June 2013

Panelists of "Lawyering Political Environment," June 19, 2013

Panelists of “Lawyering in a Political Environment,” June 19, 2013

The State Bar Convention offers a multitude of learning opportunities. But I’m only one guy, so I opted to attend a morning seminar titled “Lawyering in a Political Environment.” It was deemed a President’s Award winner, and it seemed a good way to start my own 2013 Convention experience.

L to R: Kelly Schwab, Joe Kanefield

L to R: Kelly Schwab, Joe Kanefield

Here’s what I discovered: The first seminar in the first day of the annual State Bar Convention largely had to do with a lawyer who had been disbarred by the State Bar. Quite a morning. But in that regard, the educational offering was probably unique among seminars that could be offered at bar conferences nationwide. Arizona is an interesting place.

The conversation was far ranging, but panelists and their moderator Robert Robb found themselves, more often than not, addressing ethical challenges created by former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas—now disbarred. And because of that, the seminar was a timely and relevant presentation to a packed house of attorneys who had learned firsthand about the risks of blending law and politics.

The panel was a powerhouse one:

  • Former United States Attorney Paul Charlton
  • Former Governor’s Counsel Joe Kanefield
  • Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery
  • Former Pinal County Attorney Jim Walsh
  • Attorney Kelly Schwab

Robb asked panelists to offer their general views about lawyering in a public setting.

Paul Charlton opened by saying that “Public service is a noble enterprise. Every day your one, monolithic goal is to give back.”

L to R: Robert Robb. Jim Walsh, Paul Charlton

L to R: Robert Robb, Jim Walsh, Paul Charlton

He continued by discussing his most difficult decision as United States Attorney—one that had career-changing implications.

“My most difficult decision? Whether to seek the death penalty.”

Charlton made a choice that did not square with the thinking of the United States Attorney General and so, he said, “I got fired for it.”

“How do you deal with those who take a political view of the world, or with those who think the death penalty should be sought—not pursued—in every situation?”

Bill Montgomery stepped into an office in which the top prosecutor had made politicizing legal decisions the norm. Montgomery says his focus has been on changing that atmosphere.

“It’s about knowing what’s right and wrong, not what’s right and left.”

Joe Kanefield recalled the biggest challenge faced by lawyers in state government: “resisting pressure to pursue legal remedies for political challenges.”

Moderator Robb asked the panel if elected attorneys are “special” because they serve voters first.

“Andy Thomas thought he was special,” said Robb. “But who is the client? Should the criminal and civil functions be separated” to reduce the possibility of overreaching?

No, said Charlton. “I’d say that’s a solution in search of a problem,” because instances like that are rare, “except that we do have Andrew Thomas in our recent history.”

“But that was an aberration,” he continued. “Though it was awful for anyone caught in Thomas’ crosshairs,” the legal community generally “catches” such behavior before it becomes egregious.

Robb kept the focus on specifics when spoke about Bill Montgomery’s recent legal advice to County Supervisor Mary Rose Wilcox that she had a conflict in regard to the county’s civil suit involving Sheriff Joe Arpaio. But the focus remained on a former prominent attorney.

Charlton said, “It was right to go after Andrew Thomas; it was right to take his license.”

L to R: Paul CHarlton, Bill Montgomery, Kelly Schwab

L to R: Paul Charlton, Bill Montgomery, Kelly Schwab

The whirlwind seminar included conversation about prosecutions of former Congressman Rick Renzi, Senator Ted Stevens, major league ballplayer Roger Clemens and others. And it extended beyond the practical challenges that prosecutors—especially elected prosecutors—face daily. It winded up with a discussion of possible changes to the Ethical Rules to accommodate the unique situations they may face. And at least one panelist recommended that young line prosecutors need a place to turn when challenges arise.

“We used to call them an ombudsman,” said Jim Walsh. “But whatever they’re called, we need someone in prosecutor offices that those attorneys can go to” when they develop the sense they are being asked to do questionable things to further political ends.

Twitter on wallKeep up with what’s happening at the State Bar Annual Convention by following http://twitter.com/azatty!  Get short, timely messages (including photos, speaker presentations and more) from Arizona Attorney Magazine’s staff. If you, your firm or employer are active on Twitter, just insert the hashtag #azbarcon into all of your Convention tweets to allow them to be read and searched by fellow attendees and the entire legal community.

