April 2013


Arizona Attorney Magazine February 2013 cover

Our February 2013 issue with Bob McWhirter’s pictorial feature on less-lawyerly writing.

This week, I was pleased to see the announcement of honorees recognized for their clear and plain writing. Here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we enjoy good writing and like to publish articles on it whenever we can—as we did here. I hope you enjoy it too.

The Center for Plain Language (even the organization’s name is transparent) gives awards annually to the best (and worst) examples of, well, plain writing. Here is how they describe their mission:

“The Center for Plain Language is a D.C.-based nonprofit organization that wants government and business documents to be clear and understandable. We support those who use plain language, train those who should use plain language, and urge people to demand plain language in all the documents they receive, read, and use.”

You can read more about them here. (Lawyers, how can you not love an organization that states, “Plain language is a civil right”?!) But on this Change of Venue Friday, let me tell you about this week’s winners and “winners.” (You may be surprised—as I was—that no law firms made it into one of the categories.)

Center for Plain Language logo(All of the winners and their opposite are posted online, here and here, respectively.)

Their top winner captured the “Grand ClearMark Award” (that’s the good category). The best-in-show honoree is the March of Dimes, which published a brochure titled Thinking About Your Family Health History. Here’s what the Center’s judges said:

Center for Plain Language ClearMark Award logo“[T]he brochure is written and designed with its target audience, parents-to-be, in mind. The brochure is an excellent example of plain language with easy to understand medical terms, and a clear, concise, and appropriate writing style designed to appeal to the target audience. The brochure uses colors, font, white space, and graphics effectively to add to its clarity.”

Wouldn’t we all like our writing efforts to be described so glowingly?

Center for Plain Language march-of-dimes

Top winner of Center for Plain Language award: March of Dimes (first page of a multi-page brochure)

Meantime, what’s up at the other end of the spectrum (I know you all raced here first), in the category the Center calls the WonderMark Award? Before I reveal the “honoree,” I should let the Center explain why the award has the name it does:

“WonderMark Awards are given for the least usable documents. The sort of documents that make us shake our heads and say: ‘We wonder what they meant. We wonder what they were thinking.’”

Pretty funny folks.

Anyway, the bottom winner is Charles Schwab, for a New Yorker advertisement that, indeed, makes us shake our head.

Center for Plain Language Charles Schwab ad

Not their best effort? New Yorker ad by Charles Schwab

I must share the Center’s own description of why they “recognized” this ad:

“What made it a WonderMark Award recipient?

  • So hard to read and decipher, it’s hard to judge.
  • Contradictory and frankly intimidating to the reader.
  • Of the 768 words in this ad, 700 are legalese. That’s over 90%!
  • One WonderMark judge summarized: ‘Sigh … once again a financial institution that expects me to trust them with my money makes it impossible for me to know what they are going to do with my money.’”Center for Plain Language WonderMark Award logo

The website announcement unfortunately truncated that last quotation. In the press release I received, the quote continues, “My mattress is looking better and better all the time.”

Who writes their stuff? This is gold—gold, I tell you!

Follow them on Twitter here, and join their open group on Facebook here.

Enjoy your weekend, and keep on writing (well).

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I will be unable to attend this immigration reform panel disucussion on Friday, April 19, but if you do, let me know what was said (guest blog post, anyone?).

All the information is at this link, and the bones of the matter are pasted in below:

Immigration Reform Panel at ASUImmigration Reform – Is It Time And What Should It Include?

Former Senator John Kyl to moderate panel on immigration reform – April 19 Political, business and non-profit leaders gather to propose and discuss practical solutions

WHAT: A panel discussion exploring the complexities surrounding immigration reform, including its timing, feasibility and potential scope. Border security, the path to citizenship, and visas for individuals working in STEM-related fields are among the topics to be addressed. This forum is part of Arizona State University’s The Challenges Before Us project, created to tackle some of the many challenges facing society today. These forums are designed to open a dialogue between experts, practitioners and the community at large.  Eight, Arizona PBS will broadcast the event live on Eight World, channel 8.3.  For more information visit: http://forum.asu.edu/forum/immigration-reform.

