Thursday, June 16th, 2011


It may be too easy to say, but I cannot resist uttering the fact that the medical marijuana seminar is a high point of this year’s Convention. Attendance was well in excess of 200. In a state that has a new medical marijuana law but the legal battles still brew, many came out to get whatever guidance they could.

Panelists addressed the question of federal law preemption and compliance with the new state law. The session was well moderated by State Bar Ethics Counsel Patricia Sallen.

The July/August issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine will cover the same topic in two stories–one examining the federal-state nexus question, and another trying to provide guidance to employers who wish to keep a drug-free workplace. It will be out about August 1.

Pat Sallen, State Bar of Arizona

 

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Movie night, I heard more than once on Wednesday, was a misnomer. Convention organizers worked mightily to convince conventioneers about the event’s true nature, and about the evening’s value.

First of all, we learned, they would be showing a number of legal movies, but it wasn’t going to be a movie screening. Only portions would be shown.

And yes, there was going to be a live band—Sugahbeat—who had played at conventions past. But they, and the food, would all combine to complement the movies and the experience. It was a cool, hybrid thing.

Well, I bit. And I had a good time. But convention-attendees may not have gotten the message, as the room was pretty sparsely attended (in all fairness, I left by about 6:45, so it could have picked up and started hopping after I left—which happens with many parties).

That’s too bad, because a crowd would have enjoyed watching Chicago, Legally Blonde, Erin Brockovich and My Cousin Vinny. But still, the format would have made that a challenge.

That’s because the talented Sugahbeats were the sound in the room—the movie volumes were all off. We should be thankful for that, in a way, because (1) the band is really good and (2) four competing movies would cause a migraine. But more than once I caught myself thinking that the band was great and the movies, silent though they were, were a distraction. But then I would gaze at the screen and think, “That’s a great scene! I wish I could hear it again without the band playing.” I mean, Joe Pesci uttering “yoots” or regaling the judge with an explanation of his clothing suggestion? That begs to be heard. (For that amazing scene, go here.)

I may not be the only one to have felt that way. At least once—as the band covered Rehab by Amy Winehouse—the lead singer stared past the tables of listeners to look into the eyes of Julia Roberts as the plucky Brockovich. Roberts held the singer’s gaze for more than a few beats, and I could swear that the crooner wished, just for a moment, to watch that cool scene beginning to end.

I hear you, sister. I hear you.

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A few seminars at the annual convention routinely garner high expectations. One of those is the one from the Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) Committee.

This year again gave a great session, well presented by lawyer Jane Ross. She walked the audience through everything they could wonder about queer law but were afraid to ask.

That title and the topic may have caused eyebrows to raise just a few years ago. But now attendees have grown used to the topic—even if they know little about it.

Ross’s presentation opened with some scholarly exegesis on the critical legal studies movement, which may be what some attendees came to hear. Most of us warmed up a bit more, though, when she turned to the facts of real cases that have come out of America’s schools.

Everyone in the room was familiar with schools, if only by having attended once. And so the case facts—detailing abuse and harassment of LGBT students and the school’s usually anemic response—were compelling.

Ross read the facts and asked those assembled how they thought the court ruled. The answers were sometimes revealing. Happily, they were not always distressing.

One surprise of the session was the relatively small number of attendees. The SOGI session has historically packed them in. But that may be due to the fact that SOGI’s usual approach—a moot court of timely cases performed by law students—was foregone this year. I can understand that, given the huge amount of work the endeavor requires. But it would be heartening to see some hybrid approach that provides this important and relevant information to a larger audience.

 

What brings friendly but disparate groups together better than anything else? Convention organizers knew the answer was food, glorious food. And that’s what led to creation of the Sister Organizations Luncheon.

What may have been a bit much as a mouthful for a title was made up for by good, solids eats.

Lawyer Benjamin Taylor II ably stepped in as emcee when Melissa Ho‘s law practice reared its head and she had to bow out.

Benjamin Taylor II

Thanks to all the sister bars that participated and made lunchtime into more than food. Let’s hope it occurs every year.

