’s approach to the law and to human interactions. He was a University of Arizona Law School graduate and a huge supporter of their subsequent efforts.

Over the years, I would hear from Richard regularly. But it was only in the past few years that I was able to meet him (and his wonderful wife Marcia) in person.

Richard Grand obituary list

Richard Grand: An Attorney until the end.

His death was sudden and unexpected. I expect I will write more about Richard later, but for now, I share his obituary, which opens thus:

“Attorney Richard D. Grand, 83, of Tucson, nationally recognized for his success as a plaintiff’s trial lawyer, died suddenly in San Francisco on April 7 of natural causes. Grand was the founder of The Inner Circle of Advocates, a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys called by The National Law Journal ‘the elite of the plaintiffs’ bar.’”

Attorney was so much a part of Richard’s DNA that the header for his obituary—which typically contains only the decedent’s name—included the word “Attorney.” Thus, even in the index of obituaries, he is listed as “Attorney Richard D. Grand.” Classic.

Venue Projects Beef Eaters sign

Longtime lawyer eatery Beef Eaters Restaurant, about to be reborn via Venue Projects

Here is a Friday Change of Venue story that really goes above and beyond. Let me explain.

Change of Venue is my casual Friday, where I divest myself of the pressing need to remain focused on law and law practice. I mean, give a guy a break!

Today’s story is a little far afield. But as I examined it, I realized how lawyerly it was. (Just when I think I’m out, they puuuull me back in!)

The story relates to an announcement just yesterday. The shell of a former restaurant is being transformed into a space that will house three diverse businesses.

So right away I spot a problem. This story has “adaptive reuse” scrawled all over it, and there are few land-use topics that are more lawyer-heavy than that one.

Making it worse is the name of the former restaurant: Beef Eaters, in Phoenix. That venue was a prime eatery of lawyers when it operated from 1961 to 2006. So as much as I want to give you an attorney-free, protein-rich blog post today, I’m afraid I can’t do it.

Who remembers lawyer meetings at Beef Eaters? I do!

The wood-paneled restaurant near the intersection of Central and Camelback was often lousy with lawyers back in the day. At yesterday’s press conference, a speaker pointed out that Beef Eaters was a site where many of the business deals that shaped the Valley were hammered out (and a few lawyers got hammered).

I recall quite a few State Bar of Arizona Section meetings being held there. It was always a pleasure to walk into the banquette-filled dining room. (Ironically, because Sections always watched their pennies, we never ate beef while we were there; we were chicken-only diners.)

Anyway, in case you’re wondering, here is what is slated to move into the refurbished digs by November 1:

  • A restaurant being developed by Justin Beckett, the culinary mind behind the award-winning Beckett’s Table.
  • Another branch of Changing Hands Bookstore, the first outside Tempe of the nationally recognized independent bookseller.
  • A collaborative office, work and meeting space, called The Lively Hood (say it slow; you’ll get it.)

The project is being conceptualized by Venue Projects, the folks who adaptively reused numerous other spaces in town, including the restaurant now known as Windsor/Churn.

Lorenzo Perez of Venue Projects said, “We’re salvage-hounds,” as he waxed poetic about the walnut floors, antique chandeliers and masses of clear oak they discovered on the property.

Even the seats for the press conference speakers—described by City Councilman Tom Simplot as “Austin Powers chairs”—came from the property, and will likely find a revised home in the new space. (See the fantastic chairs below.)

Venue Projects L to R: Shannon Scutari, Kimber Lanning, Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot, Mar. 28, 2013.

L to R: Shannon Scutari, Kimber Lanning, Phoenix Councilman Tom Simplot, Mar. 28, 2013.

Other speakers were builder John Kitchell, Local First AZ founder Kimber Lanning, and Shannon Scutari, of the Sustainable Communities Collaborative, which had pointed out that the Light Rail-adjacent parcel could be eligible for a significant amount of transit-oriented development funds (there I go with the legal stuff again). The architect on the project will be John Douglas, FAIA, who has designed, among other things, the Phoenix New Times building and the Heard Museum.

In honor of the Beef Eaters longtime owner Jay Newton, the project is called “The Newton.” And in synch with the project’s nostalgia, Lorenzo said he would like to hear people’s Beef Eaters stories. What events, happy or otherwise, did you attend there? Do you have photos of events and family gatherings? How about business (or Section) meetings?

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

To prime your interest, take a stroll over to the website of Modern Phoenix, where they have captured the leather-bedecked interior, pre-construction.

Have a great weekend.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, center, speaks, alongside fellow panelists Grady Gammage, Jr., and Christina Sandefur. Phoenix, Ariz., March 20, 2013.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, center, speaks, alongside fellow panelists Grady Gammage, Jr., and Christina Sandefur. Phoenix, Ariz., March 20, 2013.