WHEN: Friday, April 19 from 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m.  (Light refreshments available at 10:45 a.m., all guests must be seated by 11:15 a.m., program begins promptly at 11:30 a.m., broadcast live on Eight World, channel 8.3.)

WHERE: Eight, Arizona PBS, Studio A (555 N Central Ave, Phoenix, 85004), 6th floor – on the Downtown Phoenix campus of ASU

Keep reading here.

Attorney Richard D. Grand, 1930-2013

Attorney Richard D. Grand, 1930-2013

I am sorry to report some very sad news: Tucson trial lawyer Richard Grand has died.

I have written about Richard before, both in print and online multiple times, including here. And I have always been equal parts impressed and amused by Richard’s approach to the law and to human interactions. He was a University of Arizona Law School graduate and a huge supporter of their subsequent efforts.

Over the years, I would hear from Richard regularly. But it was only in the past few years that I was able to meet him (and his wonderful wife Marcia) in person.

Richard Grand obituary list

Richard Grand: An Attorney until the end.

His death was sudden and unexpected. I expect I will write more about Richard later, but for now, I share his obituary, which opens thus:

“Attorney Richard D. Grand, 83, of Tucson, nationally recognized for his success as a plaintiff’s trial lawyer, died suddenly in San Francisco on April 7 of natural causes. Grand was the founder of The Inner Circle of Advocates, a group of plaintiffs’ attorneys called by The National Law Journal ‘the elite of the plaintiffs’ bar.’”

Attorney was so much a part of Richard’s DNA that the header for his obituary—which typically contains only the decedent’s name—included the word “Attorney.” Thus, even in the index of obituaries, he is listed as “Attorney Richard D. Grand.” Classic.

Energy and water story ideas wantedWhen you tell Arizona folks you want to talk about water resources, they listen. In fact, they may well want to chime in themselves.

That’s what I discovered recently when I drafted my April 2013 Editor’s Letter for Arizona Attorney Magazine. Like every editor, I am always seeking content that advances the conversation, and we’re always on the prowl for stories that are pertinent and timely.

Based on numerous dialogues I’ve had in the past six months, it occurred to me that a few of the areas we should be covering are water resources and energy generation. So I asked.

Happily, I heard from a good number of people with their ideas. But I’d like to hear from even more. And that’s why I’m including that April column below (you can read it and the complete issue here). If you want to be part of the conversation—either as a published author or as someone we should quote in a story—write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Dept. of Power, Water, More Power

In a desert climate, more effort may be expended on energy issues than in other places. And the horse-trading among powerful interests will only increase in 2013.

Back in 2010, we heard from University of Arizona Law Professor Robert Glennon. The water expert said, “What we do to water is what we did to the buffalo: Harvest it to the brink of extinction.”

Even with H2O, what we value is connected to how much we pay: “Water lubricates the American economy just as much as oil does, but Americans pay less for water than we do for cellphone service or cable television.”

The Navajo Generating Station near Page is at the center of a legal dispute that involves the Salt River Project and the Navajo Nation.

The Navajo Generating Station near Page is at the center of a legal dispute that involves the Salt River Project and the Navajo Nation.

An intriguing panel last month on water in a desert climate addressed that and other issues. It opened with the question, “Do we really have enough water? Really?” (I also wrote about the panel online at http://wp.me/pEOwt-2rX).

The interrelatedness of energy issues was clear as speakers addressed the coal-fired Navajo Generating Station, for which the EPA has advised requires huge and expensive changes. Assuming improvements cost $1 billion (with a b) or more, we may have to reassess water pricing.

Historian Paul Hirt relayed a humorous story demonstrating that water in Arizona is even cheaper than dirt. He got estimates on having a ton of clean topsoil delivered to his house. A ton of clean water (according to WikiAnswers, about 240 gallons) delivered from SRP would cost about 20 times that.

“20 times cheaper,” Hirt marveled, “to get this precious, life-giving resource.”