Can’t attend Convention but want to know what’s going on? You also should follow http://twitter.com/azatty

The Twitter links will take you to updates in our Convention Daily—news items and photos that will appear on the magazine blog, Facebook and Tumblr pages, and in our News Center:

For more detail click on the image below to enlarge.

Twitter at Convention flier 2013

State Bar of Arizona logoWhat follows is a great summary of this week’s State Bar of Arizona Convention, as written by my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

The State Bar of Arizona today kicks off its 2013 Annual Convention at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa in Phoenix. More than 1,700 attorneys from across the state will convene and participate in the 80th annual convention on June 19-21.

This year, the convention will offer more than 45 seminars, nationally recognized speakers, unique social and networking opportunities, along with a silent auction benefitting the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education.

The State Bar of Arizona’s ongoing commitment to technology has lead to several cutting-edge advances. Among them, the popular mobile app that provides convenient access to seminar schedules and speakers, social events and locations, as well as a sitemap to help attendees navigate through the convention with ease. 

Convention Highlights:

  • Hon. Alan C. Page, Minnesota’s first African American Supreme Court Justice and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, will deliver an inspiring keynote address at the State Bar Luncheon on Friday, June 21 from noon to 2 p.m.
  • A distinguished panel including Hon. Ruth V. McGregor, Retired Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; Hon. Mary Murguia of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Hon. Scott Bales, Vice Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court; and Debra Erenburg, Director of State Affairs for the Justice at Stake Campaign will explore the history of judicial independence and current trends developing on the national stage and Arizona. They will prompt discussions regarding attacks threatening the independent administration of justice on Friday, June 21, 2013 from 8:45 a.m. to 12 noon.
  • Whitney Cunningham of Flagstaff will be introduced as incoming president of the State Bar of Arizona.

Last year, I explained all of the materials I had to schlep around to cover the State Bar Convention. You can read about that here. And here’s a shot of what I schlepped.

Tools 2 w legend

Covering last year’s State Bar Convention (no legend needed; I’ll let you guess what these are).

I don’t want to sound lazy, but I plan to mount a more stripped-down operation this year. Here is a photo of what I’m carrying at the Biltmore this week (followed by a legend):

Packing for Convention 2013 w legend

Covering this year’s State Bar Convention: stripped-down

A. Droid Smartphone (the workhorse)
B. Notepad
C. Camera (smaller and updated from last year, for when I really need a slightly better shot than the cellphone can provide)
D. Heavily annotated Convention brochure
E. Cables/cords
F. Pen
G. Pencil (for when the pen inevitably dies)
H. Business cards
I. Mints and Advil

Let’s hope that all does the trick.

Please stop by the Arizona Attorney table just outside the Exhibitor Hall. If I’m not there and you have a question or idea; I’m probably only 5 minutes away. Call me at 602-908-6991.

State Bar of Arizona Board officers 2013-2014

State Bar of Arizona Board officers 2013-2014: L to R: Lisa Loo, Richard T. Platt, Whitney Cunningham, Bryan Chambers, Alex Vakula

At its regular annual meeting at the State Bar Convention this afternoon, the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors confirmed its slate of officers for the coming year. The new roster includes the newest officer, Secretary/Treasurer Alex Vakula, elected today: 

  • President: Whitney Cunningham
  • President-Elect: Richard T. Platt
  • First Vice President: Bryan B. Chambers
  • Second Vice President: Lisa Loo
  • Secretary/Treasurer: Alex Vakula

Following board bylaws, the new slate of officers assume their positions at the close of the annual meeting.

State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors 2013-14

State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors 2013-14

Follow more news via this Convention Daily and on Twitter, hashtag #azbarcon

Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa 1

Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa, site of the annual State Bar of Arizona Convention, June 19-21, 2013.

This is annual Convention week at the State Bar of Arizona. As always, a dizzying array of educational seminars (and fun activities) are packed into the three-day event held in Phoenix at the Arizona Biltmore Resort & Spa.

More detail about the Convention is here.

