September 2010

Last Wednesday, September 22, an event was held that invited service providers who aided undocumented victims of domestic violence. Hosted by the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education, it was slated for the State Bar of Arizona boardroom.

The meeting notice read:

“An interactive community forum discussion about the challenges undocumented victims in Arizona face when seeking safety and justice.”

January Contreras, Department of Homeland Security

What the flyer did not reveal was the identities of the invited guests. Two high-level officials from Washington, DC, came to listen to the providers.

They were:

  • January Contreras, the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman for the Department of Homeland Security
  • Virginia Davis, the Deputy Director for Policy at the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice

As Contreras said, the officials were there to listen to the assembled group of providers, to hear what they believed was the role of the federal government in regard to undocumented immigrants who are domestic violence victims.

Virginia Davis, Department of Justice

It is unlikely that a more delicate question could be posed by members of the current White House administration. But throughout a morning of polite conversation, barely a mention of controversial state immigration policy arose (SB1070, anyone?). Nor did any provider prod the visitors about the recent decision of the administration to decide against providing a significant grant request to Arizona, funding that would have benefited probably every provider in the room.

In the December Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will provide more detail on what was said—and what was heard—in the State Bar boardroom that day.

For more photos of the events, go to the magazine’s Facebook page.

Walter R. Echo-Hawk

ASU’s Indian Legal Program put on a stellar program Monday evening. It was a lecture by lawyer and activist Walter R. Echo-Hawk, and he spoke about his recent book In the Courts of the Conqueror: The 10 Worst Indian Law Cases Ever Decided.

(Before I forget to mention it, the book’s illustrations were done by the author’s son, Walter “Bunky” Echo-Hawk III – they are terrific and enliven the 560-page volume.)

Professor Rebecca Tsosie, ASU Law School

He was introduced by Professor Rebecca Tsosie of the law school, who laughed as she said it was a real “art form” for the writer to pare the list down to 10. Her comments, as well as the speaker questions afterward, telegraphed the deep respect they held for a man who has worked on most all of the significant Indian legal issues for the past four decades. A few of the topics his work has affected include Native American religious freedom, prisoner rights, water rights, treaty rights and reburial/repatriation rights.

Echo-Hawk opened by saying that most Americans equate our legal system with justice—and with good reason, because it achieves that on a pretty regular basis. In that regard, he cited Brown v. Board of Education, Wisconsin v. Yoder, and Worcester v. Georgia.

But he added that justice only truly occurs “when the law reflects and protects the needs and values of all segments of society.”

The repeated failures of our system to provide justice, he said, signify the need for a “good moral compass” among lawyers.

Those failures are numerous, he said, citing just a few: Dred Scott, Plessy v. Ferguson, Korematsu v. United States.

Then he got to his first Indian law case: Johnson v. M’Intosh, through which the Supreme Court used a legal fiction—the “act of discovery”—to deprive Native Americans of legal title to land they had occupied for generations.

Many of these cases may fall out of favor, said Echo-Hawk, but they are rarely overturned, remaining as a dark side of American jurisprudence. And at their worst moments—typically just before uttering the holding—many of these cases engage in explicitly racial descriptions, painting the tribes as savage and inferior.

It is incumbent on us all, he told the audience, to explain manifest injustice whenever we spot it. And in response to these cases, he said that some cases deny it exists, others simply close the courthouse doors, or redefine what has occurred as a legal quibble but certainly not an injustice.

Book illustration by Walter "Bunky" Echo-Hawk III

“Or,” Echo-Hawk said, “sometimes judges are simply not up to the task of handing down universal and impartial justice. They may be frail humans unable to rise above the politics of the day.”

Echo-Hawk added that because there has never been a federal judge who is Native American, “crossing the cultural divide,” required of all judges, may be especially difficult. And the evolution of Indian issues in U.S. courts has led to the present day, when the Supreme Court “seems to be bent on the same tragic treatment of tribes.”

“Some people even ask if federal Indian law is dead.”

Echo-Hawk does not think so, but said a realignment of goals is needed. “Don’t scrap it,” he said, “but strengthen it with a scalpel. I think it can be done, but it will be the work of generations.”

