September 2013


Access to justice can be golden: Arizona Attorney Magazine opening image for a story on the topic by former State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, Oct. 2012.

Access to justice can be golden: Arizona Attorney Magazine opening image for a story on the topic by former State Bar of Arizona President Amelia Craig Cramer, Oct. 2012.

As has been reported numerous times (even in Arizona Attorney Magazine), access to justice is in a pretty sorry state in Arizona and the United States.

It’s worth noting that the problem extends beyond borders.

Thanks to a lawyer and former State Bar colleague Nedra Brown, I’m reading a report out of the Canadian Bar Association on their own challenges.

Canadian Bar Association equal justice cover 2013Titled “Reaching Equal Justice: An Invitation To Envision and Act,” the 59-page report paints a bleak picture of the country’s legal access situation. Ultimately, though, the report authors provide a solid roadmap that could rectify the situation.

As a news story from Canadian Lawyer Magazine opens:

“The ‘abysmal’ state of access to justice in Canada can be turned around by 2030, according to a Canadian Bar Association report published today. But the report says hitting the deadline will require ‘dramatic’ change, and sets out 31 recommendations for the legal industry, regulators, and government. These include establishing national benchmarks for legal aid coverage, increasing federal justice spending, and drawing up clearer guidelines on alternative billing structures.”

Canadian Bar Association logoRead that story here.

The complete report is here in PDF format. (The “solutions” portion begins on page 15.)

What lessons do you think we can learn here in Arizona? Do attorneys (especially those who have been in the legal access trenches for years) see a similar positive path to a better system for delivering justice?

Do you think a similar Arizona report could cast needed light onto the problem and possible solutions?

Here is a graphic from the excellent report. How do you picture access?

Canadian Bar Association graphic from its 2013 report on access to justice

Canadian Bar Association graphic from its 2013 report on access to justice

 

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2013 Arizona Judicial Branch Awards logo

First, the apology: Sorry about the late notice.

That out of the way, I can tell you that the deadline is today, September 18, to submit nominations for Arizona Judicial Branch Achievement Awards.

Who receives those? Chief Justice Berch describes the group categories as:

  • Probation
  • Limited Jurisdiction Courts
  • General Jurisdiction Courts
  • Individual Achievement in Accomplishing the 2010-2015 Vision
  • One At-Large Award for outstanding contributions in meeting the goals of Justice 2020 A Vision for the Future of the Arizona Judicial Branch 2010-2015, as outlined in the Judiciary’s plan for continuing to improve public trust and confidence in the Arizona court system

More information on the awards and their criteria is here.

The online form is simple to complete; it may just take you a few minutes.

To get an idea of the kind of excellence we’re talking about, here are the 2012 winners.

Many Arizona lawyers work extensively with judicial officers and staff. I’m very confident that someone out there has spotted excellence worth recognizing. Today’s your chance.

Breaking Bad actor Bob Odenkirk as Saul Goodman

If even Breaking Bad’s Saul Goodman (played by actor Bob Odenkirk) said no to a client’s case, take a pass.

A benefit of reading and writing all the time is that you pretty regularly come across content that’s terrific and that you wouldn’t ever have imagineered yourself. Today, I’m pleased to pass on a comical and insightful piece that deconstructs the words of a potential client’s previous lawyer. Well done!

If you’ve ever listened in disbelief as a potential client explains what a previous attorney said, this post is bound to resonate with you.

Let me know what you think. Here is the Unwashed Advocate (whose hilarious “About” page is here), who opens:

“I often get calls from potential clients who’ve previously contacted other lawyers. Invariably, the following is said during these conversations. … I’d like to help … by translating what the other lawyer said. Here goes.”

Prepare to chuckle in recognition as he “translates the lawyerese.”

Keep reading here.

law-schoolLet’s start our week off with a fight, shall we?

Well, more like a debate. But when attorneys get chatting about whether law school should be three years long, or two (or some hybrid), things can get a little heated.

This fire was rekindled this month when President Barack Obama mentioned that he believed two years of law school may be adequate. I guess he was practicing for a controversial dialogue about Syria.

That led law school professor Bruce Ackerman to rise up to defend the status quo.

