September 2011

Are you in need of a cosmopolitan pick-me-up, perhaps to perch on your own desk?

If so, New York in a Bag may be the ticket.

On this Change of Venue Friday, I share a small item that my sister- and brother-in-law got for me when they recently traveled East. As we enter the holiday-laden months, you may find that it suits your workspace, or that of a colleague.

Here’s the burgeoning little berg, carved out of wood (the coin is for size comparison).


The NY set includes the Chrysler Building, Statue of Liberty, Guggenheim Museum, the original Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) buildings, and six cars.

And yes, there IS a bag.

Japanese firm MUJI manufactures these unique sets of blocks—and then packs them in a bag, hence the name. According to MUJI, they’re made of sustainable wood. And they’re as charming as all get-out.

One of the best places to purchase it is MOMA itself.

New York not your choice of great cities? You also may choose other locales, including Barcelona, Tokyo, London, Italy or Paris—or more. Use your imagination and create your own wooden metropolis.

I’ve also been led to believe that they have created Outer Space in a Bag and Suburbia in a Bag, but I haven’t been able to locate them to purchase. If you do, let me know.

Have a globe-trotting weekend.

L to R: Sharon Ng, Lisa Loo and Melissa Ho, Sept. 27, 2011

An organization’s board of directors is a representative body. Ideally, it reflects the membership’s changing face, because board members must embody the future of a profession rather than be in thrall to the past.

On that score, the State Bar of Arizona has reason to be proud.

On Tuesday evening, the Arizona Asian American Bar Association gathered to congratulate three of its members who sit on the State Bar’s Board of Governors. Each of them is a successful lawyer who has a lot to contribute. And each is an Asian American. For good measure, each is also a woman. (All photos are courtesy AAABA.)

At Portland’s Restaurant & Wine Bar in Phoenix, AAABA members and other well-wishers applauded the achievements of Lisa Loo, Melissa Ho and Sharon Ng.

AAABA President Briana Chua

Lisa and Melissa are each representatives from District 6; Sharon is the Young Lawyers Division President.

The event was a happy one. Host and AAABA President Briana Chua reminded attendees that, as well as anyone can tell, there has never been a time when three Asian Americans have served on the board at the same time. Amidst the many conversations I had that night with Arizona lawyers in attendance, one exclamation stands out: “This isn’t your grandfather’s board.”


More photos are on the AAABA Facebook page. (And while you’re there, “Like” them.)

At the AAABA reception, L to R: Maricopa County Bar Association Executive Director Allen Kimbrough, lawyer Mike Mason, and State Bar of Arizona CEO John Phelps

Toni Massaro, Ted Cruz and Linda Greenhouse at the University of Arizona Law School, Sept. 16, 2011

Last week, I wrote about a great UA Law School event held on September 16. That was Constitution Day, and the school held a panel discussion on the topic of current legal cases that are significant and worth watching.

I mentioned that I had tweeted a bit during the presentation by moderator Professor David Marcus, former law school Dean Toni Massaro, lawyer Ted Cruz, former New York Times reporter Linda Greenhouse, and U.S. District Court Judge Neil Wake.

A few readers who struggled with the hashtag asked me what I had said. So, combining old and new school, I have posted just a few of those tweets below.

Before I get to that, though, I wanted to share a few moments that stand out from the day’s events:

    • One humorous moment occurred during that break, when I walked up to speak with Linda Greenhouse, whom I had interviewed about three years ago. As I re-introduced myself, she began speaking to me as if we had met just yesterday, and informed me that I had an error on my blog. I thanked her, walked back to my seat, and confirmed she was right. She has segued into the law professor role well.
    • I took a foot-in-mouth minute to thank Professor Marcus for the masterful job he was doing herding legal cats. But in complimenting his presentation, I added that the event was enjoyable and invigorating, unlike law school. A gentleman, the law professor smiled and said he would take that as a compliment. (I did not attend UA for law school, which undoubtedly is the reason for my misunderstanding

Linda Greenhouse

If you wanted to explore one component of the legal community that may serve as a bellwether for many others, you’d be wise to select corporate counsel.

