May 2013

What can event organizers learn from a man with cool glasses eating a Goo Goo Cluster?

Quite a bit, I’d wager.

Niche Digital Conference trailer

Carl Landau, Niche Digital, eats a Nashville specialty.

Happy Change of Venue Friday. That off-kilter thought occurred when a conference notification arrived in my email. I will read most all copy (words) that come my way, but typically I am loath to click through to time-sucking video content. And yet there he was, this guy, about to eat a Nashville confectionary delicacy. Click.

What I got was a charming and idiosyncratic view into the Niche Media Conference. Its annual event was in Tempe this past year, and it’s good stuff. (Yes, Arizona Attorney Magazine is niche media, and proudly so. That makes all you legal eagles “niche readers.” Congratulations!)

How do you get people to use their scarce resources—time, money, attention—to travel across country to attend an educational conference? If you’re like most organizations, you inundate prospects with emails and printed materials, flooding their minds and short patience with all of the content content content that will be available, but only if you REGISTER NOW.

Niche Media logoWe’ve all been on the receiving end of those pitches.

Well, if you’re Carl Landau with Niche Media, you try something else. You recognize that people attend events for all kinds of reasons, not all easily categorized and put in a formal box. You decide to try to connect to viewers on a deeper level. You realize that people do want content (yes, indeed), but what they yearn for is a genuine transformative experience. They want to arrive in a place whose guides (some organizations call them “presenters” or “PowerPoint drones”) will challenge them in fun and innovative ways. It’s at places like that, people think, that they will learn the most cutting-edge industry strategies.

And they may even want some local color. That’s where the Goo Goo Clusters come in.

I was at a great Nashville conference a few years ago, and I cannot say enough about that wondrous creation. I even waxed poetic about it (and its Moon Pie partner) on my Tumblr stream.

Two great tastes taste good together: Nashville specialties Goo Goo Cluster and Mini Moon Pie.

Two great tastes taste good together: Nashville specialties Goo Goo Cluster and Mini Moon Pie.

So enjoy Carl’s video introduction to the conference; it is embedded down below. The conference may be one you’ll never attend. But the video may provide you ideas about how to make your own events and content come alive, and how to get your viewers or other audience members firing on all cylinders.

For myself, I plan to steal shamelessly from the approaches Carl uses so well. (And I love that long closing tracking shot! Am I crazy, or did I see that used in Alfred Hitchcock’s TV show, when he sat in a high-backed chair far away from us in a looooong room, as the camera crept closer and closer, all while Al told us what we were about to see? Hitchcock fans, let me know!)

And I’d suggest the State Bar of Arizona might want to try an evocative video like his. But until they do, be sure to view what’s coming up at the Bar’s own June convention.

Here’s Carl. Have a great—and Cluster-filled—weekend.

Marc Miller, Dean of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Marc Miller, Dean of the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law

Here is some news from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law: They have a new dean.

The white smoke emerged from 1201 East Speedway Boulevard yesterday, and here’s how the announcement begins:

“In an email to law faculty and staff, Provost Andrew Comrie said, ‘Marc has the vision and experience to move the college forward in a decisive manner at the dawn of its second century.’ Miller is the 12th permanent dean to occupy the position since the law school was founded in 1915.”

I have met and worked with Dean Miller on numerous occasions, and I look forward to his leadership.

More and more, it’s a challenging time to be a legal education leader. Challenging budgets are perhaps the least of law deans’ worries. More troubling is the declining interest in the law exhibited by the smartest university graduates. Law schools try and try, but demonstrating the J.D.’s value to potential applicants is an increasingly tough sell. And don’t get us started on law school debt.

I always enjoy my conversations with Arizona’s law school deans, which we reproduce as Q&As in Arizona Attorney Magazine (here’s our most recent, with ASU Law Dean Doug Sylvester). Knowing Dean Miller, it will be a robust dialogue.

So get your questions ready or send them to me now. What should I ask Dean Miller about the law school, law education or the legal profession generally?