Who made an appearance? These eight carrot cakes did! (But they didn't stay long.)

As uneventful the news may be to accomplished conventioneers, we’re pleased to announce that Arizona Attorney has a full-fledged exhibitor booth at the Bar Convention this year. How sweet it is.

Home sweet home, Tucson style

At the booth, you can find a selection of recent magazines, as well as detailed information on how to submit an article. We’ve also shared our editorial Calendar for the rest of 2011, which I’m hoping gets your creative juices flowing.

We also—and I don’t like to brag—may have some of the largest posters of any booth this year. Thanks for them and the booth’s cool look go to new Ad Sales Manager Lisa Bormaster. She has swooped in and taken the Bar by storm. And it was her belief that a magazine booth needed something else with two o’s: oomph.

I am at seminars most of the day, but feel free to stop by and leave a card or note. Story ideas, comments, critiques, compliments—we enjoy them all.

In the meantime, reach me (Tim Eigo, editor) on my cell at 602-908-6991.

 

The 2011 State of Arizona kicked off Wednesday morning, and this correspondent decided to launch his week of education in the seminar “Meditation, Mindfulness and the Practice of Law.” It was a morning well spent.

First of all, it has to be a historic event—not only at Convention but in CLEs—to focus a CLE on such an important but non-buttoned-down topic. And then to include a “gong wash”—a vibrant and vibrating use of the gong to instill serenity and to end the session. Very impressive.

Pre-session: Mary Dolores Guerra and Donn Kessler, with the gong

Panelists were all experienced lawyers or, in three cases, judges. And they explained to the large audience how each had come to a practice based in mindfulness and meditation.

For anyone who may have thought that these people tumbled easily into this path, the descriptions were sobering. It appears to have been extreme difficulty or tragedy that led busy and successful lawyers to try meditation.

For instance, Michael Zimmerman, now a lawyer at Snell & Wilmer in Utah but once the Utah Chief Justice, came to meditation while his family was in turmoil. His wife faced a debilitating and ultimately fatal disease. So severe were her agonies that she attempted suicide two times. Their daughters, then aged 4, 8 and 11, “were in deep denial.”

After Zimmerman’s wife died, he found himself sitting alone in his bathroom every morning for half an hour. What he found was that as the day began, “and the shit started coming down,” he could deal with it better. That was to evolve into his meditation practice.

Other stories were just as compelling. Moderator Mary Dolores Guerra, a professor at the Phoenix School of Law, had to deal with her anger at the auto-accident death of her older sister.

L to R: Rhonda Magee, Michael Zimmerman, Hon. Donn Kessler

All of them used the session to suggest ways for lawyers to shift their perspectives in a way to help eliminate negative mood states and to enhance their well-being.

Panelist Donn Kessler, a judge on the Arizona Court of Appeals, noted his unique way to get past difficult meetings with fellow lawyers and judges: He imagines them as they must have been as 9-year-old children. That always brings a smile to his face, and fosters compassion for the person.

Hon. Donn Kessler

The session included more than life stories and advice. Zimmerman led the attendees in a guided meditation session that lasted about 10 minutes. And lawyer Judi Cohen had attendees engage in a one-on-one focused exercise that fostered empathy. That was followed by an open-minded stroll around the room to meet or otherwise engage others.

Questioners led panelists to transform their general guidance into more specific suggestions for those lawyers who may want to be mindful amidst their busy practices. Zimmerman may have been the most blunt in the benefits a meditative life had given him.

“Before I learned this, there were an incredible number of assholes in my life. Why was my life filled with so many assholes?”

“There is no doubt that I am a better lawyer due to meditation.”

Other panelists in this great seminar were Judge Roland Steinle, of Maricopa County Superior Court; Judi Cohen, a San Francisco lawyer and law professor at Golden Gate University School of Law; Rhonda Magee, a law professor at the University of San Francisco; and Dr. Shauna Shapiro (by videotape), a counseling psychology professor at the University of Santa Clara.