Heather Macre, a lawyer and Central Arizona Conservation Water Board member, reexamined relations we thought we understood. For instance, she says, “When you turn on a lightbulb, you’re using water. When you turn on your faucet, you’re using electricity.”

Are we trapped in a “relentless cycle of overuse,” as Glennon says? What next steps make sustainable sense, legally or otherwise?

This year, we’d like to cover more energy topics in the magazine. To do that, we need your help.

What issues related to water or other resource should be our focus? What are the legal developments we should follow? And who are the lawyers who should be on our list of sources and authors? Write to us at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

“Do we have enough water?” panelists were asked? One responded, “Yes, but ….”

What’s your answer?

A plastic bag ban has been proposed in Califormia. How would the idea float in Arizona?

A plastic bag ban has been proposed in California. How would the idea float in Arizona?

The other day, I dropped into Safeway for four items, none of them all that heavy. And when I looked up from my transaction with the cashier, my four items were in four separate plastic bags.

Really? I mean, really?

I was able to rectify that, first by handing over my reusable shopping bag to be filled. Better late than never, I guess. And second, I gently suggested to the bagger that all of it could have fit in one bag.

I’d like to say that it is solely my heightened environmental awareness that led me to my plastic bag shock. It was, but only a little. The bigger impetus was having worked for years at a grocery store, much of it bagging groceries. Decades ago, the job required skill and a certain spatial adeptness, to know how much to fit (well) in a bag.

With a downswing in paper-bag use and an upswing in plastic petroleum-based bags, those skills have disappeared. (Do I sound curmudgeonly yet?)

But today’s post is not about the altered training regimen in the service industry—it’s about those plastic bags.

I was thinking of all that as I read an L.A. Times story yesterday about the movement in California to create a full-on plastic-bag ban. It opens:

“A drive to ban most stores from handing out single-use plastic bags got an important boost Monday when the California Grocers Assn. announced its support for a bill. The measure by state Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Pacoima) would prohibit the bags in grocery stores and pharmacies beginning on Jan. 1, 2015. Shoppers would be urged to bring their own reusable cloth or plastic bags or would have the option of paying the actual cost of a paper bag, estimated at 10 cents or less.”

One item per petroleum-based bag = a lot of plastic bags

One item per petroleum-based bag = a lot of plastic bags

Read the whole story here.

What do you think? Would you prefer to carry a reusable bag? Do you already?

And what are the prospects of similar legislation in Arizona? On the off-day that you forget your own carryall, would you be pleased, or bugged, to pay for a plastic bag?

Is a Yale law Ph.D. in your future?

Is a Yale law Ph.D. in your future?

What better way to start out a Monday morning than by asking yourself the soul-searching question:

Why not get a law Ph.D.? That’s right: Rather than rely just on the run-of-the-mill juris doctorate, how about the real doc thing?

Since I came across the Wall Street Journal opinion piece a month ago, my response has moved from hilarity to head-scratching—so maybe education works.

The title grabs you right away: “To Reduce Lawyers’ Drag on Growth, How About a Law Ph.D.?”

Ouch! Drag on growth? Here’s how the authors, Brookings Institution fellows, explain their dis of the typical lawyer:

“A crisis is a terrible thing to waste, so the saying goes. So is a mind—a keen scholarly legal mind. Fewer students seem to be interested in entering law school as can be seen by the 50% decline in applications. But the crisis in legal education may have a silver lining: as most law schools are cutting their student enrollments, Chicago, Vanderbilt, and Yale law schools are attracting students to new legal doctoral programs. Despite what one might think, PhD lawyers could be a good thing for the economy: they will be trained to produce research that could help eliminate costly inefficiencies caused by public policies—ironically, especially those that increase the demand for lawyers. Indeed, if economics research is correct that an economy’s growth slows as more lawyers comprise its workforce, then the payoff from such research could be substantial.”

Keep reading here. And let me know: Have you ever gotten bit by the doctoral bug? What field  would you pursue? And are you ready to cease being a drag on the economy?!

Today is more Change of Venue than ever before. On this casual Friday, I am pleased to share a guest post from someone who knows what it means to get off the beaten path.

