October 2011


Was it only last month that I wrote about a networking event? The September gathering was sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona Mentor Committee (and others). Now, I share another upcoming event.

This Thursday’s event belongs to the State Bar’s Young Lawyers Division, and it will occur at the Bonfire Grill and Bar in Scottsdale.

Much to my chagrin, I will be unable to attend, for as I write this, I’m currently flying toward Nashville for a conference (hmmm, how do you Foursquare a Southwest flight?).

In any case, here is the information. If past events are any indicator, this one will be a great time.

SAVE THE DATE: Thursday, October 20, 2011

October Networking Event at the Bonfire Grill and Bar 

Who: The State Bar of Arizona’s Young Lawyer Division, Sole Practitioner & Small Firm Section, and Mentor Committee; Committee on Minorities & Women in the Law; and ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

What: Networking and free appetizers

When: Thursday, October 20, 2011, 5:30-8:30 pm

Where: Bonfire Grill and Bar, 7210 East 2nd Street, Scottsdale, AZ 85251

Sponsor: Front Office Staff Camelback

Arizona Bar members—and State Bar of Arizona staff—were treated to a unique presentation on Monday afternoon. It was a CLE that examined a topic that is often a lightning rod, but that is enshrined in the state Constitution.

The CLE was called “Diversity Considerations in Judicial Merit Selection.” Appropriately, the headliner (if we may use that term) was Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch. She shared her perspectives on the role that the “D” word plays in establishing who may don the judicial robe.

Other panelists were Doug Cole of HighGround Public Affairs, Assistant United States Attorney John Tuchi and lawyer (and former aide to then-Gov. Janet Napolitano) Tim Nelson.

Each of the panelists has had experience with one or more of the commissions on judicial court appointments. As such, they could explain and reveal a little about how commissioners weigh applicants’ diversity, along with many other areas of experience.

The panel was ably moderated by Senior Bar Counsel David Sandweiss.

Sandweiss and the Chief Justice explained the founding documents that enshrine diversity as a value—both in the state Constitution and in a set of principles that the State Bar adopted in 1992. As Chief Justice Berch recalled, Sandra Day O’Connor had once said that she would hope a wise old man and a wise old woman would come to the same conclusions. But data have shown that there may be significant differences in the weight evidence receives, the Chief said, depending on whether a judge is a woman or a man. Neither is necessarily correct, but diversity on the bench helps assure that multiple viewpoints are represented.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch

As Chief Justice Berch said, “Decisions we make in life are part and parcel of all that we are.” Because of that, she said, lawmakers—and the State Bar—decided to value diversity.

Doug Cole echoed the position that commissioners are charged with looking at the whole applicant, not just a narrow slice of their resume. He amused the audience with some responses that he has found most surprising to Question 64—the query found on the judicial application in merit-selection jurisdictions that requires applicants to describe their experience with diversity—again, a constitutional requirement.

  • “I am white and male.” (That was the complete response.)
  • “I have friends who are diverse.” (I shortened the actual response, but not by much.)
  • “Not applicable.”

Cole said that such responses miss the point, because diversity and facing adversity may occur in anyone’s life.

“The best applicants’ answers may be moving and touching, including life experiences and important turning points in people’s lives.”

So yes, Cole said, if you’re a white male, you still may have a good understanding of diversity.

John Tuchi agreed with Cole, but spoke also about the uncertainty of a word that has been given no delimited definition. Therefore, the assessment of what diversity means may vary among and between commissions and commissioners.

Tim Nelson described the statistics that reveal some strides have been made in increasing the ranks of minority judges. The bench is currently comprised of judges who are 71 percent male, 29 percent female and 16 percent minority. Those numbers nearly mirror the membership of the Arizona Bar—though they trail the breakdown of state residents.

“Right now, we have a bench that matches the profile of our Bar.” Whether that is sufficient is a broader and more challenging question.

Panelists also spoke of the obstacles they face encouraging lawyers to apply for a judgeship. For instance, Cole said that there is a shortage of private lawyer applicants, which is likely related to the pay cut that an experienced law firm partner would see if she applied.

