April 2014


civil rights attorney and Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier

civil rights attorney and Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier speaks at ASU on Wednesday, April 16.

In year 19, ASU continues to invite great people to deliver its A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations. Tonight’s offering, by civil rights attorney and Harvard Law professor Lani Guinier, promises to keep in that tradition.

The event is free, open to the public, and requires no RSVP. But seats are often at a premium.

Guinier’s remarks are titled “Rethinking Race and Class.” She will speak tonight at 7:00 pm, in the Carson Ballroom of Old Main on the Tempe campus.

As ASU says,

“Guinier challenges conventional thinking on the issues of race and class. This lecture focuses on the ways that those who have been excluded (based on race or class) are like canaries in coal mines: their vulnerability signals problems with the larger atmosphere affecting us all.”

More information on the Lecture and Guinier is here.

And here is background on the Lecture’s namesake:

“The A. Wade Smith Memorial Lecture on Race Relations was created in 1995 to perpetuate the work of a man who had devoted his life to the idea of racial parity. As professor and chair of sociology at Arizona State University, A. Wade Smith worked tirelessly to improve race relations on the ASU campus and within the greater community.”

I never had the opportunity to know Wade Smith, but I know and think very highly of his family. I am so pleased to see the Lecture continue and thrive.

Bills of mortality preceded modern death certificates, and they suffer from similar challenges.

Bills of mortality preceded modern death certificates, and they suffer from similar challenges.

Years ago, in a job-related field trip, I attended a tour of the medical examiner’s facility in Clark County, Nevada. As the chief office of the pathologist for Las Vegas and its environs, it was a busy place.

Like most of the living, I had never given much thought to the multiple tasks that must be performed on the dead—especially if they died under suspicious circumstances or not under the care of a doctor.

As I learned that day, the task of the M.E. is often a complex one. And nothing is more complex than the element that is often the sole source of interest for others: affixing the single cause of death.

I was reminded of that challenge during a State Bar of Arizona CLE a few weeks ago. There, a pro-con was staged on the legalization of marijuana. Though the wider acceptance of medical marijuana may suggest we’re approaching legalization, the topic is still a thorny one, as evidenced by the vehement dialogue at the CLE.

Sure as no-rain in Arizona, though, a recent death was raised, one that may suggest more questions than answers.

As background, we recall the oft-repeated position of marijuana advocates that not one death has ever been attributed to pot—and compare that with the millions killed by cigarettes and alcohol.

It’s a compelling statistic, one that continues to irk enforcement advocates. And that may be why we have heard advocates mention a Colorado death a lot the past few weeks.

The story (reported here by the Denver Post) is about a young man who jumped to his death after eating marijuana-infused cookies. Here’s the story lede:

“A college student visiting Denver jumped to his death from a hotel balcony after eating marijuana-infused cookies, according to a coroner’s report that marks the first time authorities have publicly linked a death to marijuana since legal sales of recreational cannabis began in Colorado.”

“Levy Thamba, a 19-year-old student at Northwest College in Powell, Wyo., died last month at a Holiday Inn in northeast Denver. On Wednesday, the Denver coroner released a report concluding that Thamba’s death was caused by ‘multiple injuries due to a fall from height.’”

“The coroner also listed ‘marijuana intoxication’ from cannabis-infused cookies as a significant condition contributing to the death. The report classifies the death as an accident.”

At the Bar CLE, Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery alluded to the death, saying that it punches a hole in his opponent’s argument.

But does it?

An article this month in the New Yorker would suggest any coroner’s conclusion is a more nuanced one. In “Final Forms: What death certificates can tell us, and what they can’t,” Kathryn Schulz explores the history of one of civil society’s most ambiguous documents (you can read some of her great article here; sorry, but a subscription wall prevents you from reading the whole thing). And resting your argument on such a piece of paper may not tell the whole story.

Huckleberry Finn had many skills, but determining causes of death was not one of them.

Huckleberry Finn had many skills, but determining causes of death was not one of them.

Schulz opens by describing the meandering history of “bills of mortality” and the coroners who wielded them. The shift from the publicly published bills to the modern-day death certificates has been accompanied by increasing professionalism—but they still may not be the scientifically accurate document the certainty-loving may hope for.

