March 2016


 State Bar diversity conference 2016 header

Today, a great conference opens in Phoenix that offers a wide variety of content regarding law practice as well as diversity and inclusion in the profession. It is the State Bar’s “Spring Training for Lawyers” (formerly called the Minority Bar Conference).

On the second day of the conference (Friday), I have the privilege to moderate a panel of general counsel on the issue of diversity in law practice.

Leading off the Friday sessions will be our plenary session titled “Knocking It Out of the Ballpark: How Corporate Legal Counsel Are Leading the Way to a Diverse Legal Profession.” Here is a list of the stellar panel:

  • David Falck, Executive Vice President and General Counsel, Pinnacle West Capital Corporation
  • Lori Chumbler, Senior Associate General Counsel, Walmart
  • Isabella Fu, Associate General Counsel, Microsoft Corporation
  • Dawn Valdivia, Assistant General Counsel, Honeywell International

As organizers describe our session:

“Join us for this interactive discussion featuring corporate legal counsel to discuss how having a diverse team of lawyers helps their companies achieve their business goals. They’ll share their best practices, lessons learned and how their legal departments are leading the way to a more diverse and inclusive legal profession.”

And leading off that panel discussion will be my own six-minute (or so) intro to where we are in the profession regarding diversity and inclusion. 6 minutes. Hmm. As I prepared for that task, I wondered how we can discuss diversity in 2016 without mentioning … the Oscars.

Seriously, I’m wondering. Because if there is a way to do it, I’ve failed. My presentation will allude to the uncomfortable relationship between the law and the Academy. Here are examples of images from my PowerPoint, which suggests the hashtag #LawSoWhite (and #male and #able-bodied and #cis, because let’s be real):

Oscars so white gif animated

Here’s hoping panelists—and the attendees—have a sense of humor.

Rihanna nope animated gif

For fairness’ sake, I point you to a recent article by friend and journalist Bill Wyman. His analysis of the history of the Academy awards appears in the Columbia Journalism Review and suggests the diversity picture at the Oscars is not nearly as bleak as many have made it. As Bill writes:

“An intelligent discussion of the issue was made much more difficult by a curious exclusion from just about all of the media coverage[:] The Academy Awards have actually greatly improved their recognition of minority actors. In fact, in recent years, their representation, while not exemplary, has climbed into the realm of the respectable. … The lesson here is that Hollywood is sometimes more complicated than its public portrayal.”

Read his whole article and decide for yourself.

All the detail about the State Bar conference is here. I hope you can attend.

The agenda for Spring Training for Lawyers 2016

The agenda for Spring Training for Lawyers 2016

The sponsors for Spring Training for Lawyers 2016

The sponsors for Spring Training for Lawyers 2016

A March 10, 2016, forum heard from corporate chief legal officers. From L to R: Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson General Counsel; Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel; Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel; and Ahron Cohen, Barrett Jackson General Counsel.

A March 10, 2016, forum heard from corporate chief legal officers. From L to R: Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson General Counsel; Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel; Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel; and Ahron Cohen, Barrett Jackson General Counsel.

Among the things a lawyer audience appreciates the most are smart and candid remarks by corporate counsel. Those were in rich supply at a March 10 event hosted by the Jewish Federation’s Cardozo Society.

The General Counsel Forum was held at the Phoenix office of Perkins Coie and moderated by Eliot Kaplan, Business & Professionals Chair and partner at the firm.

The panelists were the following General Counsel:

  • Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel
  • Ahron Cohen, Arizona Coyotes General Counsel
  • Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel
  • Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson GC

The topics raised by moderator Eliot Kaplan were well selected as of the most interest to attendees. First up was panelists describing their work and what elements most appealed to them. Audience members were likely not surprised to hear the corporate counsel liked their jobs quite a bit.

Comparing his work in a law firm and his in-house work now, DeRespino appreciates that now there are “fewer distractions expected of me,” and he can focus more simply on the practice of law.

Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix logoIn-house counsel, he said, “get to know a particular client and focus on business solutions. That always was what the practice of law is supposed to be for me.”

But aren’t the hours in-house better? Yes, but … said Richard Lustiger.

“There are fewer hours but they’re more intense. You’re dealing with the crisis du jour.”

The other panelists agreed on the differences between in-house and “outhouse” (which got quite a laugh). Ohre contrasted the difference by describing “legal speed and business speed.” And, like DeRespino, Ahron Cohen enjoys the fact that he can concentrate more on “macro goals” rather than the “micro goals” that are the focus in law firms.

A primary mission of corporate counsel is offering sometimes challenging legal advice that may run hard into the company’s business goals.

Ohre said that he and other corporate counsel may occasionally be called “Mr. No” by colleagues on the business side. But getting brought in earlier in a strategic process may decrease the prevalence of No in the conversation.

