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.

I'm guessing your dog doesn't greet clients at your law office. You may want to rethink that. (Meet Rosie, Ruth Carter's companion.)

I’m guessing your dog doesn’t greet clients at your law office. You may want to rethink that. (Meet Rosie, Ruth Carter’s companion.)

If you’re like most lawyers, your office probably did little or nothing to mark National Doughnut Day.

Well, that’s a shame.

If that’s the case, then your office must not be that of Arizona attorney Ruth Carter. Ruth has many attributes and high points in her brief career—including being named an ABA Legal Rebel and being an author of multiple books. And now we can add pastry-sharer.

I mentioned doughnuts, so let’s get to it.

Ruth is aware of the great value in social interactions. And why not: One of her areas of focus is flash-mob law. So a day dedicated to fried-dough goodness seemed to her as good a time as any to gather her myriad circles in her new law offices. A Venn diagram with smiles and Bosa doughnuts at the center, you might say.

Every exuberant, Ruth Carter greets guests at her Doughnut Day open house.

Every exuberant, Ruth Carter greets guests at her Doughnut Day open house.

The June 6 event gave attendees the chance to visit with folks in different but affiliated industries. And we all got to catch up with what Ruth has cooking in her own practice. Smart move, that.

Plus, her wonderful Basset, Rosie, was present, as always.

Thanks, Ruth, for kicking off our June well. Here is the thank-you note I posted after the sweet, sweet event.

Doughnuts = the circle of life (or something, my thank-you note tried to convey).

Doughnuts = the circle of life (or something, my thank-you note tried to convey).

And how do you gather people informally in and around your practice? Doughnuts work, but they’re only one idea. Share yours!

cle snippets teaser logo

This teaser signifies a new and innovative way to combine magazine content with online learning.

The June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine features the launch of an intriguing monthly collaboration—which offers more ways for attorneys to gain some useful legal knowledge.

It is called a “CLE Snippet” (I didn’t name it), and each one is planned to be a 15-minute video on a topic from the newest Arizona Attorney.

It started in June, and the inaugural video is drawn from our Eye on Ethics column, written by attorney Dave Dodge. He wrote this month on joint defense agreements. You can read his column here.

The online part of the snippet is the video, which this month is a Q&A between Dave and Bar ethics guru Patricia Sallen.

Yes, the Snippet is a CLE Department offering, so there is a cost. But you can go and watch some and decide if this abbreviated form of learning is for you.

cle snippets screen grab sallen dodge - Pat Sallen and Dave Dodge chat about joint defense agreements, in the inaugural CLE Snippet of the State Bar of Arizona.

Pat Sallen and Dave Dodge chat about joint defense agreements, in the inaugural CLE Snippet of the State Bar of Arizona.

We’re putting together our July/August issue now, so I can’t reveal what the next Snippet will be. But I hope you find it helpful and tune in.

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

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

And the winner is …

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here is K’s description of her space:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our April 2002 cover of Arizona Attorney Magazine explored lawyers as that most western of American heroes. Is it time to heroicize practice areas?

Our April 2002 cover explored lawyers as that most western of American heroes. Is it time to heroicize practice areas?

Get ready, you estate planning attorneys: Your 15 minutes may be starting soon. And yes, that would be a shift.

Years ago, when I worked at large law firms in Chicago, the cowboys were the trial lawyers, along with the M&A attorneys (yes, it was the ‘80s, and M&A stirred the blood). Their work was on display everywhere you looked, either in the hallway whoops as verdicts came in or deals were sealed, or in the daily newspapers, which cheerily carried the exploits of each.

Meanwhile, to continue the western analogue, the ranchers and farmers were the considerably more reserved practice areas. Among them were the wills and estates lawyers. Their well-crafted work product was never on display, but was kept in a well-ventilated secured area, exhumed only upon the occasion of a client’s death.

The bloom may be off the M&A rose, but I’d wager the overall comparison may continue today. But a recent NPR story suggests a way that estates folks may emerge from the trustworthy world of trusts. It may be crazysexycool time for them.

The story examines the Danish TV series called The Legacy. The tale of an extended family and its exploits features the risks of leaving unclear your life’s desire for the distribution of assets.