Chief Justice Berch added that she has reached out to former law students who are minority to encourage their application. But they have responded, “You don’t get it.” Many of them may be the first child in their family to attend college, let alone law school. Now that they have reached a pinnacle of law firm partnership, the sacrifice to become a judge may be just too great.

“We may put too much on their shoulders,” she said. “And that can be unfair.”

Here are some more photos from the event (they also may be found on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.)

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Hon. George Anagnost

On this Monday morning, I’m pleased to send thanks and congratulations to Peoria Presiding Court Judge George Anagnost. That man knows his way around the Constitution—and a CLE.

Last Thursday’s “We the People” symposium was mentioned here before (here and here), and I emphasized it because it had all the inklings of a great event. It did not disappoint.

The panelists were each terrific, and they kept a packed room engaged on elements of constitutional law, history, policy and politics.

Today, though, I reserve special plaudits for Judge Anagnost. More than a moderator, he shared a voluminous knowledge of the subject before and between the visiting speakers. He is an educator’s educator.

One example was the big Bowl of Knowledge that brought surprise and more than one case of nerves to the audience. The bowl contained the names of audience members, and Judge A. would occasionally draw a name and ask that person to stand. He would then ask them a constitutionally related question:

  • Three Supreme Court Justices joined the Court immediately after serving as a state governor. Who were they?
  • What are the names of the Justices on the Arizona Supreme Court?

And so on. I don’t think I heard one correct response during the day (the queries were pretty obscure at times), but following each wrong answer, the Judge praised the speaker’s tenacity and awarded a Supreme Court tote bag.

Hmmm. Things really are different on the West side.

Now, before you write, I mean that in a good way. Here’s one more example: The Judge wore a boutonnière—and had at the ready a similar corsage for every panelist. Which they wore.

Now, I cannot be sure that every speaker was enchanted with the idea of wearing a corsage. But the Judge’s sense of ceremony and courtesy were infectious, and everyone came out smelling like a rose (or a carnation, as the case may be).

The Judge also compared the Constitution to another love of his: chess. He recounted a famous quotation: “Chess is a sea in which a gnat may drink and an elephant may bathe.” The Constitution, too, he pointed out, may provide a placid surface to the world, but excursions into it and its scholarship yield immense and complex riches.

Adding levity, he reminded attendees as they exited for a break—a la jury admonitions—“Do not form an opinion about the quality of this seminar until it has been completed.”

The Big (Blue) Bowl of Knowledge: Partially obscured but forever a beacon

So the next time you sit in a CLE and find your mind wandering, ask yourself this: How much better would it be if corsages and a Big Bowl of Knowledge were shared around? What seminar would not improved by a tote bag, or surprise quizzes offered with a smile?

As the Judge pointed out, symposium comes from the Greek for drinking party. At the Peoria CLE, there was no hootch. But there were high spirits. Well done.

More photos from the event are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. Have you ever wondered what it takes to publish a book? An organization guessed that people wondered about that, so they decided to shed some light on the subject.

The group is the Valley of the Sun chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, a great group of folks. Their idea was to gather a few published authors, invite folks, and hold the event in a place with great food and drink. So they hosted “From Journalist to Author: Turning Your Beat Into a Book.” Well done!

That is how I came to be at Monti’s La Casa Vieja in Tempe last Friday, October 7. That is a place with a lot of history, and they can mix an excellent martini. Most important, the panel was excellent.

The speakers were Jana Bommersbach, Shanna Hogan and Terry Greene Sterling. Each of them generously shared their thoughts on the highs and lows of book publishing.

One of the first changes you might note about that industry is represented above—every one of these accomplished women has her own website. That and the amount of marketing individual authors are expected to do are striking changes from the past.

This ain’t your grandmother’s publishing industry.

Click through to read more about these writers. Jana is an amazing author (from whom I once took a hilarious and insightful writing class) of the books Bones in the Desert: The True Story of a Mother’s Death and a Daughter’s Search and The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd. Shanna is the true-crime author of Dancing With Death: The True Story of a Glamorous Showgirl, Her Wealthy Husband and a Horrifying Murder.