Along the way, Schulz notes, coroners have been known to alter a cause of death to protect reputations or to soften the blow felt by grieving families of means. But if death certificates may be used to protect the dead, could they also be used politically to throw aspersions on the dead? Sure, but that’s not even the biggest challenge.

The toughest nut to crack for M.E.s may reside in the question posed by us lay-people: “Finally, what was the one thing that killed him?

As Schulz writes, “The why of death remains elusive—practically, philosophically, above all emotionally. And, the more extensively we attempt to document it through death certificates, the stranger and more troubled that project comes to seem.”

So if the accuracy of death certificates faces numerous challenges—as Schulz shows—a primary one “is how we decide what counts as a good answer.”

In that exploration, I was extremely pleased to see her turn to Mark Twain, specifically a passage from Huckleberry Finn. It involves a conversation between the stubborn Huck and the Wilks sisters, who are having none of his malarkey.

“One afternoon,” writes Schulz, “while chatting with the Wilks sisters, Huck spontaneously invents a new disease—a form of mumps so virulent that, he claims, a neighbor is in danger of dying from it.”

One sister objects, but Hucks doubles down, saying it can kill the neighbor because it’s “mixed up with other things,” from “yaller janders” to “brain fever.”

Susan Wilks—whom I hope inspires M.E.s everywhere—will have none of it, reminding Huck that it is therefore not the mumps that may cause the neighbor’s demise:

“A body might stump his toe, and take pison, and fall down the well, and break his neck, and bust his brains out, and somebody come along and ask what killed him, and some numskull up and say, ‘Why, he stumped his toe.’ Would ther’ be any sense in that? No. And ther’ ain’t no sense in this, nuther.”

I leave you with Schulz’s point: “This is precisely the problem posed by death certificates; when filling them out, how far back should we chase the causal chain?

That chain could, I suppose, end with a cookie. But I suspect Susan Wilks would arch an eyebrow at that supposition.

pro bono gavelFans of lawyers and the service they provide (count me in) always look forward to Law Day. Traditionally close to early May, Law Day helps cement the important connection between members of the public, attorneys, judges and the rule of law.

Searching for “law day” in my blog leads to a surprising number of hits over the years. Clearly, I am taken by the pro bono value attorneys provide (here is last year’s post). And this year is no exception.

Like last year, the State Bar of Arizona’s approach will be to offer free legal advice clinics, in the Valley and in Tucson. The clinics will cover a wide variety of legal topics, including landlord and tenant; bankruptcy and foreclosure; immigration; and divorce, child support and paternity.

Volunteer lawyers will conduct the 90-minute “information sessions.”

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_Color“Guests can participate in one or more sessions at one of the five partner locations.”

The events will be held on Saturday, April 26. Please spread the word and share this post with anyone you think might benefit from some free legal advice.

All the detail, including times and specific locations, can be found here.

Later this week I will share another Law Day event, hosted by an independent legal organization. The more the merrier.

beam replicator cat on TV

Here’s what happens when you let engineers near the Interwebs: A beam replicator cat sees into your soul.

As you read this, I’ll be attending the annual conference of the ABA Litigation Section. Yes, it’s at the Phoenician Resort, so it’s not exactly digging ditches. But you and I still deserve an easy-squeezy Change of Venue Friday.

How about a video?

It comes to us from the folks at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Why am I looking at IEEE content?

I often find that the best ideas I can steal borrow for Arizona Attorney Magazine come from other industries. So I routinely plunge into the offerings of those in fields like hospital design, construction, high technology and more.

I recommend that approach for everyone, no matter what you do. It gets you off the homestead, and out amongst people who do things differently.

One thing that other magazines (with larger staffs – sigh) is able to pull off is great video content. And I suspect you’re going to enjoy this one. As the hilarious narration says in the video, “Hold onto your spinny chairs, people.”

Hilarious, right? And how brilliant to do that sideways-doorway thing. Trippy.

Be sure to see what else is going in the engineering world by going here.

Have a great—and well-engineered—weekend.

Today’s post is really not simply a ruse to feature one of the cuter bunny-lawyer combos available on the Interwebs. But I will not pass up the moment. Here you go.

Bunny lawyer (even keeping time!) by LilithImmaculate

Bunny lawyer (even keeping time!) by LilithImmaculate

You’re welcome.