These are the people on the leading edge of the economy, who have a sense when to hire lawyers and law firms freely, and when to take care of things in-house. They often interact with government and regulatory agencies, and they may know in a very direct way which way juries are tending. They can tell us a lot about the economy, government–business interaction, and the health of the legal market.

For those and other reasons, the Legal Marketing Association Southwest Chapter was wise to host another in its great series of Corporate Counsel Roundtables last week. (Before the event occurred, I wrote about it here.)

I was privileged to be asked to moderate the lunchtime conversation, and it was a hoot and a half. In fact, I couldn’t resist one of my dorkier pleasures: taking a cell-phone photo of the attendees as they watched me and the panel.

Legal professionals wondering why their photo is being taken

The praise for the great event goes to the three lawyers willing to sit in a hot seat and answer questions from me and the attendees.

Once again, let me thank:

Understand, these guys all have day jobs that keep them pretty swamped. Taking time out of a week with few minutes to spare is a great service. And, once there, they brought their “A” game. Each of them shared great insight and anecdotes on a range of topics the audience wanted to know. And then they added humor, to boot.

If there is a definition of “good job,” it would be the ability to work with people who take their work seriously without taking themselves too seriously. Thank you, John, Mike and Larry, for letting me have a good job on Thursday.

Thanks also to Kristi Phillips and the staff at Lewis and Roca, who shared their offices and their talents. Events like these take a huge amount of planning, and they handled it all with grace. (They were even kind enough to wrap me a plate of food to go, as I hadn’t gotten a chance to eat—thanks, Anna!).

Finally, thanks to AZ Business Magazine. Though I am most pleased to be able to tout my own publication, I have to send them my gratitude for sponsoring the event. Here’s looking to more of that kind of synergy in the future.


Mentor event at the Downtown Phoenix Sheraton

Mentor event at the Downtown Phoenix Sheraton


Instead of writing some drowsy recap of last Thursday’s Mentor Committee Kickoff event, I decided simply to list my notebook’s main points:

–>  Great event, great people, great discussions, great connections, great food, great vendors. Free.

Congratulations to the State Bar of Arizona and the affiliated groups that staged the event. (Read more about it here and here.) And keeping with the list theme that busy people like so much, here is the evening by the numbers:

    • 226 attendees (plus those many I saw stroll in without signing in and getting a name badge)
    • 4 vendors
    • 3 hours complimentary valet parking
    • 1,500 appetizers
    • 7,200 ice cubes
    • 1,000 conversations
    • 10/20/11: Networking event by the Bar’s YLD/Sole Practitioner and Small Firm Sections
    • 11/17/11: Networking event by the Bar’s YLD/Mentor Committee/Sole Practitioner and Small Firm Sections

    I’ll provide more detail on those evening events as we get closer. But put them in your calendar now.

A few more photos are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

And while you’re there, why not click Like? Every little click brings me much joy—and it lets you participate in a page dedicated to the Arizona legal community. So share the page with friends and colleagues—show us some love!

Example of on-officer cameras

A few days ago, the Arizona Republic reported on a grant that aims to help policing. Recent news suggests that the steps being taken are good ones.

The $500,000 grant comes from the U.S. Department of Justice, and the money will be used to outfit 50 police officers with on-body video cameras.

For quite some time, we’ve been accustomed to dashboard cameras in police cars. Fixed in place, though, they reveal relatively little of the activities that make up an officer’s daily life.

The on-officer camera would capture far more, integrating a device worn over the ear, similar to a Bluetooth device.

The task force that recommended the use of cameras said they believed it would help ensure that officers, and the public with whom they interact, will behave in the best possible way.

Kelly Thomas, who died after a police encounter

A story out of Fullerton, Calif., this week gives credence to that position.

As reported by the Los Angeles Times (written by Joel Rubin and Richard Winton), two Fullerton officers have been charged, one with murder, in the death of a homeless man. The facts are pretty brutal. But what caught my eye was the fact that audio from an on-officer camera is playing a key role in the prosecution’s case.

