March 2014


Minority Bar Convention 2014 spring training for lawyers revised

It’s spring, so our days are filled with events. Today I mention an annual event, sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona, which is always helpful to lawyers in practice.

Formerly called the Minority Bar Convention (more on that in a minute), the Bar’s “Spring Training for Lawyers” covers a wide variety of practice topics. Maybe it’s something in the air at the location (the Desert Willow Conference Center), but I’m not sure I’ve ever sat through a weak seminar at the annual event.

Before I go on and one, here is where you can register. The conference is next week, on Thursday and Friday, March 27 and 28.

And the complete agenda and seminar descriptions are here.

Now to the name change.

I was a little surprised to see the longtime Minority Bar Convention transform into a baseball metaphor. Shifting from a storied brand is quite a change. Happily, the Bar has a video teasing the event, and it includes a discussion of the name change, as described by the co-chairs, attorneys Kami Hoskins and Chad Bellville.

Here is the video:

No matter the name, it appears that the event will continue its strong focus on quality. And for that, we must thank the State Bar of Arizona Committee on Minorities and Women in the Law.

My one passionate takeaway from the video? Buy a tripod, won’t you, State Bar? Let’s rifle through the closets; I’m sure we’ve got one somewhere.

Again, the location is the Desert Willow Conference Center, 4340 E. Cotton Center Blvd., Phoenix, AZ 85040. Here is a map.

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Legal scholar Arthur Miller will deliver the ASU Pedrick Lecture on Friday, March 28, 2014.

Legal scholar Arthur Miller will deliver the ASU Pedrick Lecture on Friday, March 28, 2014.

I can already see all of you non-civil litigators smirking. Well, banish the smirk, because the 75-year anniversary of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is a big deal.

Fortunately, the ASU Law School is prepared to honor it in style.

The school reports that scholar Arthur Miller will delivered the annual Pedrick Lecture, which is titled “Revisiting the Rules: Celebrating 75 years of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.”

The event will be on Friday, March 28, at 10 a.m. It will be followed by a panel discussion comprised of a great group of judges and attorneys.

More detail, including the complete list of speakers, is here.

The event is free but registration is requested. You can do that here.

It appears that I will be racing between three noteworthy events that day. So if you are attending some or all of the FRCP festivities at the law school and would like to write a guest blog post, contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. Special consideration will be given to authors who salt their post with Rule-based references.

ReInvent Law Laboratory at Michigan State: You've heard that in Detroit they build things? They do the same in East Lansing. Some smart people have your law profession up on the lift, and they've got some bad news.

You’ve heard that in Detroit they build things? They do the same in East Lansing. Some smart people have your law profession up on the lift, and they’ve got some bad news.

Sometimes—especially on Twitter—uttering a great witticism can prove irresistible. Tossing out a touch of snark may even be appreciated. But it may also miss a bigger picture.

Three days after I posted a heartfelt and humorous (I think) tweet, I’ve come to reassess it.

A Funny But Misleading Tweet

Here’s the sitch: I had just arrived at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute on Thursday. I landed at Chicago Midway and took the subway in (oh how I miss reliable mass-transit—the Orange Line to Roosevelt, change to the Red Line, walk three blocks from the Grand station, 25 minutes total!). But that meant I strolled into a session about halfway through.

The speakers’ subject was “Opportunities for Innovation in a Changing Legal Landscape.” And the style was unique: Each of the seven speakers got about 8 to 10 minutes, TED-talk-style.

Arriving late, I got to see about two and a half of the presentations. But that meant I did get to see the amazing Will Hornsby, of the ABA, as his presentation closed out the session.

Will is a smart and talented man. In fact, I had met him when I had been in the editor job for only about five months. Back in 2001, I decided to host a roundtable on lawyer advertising. Much to my pleasure, Will agreed to travel from Chicago to Phoenix to participate (yes, it was in February; what are you getting at?). You can read the result here.