Well, whattayaknow, someone didn’t agree with that.

Well, quite a few, probably. But here is one lawyer–commentator who left no stone unturned in his dissection of Ackerman’s argument.

What do you think?

Is two years enough for a law degree?

And even if you think we should stick with three years, is the handwriting on the wall? Are we headed to a two-year J.D.?

Soon, a plaque may be all that remains of the garage where Watergate secrets were shared.

Soon, a plaque may be all that remains of the garage where Watergate secrets were shared.

We hear pretty often that we Americans don’t know nothin’ ‘bout history. That may sound curmudgeonly, but a news story this week reminded me how true that can be.

Just two years ago, almost to the month, I wrote about a new historic marker erected outside the parking garage where the Watergate leaker passed information on to a Washington Post reporter. (I got kind of lecture-y in that blog post; the anniversary of Ford’s pardon of Nixon can do that to me.)

It may not be the Gettysburg battlefield, but the garage where “Deep Throat” Mark Felt and journo Bob Woodward stood seems pretty evocative to me.

Well, two years later, it seems even Deep Throat’s garage is not safe from the wrecking ball.

You should read here how that “Watergate garage” is to be razed. The developer has said he may find a place for the plaque. Touching.

Well, it’s Change of Venue Friday, so I’d rather not leave you on a historic preservation #fail. Instead, enjoy the great voice of Sam Cooke, singing “Wonderful World” (where he says a little about history).

Psst. If you think privacy law is a growing practice area for attorneys, you're one of the few.

Psst. If you think privacy law is a growing practice area for attorneys, you’re one of the few.

Magazine folks and legal commentators all try to assess (OK, “guess”) where the legal profession is headed. And one of the important elements in that horse-race is determining what practice areas are growing—and which are shrinking.

Last week, legal staffing firm Robert Half International issued another of its studies of lawyer perception. This one reported on attorney responses to questions about areas that will have the most revenue opportunities in the future.

I was not surprised (nor was anyone) that “Litigation” and “General business commercial law” held onto the top two berths (59% and 31% of respondents, respectively, view those as growth areas). That fact may be true, but it doesn’t illuminate much about law practice. Even otherwise-educated lawyers, who know that those broad terms encompass a wide variety of practice areas, routinely select those umbrellas when surveyed.

So we’ve been taught to look instead at what came in at Numbers 3, 4 and so on.

Health care law is seen by a pretty resounding 14% of lawyer respondents to be a growth opportunity. Now that’s interesting. After that, bankruptcy/foreclosure (8%) and labor & employment (7%) follow.

Surprising to me is that “privacy, data security and information law” languishes at just 4%. Really? We are inundated with a barrage of news that reveals how significant those areas are in every area of modern life. I think that attorneys who can marshal the experience and knowledge to guide that conversation have to be making a winning gamble. Apparently, though, only few lawyers want to roll the dice.

Read more about the survey results here.

And what do you think the growth areas are? And once you identify them, are you able to mobilize to develop new lines of work?

Infographic_Robert Half growing practice areas

Legal Marketing Association logoQ: What do you do when you’re standing between an eager audience and panelists with valuable content to share?

A: Speak little, and ask a few good questions.

That is the primary lesson I’ve learned the last few years when I’ve had the pleasure to moderate an annual roundtable of corporate counsel.

Sponsored by the Southwest chapter of the Legal Marketing Association, this year’s panel, on Friday, September 20, will include four in-house counsel from a variety of public and private companies:

    • Sonny Cave, ON Semiconductor—Senior Vice President, General Counsel, Chief Compliance & Ethics Officer, and Corporate Secretary, Law Department
    • Christy Hubbard, PetSmart—Senior Counsel, Marketing, Operations and Services
    • Lisa Loo, Arizona State University—Deputy General Counsel
    • Todd Weiss, Cole Real Estate—Senior Vice President, Legal Services

AzAt 2011 general counsel panel headline

The event always packs a room. (You can read more and register here.)

As I always do, I come to you now, Arizona’s legal community, to ask for your help as I prepare for the September 20 event. Here’s my query:

If I were only able to ask the panelists ONE question, what should it be?

Post your suggestion(s) below, or send me a note at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

And I hope to see you there.

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