And just to prove that it’s not all blood and guts, Terry spoke about her book Illegal: Life and Death in Arizona’s Immigration War Zone.

Their insights about the industry, agents and pitches were helpful. As a writer, though, I really appreciated their comments on that ink-stained craft of writing itself. For instance, Terry told us that “The essence of writing is understanding the human soul.” True that.

Shanna described her brave plunge from “fitting her writing in” to making it her main work. Attendees appreciated her honest assessment of those risks.

And then there’s Jana, who I’m sure would be able to make me laugh even as the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse swept into town (“… and the horse you rode in on,” she’d likely mutter to the overly dramatic riders). She offered those gathered some suggestions that we all could use, whether we write book length or something smaller.

“Don’t overwrite the story,” she offered. “But you sure have to write the heck out of it.”

When you conceive of a book, she said, “Write a one-page treatment of it: If I can’t snare the reader in 500 words, I certainly can’t snare him in 15,000.”

Finally: “If you have the first sentence of your book and the last sentence of your book, you’re halfway home.”

Below you’ll find a few of my dreadful cell-phone pictures of the event. But you should go to the authors’ websites for better art and copy.

(And for an odd but related blast this weekend, head to—appropriately—The Trunk Space in downtown Phoenix, where the film “Murderess” will be screened. It is filmmaker Scott Coblio’s retelling of the Winnie Ruth Judd story—with puppets. It’s shown at 7:30 pm Sunday; click here or more information.)

Thanks to the authors and to the Phoenix chapter for such a great event. Have a terrific weekend.

L to R: Terry Greene Sterling, Shanna Hogan and Jana Bommersbach, Oct. 7, 2011

L to R: Shanna Hogan and Jana Bommersbach, Oct. 7, 2011

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, Oct. 6, 2011

On October 6, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon declared Mediation Week, which will occur October 16-22. It was at the request of the State Bar of Arizona Alternative Dispute Resolution Section.

At the event, State Bar President Joe Kanefield delivered remarks, as did Mayor Gordon and ADR Section member Donna Williams.

A few photos more photos from the event are below. More are online at the magazine Facebook page.

President Kanefield’s remarks are available here

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, State Bar President Joe Kanefield and members of the ADR Section, Oct. 6, 2011Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and State Bar President Joe Kanefield, Oct. 6, 2011

Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and State Bar President Joe Kanefield, Oct. 6, 2011

Today I bring you a nearly-last-minute reminder about a great event where you may listen, learn and mingle. Best of all, it includes a terrific panel of people who are coming to town to talk to you about the U.S. Constitution.

I wrote about tomorrow’s event before, but one or two of you may have missed it, so click here for more information (and some great photos of the panelists).

And you really do need to click here to register for the seminar. Go ahead; I’ll wait.

Please, PLEASE, don’t tell me “It’s way out in Peoria.” That is a wee bit annoying, for a few reasons. First of all, many people (including Bar members) live in or around Peoria. As our Founders would say, those people are pursuing their own version of happiness, and they don’t need anyone to tell them otherwise.

Cookies may be present tomorrow, but no promises.

There is another reason that comes to mind for why complaining about a little drive to your CLE is weak sauce. Let’s see: The Hohokam built the canals, probably with their own hands. (Cue the violins.) The pioneers lived in dusty shacks that let in the heat and the cold when neither was welcome. (Enter bass drum.) The state’s industrialists and laborers both did their part to carve the sixth-largest metropolitan area out of rock and worse. (Crescendo.)

And we? We must drive an extra 10 minutes in our air-conditioned vehicles to hear wise people speak on stimulating topics, and where lunch and cookies will be served.

(OK, I am totally guessing on the cookies part, but roll with me.)

In summary: You could attend for yourself and the pleasure and knowledge it will give you. Or you can attend for the Hohokam.

Your choice. See you tomorrow.