Cohen agreed and said finding a way to say yes goes a long way. If the lawyer can help the company achieve its business goals, that will help foster trust in the legal department.

“The legal department should not get the reputation of being the place where deals go to die,” said Lustiger—though he added that some deals need to die. “Improve the output and be a better partner for the company.”

Communicating clearly, concisely, and free of legalese is probably the most important skill an in-house counsel can develop, panelists agreed.

“You have to learn to talk to people who may not particularly like lawyers,” said DeRespino. “It’s a complex dynamic when you want someone to heed your counsel.”

From L to R: Raphael Avraham, Cardozo Society Chair; Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel; Ahron Cohen, Arizona Coyotes General Counsel; Eliot Kaplan, Business & Professionals Chair and Partner at Perkins Coie; Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel; Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson General Counsel.

From L to R: Raphael Avraham, Cardozo Society Chair; Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel; Ahron Cohen, Arizona Coyotes General Counsel; Eliot Kaplan, Business & Professionals Chair and Partner at Perkins Coie; Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel; Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson General Counsel.

But all of that work building relationships is worth it, DeRespino added.

“It’s a tremendous value to speak with your client with absolute candor.”

More information about the Cardozo Society is here. Congratulations to moderator Eliot Kaplan and the Society for a terrific program.

For being tweeterific, Yvonne McGhee will receive Gary Vaynerchuk's great new book.

For being tweeterific, Yvonne McGhee will receive Gary Vaynerchuk’s great new book.

A few weeks ago, I made a promise to a roomful of lawyers. Today, I’m (finally) making good on that promise.

Standing on a Chicago dais, I was privileged to present to about 400 folks at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute. My topic was strategic communication. (Here is a PDF of my PowerPoint.)

Yvonne C. McGhee, Executive Director of The Virginia Bar Association (and quite a tweeter!)

Yvonne C. McGhee, Executive Director of The Virginia Bar Association (and quite a tweeter!)

I opened my presentation by making the following promise: The best tweet/tweeter from that morning session, as determined solely by me, would be deemed the winner of a great new book by Gary Vaynerchuk. The book is titled #AskGaryVee: One Entrepreneur’s Take on Leadership, Social Media, and Self-Awareness. (And you can buy it yourself in multiple places, including here.)

My thinking was that those who were great tweeters—and thus great communicators—might make the best use of Gary’s great tips and insights.

So without further ado, I offer you, as the winner: Yvonne McGhee, executive director of the Virginia Bar Association. In person or online, Yvonne is a consummate communicator.

Below you can see her winning tweet, which shared in my amusement at Facebook’s new emoji called the “ha-ha.”

Congratulations, Yvonne. Send me your snail-mail address and the book will be speeding your way!

Here, by the way, are the new Facebook emoji:

Spot the ha-ha in the new Facebook emoji.

Spot the ha-ha in the new Facebook emoji.

To show how difficult my selection process was, I share also a few other tweets that made me chuckle or even LOL. First, a hilarious comment by Elizabeth Derrico of the New York State Bar Association regarding the likely result of my urging Snapchat use by bar leaders:

Next, Robin Lynn Haynes, Washington State Bar Association President-Elect, gets my props for sharing my love for English majors:

Institutionally, the Albany County Bar shared its love of dogs and then shared their own. Dogs are always among the best tweets:

Finally, Vermont Bar Counsel Michael Kennedy recognized the love my presentation had for Beyonce. Hat tip to you, Michael:

Thank you to the many, many attendees who participated in the tweetup in Chicago. You’re the best!

A proclamation by Ariz. Gov. Doug Ducey declares that March 2016 is Women's History Month.

A proclamation by Ariz. Gov. Doug Ducey declares that March 2016 is Women’s History Month.

Sharing some news from the Governor’s Office you may have missed, a proclamation of March as Women’s History Month. The proclamation posted above bears careful study, as it praises the achievements of attorneys and jurists Sandra Day O’Connor and Lorna Lockwood. Here is the Governor’s announcement:

In honor of National Women’s History Month, Governor Doug Ducey has signed a proclamation honoring the brilliant and courageous women who shaped Arizona’s history. His office also released a video that celebrates just some of the many Arizona women who have torn down barriers throughout the decades.

“In Arizona, women aren’t just a part our history,” said Governor Ducey. “They’ve led it. These women have been Supreme Court Justices, Governors, Congresswomen and more. This month, we commemorate the achievements of Arizona women as we look forward to the next generation of female leaders in our state.”

Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (ret.) and Gov. Doug Ducey, September 2015.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (ret.) and Gov. Doug Ducey, September 2015.

Oh, Twitter, right back atcha with that #love!

Oh, Twitter, right back atcha with that #love!

Some of you may find the following fact unastonishing: Today is the 10-year anniversary of Twitter.