Aiding in that endeavor, he said, is the fact that “The Supreme Court is rowing against the tide, … out of step with mainstream society.” The executive and legislative branches ever since President Richard Nixon, he said, have been in concert with the notion of self-determination of Native peoples.

Scholars and activists should “steer toward two stars,” he said.

Through his book and his lecture, Echo-Hawk attempts to understand the prevailing forces and policies that underlie discrimination. His book is available here.

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In the December issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will run another essay in our new series titled “Law’s Attic”—a feature that examines the legacy of significant legal cases or events whose anniversary is this year.

That month’s essay is on the lingering effect of Bush v. Gore, which—I can’t believe it—is 10 years old this year. Written by ASU Law Professor Andy Hessick, it explores an opinion that changed much, but that states explicitly it is not to be used for precedential authority.

Prohibiting precedent might have caused Andy some heartburn. But he agreed that the case had significant meaning, even beyond whether it could be cited in other cases.

ASU Law Professor Andy Hessick

As we talked, I recalled surveys about the Supreme Court from a few years ago. Immediately after the Bush v. Gore decision, Americans’ views of the Court were pretty bad. The numbers for the highest tribunal were extremely bleak.

But the real news was that within about six months, Americans again had a high regard for the Court. Concerns among most people that the Court was growing more political and partisan had almost evaporated.

Can we attribute that to Americans’ short memory? That’s unlikely, for we never tend to forget the shortcomings of the Executive and Legislative branches, whose numbers often remain low. Instead, this probably says something about the Court’s typical silence and absence from the headlines—as well as wish-fulfillment and idealism on our part as citizens.

This past week, another Harris Poll looked at Americans’ attitudes toward the Court we call Supreme. Like most surveys, it probably says more about the respondents than about the topic at hand. A primary finding: There is an increasingly partisan split among parties in how they view the Court.

What follows are a few of the fascinating findings on the kind of justice we prefer.

The complete findings are here.

Type of Supreme Court Justice

When asked what type of person Americans would most like to see on the Supreme Court, half (51%) said someone who keeps their personal opinions of “right” and “wrong” to themselves and makes decisions strictly based on the letter of the law and the Constitution. One-third of Americans say they would prefer an independent thinker who uses creativity and an understanding of modern circumstances to inform their legal rulings (32%), just 6% say they would want someone who uses their own values or moral compass to guide their decisions, and one in ten are not at all sure what type of person they prefer (11%).

Looking by political party, a clear majority of Republicans (67%) prefer justices who make decisions based strictly on the letter of the law and the Constitution. Democrats are more split—45% say they prefer an independent thinker who uses creativity and an understanding of modern circumstances, while 38% say they prefer someone who makes decisions based strictly on the letter of the law.

Although all Americans don’t agree about all Supreme Court practices, they do say that the Court is a crucial governing body for the success of the United States (69%). In a sometimes rare show of similar opinion concerning policy, Republicans (71%), Democrats (74%), and Independents (70%) all agree on this point. Interestingly, women show more uncertainty on this, as 65% say that the Supreme Court is a crucial governing body for the success of the United States, compared to three-quarters of men (75%) who say the same. Just one in ten (10%) women say that the Supreme Court is not necessary-decision making power should lay within the state courts, and over one-quarter of women are not at all sure (26%).

Board meetings are often an uneasy admixture of long-range thinking and day-to-day plodding. And if that balance gets out of kilter, meetings can be an exercise in frustration.

Rebecca White Berch, Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court

On Friday, the State Bar Board of Governors was aided in its continual effort to focus on the horizon by none other than the Arizona Chief Justice, Rebecca White Berch. She used her time wisely, speaking on a few topics of interest to Arizona attorneys.

She described developments in Admission on Motion in Arizona, and said that it has developed national momentum. She told those assembled that “Borders are breaking down.” (The Board of Governors has not endorsed AOM in the past, and Arizona Attorney Magazine has covered the topic.)

She also talked about the all-day course and other steps required of those who want to be admitted to Arizona practice without sitting for the bar exam. The Supreme Court has priced AOM at a heady $1,800. She smiled as she added, “No one is entitled to admission on motion; they can always take the bar.”