Denmark series The Legacy Arvingerne wills

Denmark, known for butter cookies, beer and Legos, can now add estate planning to its admirable traits.

Of course, soap operas for millennia have mined the rich veins of greed and betrayal. But so well done is the series, we are told, that it has become a boon for family lawyers who do wills.

Here is the NPR transcript and audio. (I urge radio folks to dispense with that annoying phrase “Take a listen,” which has led me to change stations more than once.)

For more on the series, head over to IMDB.

Now, I am willing to bet that you’re thinking, What works in Denmark may not work here in the United States (except for Legos, beer and Bang & Olufsen speakers). But (bear with me now): What if someone took this knowledge and turned it toward the benefit of other underserved practice areas?

Why couldn’t a talented someone (What? Me? No! Really?!) channel those talents into a series of films that exposed the beating heart that lies beneath legal niches?

Aviation attorneys winging their way to viewers’ souls. Construction-defect lawyers offering solid heroism on foundations’ shifting sands. Tax lawyers adding to your pleasure while finding deductions that bolster your bottom line. Bond lawyers (OK, I’m reaching here) who offer a steely gaze as they introduce themselves: “Bond. Municipal Bond.”

Sure, details must be worked out, financing arranged. But pretty soon I’ll have worked up a few treatments and be ready to take a meeting or three. All in service to lawyers, soon to be immortalized on-screen.

Which practice areas should be our chapter one? Let me know; there may be a producer credit in it for you.

ASU hosts American Moot Court Tournament

Are you ready to pick up the gavel and give back to legal education at the same time? Does ASU Law School have a deal for you!

On January 17 and 18, the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law will host the American Collegiate Moot Court Association’s national championship tournament. This is quite an impressive honor, and it will see undergraduates from all over the country traveling to Arizona to compete by mooting an issue in our Supreme Court.

That’s where you may come in. The law school is in need of JDs who are willing to volunteer as judges (I’ve been told they need about 250 total).

Hesitant? Well, the school is willing to sweeten the pot for those on the fence: If you sign up with a lawyer–friend, the organizers will aim to pair you together as a judging team.

Whaaat? A judging team? I don’t know about you, but nothing binds a friendship more than judging others. Come on out!

More detail is below. And to volunteer as a judge, sign up here.

ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law logo“The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is proud to host the American Collegiate Moot Court Association’s national championship tournament on January 17-18, 2014. 80 undergraduate teams from across the country will come to the law school to compete in this prestigious tournament to determine this year’s national champion.  The College of Law is excited to be this year’s competition host, and we hope that you will join us in making this a memorable experience for competitors.  Volunteer judging is a great way to contribute to the education and training of future legal professionals as well as showcase the strength and involvement of our local bar.”

The College of Law is looking for attorneys to volunteer as judges for the following times:

Friday, January 17:

  • 4:00 p.m.-7:30 p.m.
  • 5:30 p.m.-9:00 p.m.

Saturday, January 18:

  • 8:00 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
  • 9:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m.
  • 1:00 p.m.-5:00 p.m.

Bring a buddy—sign up to judge with a friend and we will pair you to judge oral arguments together.

If you would like to volunteer but the above scheduled time blocks do not match your availability, please contact Adam Almaraz at aalmaraz@asu.edu.

To volunteer as a judge, click here.

Merry Christmas holiday from your lawyer

Mrs. Claus, take a letter …

Happy Change of Venue Friday. Aiming to keep the holiday season clear of unwelcome clutter, I am keeping today’s post almost purely visual.

Up above is a pretty funny holiday greeting, as redlined by your attorney.

And, in keeping with the overlawyered New Year’s theme, here is a cartoon that garnered many chuckles last year, so I’ve dusted it off for 2013.

Happy New Year cartoonHave a great—and unlawerly—holiday weekend.

Oregon State Bar Bulletin rural practice spread

Does rural law practice beckon? Two different bar association magazines say yes.

This week I am in Portland, Oregon, for the first time. Quite an amazing place.