Love it or hate it, continuing education is one thing that most professions share. When I practiced law, I did my share (I had to), and much of it, I’m pleased to recall, was pretty good.

As a writer, I’m always on the lookout for the chance to improve my skills, preferably in an entertaining way. That opportunity made its way to my inbox a few weeks ago, when I spotted an online class aimed at writing successful profiles. People profiles are in the wheelhouse of Arizona Attorney Magazine, the price was right, the location (my own desk) sounded good, so I signed on.

I was glad I did. Hosted by Poynter’s News University, it offered great faculty: Jan Winburn, Senior Editor for Enterprise at CNN.com.

Jan Winburn, CNN.com

You can read more about the Poynter Institute here.

One of the first things that charmed me in the webinar was Winburn’s willingness to use humor and to salt her webinar with attention-catching content. Here, for instance, is something that scrolled by my screen during the session.

Tolstoy? In a writing webinar? Excellent. Anyone who would refer to that master storyteller had my attention.

Poynter promised a few things for those who enrolled (always a dangerous practice for CE providers), and Winburn came through on all counts:

  • How to avoid profile clichés: the Heroic Do-gooder, the Freak of the Week
  • How to distill the larger meaning
  • How to report for character and complexity, choices and consequences, action and detail
  • Every profile is really a quest
  • Vulnerabilities make characters more appealing

I completed the webinar and went back to work. But not six hours after the education, I found myself reading a New Yorker Magazine profile of renowned photographer Thomas Struth, written by Janet Malcolm. It’s called “Depth of Field: Thomas Struth’s Way of Seeing.” (Here’s the opening spread.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Later that week, I flipped forward 18 pages in the magazine and came across a second profile, this one by Peter Hessler. It’s titled “Dr. Don: The Life of a Small-Town Druggist.”

Illustration by Ben Katchor

I must add that I actually read these profiles in the print magazine—old-school, I know, but I enjoy reading a paper version when a long profile awaits my gaze. As I have said before, print magazines are a pleasure to hold, scan and share—which is why I love this cartoon.

(In any case, I have provided links to the articles, but it appears you may only be able to read an extensive abstract of Malcolm’s article. But all of Hessler’s profile is there for the reading.)

Malcolm and Hessler immersed themselves in their subjects, and their approaches could not have diverged any farther if they had tried.

I enjoyed both, but I found myself distracted by the number of times Malcolm inserted herself into her piece. I can appreciate the occasional use of “I” when the writer adds true value by calling attention to herself; in that regard, I am not so old-fashioned that I think the word must be banished from writing. But too much use crosses a line.

In contrast, Hessler painted a full and rich portrait of a man and his community. The writer was clearly present in his commitment to the story, but he was not present in the final story—save one important moment, very late in the profile.

Writing a person’s profile is a privilege and a nail-biter—after all, you might fail to capture the person entirely. You must decide whether the facts and instances you’ve compiled are signifiers of something greater and all-encompassing about the person—or if they are mere and occasional facts. Given that, I tip my hat to both Malcolm and Hessler, who crafted compelling stories out of the bits and pieces of individuals’ lives, some parts shared generously by the subjects, and others pried from them unwillingly. Ultimately, though, we readers all have our preferences.

What do you like in a profile? Have you read an article about a person, prestigious or otherwise, that set you back on your heels, or that yielded a view that surprised? Have you read a profile that you could recommend to someone who’s always looking to improve his own writing?

National Pro Bono Week is coming up. To help you understand more about what that means, here is some of my Editor’s Letter from the October Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Last year, we committed to telling a number of pro bono stories online in October’s National Pro Bono Week. And we did. This year, we plan to do the same—and we may be able to tell your story.

The National Celebration of Pro Bono is a nationwide effort in which bloggers participate in the conversation about pro bono legal services.

This year’s focus aims to “frame a new way of thinking about and delivering pro bono services”:

  • What has worked?
  • What are the very best practices?
  • What is the experience of those working on this issue?
  • What changes are needed and how might they be accomplished?
  • What are the most effective collaborations and partnerships?
  • How can the private and public interest bars work together most effectively to provide access to justice for all?

