June 2015


Hon. Don Kessler receives the 2015 Sarah Herring Sorin Award from Barbara Burke, center, and 2015 AWLA President Lisa Bossard Funk, June 26, 2015, Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix.

Hon. Don Kessler receives the 2015 Sarah Herring Sorin Award from Barbara Burke, center, and 2015 AWLA President Lisa Bossard Funk, June 26, 2015, Arizona Biltmore, Phoenix.

An hour after the Supreme Court released its historic opinion legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states, the AWLA made historic news of their own, honoring a man for the first time with its Sarah Herring Sorin Award.

On Friday, June 26, the highest award of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association went to Judge Donn Kessler of the Arizona Court of Appeals.

The Biltmore Resort room was packed with a capacity crowd of members and others. Attorney Barbara Burke introduced the honoree, known for his support (and employment) of largely female clerks. He also has chaired or co-chaired the AWLA’s monthly luncheon for years, and has been tireless in mentoring judicial candidates.

Well respected as a mentor, Judge Kessler is “one who lifts up women and men attorneys,” said Burke.

Barbara conveyed kind words about Donn expressed by others: “When Donn is in your life, you are so lucky.” And “He is awesome, a leader and mentor.”

Judge Kessler sounded a theme of mindfulness in his acceptance remarks. A longtime advocate of meditation and balance in life and law practice, he said, “Mindfulness has made me grateful for things.”

For example, to loud applause, he said, “I am grateful for the United States Supreme Court this morning.”

But more needs to be done for marginalized individuals, he urged.

“A half century after 50 percent of law school classes were composed of women, now only 17 percent of law firm equity partners are women.”

Generous to a fault, Judge Kessler praised his many clerks, past and present, who have drafted the first versions of his opinions. While other appellate judges shifted uncomfortably in their seats, Kessler said that many drafts he’s received have been essentially ready for publication the moment they were written by the clerks.

“So I always try to add ‘the Kessler paragraph or sentence,’” he said. That way, when he later engages in dialogue with his fellow panel judges, they can focus on that portion. “‘We can take that out,’ they say,” likely unaware that it’s the judge-drafted portion. The self-effacing Kessler told his story to warm laughs—and some uneasy grimaces.

Judge Kessler said he will probably retire in two years, and hopes young lawyers and clerks always understand that he is a supporter and a sounding board. Urging a successful life and practice, he said, “I want you to run with it.”

Finally, he reminded the audience that appellate judge is the second-best job he’s ever had. For the best position, he recalled his work as a deputy attorney general in Hawaii, where he learned important lessons.

The Hawaiian-shirted Kessler described making his oral argument before a judge. As he went “toe to toe” on an important issue, “the judge was just not buying my argument.” Finally, a colleague tugged on his jacket and muttered, “Move on to your next argument!”

He did, and the judge exclaimed, “You win on that one!”

Your next argument, or your next chapter—and helping others with theirs—may be a recipe for a mindful life, Judge Kessler suggested.

Arizona_Supreme_Court_SealThe June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine includes a terrific primer on a new court being piloted in Arizona: a commercial court that aims to bring expertise to bear to resolve business disputes fairly and expeditiously.

The primer was written by attorney Mark Meltzer in the format of a Q&A. As the Supreme Court staff attorney tasked with serving a longtime committee examining the issue—and that eventually recommended creation of this very court—I figured he was the ideal man for the job.

Here is a link to the story.

(I wrote about the committee and the pilot program here.)

But we’re wondering what other questions you may have about the Court. Yes, we thought long and hard on the best questions to get answered—but we may have missed something.

Perhaps you won’t have questions until you see the way the court operates. But it’s also possible you have queries, concerns or suggestions right now. Please write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

An Arizona commercial court pilot program will launch on July 1. Read more in the June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

An Arizona commercial court pilot program will launch on July 1. Read more in the June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Hon. Patricia Norris and President-Elect Lisa Loo share a decisive moment, June 26, 2015, Phoenix, Ariz.

Hon. Patricia Norris and President-Elect Lisa Loo share a decisive moment, June 26, 2015, Phoenix, Ariz.

More news from the Convention will be in this space Monday. But as #azbarcon 2015 draws toward a close, I share a great photo snapped by the Bar’s Rick DeBruhl. Above you’ll see a historic moment: When Court of Appeals Judge Patricia Norris (L) acquiesced to the urging of President-Elect Lisa Loo to … serve as a Convention Co-Chair for next year’s Convention!

Thank you in advance, Judge Norris, for giving of your time and talents in the coming year!

Can I get an "ouch"? Lawyer hourly fees may cause client discomfort.

Can I get an “ouch”? Lawyer hourly fees may cause client discomfort.

This morning, an #azbarcon panel addresses the landscape for alternative fee agreements. Amidst a legal profession largely still wedded to hourly billing, the notion of a fixed fee may still get a tough reception among lawyers.

As attorney Mark Lassiter addressed a standing-room-only crowd, he opened by playing a hilarious video from a U.K. law firm. Riverview has made it part of their mission to blow up the hourly model.

I hope to share more on alternative agreements in the future. In the meantime, enjoy the video:

George Bisharat is Big Harp George, and he's a presenter at the 2015 #azbarcon

George Bisharat is Big Harp George, and he’s a presenter at the 2015 #azbarcon

Last week, I wrote about an #azbarcon panel discussion on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. I’ll be there when it starts at 2:00 today.

But in the meantime, you should take a moment to hear from one of the panelists, Professor George Bisharat. (I disclosed before that he was my law school crim-law professor.) Today, he’ll be giving insight on the Palestinian side of the dialogue. But more pertinent for your lunchtime listening? He is Big Harp George, an accomplished harmonica player.

He’s released a CD (maybe more), but here is one of his songs.

Here is news that he was nominated for Best New Artist Album at the Blues Music Awards.

And here is his website and Facebook page.

Here’s hoping you have some chromatic blues in your day!

Swaggy P by Chris Edser via ronartist.tumblr.com

Swaggy P by Chris Edser via ronartist.tumblr.com

Here is my annual slideshow of select swag (OK, promotional items) provided by exhibitors at the Bar Convention, this year at the Arizona Biltmore.

A caveat: This is not all there is. What is shown here is an extremely subjective, personal selection made by me. I tend to only occasionally pick up pens (they’re nice, but meh).

Thanks again to the exhibitors for helping make the Convention more affordable. Let’s get swaggy. (Click an image to view them in a slideshow.)

The Arizona Attorney Convention booth

The Arizona Attorney Convention booth

Keep up with what’s happening at the State Bar Annual Convention by following the editor on Twitter! 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.

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:

And feel free to stop by the Arizona Attorney booth in the Frank Lloyd Wright building, or contact the editor, who is wandering about the Biltmore attending sessions.

He’s at 602-908-6991 and arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

The Arizona Attorney booth is circled in red (Booth # 10!).

Remember, the Arizona Attorney booth is circled in red (Booth # 10!).

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