Instead, today I share news of an event this Saturday, April 12, at which another bunny relative—Jeremy Jackrabbit, to be precise—will make an appearance.

Rodney and Sasha Glassman, co-authors of the Jeremy Jackrabbit series.

Rodney and Sasha Glassman, co-authors of the Jeremy Jackrabbit series.

Jeremy is a character in a book co-written by two married Arizona lawyers, Sasha and Rodney Glassman. They and their book will participate in an event Saturday at the Arizona Science Center in downtown Phoenix.

Here is how the Phoenix Public Library press release opens:

“Phoenix Public Library, in partnership with the Arizona Science Center, will host a celebration to launch Sasha and Rodney Glassman’s newest book in their Jeremy Jackrabbit series, ‘Jeremy Jackrabbit Captures the Sun,’ 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, April 12, 2014 at the Arizona Science Center, located at 600 E. Washington.”

“Illustrated by children from throughout the metropolitan area, including Scottsdale, Laveen, Chandler and Phoenix, more than 52,000 copies of the book will be distributed free of charge to every kindergarten student in Maricopa County.  Councilwoman Laura Pastor and Councilwoman Kate Gallego will read the book at the event after which the young artists will be available to sign the pages in the book which they illustrated.”

“Sasha Glassman is an attorney and member of the Madison Elementary School District Governing Board. Rodney Glassman, PhD, in arid land resource sciences and a former Tucson city councilman, is an attorney with Ryley Carlock & Applewhite.”

Jeremy Jackrabbit Glassman 1

Jeremy Jackrabbit, himself.

Congratulations to Sasha and Rodney on the continued success of their resourceful jackrabbit.

For more information, call 602-262-4636 or visit here.

And here is a list of the talented children who helped illustrate the book.

Jeremy Jackrabbit invitation

Let's start the lawyer-love by foreswearing attorney jokes, for one day at least. Be Kind to Lawyers Day no jokes. Snoopy Peanuts cartoon.

Let’s start the lawyer-love by forswearing attorney jokes, for one day at least

Yesterday, I am slightly bemused to note, was Be Kind to Lawyers Day.

Understand, I am not in favor of the opposite. I tend to like lawyers in the aggregate, and many in particular. But there are a few reasons I’m a day late (and a dollar short, as my dad used to say) with my attorney affection.

1. I’m in a vortex in which I miss significant dates by exactly one day. For example, April Fools’ Day came a day late in my mind (and blog). I’m sure it’s some kind of cry for help, but let’s move on.

2. Upon hearing of this “holiday,” my first thought was that the day exists for one reason only: To help blog writers. After all, we have a news hole to fill. And how many of us are willing to muse on the nexus between lawyers and kindness? (OK, not that many.) (And did I just use “nexus” and “kindness” in the same sentence? Someone cite me for contempt.)

3. Finally, yesterday was also Equal Pay Day. Before you start telling me it’s not official or nationally sanctioned, let’s remember that (a) you’re reading a blog and not the Federal Register and (b) you’re rising up in defense of something called Be Kind to Lawyers Day. We really must get over ourselves, mustn’t we?

So yes, it irked just a bit to advocate embracing advocates as others were advocating for equal pay for women and men. As a woman I respect stated, “Annoyed that we even have to have a day about this, so I’ll defer to Queen Bey: ‘smart enough to make the millions, strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.’ Yep, we run the world.”

But today is another day, and the more I think about it, the more the idea grows on me.

So I’m (semi)officially extending the festivities another day. (And won’t attorneys be surprised to be hugged the day after the holiday!? Brilliant, right?)

In case you missed it, here’s how the State Bar’s CLE Department reminded us on Facebook. Good job!

Be Kind to Lawyers Day hug

Bring it in here, buddy.

And if you’d like a reminder of how others celebrate a joyous lawyer holiday, read how I described the festivities surrounding World Intellectual Property Day. As I recall, I recommended you all hug a patent lawyer that day. How many did that? Uh-huh, I thought so.

To encourage the lawyer love, I will happily post a photo of you hugging a lawyer you love (or at least like quite a bit), plus a brief (100 words, tops) explanation of the non-billing-based foundation for your affection.

Let’s get this hugapalooza started.

[This article was edited 4/8/14 to reflect the fact that the dancers represented a lion, not a dragon. There is a traditional lion dance and a traditional dragon dance. Here is some information on the lion dance, performed at the APALSA event.]