Over the years, Arizona Attorney Magazine staff have covered the heck out of the annual event, and this year will be the same. In a later post, I’ll detail some of the tools I lug about to do just that.

As in the past, we will not print a once-a-day hard-copy “Convention Daily.” Instead, we will cover Convention news closer to real time. We will use multiple channels to communicate what’s going on. But the surest way to be sure you see everything is to follow us on Twitter. My name in Twitter is @azatty. You can view all the evolving content here (or at https://twitter.com/azatty, to be specific). I will be tagging everything with the hashtag #azbarcon – so be sure to search for that.

Want to participate? Send me brief stories or story suggestions. Or if you have convention photos, we’d be glad to share them with readers.

And don’t forget to tweet from convention. Use the hashtag #azbarcon.

Questions or suggestions? Reach the Editor, Tim Eigo, on-site at the Biltmore, at 602-908-6991.

And always feel free to stroll up and say hello. I’ll be hiking all over the Biltmore to cover the goings-on. Or you may catch me at the Arizona Attorney table in the Exhibitor area. If you miss me there, leave your card or a note.

Letterpress BlogLearning what lawyers are up to is an avocation (and vocation) that occupies much of my time. And for that task, I can think of few other time investments as valuable as reading their blogs.

Sure, stopping by their offices and events is great, but that offers only a limited view inside law practice. But an aggregation of blog posts is revealing. It shows the multitude of challenges, pleasures and worries that lawyer brains are heir to.

Maybe because I’m a writer, I tend to believe that writing (when it’s substantive) reflects thinking. Therefore, if you want to know what folks are thinking, get reading.

That’s part of what drove the creation of our Arizona Attorney Magazine Blog Network a year or so ago. Let’s aggregate all of this brain power, and all of this writing, in one spot. Link them together, let the attorneys get some more traffic, and let readers enjoy the convenience of one-stop thinking.

In case you were wondering, here’s how it works.

On the bottom of the magazine News Center (launched alongside the Blog Network) you may have spotted a few blogs. That is our ever-changing roster of blogs I opt to highlight. They likely have new and interesting content. That changing list includes about five or six blogs. (And only one at a time can include the lawyer headshot.) See what I mean?

Arizona Attorney Blog Network screen shot 1More value awaits. If you click that button that reads “View All Blog Network Members,” then you can do just that.

Arizona Attorney Blog Network screen shot 2Once you’re there, you can scan the 50-ish attorneys currently in our network.

(Want to be added? Send me your URL and an author headshot. I’ll review it to be sure it should be in a lawyer network; if so, I’ll post it tout de suite. If you add your blog to the network, your blog remains your blog wherever it’s sited. We merely link to it, driving more readers—and SEO traffic—your way.)

Currently, you’ll see that our lead item points you to the blog of attorney Kim Brown. Her blog demonstrates perfectly the kind of valuable content you might get from reading lawyer blogs. Her lead item right now is asking the question of how similar a law firm partnership is to a typical marriage. She addresses the issue with humor but also with some serious takeaways that lawyers must consider when they review a partnership opportunity.

I hope you want to be part of the conversation. We always welcome new writers. And even if you’d merely view the thinking of Arizona attorneys, be sure to link to the page or sign up for the RSS feed. We’ll keep on blogging.

And I leave you with a hilarious blogging cartoon, shared with me by the great communicators at Association Media & Publishing.

blogging cartoon via AMP

Telescope in the new Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge. What's next for the profession?

Telescope in the new Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge. What’s next for the profession?

We’re all wondering what direction the legal profession is heading. Is its foundation sound, or are there cracks that threaten the entire structure?

That’s kind of a heavy concept for Change of Venue Friday. So instead, I will simply share the direction that law firm Fennemore Craig is heading.


Fennemore Craig Managing Partner Tim Berg addresses a pcked room at the new-office reception, June 11, 2013.

Fennemore Craig Managing Partner Tim Berg addresses a pcked room at the new-office reception, June 11, 2013.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

On Tuesday, I attended the firm’s new office reception. Or, more accurately, their new building reception, as they now occupy all the floors (save some first-floor space) in their new digs across from the Biltmore Fashion Park.

Their location is now 2394 East Camelback Road, Phoenix (Suite 600).

