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.

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.

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.

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

State Bar of Arizona logoHere 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, February 4. Results were phenomenal, considering the smaller than normal volunteer base.

The following is a recap of the program, which focused on tax law.

tax law magnifying glassThe volunteer attorneys were: James E. Bielenberg, Jr., Nathan Carr, Joseph Lunsky, Lawrence “D” Pew and Kathryne Ward.

Phone lines were busy, and volunteers answered an impressive 110 calls on tax law. An additional 18 consumers were assisted via social media, which gave us a total of 128 people who were helped.

Here are a sample of consumer questions:

  • Tax implications on short sales, student loans, social security benefits, investments, etc.
  • What should I do if I have failed to file taxes–back taxes?
  • What can I deduct?
  • What tax implications do estates have? Inheritance? Death?
  • Where do I start if I’m going to be audited?

Eighteen consumers asked their questions via the 12 News Facebook page, and attorney Nathan Carr responded with his recommendations and advice.

Four of the five attorneys were first-time volunteers. James Bielenberg of Prescott made the two-hour drive to Phoenix so he could volunteer.

Next month, Lawyers on Call volunteers will answer employment and labor law questions.

Some of this year's talented and fleet Bar Flys.

Some of this year’s talented and fleet Bar Flys.

I don’t know about you, but I am exhausted just thinking about all the running done by the State Bar of Arizona Bar Flys in the PF Chang’s Rock ‘n Roll Marathon. Whew. I may have to sit down.

Well, those of us who did not run sure appreciate those who did. The team was comprised of 76 lawyers, law students and other committed law professionals (or those who love them).

Rehydrating at Mile 14

Rehydrating at Mile 14

Team captain (and Senior Bar Counsel) David Sandweiss shared the news of the team’s success in the corporate categories of the marathon. That 76-person team led the category of “Corporate Medium Division.” (Yes, David concedes, the Bar was the only entity in the category this year. But he adds, “Be it known, however, that last year’s runner up in our division had only 46 runners so with history as precedent we’d have smoked them this year, too!” That’s the spirit!)

Bar staffer Katherine Jendrisak and her family

Bar staffer Katherine Jendrisak and her family

No news yet on the team’s pledging for the Sandra Day O’Connor law school, on behalf of the memory of Professor Joseph Feller and the scholarship in his name. I will follow up once I hear the tally.

Click here to see the list of all the corporate winners.

Randall Hutson

Randal Hutson

Congratulations again and thank you, Bar Flys, for all your hard work and for keeping those feet moving.

PF Chang's Marathon logo 2014

Joe Feller in 2010 (photo by Joseph Holmes)

Joe Feller in 2010 (photo by Joseph Holmes)

I told you before about the chance to sign on and run with the Bar Flys. That’s the State Bar team that’s been fielded to run in this weekend’s PF Chang’s Rock ‘n Roll Marathon.

Of course, it’s likely too late to get onto that esteemed team. But I wanted to remind you again that the team is running on behalf of a great professor’s memory. ASU Law School Professor Joe Feller died last April, and the team has picked up his health-conscious gauntlet.

More detail is on the law school’s website. And whether or not you’re on the team, you can find a gift form there.

Good luck to a great team. I’m looking forward to receiving (and sharing) news and photos from the marathon.

Have a great weekend.

News today from my State Bar of Arizona colleague Alberto Rodriguez, regarding the Bar’s first call-in program of 2014.

The January 7 Lawyers on Call public service event was hosted by azcentral.com and 12 News. The focus was estate planning—wills and trusts. Here’s a recap.

AZ Bar Lawyers on Call 01-07-14 estate planning

Ten attorneys volunteered their time and experience to answer consumer questions:

  • Steve Evans
  • Michael Friedman
  • Lindsey Jackson
  • T. James Lee
  • Dianne McNamara
  • Norm Miller
  • Mark Moritz
  • Nicole Pavlik
  • Ronald Wilson

Six of the ten attorneys were first-time volunteers.

All together, they answered 204 calls on estate planning, wills and trusts. An additional 33 consumers were assisted via social media, which gave us a total of 237 people who were helped.

Here is a sample of consumer questions:

  • State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorWhat is the difference between a will and a trust? Which do I need?
  • Can I write my own will or do I need an attorney? How much does an average estate plan cost?
  • What should be included in a will or trust?
  • Can I make changes to my already existing will? If so, how do I go about it and how often?
  • How can I prepare to avoid probate?
  • I am not originally from Arizona, do I need to make changes to my will?

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

Next month, volunteer lawyers will answer consumers’ tax law questions on Tuesday, February 4.

possible dues increase calculator

Happy Monday, which may be the first day back from a holiday week (or it’s just another Monday to you; sorry).

To kick off my time at the office, I offer a link to what may be a controversial topic: a possible dues increase for members of the State Bar of Arizona.

As the Bar opens:

“On February 27-28, 2014, the State Bar of Arizona’s Board of Governors will consider a dues increase. This page contains information for members who want to learn more about why a dues increase is needed as well as give you a chance to leave comments.”

They follow that with links to FAQs, financial statements and other information. We will cover much of this in the next (February) Arizona Attorney, but why wait. Get commenting now!
State Bar of Arizona logo
With that, I pull the pin and toss the grenade. Click to read and comment.

Other insights on the topic? Send them to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

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