Personally effusive and digitally adept, Will and his humorously delivered insights carried the audience along on a very engaging stream. And so I tweeted:

Great innovative ideas at #BLI14. Someone call the police, cuz @willhornsby is stealing the show! http://t.co/PUU1zRM8i6 #closer

— Tim Eigo (@azatty) March 13, 2014

Was I wrong? No, for Will spoke eloquently on that changing legal landscape we’ve heard so much about.

Rethinking Engagement (and Law)

But then I got to thinking—maybe the tweet wasn’t entirely fair. I mean, you can’t review a movie if you walk in halfway though. So this weekend I started looking at the handouts of others in that session.

R. Amani Smathers, Innovation Counsel at the ReInvent Law Laboratory.

R. Amani Smathers, Innovation Counsel at the ReInvent Law Laboratory.

That takes me (and you, finally) to the work of a lawyer named R. Amani Smathers. Though I stand by my assessment of Will as a primo closer, I am very impressed by the vision and approach of Amani. Here is a video of one of her presentations (similar to the one she delivered in Chicago, which I missed).

That video drew me in and made me interested in the work of the ReInvent Law Laboratory, where she has the job title “Innovation Counsel” (yes, I’m jealous). I had heard about ReInvent Law, but it took her video to make me explore further.

What is unique about this effort, sponsored by the Michigan State University College of Law? Well, let’s start with the website, which is designed with curious legal innovators in mind, rather than law-journal-loving traditionalists. So from the get-go, they are signaling a new day.

Building a New Legal Profession

Others may have their own favorites, but among the Lab’s action words is my number-one evocative verb “Build.” Here’s what the organization says about build:

“Law firms should have research and development departments, but they don’t. ReInvent Law fills the R&D gap for law firms, in-house legal departments, and other legal service providers. We conduct experiments. We beta test new products. We engage in market research. We take risks. We question. We explore. … Learning by doing, learning by building is what we do. Talk is cheap. We build.”

A little in your face, right? Well, what part of “everything in the profession is changing” did you not understand?

What To Do, Who To Follow

Here’s how I can spot a compelling vision for our shared legal future: When I see another of their verbs is “Join Us,” I want to. But short of an offer to take an energetic work sabbatical in East Lansing (which would be pretty cool), I have opted to sign up for their email updates—which is what you should do, as well.

And if you want more news from the Lab, follow them on Twitter here. You should do the same with Amani Smathers here, and for good measure, take a look at her own site, which explains more about her “search of what it means to be a 21st-century lawyer.”

So in my defense: Will did steal the show, at least the part I saw. But more shows are a’comin’, folks, and I look forward to seeing how Amani and her colleagues bring the legal house down.

American Bar Association Bar Leadership Institute 2014 BLI logo

Last Friday, I had the chance to present to leaders of three sizes of bar associations—small, medium and large. Among the three, the best audience was those from bar associations that were —

Hold it. Let me pause before revealing who was the most engaged of my audiences at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute.

creating content that influences member engagement requires a plan and support.But I will tell you now that one thing I learned most as I prepared for my presentation was this: Everyone—even a bar president—seeks to be engaging. Even when we get the opportunity, though, we must have a plan, preparation and sufficient support to execute well.

To kick things off, here is what I opened with to each group:

“My modest charge this morning is to recommend ways for each of you to create phenomenal written content, fearlessly and with joy.”

“How hard can that be?” I may have continued.

It was a real privilege to be able to address attendees on one of their reported biggest concerns—Presidents’ messages or columns. My overall message to them—which I hope they appreciated—is that the primary job of a bar president is Chief Engagement Officer. And that there are techniques they could adopt that would help them create compelling content.

I wrote about this presentation a few weeks ago, and I thank those who offered suggestions for content and messages. As promised, those who shared ideas that I borrowed got a shout-out in my PowerPoint. Thank you especially to Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar, Brad Carr of the Alabama Bar, and Rick DeBruhl right here at the Arizona Bar. I also benefited from the insights of the past 15 years of Arizona Bar Presidents, a huge portion of whom responded generously to my queries about what makes an effective column.

My PowerPoint—minus its animated possibilities—is here. (It begins on the fourth page.) If I can figure out how, I may upload the robust version to SlideShare.