So far, she said, the Court has taken in $594,000 in the AOM initiative. But that doesn’t mean all of those applicants are now admitted: They have to pay up front, and the fee is nonrefundable, so many who have paid are still in the pipeline. (Maybe we should turn the Court loose on the state’s budget woes.)

She also talked about the course that’s been developed for those applicants. She said that its focus on Arizona-unique law was so good, perhaps the State Bar should offer it to all members as a CLE. She sold it so well, I think I may sit in the next time it’s offered.

Then Chief Justice Berch turned to the possibility of a Uniform Bar Exam replacing the Arizona Bar Exam. The nationwide effort is being made by the National Conference of Bar Examiners (NCBE). She spoke at length about why such a change makes sense, and preemptively rebutted possible objections to it.

Chief Justice Berch at the State Bar Board of Governors meeting, Sept. 24, 2010

The Chief gave some tepid credit to the Arizona Bar Exam as she said, “There is nothing wrong with the Arizona Bar; it’s fine, basically. But we don’t have the resources to put to it that the NCBE can.”

If Arizona were to move toward adoption of the UBE, would we do it immediately?

Probably not, said Justice Berch.

“I would like us to be firmly at the front of the second wave” of adopting states, she said. That approach would be similar to Arizona’s cautious acceptance of admission on motion.

Justice Berch did not guarantee that she planned for Arizona to become a Uniform Bar Exam state. But she is on the “NCBE Special Committee on the Uniform Bar Exam,” and she was pretty unstinting in its praise, so if I were you, I would short the Arizona Bar Exam on your legal investment portfolio.

This morning, I heard one interesting wrinkle in the UBE discussion. The Arizona Native American Bar Association had its annual banquet on Saturday, and the UBE was discussed by some attendees. NABA has been striving to get an Indian Law question on the Arizona Bar Exam for the past few years, even going so far as to support a rule-change petition submitted to the Arizona Supreme Court. (We covered the topic in May 2009; the Court has stayed consideration of the petition.)

But as adoption of the UBE becomes more likely, the likelihood of such a question on the exam decreases. Therefore, NABA’s focus may turn toward getting Indian Law issues included in the one-day Arizona law course required of AOM applicants. I’m sure we’ll hear more about that later.

Many people (my family included) were pleased to see the return of the hit TV series Glee this week. (I wrote about Glee before.) There is a lot to like about the show, but their adept handling of “mashups” may be one of their signature strategies.

Because this is Change of Venue Friday, let’s muse a bit on why we like mashups so darned much.

First, a definition, for those unfamiliar with the term. The mashup is a combination of two unlike things, yielding a result that may be surprisingly harmonious and enjoyable.

You know, peanut butter and chocolate.

We all—lawyers included—like the mashup. Perhaps that’s because it exemplifies the best moments in life itself, those times when aspects of living collide and let us see things in a brand-new way.

So ever-present is the mashup that there is now a universal symbol of the process. It was developed by a creative type named Zohar Manor-Abel, and it looks exactly like it means—many into one—just like our own “E Pluribus Unum” nation.

The logo is open source, so you can use it freely. How mashup-able is that?

The iPad is another example of a mashup, or at least technology that encourages us to mash, mash, mash. Their most recent TV ad shows how you can gather your world and all its disparate elements into this black rectangle.

Facebook also is a master of the mashup. Where else do we entertain all of our friends, with all of our “friends,” and add in news items, retail pitches, blog meanderings and comical waste-of-time games like Farmville? Facebook is all about the mashup.

But those mashups also can be odd.

On Facebook, I have a “friend” who once, a generation ago, was a friend. We haven’t spoken in years, but about a year ago he located me (damn my unique name) and I’ve been be-“friended” ever since. But in the past few months, his posts have started to send me around the bend. They are focused almost entirely on the evils of building a mosque anywhere in the New York tri-state area. He even changed his profile picture from his face to be the Twin Towers pre-9/11.

All pretty harsh, angry stuff. Not “gleeful” at all.