The event, hosted by managing partner Tim Berg, was nicely done. The spaces are bright and modern, and the walls are lined with the firm’s collection of striking art. Though I always liked their old offices on Central Avenue (in the building that once housed Phoenix’s Playboy Club), this looks like quite a nice building.

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 3The firm’s executive director, Kathy Hancock, gave me a tour of the spaces. She demonstrated how the building’s shape dictated that offices now come in quite a variety of shapes. Some lawyers, I’d guess, might take a tape measure to the square footage to assess “parity,” but the diversity of spaces is kind of refreshing.

Kathy also pointed out how the firm had reduced its huge trove of print law books. And those that remain have been divided and shared throughout the building. No more will the firm have a single large library. Instead, the volumes are housed near the relevant lawyers and practice areas, aiding ready access.

She also showed me the building’s less-traveled spaces, which houses the multiplicity of back-end tasks that keep a law firm moving. That space includes kitchens, including catering spaces, storage, and a staff lunch room that is large, sunny, well stocked and adjacent to a large outdoor deck.

In contrast, the lawyer lounge is quite a bit ritzier (click the photos below to enlarge). No surprise there. But the surprise came when I compared the sizes of the spaces. Seating and lighting may be more mod in the lawyer space, but that lounge is pretty diminutive in size—apropos in a profession where attorneys are encouraged to stretch their legs for a bit, but not get carried away and forget the work awaiting them in their office.

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 1

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 2

One charming feature of the lawyer lounge is a beautiful telescope on a tripod. It reminded me that all law firms must be seeking tools to gaze forward and predict the future of this profession. The telescopic view I gained from that lounge was merely a close-up of Macy’s department store—and Camelback Mountain beyond. The next few years will show which firms have raised their gaze even higher. Success in a changing marketplace will require it.

For some contrast, I share below one vintage photo of Fennemore Craig lawyers. Even if they had possessed the Hubble Telescope, I doubt they could have envisioned the profession as it is today.

Fennemore Craig lawyers, closer to their beginnings 127 years ago.

Fennemore Craig lawyers, closer to their beginnings 127 years ago.

I will leave you with one gulp-inducing fact Kathy shared with me: In the process of moving the 127-year-old firm, their leadership took a hard look at paper materials, deciding what had to be saved and what could be discarded. Ultimately, Kathy says, the firm threw out 15 tons of paper in various forms.

15 tons.

As I type, I am surrounded by my own stacks, as I’m sure you are. I must admit I have never taken a scale to them, but I blanch at the thought of the extra weight associated with my work.

Look around. How heavy are you?

Have a great weekend.

Justice Ann Scott Timmer speaks at the luncheon of the North Phoenix Bar Association, June 12, 2013.

Justice Ann Scott Timmer speaks at the luncheon of the North Phoenix Bar Association, June 12, 2013.

“Understand your audience” is a lesson that is often ignored by speakers, who may address attendees with all the particularity of a spam email. But when the lesson is taken to heart, great things can happen.

That was the case yesterday, when Arizona Justice Ann Scott Timmer addressed the North Phoenix Bar Association. Spammers—and bad public speakers—take note.

Justice Timmer’s topic was writing, and she titled it “Convince Me: Writing To Persuade.”

Supreme Court Justices are on-the-ball kind of folks, so I knew the event would be fine, just fine. But as much as I enjoy writing (and talking about it), I have sat through speeches on writing that were drafted for everyone rather than for the particular audience. Such talks are peppered with truisms that we’ve all heard since middle school, containing few if any lessons you can take to heart.

As the NPBA folks took their seats, I scanned the menu for the luncheon at the Marriott at Desert Ridge. Was the Tahitian Vanilla New York Cheesecake really going to be that good, or was it mundane and geographically confused (as speakers can be). Perhaps I could skip it and get back to the office sooner?

Justice Timmer opened with that most basic of suggestions, with which I began this post: Know your audience. The cheesecake began to look like it would be omitted from my lunch.

But then Justice Timmer continued. She took all of those writing do’s and dont’s that we already know, and extrapolated them into lessons vital for practicing lawyers to understand.