In my 14 years as editor at Arizona Attorney, I’ve read more than 150 such columns in our own magazine. Plus, I receive about 20 other bar magazines monthly—and yes, I try to read those, too. So I’ve come to be highly attuned to the challenge a president faces when she or he takes pen to paper. That’s why I ended my presentation with a toast (PowerPoint style).

Law and Order: "If you can lead your bar well, while making your practice thrive and keeping your family happy, I toast you."

“If you can lead your bar well, while making your practice thrive and keeping your family happy, I toast you.”

Finally, let me share the unofficial results of my assessment of audience engagement. I’d have to say that, all else being equal, the small and medium-sized bar groups were each highly engaged. If I were forced to choose, I suppose the medium group came in a nose ahead.

Let's give it up for ... the ABA BLI 2014 medium-bar group!

Let’s give it up for … the ABA BLI 2014 medium-bar group!

Both of those groups laughed and nodded in all the right places and ended with a bunch of questions. And the medium-bar group shouted out queries that even surprised me (“What was your favorite president’s column?” is something I am chagrined to say I had never considered—though I managed a response.)

Small but mighty: ... the ABA BLI 2014 small-bar group

Small but mighty … the ABA BLI 2014 small-bar group

So the large-bar group—my own people, you could say—take the number-three spot. But I won’t be too critical. After all, it was the final session of three, so they may have been a little shell-shocked. And as I headed into my third presentation, I faced a dry-mouth quandary, so my own delivery may have been on the decline. We got through it—together.

Don't be a (sleeping) giant ... the ABA BLI 2014 large-bar group

Don’t be a (sleeping) giant … the ABA BLI 2014 large-bar group

But what a privilege: To take some time to consider an important subject and to share ideas with smart and curious people—that may be one of the markers of a rewarding day job.

Tomorrow, I recommend to you the efforts of a law school that examines how the legal profession should be reinvented. I had heard of its work, but I learned more from someone who also spoke at the Bar Leadership Institute. But you’ll have to wait another day to know more.

Amtrak writing writer residency

On offer: The chance to ride the rails and write about it.

How many of you would like to engage the creative process while never having to consider acquiring life’s annoying essentials, like food and shelter.

If so, there may be a few opportunities for you (and me).

The news stories I link to today not only engage the artist in most of us; they also are perfectly matched to Change of Venue Friday, that casual day when no one really wants to read about the new rules of arbitration (or whatever else is cooking in the legal profession).

So I invite you to kick back and enjoy a vision of yourself as an artiste, accompanied by your own financial backers.

The first story is one you may have seen: Amtrak is looking for writers. That’s right; your benevolent backer would be none other than America’s passenger-railway system.

Here is a news story that explains Amtrak’s plan to plop writers into a cozy berth from which they will trip the light linguistic.

If you’re ready to board that train, here is a link to Amtrak’s own blog, where you can get more information and complete their application. And yes, there is a dining and adult-beverage car (we are writers, are we not?).

(And for you attorneys still hesitant about blogging: Amtrak is blogging, which is the sound of you officially becoming a super-late-adopter.)

Here’s the serious skinny:

“Round-trip train travel will be provided on an Amtrak long-distance route. Each resident will be given a private sleeper car, equipped with a desk, a bed and a window to watch the American countryside roll by for inspiration. Routes will be determined based on availability.”

“Applications will be accepted on a rolling basis and reviewed by a panel. Up to 24 writers will be selected for the program starting March 17, 2014 through March 31, 2015. A passion for writing and an aspiration to travel with Amtrak for inspiration are the sole criteria for selection. Both emerging and established writers will be considered.”

Sign me up! (And yes, that means I’m applying.)

If a less rollicking journey is what your writing arm requires, consider Detroit. That’s where a nonprofit called Write a House is creating a unique “writer’s residency.”

As this news story explains, the organization is repairing vacant and blighted homes to give them to writers.

I was intrigued to see that it was an editor at the marvelous Curbed, the real estate site, who was one of the founders of Write a House. Well, if an editor is involved, it must have been well vetted! (No kidding, we editors have got it goin’ on.)