Cold Stone: Pretty sweet mashups

But then two days ago Facebook’s functionality caused a mashup that made me smile. As I scanned my feed, I saw my friend’s looming towers next to the update, “Sinclair Jabberwot likes Cold Stone Creamery.”

(I hope there’s no one really called Sinclair Jabberwot.)

Cold Stone and mosque-bashing—kind of takes the wind out of your reactionary sails, doesn’t it? But that’s a mashup world—sometimes hate-filled and lovable all at the same time.

The other night I encountered another mashup. I belong to a trade group called the Society of Professional Journalists, and on Wednesday they held an evening seminar on a reporting topic—social media, of all things.

The SPJ puts on great programs, but they’re often an odd conglomeration of types. The other night was no different. A mix of coiffed on-air talent sat cheek-by-jowl with writers, photographers and affiliated industry people.

As I participate in programs like these, I sometimes feel that there’s an interior monologue of dueling worldviews:

  • TV newspeople: “Does anyone have a way to get pâté stains out of Porsche upholstery?”
  • Ink-stained wretches: “Does anyone have the number for AHCCCS? My kid has a boil.”

But the other night, when the topic was social media—mashup’s own downtown—the groups meshed.

At Arizona Attorney Magazine, mashups may be less evident: We’ve got our legal beat, and we tend to stick to it. But they still exist. Engaging readers means sometimes mixing topics and themes to reach people who are busy and toil in niches. That’s why we recently ran articles on environmental law and law practice, and even on legal history—something that no one practices daily, but may enjoy.

Enjoy the mashups in your own life—and enjoy the weekend.

The Arizona Biltmore was the venue yesterday for the annual “40 Hispanic Leaders Under 40 Awards.” More than 300 people crowded into a ballroom to honor these people, from a variety of industries and backgrounds, for their commitment to “building upon the greater good of our community.”

In the midst of a persistent economic downturn (despite reports this week that the recession is over), it was heartening to see so many attendees at this gala. The event is only four years old, and it maintains the momentum that got it rolling. With 120 leaders under its belt, conference organizers should be pleased by the legacy of service they’ve nurtured.

Emceed adroitly by CBS5 news anchor Catherine Anaya, the luncheon moved along at a smart pace. Adding an artistic touch was the musician Joey Ebach, who sang the National Anthem as well as other songs as he accompanied himself on guitar.

Honoree-lawyer Dawn Valdivia

Congratulations to organizers Univision Radio–Phoenix and Chicanos Por La Causa, and to BlueCross BlueShield of Arizona, which was the presenting sponsor. (And kudos to my colleague at the State Bar of Arizona, Alberto Rodriguez. He now is in the Bar’s Communications Department, but he has been the event’s producer since its inception, back when he worked for the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The State Bar encouraged him to continue in this essential role, so we had the benefit of another remarkable event. Good for the Bar—great decision.)

The heart of any ceremony can be the keynote speaker—though that’s not always guaranteed. But yesterday, Paul Luna, President and CEO of the Helios Education Foundation, brought his A game.

Paul Luna, Helios Education Foundation

Like any good speaker (and thinker), he began by giving attendees a particular anecdote, which ended up being perfect for the event’s message. He recalled that when he worked for I.B.M. years ago, he attended a retreat as part of its 100% Club, for the company’s high-performers. At the retreat, the poet Maya Angelou spoke to them.

Luna said that Angelou admitted she did not know a lot about those in the room. But she did know two things:

  1. Each person there was successful at what they did.
  2. No one in the room achieved that success by himself or herself. In each person’s life, “Someone else paid the dues for you, to have the opportunity for success.”

Luna wisely reminded the honorees—and everyone in the room—that we all stand on others’ shoulders. Thank those who paid your dues, he told us, and be prepared to pay the dues for those who come behind.

“That’s what this is all about,” he concluded.

Honoree-lawyer Andrew Pacheco

Among the honorees, I was pleased to see that there were two lawyers. Dawn Valdivia is a partner at Quarles & Brady LLP. And Andrew Pacheco is an attorney in his own firm. (Two law students also were honored, both from the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law: Daniel Rodriguez and Joaquin Rios.).