Here is the story’s lede:

“Before reaching the decision this week to charge a Fullerton police officer with murder, Orange County prosecutors re-created his fatal encounter with a homeless man from dozens of witness statements, footage from security cameras and cellphone videos.

“The piece of evidence that sealed the decision, however, came from an unexpected source: the officer himself.

“An audio recorder carried by Officer Manuel Ramos captured a chilling exchange between him and Kelly Thomas, in which Ramos told the mentally ill man that he was going to beat him. Those irrefutable words, said Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas, proved Ramos was intent on hurting the defenseless Thomas and led Rackauckas to file the second-degree murder charge.”

This is likely one of those technological developments we later will recognize as a normal and vital part of policing. I’ll have more on the story as it unfolds.


Richard Zorza

Today, I commend to you a great blog and its blogger, who writes on a compelling subject, and who does so eloquently.

The writer is Richard Zorza, and his blog was brought to my attention by a good friend. It is titled “Richard Zorza’s Access to Justice Blog,” and you can read it here.

Hon. Kevin Burke

Any day of the week, he provides valuable content on one of the most pressing issues in our society. But yesterday’s lighter fare was a blog post of another variety.

In it, he reported that the American Judges Association has a new President—as associations are wont to do. This year, the new top jurist is Judge Kevin Burke, a state court judge in Hennepin County, Minnesota.

Judge Burke is reason enough for the item to come to my attention. He is a highly accomplished judge, one who is well (and often) published and who has garnered praise and awards both locally and nationally. You may read more about him here.

Here in Arizona, there’s another reason to know Judge Burke—he is brother to Dennis Burke, until this month the United States Attorney for the District of Arizona.

Dennis Burke

In his post, Richard Zorza wisely provides a link to Judge Burke’s Wikipedia entry. But that made me chuckle, because when I interviewed Dennis Burke a few years ago, he praised his brother–judge up and down, and added a smirk when he pointed out that Kevin has his own Wikipedia page. O brother—Some families are accomplished beyond belief!

Zorza’s post also alludes to a connection between chocolate and judges ruling well. In fact, Judge Burke (on his own blog!) provided his own commentary on the sugary subject.

Litigants benefit from a well-fed judge, a recent study reports.

As I read that, I looked past my computer screen to some old print ads I have framed on my wall. Once is a yellowed Kellogg’s Corn Flakes ad showing a judge chowing on the stuff in chambers. The subtitle advises, “More judges pass down a friendly verdict on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes than on any other cereal.”

Now that’s an ad.

All around an educational post, for which I thank Richard Zorza. But that makes me wonder: Are any Arizona judges blogging? I’d love to hear from them, or from those who read their pages. Contact me at





Panelists Dean Toni Massaro, Ted Cruz, Linda Greenhouse and Hon. Neil Wake

I never had the opportunity to sit down with the Founding Fathers at a Constitutional Convention. But last Friday, I—and a roomful of others—got the next-best thing.

That was the day in which the University of Arizona Law School celebrated Constitution Day. And they did it in the manner they do best—through mind-blowing smarts. Bravo.

Their plan, executed flawlessly, was to gather a distinguished panel of experts who could decipher Supreme Court and other cases. These cases, it was believed, could serve as a bellwether for the direction the Court was heading. Or not. Remember, panelists always reserve the right to point out that your mileage may differ from their prognostications.

The moderator did his part to keep the panel and the audience roused to a passionate and insightful pitch. In introducing each case in its turn, Professor David Marcus dispensed with a simplistic issue recitation in favor of crafting mini-vignettes. Each was a whirlwind, more tour de force than simple tour.

The effort and delivery he put into those moments signaled that the panel would be something out of the ordinary. I suspect, for instance, that those gathered in Philadelphia to sign the Constitution on September 17, 1787, would have rollicked quite a bit at Professor Marcus’s musings. Those gathered in a law school classroom certainly did.

Panelists, too, did their part to make the Constitution come alive (not that they all agreed it was “a living document”). The speakers were: former law school Dean Toni Massaro, esteemed Supreme Court advocate R. (Ted) Edward Cruz, Pulitzer Prize-winning writer (and now Yale Law Prof) Linda Greenhouse, and federal district court judge Hon. Neil Wake.