Kate Mackay, today’s author, is the deputy director of the Arizona Wilderness Coalition. Below, she explains how everyone—even lawyers—can get involved in the great Arizona outdoors. She even tells us about the experiences of one attorney from Phoenix. Here’s Kate (all photos courtesy of the AWC):

AZ Wilderness Coalition logo.jpgThe Arizona Wilderness Coalition’s volunteer Wilderness Stewardship ProgramWild Stew, as they like to call it—offers a customized volunteer experience that allows individuals to make a positive impact in managing our wilderness areas simply by doing what many people already enjoy—being outdoors. With more than 4.5 million acres of designated wilderness in Arizona and diminishing federal budgets, our land management agencies need help. This unique service-oriented program leads individuals out into wilderness areas, often for a weekend overnight trip, and engages volunteers in tasks that help AWC collect critical data on the vegetation, wildlife, visitation impacts and condition of the wilderness areas, which is then reported the U.S. Forest Service to improve how they manage the lands. Past trips have monitored for non-native plant species, cleaned up backcountry trails, removed fencing to assist wildlife in reaching water sources, and collected trash from fragile riparian areas. Since its inception, AWC’s Wild Stew program has logged nearly 1,000 volunteer hours on trips to 25 different wilderness areas on the Prescott, Coconino, Tonto and Coronado national forests.

AZ Wilderness Coalition Wild Stew logo

AZ Wilderness Coalition Scott Hulbert Engelman Berger

Scott Hulbert of Engelman Berger

No experience is necessary. Volunteers can either join AWC for a guided volunteer event, or become a trained, individual steward who monitors a wilderness area on their own time. Individual Stewards receive a one-day training on wilderness history, federal wilderness management policy, field protocols and techniques, first aid, backcountry travel preparedness, and more. AWC simply requests your commitment to monitor wilderness conditions twice per year, either in different locations or at an adopted area.

Phoenix-based Engelman Berger litigator Scott Hulbert joins Wild Stew trips about four times a year. In 2009, Scott helped AWC haul more than 100 pounds of trash out of Fossil Springs Wilderness. “AWC does a great job of making the trips fun and worthwhile,” says Hulbert. “Sunday rolls around and you feel like you’ve escaped civilization for awhile, but you’ve also given back to these amazing wild places that make Arizona so unique.”

Read more about why Scott helps out in the Wilderness Stewardship program here.

Cutting in a trail in Arizona's Sycamore Canyon.

Cutting in a trail in Arizona’s Sycamore Canyon.

AWC is leading another trip to Fossil Springs in honor of Earth Day this year, April 20-21. Visit the awzwild website for trip details and a complete list of adventures through December 2013 (listed below too). Find them on Facebook and Twitter.

Hardworking volunteers with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition

Hardworking volunteers with the Arizona Wilderness Coalition

April 20–21

  • Earth Day
  • Fossil Springs Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Payson
  • Two-day, Backpacking

May 4–5

  • Wet Beaver Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Camp Verde
  • Two-day, Backpacking

May 18

  • Munds Mountain Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Sedona
  • Single-day, Hiking

June 22–23

  • National Trails Day
  • West Clear Creek Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Camp Verde
  • Two-day, Backpacking

September 14–15

  • Kachina Peaks Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Flagstaff
  • Two-day, Backpacking

September 28–29

  • National Public Lands Day
  • Apache Creek Wilderness
  • Prescott National Forest, near Prescott/Paulden
  • Two-day, Backpacking

October 12–13           

  • Castle Creek Wilderness
  • Prescott National Forest, near Crown King
  • Two-day, Backpacking

October 26 – 27

  • Mazatzal Wilderness
  • Tonto National Forest, near Payson
  • Two-day, Backpacking

November 9–10

  • Mount Wrightson Wilderness
  • Coronado National Forest, near Tucson/Patagonia
  • Two-day, Backpacking

November 23–24

  • Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
  • Coconino National Forest, near Flagstaff/Williams
  • Two-day, Backpacking

December 7–8

  • Superstition Wilderness                     
  • Tonto National Forest, near Phoenix/Superior
  • Two-day, Backpacking

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