I congratulated Dawn and Andrew, but then I asked them to tell me whom they credit with their success. And here is what they said.

Dawn Valdivia:

“It would be my great grandmother and grandmother. They were both strong determined Latinas who did not allow their status to affect their ability and desire to achieve success. My great grandmother started a Mexican food restaurant in Globe, Arizona with $100 and a mean tasting enchilada. At that time (1940s), women didn’t own businesses and Mexicans were largely segregated as a class and were forbidden from certain schools, churches, and business. From that restaurant grew another 15 over the State of Arizona. With each restaurant, she empowered another family member to have a stake in his or her future and to be self sufficient. My grandmother eventually took over and expanded the one here in town (Los Compadres). Their strength taught me to be strong, but it was their work ethic that provided me the opportunity to have an education and enjoy the opportunities and successes I enjoy today. For that reason (and others), I am responsible for helping others achieve their fullest potential. I agree with Mr. Luna that education is the key to opportunity.”

Andrew Pacheco:

“I would have to acknowledge the role that my father continues to play in my life as a mentor. He was born to migrant farm laborers who instilled in him the values of self reliance and personal integrity. My father’s parents were too poor to send him to college and preferred that he stay at home to help on the farm that his parents were eventually able to buy. He nonetheless applied for and received scholarships in order to obtain both an undergraduate degree and a Ph.D. As you may know, my father went on to become the president of several universities, including The University of Arizona. In part, the example my father set for me and my siblings was that hard work is part of success. But perhaps even more importantly I learned from both of my parents that a person’s good character traits should include service to others. As a result my personal goals include professional success as well as public service.”

Great answers, both. We all might want to take a few minutes to pose the same question to ourselves.

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What is this "km" you speak of?

Two recent stories—both in the New York Times—make me think the United States may be more ready than ever to interact with the rest of the world.

We’re a great nation, and all—arguably the best place to live in the world. But we’ve often got a bone to pick with all those other countries that populate the globe.

One of those prime bones has been the dreaded metric system, which some would have you believe is a necessary step in the path toward world government. But a chink appeared in the armor we erect against metric—and in Arizona, of all places.

Last week, a Times writer came all the way to Arizona to report on a road-sign anomaly and controversy. On Interstate 19, an odd accumulation of road signs designate distance in kilometers, rather than miles. Those signs are “a throwback to an American experiment with the metric system in the early 1980s that did not get far off the ground.”

Now that the signs are old and worn, and barely reflective, expectations were high that stimulus money could be used to replace them. And the new signs would use miles rather than their metric equivalent.

But then Arizona business owners started crowing. They had spent decades and dollars educating drivers on which exits to use to reach their restaurants, motels and other businesses.

“Keep the metric,” they said.

Countries that have officially adopted the metric system (green). Only three nations (out of 203) have refused to or been unable to officially adopt the International System of Units as their primary or sole system of measurement: Burma, Liberia and the United States.

The whole situation lasted so long that the deadline for stimulus monies was missed.

The story even talks about something called the—you guessed it—U.S. Metric Association:

“A group based in California, [which] advocates conversion to the metric system, has tallied numerous metric signs around the country, most near the borders with Canada and Mexico. But I-19 may be the only Interstate highway that is almost completely metric, making it stand out from all the other stretches of concrete crisscrossing the country.”

Even the conservative Fox News commentator Sean Hannity weighed in, lampooning the sign project as a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Is Fox even going the extra mile for the metric system? So Internationale of them.

I can tell you one person whom this may make happy—my fifth-grade teacher, Mr. Federico. In about 1974, the task fell to him to educate a bunch of kids in the metric system—the wave of the future.

He didn’t have much luck. Blank stares and almost outright revolt confronted him as the St. Columba School kids wondered if they had tumbled into a foreign film—which none of us had ever seen.

The logic and simplicity of a system based on Base 10 escaped us. We preferred the oddities of our own measurement. Familiarity breeds comfort.

We schoolkids were part of an American phenomenon—one that is not phenomenal. After all, we are one of three nations that “have refused to or been unable to” adopt the metric system. Do we really want to hang out with Burma and Liberia? The residents of Green Valley, Ariz., say no.