It doesn’t take much to frighten people. In fact, when it comes to those charged with designing livable and dynamic urban centers, all it takes is three numerals to make the blood run cold.

2. 0. 7.

As in Arizona’s Proposition 207, now enshrined at A.R.S. § 12-1134.

That law, requiring government to compensate private property owners for any diminution in value that flows from government action, makes quite a bit of conceptual sense. But according to a few panelists last night, the result of the law has been a municipal failure of nerve.

That was a message that arose at a panel discussion including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton. (It was sponsored by Women Design Arizona and Blooming Rock Development, and I previewed it here.)

All of the panelists were in general agreement about what the law says. But the law’s effects—especially in a city that is, as the Mayor said, among the “king of vacant lots”—drove the discussion.

“We already have one of the weakest historic preservation ordinances in the country,” Mayor Stanton said. Given that, “Isn’t it time to look at everything” that affects neighborhoods, including Prop 207?

Attorney Grady Gammage, Jr., opened by pointing out that “Arizona is not a place that’s especially hard on property owners.” Despite that, and due to a backlash against the Supreme Court case Kelo v. New London, voters opted for Prop 207. As a result, Gammage said, “Arizona is the only state that may have to compensate when any incidence of government action may alter a property’s value.”

Flowing from that, Gammage and the Mayor agreed, we’ve witnessed a “chilling effect” in city halls. Fearing lawsuits, city attorneys and the councils they advise live by the admonition, “Don’t do anything unless you can get everyone to sign a waiver of their Prop 207 rights.” And Gammage—a development lawyer and historic-property advocate—added, people never like to sign that document, so “it’s screwed up our ability to get development done.”

Disagreeing on the direness of the situation was Christina Sandefur, a Goldwater Institute attorney. She pointed out that cities may still regulate as much as necessary for health and safety. And if there are instances in which even small decreases in property value must be compensated, what’s the moaning about? Pay the small amount.

During the Q&A, the topic of waivers arose again. And for me, that led to some musing on what it means to be an effective lawyer. First, the waivers.

Gammage explained that there are two kinds of Prop 207 waivers. The first is called a Section I (as in i) waiver. It is sought in advance of any kind of development change. Municipal attorneys most often want these signed by all affected neighbors. And in the example of attempts to designate a neighborhood historic, those attorneys usually advise city councils that the neighborhood opinions must be unanimous.

As Gammage said, “We don’t do nothin’ without it.”

But, he added, there is an alternative: the Section E waiver. With that waiver, government does the best planning it can do to create a livable city. They make the designation, even if it’s not entirely unanimous, and then they wait to see if they receive a demand letter. In the worst case, the city may decide it’s best to waive out of the designation the one or two property owners that raise a stink.

Just like you, I’m sure, I live in a neighborhood. And in my neighborhood, 100 percent of the folks don’t agree on anything. The idea that we must stall any new ideas or development while we await the magician’s trick of unanimity means that nothing occurs—and that a city may remain the king of vacant lots.

I asked the panel if there should be changes in city attorney offices. All of the panelists were very circumspect on that question. And, to be fair to counsel, Mayor Stanton pointed out that the views of city attorneys and all staff “reflect decades of views” voiced by Council members. Lawyers follow; they don’t lead. They dispose; they don’t propose.

But as we sat in the empty lot of the Downtown Public Market, surrounded by food trucks and farm-to-table produce on a beautiful spring evening, I had to wonder.

That empty lot, and dozens of identical ones that surrounded us, are zoned for a pie-in-the-sky 500 feet of development. As Gammage pointed out, those massive structures will never be built in any of our lifetimes. And yet property owners hang onto these lots for generations, in case Phoenix suddenly morphs into Dubai.

In a Prop 207 world, panelists agreed, city leaders are unlikely to move to downzone anything, let alone declare a neighborhood historic. And so there is more and more room for food trucks.

Panelists mentioned that city attorneys are largely an elected bunch, so that may have something to do with their over-caution. But every speaker last night is an attorney, so they understand that lawyering is not an off-the-shelf commodity. Lawyers are not widgets, all identical, ever replaceable by another.

Because that’s the case, it may be worth examining who leads the law departments at the nation’s most progressive cities. Are they visionary, or belt-and-suspenders types? Do they counsel stasis and safety, or dynamism and risk-taking? Do they view their job as foreclosing the possibility of any lawsuit, however remote? Or as collaboratively problem-solving, willing to offer a variety of options and best practices?

Gammage alluded to those kinds of possibilities, including “creating attractive alternatives to property owners. Provide them benefits they can opt into.”

Yes, council-folk and mayors lead cities. But surrounding yourself with creative staff may help you get a city you’re proud of.

Until then, panelists concluded, we lumber on with our overriding fear of litigation, and a chilling effect that hampers development.

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