Yes, that is a dragon at a legal event. Why do you ask? APALSA banquet dragon 1 04-05-14

Yes, that is a lion at a legal event. Why do you ask?

It never fails to amaze how often those new to a profession lead the way.

That’s what occurred to me last Saturday evening, as I attended the first-ever banquet of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA) of Arizona Summit Law School.

Out of the box, the talented law students took to heart a few of the most important lessons of professional event planning. Experienced (long in the tooth) planners, take note.

Here are three of those lessons, gleaned from Saturday’s gathering:

1. Food: Good, easy, relevant

Your legal event need not have food and drink. But if you go down that road, bring it, would you, please?

APALSA Asian Pacific American Law Students Assn logoAPALSA brought it, indulging its guests with terrific dishes from the Curry Corner. (Would it kill you to Like them on Facebook?)

This is how terrific their combination of various Asian foods was: I had planned to snack lightly at the event, as I had promised my younger daughter that we would get a bite together afterward. As I strolled the buffet line, though, that plan went out the window. Yes, I did get my daughter dinner later; but all my senses insisted that I eat a full meal at the APALSA banquet. And so I did.

A special shout out to law student Mary Tran, who hand-crafted a Thai iced tea that was the perfect complement to the meal. As I sit here Tuesday, I know my morning would be improved mightily by a glass of that!

All of the food and drink (plus the open bar) contributed to an evening of celebration and cultural identity. Nicely done.

2. Speaker: Smart, funny, brief

Let me be the first to say it: More Jared Leung, please.

Jared Leung

Jared Leung

The evening’s keynote was the Fennemore Craig lawyer, and he caught our attention in two ways.

First, he opened by admiring and critiquing the bathrooms in Fennemore Craig’s new-ish space. Restroom-talk is not the typical go-to intro for legal keynotes, but it got our attention as he described the difficulty some have mastering the motion-activated sinks. Leung’s message was about the importance of finding the sweet spot in our professional lives.

And that’s why Leung carried a tennis racquet (his second unique approach) up to the microphone.

“What are you comfortable doing as a lawyer?” he asked the assembled law students. “What is your thing?”

“If we just all stick with what we’re comfortable with,” he continued, “our growth will be limited.”

Punctuating his point with a tennis swing, he offered a story about a Queen Creek high school football player, Carson Jones, who, with some teammates, opted to stand up for a bullied special-needs classmate. (Read the story here.)

“Here we have a 16-year-old showing us how it should be done,” Leung said, explaining how Jones’s actions required courage. He reminded the students that law school and the legal profession offer ongoing opportunities to decide how and when to do the right thing.

Jared Leung delivers the keynote address (with tennis racquet) at the APALSA banquet, April 5, 2014.

Jared Leung delivers the keynote address (with tennis racquet) at the APALSA banquet, April 5, 2014.

“Get out of your comfort zone, and find the sweet spot. Someday I’ll learn from you.”

With a smile, Leung noted that he (like the rest of us) already was doing just that.

3. Lions: Yes, please

No, I suppose you’re right. Every legal event need not have a Chinese lion and a traditional lion dance. It might be odd to spring that on Bar Convention attendees.

But the APALSA banquet had one, and the articulated, two-man operation teaches us volumes about connecting with your audience.

First, it had obvious relevance to the association, and its presence was certainly evocative for many at the banquet.

APALSA President Vic Reid speaks at annual banquet, April 5, 2014.

APALSA President Vic Reid speaks at annual banquet, April 5, 2014.

But more important, it provided a lift in spirits—aurally and visually—that far too many bar events overlook. I’ve heard for too many years that legal affairs must be serious business—and then watched as attendees nodded off or checked their email during sonorous speeches.

No one checked email as the dragon marched about the room, demanding attention and collecting donations to the ASU Asian LEAD Academy. No one nodded off as the terrific DJ filled the room with music.

After all, the spirit is not fed only by footnotes and legal speeches. For your next event, consider a lion. Or maybe learn from TED talks. Or at least (please!) have some Thai iced tea.

Congratulations to APALSA and its president, Vicente Reid Y Lugto, and the whole board. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

Spot the lawyer: I also got the oportunity to pose with Asian community leaders and a talented Chinese dragon.