I am learning and presenting at a conference of communications folks. (Here’s what I’m doing.) And I’m working hard to get out of the hotel occasionally to enjoy a terrific city. Well, whatever I do, I’ll put a bird on it. (More on that tomorrow.)

As I like to do, I point you today toward some law content connected to the place I’m visiting. And up here in the state whose motto is “She Flies With Her Own Wings” (explanations welcome), I recommend to you some work of the Oregon State Bar Association—specifically an two articles in their current Bar Bulletin.

In an article by writer Melody Finnemore, we get to hear from lawyers who are in the courtroom—as jurors. The picture they paint is not always a good one.

That ranks up there with other great story ideas I should emulate for Arizona Attorney Magazine.

You can read the complete version here. Here is the opening of the insightful article:

“Channing Bennett has seen his share of time in the courtroom, first as a litigator representing clients in civil cases and later as a volunteer judge pro tem in Marion County Circuit Court. The Salem attorney is a hearings referee for the Oregon Judicial Department. Now, he knows firsthand the emotional anguish many of his clients have experienced during a trial.”

Oregon State Bar logo“‘I’ve gained a lot of empathy for my clients going through the trial process. You feel very helpless and you get frustrated with the courts, even as an experienced observer,’ he says.”

“Bennett is one of the scores of Oregon attorneys who have been plaintiffs in a case, had to hire an attorney, been the victim of a crime or witnessed a crime, or participated in the Oregon State Bar disciplinary system. Some have experienced the state’s legal system from multiple perspectives — all from a very different place than where they are used to sitting during the legal process.”

“Like Bennett, most of the attorneys who shared their stories with the Bulletin didn’t exactly enjoy a positive experience. Yet they overwhelmingly said they learned something from it, ranging from greater empathy for clients to a broader understanding of what it means to be a good lawyer.”

Just as intriguing is their current cover story for the August/September issue. Written by Cliff Collins, it is titled “Opportunity Knocks in Rural Oregon: Small Towns Beckon Job-Seeking Lawyers.”

That was well written, but it also hit home because it reminded me immediately of an essay that resides in a recent issue of Arizona Attorney. Penned by lawyer Laura Cardinal, it makes a similar point about the good and successful life attorneys may find outside the big cities. And while you do that, the authors argue, you’ll be helping many people.

You can find Laura’s article here. Let me know what you think of both pieces.

Laura Cardinal writes on rural law practice, Arizona Attorney Magazine

Punctuation Day 2013Today, as I and all time-wasters know, is National Punctuation Day. Hail, caesura.

I don’t often cover punctuation here (though I praised the hyphen here). But I was pleased to see that the oh-so-valuable punctuation is connected to lawyers.

Yes, lawyers. For as Wikipedia explains to us, the development of punctuation use—primarily its dearth in places—was affected by law practice:

“One aspect of archaic legal drafting—particularly in conveyances and deeds—is the conspicuous absence of punctuation. This arose from a widespread idea among lawyers that punctuation was ambiguous and unimportant, and that the meaning of legal documents was contained only in the words used and their context. In modern legal drafting, punctuation is used, and helps to clarify their meaning.”

Read more here. And the next time you get annoyed at a surplus of unnecessary punctuation, thank an Old English lawyer (we all know one or two.)

Punctuation Day meatloaf question mark

“I have a question,” the meatloaf appears to say.

If you’re the type who wants to really dig into your punctuation, here is a webinar in honor of the big event. It is hosted by the Poynter Institute, which puts on marvelous educational webinars for journalists—and others! The webinar is at 2:00 Eastern time today—which means it’s 11 a.m. here in Arizona—still time to register for this $9.95 class (pretty inexpensive, eh?).

And if you were hankering to celebrate National Punctuation Day (or NPD, as aficionados call it), here’s how.

Finally, here is an entry that bridges that gap we’ve always wanted to see closed—between punctuation and food. (Hmmm?) Yes, it’s true; you too can have a recipe for a Punctuation Meatloaf.

I don’t want to be a nudge, but I’m not sure I want the word semi-colon—or colon at all—in a sentence discussing meatloaf. But as long as we’re enjoying this, wouldn’t a colon simply be two hamburger patties?

Get cooking.

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