Well, maybe we should start getting as comfortable as those residents. The second piece from the Times is a column by Thomas L. Friedman. He reveals that China’s blogging community is approaching 70 million—million with an “m.”

The world no longer belongs to the United States, Friedman points out—if it ever did.

“In recent years, with the U.S. economic model having suffered an embarrassing self-inflicted shock, and the ‘Beijing Consensus’ humming along, voices have emerged in China saying ‘the future belongs to us’ and maybe we should let the world, or at least the ’hood, know that a little more affirmatively.”

So influential are those Chinese electronic voices that the U.S. State Department has begun to grant bloggers access to American leaders, “even inviting bloggers to travel in the car with the U.S. ambassador, Jon Huntsman.”

Speeding along, Ambassador Huntsman probably chats about policy and international relations. And outside his car, the blur of road signs that rush by likely never mentions a “mile.”

And that might make Green Valley—and Mr. Federico—very happy.

Read more about the metric system here. And don’t forget the U.S. Metric Association.

Mark Beese at Legal Marketing Association event, at the State Bar of Arizona, Sept. 16, 2010

I have attended meetings in boardrooms, big and small, many times. And the size of the room never guarantees that the words spoken will be insightful or compelling. That’s why last Thursday’s event at the State Bar of Arizona was such a pleasure.

The host was the Southwest Chapter of the Legal Marketing Association. Their monthly lunchtime speakers series has always been a good one, but recently that group has delivered the complete package on a pretty regular basis (I’m sure she would give credit to a cast of thousands,  but kudos definitely go to chapter President Nathalie Daum, at Lewis and Roca).

Thursday was right in that tradition of quality. Speaking was Mark Beese, of Leadership for Lawyers LLC.

He spoke to the group for a whirlwind hour on the topic of “Being the Leader You Would Want To Follow.” It gave everyone quite a bit to think about.

Col. Joshua Chamberlain

Beese is a former CMO for law firm Holland & Hart and past president of the Rocky Mountain LMA. So he’s had ample experience toiling alongside lawyers. When he talked about herding cats, the group listened.

Here are a few highlights of what he covered.

Beese opened by engaging the group in examining a few questions:

  • What is the difference between projects and organizations that take off, and those that flounder?
  • Why do some organizations evolve, and others have the same marketing plan year after year?

For those of you who are not interested in the marketing side of practice, you could ask the previous question and omit the “M” word—the question is just as valuable for most all your endeavors.

Beese dotted his conversation with anecdotes from law practice. They all revealed one thing: The cost of bad leadership can be massive.

He also entertained the group with his examination of why it may be difficult to lead lawyers and law firms. Smart and driven people that we are, we often can be an obstacle to our own success. Beese showed where lawyers are on a variety of broad scales. For example, on a ranking of skepticism, lawyers come in at the 90 percent mark. Autonomy—89 percent. Urgency—71 percent.

Two scales were particularly painful for me to hear.

The resilience scale reveals how much a person rolls with the punches and tries again. But when lawyers try a marketing plan, and it does not instantly yield results, they give up on it and on marketing generally. On that scale, lawyers come in at a measly 30 percent.

And on sociability—Lawyers rank at 8 percent. Ouch.

Beese rounded out his hour by talking about what works to change behavior in law firms. And the only thing that works is to change the entire culture. That change includes fostering a shared vision, innovating, and fostering a spirit of intimacy—not where people share too much, but where they feel free to share ideas and to experiment with outside-the-box ideas.

His example of a leader surprised me. Beese looked not to a contemporary lawyer, but to a historic figure.

Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain was a professor at Bowdoin College in the 19th century. When the Civil War erupted, he sought a leave of absence to fight to maintain the Union. When he was denied by his university president, he quit and enlisted.

So well did he lead his men at Gettysburg, Beese said, that President Abraham Lincoln asked him to command the Union troops at Appomattox, where the South was to lay down its weapons and surrender.

On Chamberlain’s orders, the assembled Union soldiers saluted their defeated enemy. Though the bitterness of Reconstruction was to follow, that small act of courtesy and respect signaled the wisdom of a true leader.