And be sure to read the complete news story about Dean Marc Miller here.

Reality’s on hold: In response to a global shift in the legal industry, forty-five percent of law firms may have opted for “no changes needed.”

Reality’s on hold: In response to a global shift in the legal industry, forty-five percent of law firms may have opted for “no changes needed.”

This month, legal management consultant Altman Weil released another in its series of surveys describing where we are (and aren’t) in the legal services industry.

There may be few surprises for those who have been paying attention as nearly everything about the legal profession changes. But I must admit to raised eyebrows as I read down into the Altman release accompanying the link to its “Law Firms in Transition” survey. Here’s what they report. I’ll stop when I get to the surprises:

“The fifth annual Law Firms in Transition Survey shows the evolution in thinking of law firm leaders on legal market trends and how firms are responding to market changes in 2013.”

“‘There have been some dramatic shifts in opinion about the business of law over the last few years, but a lot less tangible action,’ said Altman Weil principal and survey author, Tom Clay. ‘Most firms seem to be operating in a short-term, defensive mode driven by market threats rather than opportunities.’”

“Ninety-six percent of law firm leaders say they believe ‘more price competition’ is a permanent change in the legal market in 2013, according to the survey. Additionally, eight out of ten firm leaders think ‘more non-hourly billing’ is here to stay. In contrast, only 29% of leaders report that their firms have significantly changed their strategic approach to pricing since the recession.”

I’ll pause while you re-read that last sentence. Thinking it a typo, I had more than one go at it.

Back to the press release:

“Law firms’ primary response to pricing pressure appears to be discounts. The survey found that a median of 21% to 30% of legal fees are discounted. In firms with 250 or more lawyers, the median amount of fees discounted goes up to 31% to 40%.”

“‘Discounting is not a strategy,’ said Clay. ‘In fact, it undermines the idea of value and it’s a margin killer.’”

“Ninety-six percent of survey respondents also believe that a ‘focus on improved practice efficiency’ is a permanent change in the legal market. Ninety percent of leaders say there will be ‘more commoditization of legal work;’ and 79% expect ‘more competition from non-traditional service providers.’”

Ready for the one–two punch? Here is is:

“Despite this broad consensus, only 45% of leaders report their firms have made significant changes in strategic approach to efficient legal service delivery.”

That’s called burying the lede, Altman Weil! More than 90 percent of law firm respondents are able to identify serious structural challenges that face their industry. Then, with a steely gaze, only 45 percent have actually done anything to change their approach.

Altman Weil logoAm I reading that right?

Irony affects all professions, I suppose. But it is striking that in a field in which virtually all participants have sat through a course called “Evidence,” about half of them eschew evidence-based analyses.

Is that unfair? Perhaps the global changes sweeping the law field are somehow exempting half the law firms from the revolution. Please tell me I’m wrong to be surprised at the non-reaction.

In the meantime, “Law Firms in Transition: 2013” is available for download here.

An event this Sunday, June 2, will demonstrate the strength and commitment of some Arizona lawyers.

In the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe, a nine-member team of lawyers and “friends of the firm” at Zwillinger, Greek and Knecht are pedaling in a 100-mile bike ride fundraiser to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. LLS is the leading nonprofit organization funding blood cancer research and helping patients and their families The ZGK team’s website states their goal is to raise at least $33,000. As of Monday, May 27, they had exceeded it (though I’ve been told they’d love to raise $50,000—hint hint).

Some members of the Zwillinger Greek & Knecht PC team last year in Lake Tahoe. From L to R: Jack Dearing, Andrew Conlin, Felecia Rotellini, Jamie Burgess and Gary Zwillinger. (Dearing, Rotellini, Burgess and Zwillinger are firm attorneys.)

Some members of the Zwillinger Greek & Knecht PC team last year in Lake Tahoe. From L to R: Jack Dearing, Andrew Conlin, Felecia Rotellini, Jamie Burgess and Gary Zwillinger. (Dearing, Rotellini, Burgess and Zwillinger are firm attorneys.)