During a break, I spoke with an influential Arizona lawyer, and he marveled at the talented panel that the school had gathered. “Just listening to them,” he said, “I feel like I don’t know that much.” My writing hand and I agreed.

You can see some of what I tweeted that day (search for the hashtag #UAConstitution). I think they give you an idea about the wide-ranging conversation. What a tweet may not capture, however, is the breadth and passion of the panelists’ conversation. Those things came to the fore more than once, as the lawyers struggled to dissect the reasoning of a Court thrust into the public more and more often.

One point of the conversation may illustrate that.

Professor David Marcus

Judge Wake noted that Justice Scalia could be pointed in his opinion-writing, and he was disappointed that Justice Kagan had signaled a willingness to engage also in such muscular judging (my term, not Judge Wake’s).

Dean Massaro agreed, adding that the tenor of the Court is worsening, and that the benefit of pausing before engaging appears to be a declining art on the Court.

“The whole Court is becoming snap, snap, snap,” said Massaro. “When the Wall Street Journal says isn’t it great that Scalia is ‘delightfully brutal,’ it is no surprise that Justice Kagan may join in.”

She reiterated that point when she suggested that perhaps the Court would do well to take a pass on the lawsuits regarding the national health insurance reform law that are working their way toward the marble steps. (Judge Wake removed himself from the panel for that portion of the conversation.)

“The Court should restore a sense of the value of passive virtues. Leave the case alone for now.”

Disagreeing was Ted Cruz, who stressed that he hoped the law was found unconstitutional as soon as possible. He, Massaro and Greenhouse differed on whether the Court would—or should—find the law’s individual mandate unlawful.

Cruz said, “To uphold it would be to change us from a government of limited powers to a government of general powers.”

We shall see whose view a Court majority values. In the meantime, congratulations to the Law School for a stellar event.

More photos are on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

(I wrote about this panel discussion last week. Read it here.)

Between now and Thursday, I am developing a list of questions that may inspire and entertain during a lunch-panel presentation. And I’m hoping you can help.

And you may get a free lunch out of it.

On Thursday, I will moderate a panel of corporate general counsel at a gathering at Lewis and Roca in Phoenix. The event is another in a series put on by the Legal Marketing Association—Southwest Chapter. And it is sponsored by AZ Business Magazine.

As editor of Arizona Attorney Magazine, I was privileged to be asked to moderate a discussion before an audience of lawyers and legal marketers.

As I write this, the panelist list is still evolving. But they will include:

The LMA is a great organization, and they kindly provided me a list of possible questions. I’m reviewing and adopting them now. But I wanted to ask you: If you could sit a GC or two down in front of you, what would you ask them?

Have at it. You may have questions about how they hire outside counsel. Or about whether law firms committed to diversity fare better in such searches. Or if corporations are demanding alternatives to the billable hour—or if that is a lot of national blather.

Send me a question or two. (Post them below, or write to me at

And if you can, consider attending. You can register here.

Finally, here’s a chance to combine the two. Send me a question by Wednesday at noon and I will randomly select a submitter to receive one free ticket to the event.

Times a’ wasting. If you haven’t yet added to your calendar what promises to be a great event this Thursday evening, do it now.

The gathering is a Mentor kickoff event, sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona’s Mentor Committee and a number of other groups. I wrote about the event a few weeks ago. Now, I’m here to remind you to be there.

The big event is this Thursday, September 22. Drop by the downtown Phoenix Sheraton Hotel (and valet park for free for three hours). It will be in the hotel restaurant, District American Kitchen. More detail is available on the flyer (click to make it larger).

And yes, though I failed to mention it in my previous blog post, there will be appetizers and complimentary (nonalcoholic) beverages.

Because mentors are all about meeting and collaborating, demonstrate your skills in that regard by heading over to our Facebook event page. Once you’re there, click “I’m Attending.” And pass the link on to someone else you know who may benefit—either by meeting a mentor or by dispensing their experience and knowledge.

See you on Thursday.


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