As Beese said of Chamberlain, “He did not have to go to war. But he woke up one morning and said, ‘My role is a leader.””

(Chamberlain later became a Governor of Maine, and served as president of Bowdoin College—the same position that had denied his request to serve years before.)

Beese urged all in the room to ask themselves a similar question every morning: “How can I effect change?” That, he said, is an essential question of identity.

And if you’re in an inquisitive mood, Beese said you might ask the Twelve Questions of Engagement about your own workplace. The questions originally were posed by Marcus Buckingham in his book First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently. You can read them here.

Start asking.

And be sure to read Mark’s blog, and follow him on Twitter.

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Part of my Sunday evening was spent in a theater, but not to watch a performance.

Instead, I was accompanying my 14-year-old daughter to an audition. Willa has been a thespian since birth, and has been acting whenever she can for a number of years now. She’s now a freshman at Arizona School for the Arts.

Part of the (hard) acting life is putting yourself out there for auditions, and it requires a commitment that is wide and far—yesterday’s call was at Creative Stages Youth Theatre, in Peoria (break a leg, Willa!).

(She’d want me to point out that her second home is Childsplay, in Tempe. She even worked with a fantastic friend and Childsplay actress, Jodie L. Weiss, to create Willa’s one-woman show, Normal Is What We Aim For, this year.)

Last night’s audition took an interesting turn, though, when the creative director said that a significant part of the audition would be improvisation, rather than a traditional script reading.

I was impressed how all of the kids accepted that announcement calmly. Today’s younger generation are some cool customers.

But that got me thinking about lawyers, and how often they are asked to think on their feet. I have heard before from attorneys who take a variety of classes to improve their skills. Whether or not they are trial lawyers, classes like improv, acting and even stand-up comedy have served many counselors well.

A Google search for “Lawyers and improv” turned up 163,000 hits. Not all will be on point, of course, but the acting industry is on to something.

Have you ever dipped your toe into stage work of any kind to improve your skills—or just for fun? Tell me your experience in that original social media.

In the meantime, here are a few stories I came across on the topic of lawyers and the stage, beginning with, as you might guess, a blog on exactly that topic.

Improvisation for Lawyers

Lawyers Trained in Improv: Not Just for Laughs

Laying Down the Law: Harvard-Educated Headliner Greg Giraldo

Professionals Tap Their Funny Bone

Arizona Attorney's luxe offices on Parking Day

It’s Friday, which means it’s Change of Venue Day here—where we bring you items that may be lighter but still of some interest to lawyers and their (sense of) humor.

I bring you news of Parking Day, a quasi-legal event that seeks to cast a light on the over-parked and over-automobiled culture we have created.

On this day, people around the world stroll over to a municipal parking space, feed the meter, and then “decorate” the space in their own unique style. Many of the creations are still-lives of the highest order.

Last year, Parking Day organizers claimed the event reached 700 parks, 140 cities, 21 countries and six continents. Their purpose, in their own words: “PARK(ing) Day is an annual, worldwide event that inspires city dwellers everywhere to transform metered parking spots into temporary parks for the public good.”

At the magazine, we always enjoy a good challenge. So although we do not park in a municipal lot, we tried to get into the Parking Day spirit. As the weather cools, we may just set up shop in our garage every day.

(Here in Phoenix, we have a parking irony. Just as Parking Day dawns today, we get to observe the demolition of a vintage mid-century modern motel downtown—all to make way for a parking lot! We wrote about the Sahara Hotel before here. Yes, parking in our auto city is already plentiful, as are empty lots. But Phoenix never allows a structure to get in the way of its ballooning ribbon of asphalt.)

So what may be of most interest to lawyers—besides the cool concept itself? Perhaps they will enjoy the “Frequently Asked Questions” page on the Parking Day website. I mean, how many “unsanctioned guerrilla art actions” come with a license agreement and a business participation statement?

How nerdycool is that?

Here is some more information about Parking Day (maybe even in Arizona).

And if you can believe it, Parking Day has its own website, Facebook page and Twitter account.

Enjoy your weekend, and enjoy some photos from last year’s event in Arizona and elsewhere.

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