Spot the lawyer: I also got the opportunity to pose with Asian American community leaders and a talented Chinese lion.

ABA Section of Litigation logoLater this week, I’ll attend a conference focused on litigation. Just in case you can’t be there yourself, I thought I’d ask what you’d like me to cover.

The event is the annual conference of the American Bar Association Litigation Section (follow them on Twitter here). We are fortunate that the national event will be held April 9-11 right here in our state, at The Phoenician in Scottsdale. (The State Bar of Arizona CEO, John Phelps, is an Honorary Chair.)

The three days will have a boatload of seminars, 40 of them:

“including 3 plenaries and feature 150 of the nation’s most respected judges, academics and trial lawyers,as they address litigation development and techniques in trial advocacy. In addition to the education portion, the Section Annual Conference provides for an opportunity for meeting and networking with our distinguished guests and fellow participants.”

Wondering what the seminars include? You can breeze through the brochure here.

The ABA makes it even easier. Here is an abbreviated guide.

the phoenician scottsdale

The Phoenician Resort, Scottsdale, Ariz., site of the annual conference of the American Bar Association Section of Litigation, April 9-11, 2014.

I’ll be in and out of the conference this week, seeking stories and great new article ideas for Arizona Attorney Magazine. I’m developing my week’s calendar now, and I’d appreciate knowing which seminars sound most interesting to you.

Here are a few I may drop in on:

  • General counsel forum reveals the real deal
  • Janet Napolitano keynote
  • New technologies of evidence coming to court
  • Essential apps and websites for litigators
  • A lynching that forever changed law practice
  • DOMA’s dead: Now what?
  • Hot Internet litigation trends
  • Lean In for lawyers
  • Social media’s implications for litigation
  • Communicating about mistakes with clients
  • Litigating privacy and data breach issues
  • Dealing with difficult judges
  • Business divorces

… and, of course:

  • The Trial of Wyatt Earp

And then after lunch …

Only kidding. I may not have time to attend all of these. But look over the program and tell me what you’d love to hear a synopsis of.

And if you plan to be there yourself, let me know. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. Or reach me on Twitter @azatty. I’ll also be tweeting, and here’s the conference hashtag: #14SAC

Let’s get litigious, shall we?

Ornament on historic Tucson, Ariz., courthouse

Ornament on historic Tucson, Ariz., courthouse

Just a short item today pointing you to a long article—but you didn’t want to work too much today anyway, right?

I recently was sent a story by Tucson Judge José Luis Castillo Jr. He has penned an essay online that tells us much about legal history and what preservation really is (and what it is not).

He writes about the history of Arizona’s oldest working courtroom. Read his article here.

“Working” is an important word, because much of what makes it vital as a teaching tool may be endangered. Jump to the closer paragraphs of his piece, if you must, to read his insightful conclusion.

But give yourself the time to read the whole thing. There, you will see the role a room has played in our history—and even in Hollywood.

Have a great weekend.

 

Feeling squeezed in your office? Shrinking office space is a national trend.

Feeling squeezed in your office? Shrinking office space is a national trend.

My title today—asking about law office square footage—is more than just a snarky opening designed to draw you in. (It worked, though, didn’t it? The title has something for everyone: Big-firm partners who bemoan the loss of space, and the rest of the world that pillories big-firm partners. You’re welcome.)

No, my title reminds me of a quiet revolution occurring in law firm offices (and in hallways, lobbies, common areas and lunchrooms. And don’t get us started on law firm libraries.)

That revolution (or devolution) is yielding smaller footprints, even for (some) bigfoot rainmakers.

A blog post recently sized up the size issue.

Closer to home, commercial real estate expert James Robinson wrote for us last fall in an article titled “Can the Credenza: Technology, Economics Change Law Firm Offices.”

He well describes the changes yielding small spaces, and he says much of the shift is attributable to changing technology. He (kindly) leaves aside the impetus of a bad economy and declining collected fees.

You should read James’s article; it even includes pictures!

What do you think? Is this a tempest in a shrinking teapot? Or could the change in office size signal (subconsciously) decreased horizons for a profession? And does that diminution have a demoralizing influence?

I’m no psychologist (or attorney whisperer); I’m just spit-balling here.

But I’d like to hear what you think. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

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