To add to the conversation’s vibrancy, the folks at the American Bar Association are posting new questions twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays. They invite people to read and comment; questions and a schedule are posted here.

To give you a nudge, here is the question they posted today for today: “What systemic issues do you see in the delivery of legal services and equal access to justice? How does pro bono fit (or not) into the big picture?”

Organizers invite all of us to participate early and often—and to urge colleagues to join in too.

Here is the page that includes all the questions and the evolving responses (housed in WordPress).

Besides participating in the national Q&A, perhaps you, your firm or your employer have a unique pro bono story to tell. If you do, contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. Maybe we can get your word out.

And if you write a law blog and want to participate, see the celebration website for more information.

As the organizers describe it, “Pro Bono Week is a strategic tool that can be useful in advancing pro bono, resulting in concrete legal services and programs for many currently denied access to justice. Your participation is a vital part of promoting awareness and participation.”

See you online.

If there is one thing I enjoy more than a well-cooked steak, it is humor in marketing. And on this Change of Venue Friday, I share a restaurant that’s combined both. (Don’t worry: There’s something legal here too.)

The eatery is Smith & Wollensky in New York City. Their website, as it is, is pretty snazzy.

What makes their presence ever more beefy is a promotion they have going on right now: Take their pledge of loyalty to all things Smith & Wollensky, and you may be selected to have your name adorn their restaurant.

Think you’ve got what it takes? Here’s the pledge:

I didn’t mean to be obscure about this: When they say they will change the restaurant name, that’s exactly what they mean:

“What does it feel like to have a steakhouse be truly yours? Our regulars know and now you can too. Every day from Oct. 3 – Oct. 31, we’re literally changing the name of our restaurant to the name of a different randomly chosen guest who pledges to make Smith & Wollensky their steakhouse. We’re changing the signs, the awnings, everything. Just book a table, take our pledge and you can make Smith & Wollensky yours. O’Doyle & Wollensky? Chang & Wollensky? It can happen.”

So let’s get all lawyerly for a moment (I can do that, you know, even on Fridays). When the S&W folks get to the fine print, they continue to dazzle. Read that text and have a chuckle:

Terms & Conditions

“By making a reservation, you are agreeing to the terms of the pledge and will not patronize other steakhouses. This is only binding to the definition of patronize as ‘to be a frequent or regular customer of,’ e.g., ‘For some reason, he patronizes Del Frisco’s regularly.’ If you are going by the alternate definition of patronize – ‘to adopt an air of condescension toward,’ – please feel free to engage in patronizing other steakhouses, e.g., ‘He patronizes Del Frisco’s regularly about how cute their failed attempts to be Smith & Wollensky are.’

“In the event that you find yourself, whether through coercion, deceit or kidnapping, dining at a steakhouse other than Smith & Wollensky, you are required to act with the dignity inherent in a Smith & Wollensky customer, even when faced with inferior steaks, second-class service or a drink with an umbrella. However, your dignity does not preclude you from making snide comments and you should feel free to do so.

“Entering a profane or obviously made-up last name will disqualify you from this offer, no matter how hilarious it may be.”

Committed as I may to my work (even on a Friday), I had to wonder: What lessons could Arizona Attorney Magazine or the State Bar of Arizona learn from this naming gambit? Would readers adopt our tome, forswearing all other rivals, if we were to place their name on the cover? Would members’ hearts swell and their ardor grow heated if they could become part of “The State Bar of Tim”—even if just for a day?

Fortunately, greater marketing minds than mine must wrestle with those possibilities. For myself, I must get me to a chop house.

But not Del Frisco’s. Never, ever, Del Frisco’s.

The Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has just confirmed that Olivia Cortes has withdrawn from the recall election that has been called in regard to State Senate President Russell Pearce.

According to an email sent from that Office, “Mrs. Cortes will still be on the ballot, but there will be signs posted at the polls and posted on the Secretary of State’s site.”

Here is a news story about her withdrawal and some history of this race.

And here is the withdrawal form that Cortes signed:

 

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