Pertinent info:

“Write A House will accept applications from working, “low-income” writers in the spring, who will be asked to send writing samples and a letter of intent. The judges include former National Poet Laureate Billy Collins, poet Major Jackson, writer and filmmaker Dream Hampton and editor of the Farrar, Straus & Giroux publishing house Sean McDonald. Writers from all over the world, or living just a few miles away, are all encouraged to apply.”

Well, if my Amtrak train makes a stop in Motor City, I’ll stop by your house and we can trade writing stories. In the meantime, let’s apply ourselves!

Have a wonderful—and writerly—weekend.

chicago bar association cba logo

When I find myself in a city other than Phoenix, I like to look around at what the area’s legal community has to offer. My stomping grounds this week are in Illinois, specifically Chicago. So let me point you to some law-practice-helpful content from two great bar associations.

First, I recommend some content related to law practice management technology (say that three times fast), available on the website of the Chicago Bar Association.

The lawyer-friendly material includes some how-to videos by the talented Catherine Sanders Reach. Now THERE are some ideas worth borrowing! (Follow Catherine here.)

Here, for example, is a video on editing or removing Linkedin endorsements:

And over at the Illinois Bar Journal (published by the state bar), I recommend a few things.

Illinois State Bar Journal 2014First, their magazine includes a series of short articles the comprise “Law Pulse.” In it, the author is able to cover a variety of compelling and timely legal topics, all without straining your patience with massive length or endless footnoting.

Good examples of their form are here and here.

Like most bar journals, the Journal focuses on state laws and cases. But in the magazine’s feature story area is an article that may catch your attention, no matter what state you’re in. Titled “The Ratings Game,” it examines the world of Avvo: “Sites like Avvo that rate lawyers and encourage consumer reviews are evoking reaction positive and negative in the legal community—and posing interesting ethical challenges.”

The article includes a useful sidebar that explains how Avvo says its formula works.

Illinois State Bar Association ISBA logoMany of you may belong to multiple bars. If so, I’d love to hear from you about what content from varying bar publications you’ve found helpful to your practice. Maybe we can borrow some ideas from fellow bar magazines!

A clean desk: Is that what we aspire to? Really?

No, this desk is NOT the winner of a prize for revealing workspaces.

And the winner is …

Wait wait wait! Taking a tip from the Academy Awards, I have to stretch this out for a bit.

Back in January, I offered a prize—a book of legal poetry—to a reader who shared a photo of their desk, messy or not. A description was invited but not required.

You may recall that my desk-psychosis grew deep as my own workspace got lost under piles. And I started to wonder what a clean or dirty desk says about each of us. Like my paper piles, that musing got pretty deep; read it here.)

I am happy to report that my messiness concerns resonated with readers. I heard from a number of folks who reported the state of their workspaces’ messiness levels.

As promised, I randomly selected a winner, and she is … K Royal. Congratulations, K!

K Royal's desk photo won her a book of poetry (though storage bins might have been a better prize!).

K Royal’s desk photo won her a book of poetry (though storage bins might have been a better prize!).

And here is K’s description of her space:

“Your note about a messy desk made me laugh out loud, so although not noteworthy, here is mine. Yes … double monitors, family photos … including my dog, shoe tape dispenser, diamond post it note holder, Dutch slippers, m&m coffee mug, and although you may not be able to see them … shoe phone holders for two cell phones and a Hedwig mug to hold pens.”

She ends with a cheery but noncommittal “May your organization remain exactly what you need it to be!”

By coincidence (yes, it’s a coincidence), I’ve known K from when she was at ASU Law School. She’s gone on to other things (including a stint in Texas), and she’s now Privacy Counsel at Align Technology in San Jose, California.

Privacy Counsel? Hmm, am I allowed to mention that?

In any case, I hope K enjoys “Poetic Justice” as much as I did.

K, send me a note at arizona.attorney@azbar.org with your snail-mail address and I’ll get this posted tout de suite.

K Royal's desk photo won her this book of poetry!

K Royal’s desk photo won her this book of poetry!

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