Clarity is all. (We know.) And your motion’s clarity may be improved by an appendix. (Hmmm.) But how should the appendix be structured? (Pens out.) What kind of appendix is most helpful to the judicial officer—you know, the decider? (Scribbling furiously.)

Justice Timmer offered not an agglomeration of good but tired writing pointers, but valuable takeaways for lawyers to understand.

The value-added talk continued. It included a discussion of:

  • What judges find helpful when counsel appear opposite pro pers. (If their motion is a jumble, judges really don’t mind when the lawyer restates and clarifies it in their own response. Help a judge out.)
  • Words to avoid ($100 words when simpler ones will do.)
  • Block quotes that undermine a pleading, as the readers’ eyes pass over them seeking the analysis and guidance.
  • Lawyer waste-of-space phrases, such as “undoubtedly” or “it goes without saying.” Those, said Justice Timmer, signal the judge that you probably have no authority for your proposition (although a wise member of the NPBA mentioned to me later that lawyers may believe the same of courts when they rest their decision on “the court’s inherent power”—touché).

And so on.

Besides specifics to improve our writing, there were larger lessons. Here are two that I took away from the luncheon:

  • The success of a talk may be directly related to how well it does not fit every possible audience. Or, stated less clumsily, the best speech is the one aimed at this audience at this time and in this place. It is not for everyman.
  • The goal of the writer—and of the lawyer seeking a judicial result—is to avoid the use of anything that distracts the reader (or judge) from your argument or position. Expecting that a neutral third party (or a busy blog reader) will invest the time to decipher your poorly wrought puzzle is folly. Misunderstanding or worse will be the outcome.

In case you were wondering, I stayed for the cheesecake and finished every bite (it was wonderful, and I tip my hat to the Tahitian New Yorkers, or at least the pastry chef). And for my remaining for that indulgence, I blame Justice Timmer and her adroitly delivered remarks.

Thanks to the North Phoenix Bar Association, and to its president, Pouria Paknejad, for alerting me to the luncheon. I often find that the most robust conversations occur when groups of lawyers gather, and the NPBA proved that once again.

At the luncheon, the bar association also tendered a donation to the Children in Need Foundation. Read more about their work here.

Attorney Pouria Paknejad, right, delivers a check to a representative of the Children in Need Foundation, June 12, 2013.

Attorney Pouria Paknejad, right, delivers a check to a representative of the Children in Need Foundation, June 12, 2013.

Arizona Attorney December_2005A recent feature story reminds us of the power of vision and drive. In this case, both arose from those who decided it was time for the State Bar to launch an Animal Law Section.

Those early conversations occurred probably a decade ago. And we enjoyed the new group so much, we featured the Section and our story on the cover of our December 2005 Arizona Attorney.

This month, I read that members of the Section decided to take a road trip together.

You read that right: a road trip. How many Sections do you know that hop into cars together and travel for hours toward a common destination? (And when it gets boisterous, does the Executive Council ever have to warn that they will turn this car around right now?).

The shared vision of the Section took them on a journey to Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, in Kanab, Utah. As the Best Friends folks open their story:

“For Amanda Chua, a personal injury attorney, and 21 other Arizona attorneys and their families, a trip to Best Friends took a whole year to plan. The diverse group included real estate attorneys, personal injury lawyers, family law practitioners and civil litigators. Despite their array of specialties, all of the attorneys are members of the State Bar of Arizona, and belong to a special group called the Animal Law Section, which has over 90 members.”

“It was during a membership meeting that the idea of a trip to Best Friends came up. Many of the attorneys in the group serve on the boards of, and/or volunteer with, local rescue organizations or environmental groups. And many of them knew about the Michael Vick dog-fighting case, so they were familiar with the work that Best Friends does. But a few people in that meeting mentioned that they had never visited the Sanctuary. So Amanda, who was the past chair of the Animal Law Section, proposed that they form a committee to plan a group excursion to Kanab, Utah.”

You can read the complete story here.

Attorney Amanda Chua, center, and other members of the State Bar Animal Law Section recently visited the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

Attorney Amanda Chua, center, and other members of the State Bar Animal Law Section recently visited the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah.

Well done to all of the Section members who decided to take their legal practice area into “the field” for an exciting excursion.

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