The team’s story is well worth reading here.

The leader of the troupe is attorney Jamie Burgess, who lost his brother-in-law to leukemia in 2006. Since then, according to team materials, “He’s personally raised nearly a quarter of a million dollars on rides like this. He’s been recognized as one of the top fundraisers in the U.S.

Attorney Jamie Burgess of Zwillinger, Greek and Knecht

Attorney Jamie Burgess of Zwillinger, Greek and Knecht

The group has been meeting on the weekends for training rides. Those rides began at 5:30 a.m. and ended around noon.

This year’s team is comprised of six lawyers from the firm’s office (Jamie Burgess, Felecia Rotellini, Gary Zwillinger, Jack Dearing, Sara Witthoft and Andrew Breavington) and some others from outside the office (Andy Conlin, Paula Williams and Stephanie Mullins). “The team name is ‘ZGK Riders,’ named after our law firm, Zwillinger Greek & Knecht PC.”

According to spokesman Steve Clawson, “Each member of the group has a personal connection to cancer. They have been riding together on weekends since February averaging 60 to 80 miles each time. They also do individual rides during the week.”

More information on the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is here.

And don’t forget you can make your own dent in the diseases without pedaling or perspiring yourself. Contribute to the team’s efforts here.

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society Team in Training logo

Happy Memorial Day (and be sure to view some Arizona events to commemorate the day).

Marine at Vietnam Memorial on 4th July 2002 (via Wikimedia Commons, photo by Meutia Chaerani - Indradi Soemardjan)

Marine at Vietnam Memorial on 4th July 2002 (via Wikimedia Commons, photo by Meutia Chaerani – Indradi Soemardjan)

Pioneer & Military Memorial Park, Phoenix

Pioneer & Military Memorial Park, Phoenix

With any luck, you’re already well into planning—or enjoying—your Memorial Day weekend. On this Change of Venue Friday, I share a few events in Phoenix and Tucson that commemorate the service of those in the armed services.

First, in Tucson.

Memorial Day 2013 bouquetOn next Monday and the weekend before, both South Lawn and East Lawn Palms Cemeteries will hold events to recognize those who sacrificed for their country. Details vary, but each cemetery will include guest speakers delivering remarks. All the background is here.

And in Phoenix, the Pioneers’ Cemetery Association will be hosting that cemetery’s 30th annual Memorial Day observance. That event on Monday, May 27, will include remarks by Marshall Shore, the Hip Historian, among others.

More detail on the Phoenix event can be seen below.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Pioneers Cemetery Memorial Day 2013

Morris Institute for Justice LogoEthics and justice combine in a seminar next Friday, May 31. I heard about it via a great colleague over at the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education. Let me pass on some of the details.

The legal education seminar is being offered by the Morris Institute for Justice, and the presenter will be Geoff Sturr on the topic of ethics and conflicts.

Lawyer Geoff Sturr of Osborn Maledon

Geoff Sturr, Osborn Maledon

Geoff is a partner at Osborn Maledon, and I asked him to provide some more detail on what he’ll cover:

“Thanks for your interest. The seminar will focus on three areas:  conflicts, confidentiality and candor (which will include, among other things, conduct in negotiations). It will provide an update on recent decisions and opinions, and pending or anticipated rule changes. The primary target audience will be civil practitioners, but I hope to cover issues of interest to criminal and government lawyers.”

In case you don’t know them, the Morris Institute describes itself as “a non-profit organization dedicated to protecting the rights of low-income Arizonans.” Read more about them and their work here.

As you may surmise, CLE credit will be offered for the event, which will be delivered in person at the Phoenix office of Lewis and Roca, and in a live simulcast at their Tucson office.

RSVP by May 29 to Ellen Katz at or 602-252-3432 ext. 2.

All the detail is provided below.

Morris Institute CLE flier

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