Happy birthday, Twitter. I’m happy you’re here!

That most agile of social media channels has had some growing pains in the past year, and I am rooting for it to emerge stronger than ever.

The reason I’m a fan has everything to do with reader engagement—and the ability to learn news as it’s happening, rather than when a news conglomerate decides to drip-drip-drip out information.

Yes, in fact, Twitter does have a signature.

Yes, in fact, Twitter does have a signature.

Here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, Twitter was a game-changer. It has allowed us to know what was happening in real time. And it allowed us to share news as it broke. Pre-Twitter, unless you were the Associated Press, a TV channel, or a major daily newspaper, you were pretty much sidelined from breaking news, even in your own beat. But sweet sweet Twitter changed all that.

It’s helped in other ways. This past Friday, I presented to hundreds of legal leaders at the American Bar Association’s Bar Leadership Institute. I also invited continued dialogue on Twitter, and promised a gift of a terrific book to the best tweeter from the session. (More on that later.) No surprise, engagement spiked.

Because the digital world is all-knowable and all-knowing, I was able to look up my very first tweet, way back on August 12, 2009 (you can see it below). I was relieved that I did NOT launch my Twitter brief with a mention about my lunch. Instead, my inaugural tweet happens to combine a few of my fondest interests: lawyers and legal affairs, human rights, and historic preservation. A social-media trifecta!

my first tweet 08-2009-page0001

My first tweet: 140 characters pack a punch.

That was almost 25,000 tweets ago, and I am looking forward to all the conversations to come.

Feel free to follow me here; I’m pretty sure we’ll have a blast together!

Comedians at Law logo

Get ready for your briefs to get in a bunch: Comedians at Law are coming to town again.

Next Wednesday, March 23, you have the opportunity to laugh along with—or at, I suppose—a group of on-stage attorneys.

Comedians at Law will appear that evening at StandUpLive in downtown Phoenix. I’ve seen members of this crew before, and yuks both legal and illegal are guaranteed. (That’s all to the good, I assure you.)

If the promise of legal humor is not enough (say it ain’t so!), how does a promo code make you feel? That’s right, merely use the promo code LAWYER to get $5 off.

No joke.

Matt Ritter

Matt Ritter

The headliner, it appears, is Matt Ritter:

“Matt Ritter recently traded big law for the big stage. He graduated from the University Pennsylvania Law School and worked as a corporate lawyer at both Kirkland and Ellis and Mayer Brown before leaving the law to pursue a career in entertainment.”

Years ago, I worked at Mayer Brown—before I was a lawyer (don’t ask)—so I have to suspect that Matt’s comedy comes from a very deep-seated pain; I know mine does. (Let it out, Matt!)

Also appearing that evening will be a few local legal favorites: Matt Storrs, Nancy Stanley, and Bob Howard.

I’ve covered these legal comedians before, here and here, for instance. And Matt Storrs has been tearing up the downtown Phoenix comedy scene via his work on The Storrs Objection and the Phoenix Educational Programming (P.E.P.) Rally, co-hosted by the irrepressible Hattie Jean Hayes.

Matt also appears pretty regularly on the stage of Space 55, a theatre whose board I’m pleased to serve on.

Matt Storrs

Matt Storrs (who really can afford a better picture!)

Meanwhile, Nancy Stanley’s day job is within the hallowed halls of a prominent Arizona law school (an assistant DEAN, for god’s sake). So, just like Matt Ritter, cue the deep-seated pain. If you see Nancy, before or after her set, buy her a drink, wouldja?

Nancy Stanley

Nancy Stanley

I hope to be there next Wednesday, laughing along with the comics. Remember: Buy your tickets here, promo code LAWYER.

This Saturday, an annual Prison Education Conference will be held at ASU in Tempe.

This Saturday, an annual Prison Education Conference will be held at ASU in Tempe.

This coming Saturday is the fifth annual conference focused on the power of education—including arts education—to better the lives of people who are incarcerated.

Judge Lilia Alvarez, a keynote speaker at the 2016 Prison Education Conference

Judge Lilia Alvarez, a keynote speaker at the 2016 Prison Education Conference

The Prison Education Conference occurs on Saturday, March 19 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. It will be staged at the Tempe campus of Arizona State University, in the Memorial Union Turquoise Room (MU 220).

More detail about the event, which is open to the public, is here.

You can register for the free event here.

As announced by organizers:

Keynote speakers Judge Lilia Alvarez and attorney Kirstin Eidenbach will discuss how best to deter juveniles from entering the system.

Judge Alvarez is the presiding judge for the Guadalupe Municipal Court and also leads a “teen court” in Guadalupe. Kirstin Eidenbach is an admired attorney who focuses on prisoners’ rights issues.

Attorney Kirstin Eidenbach, a keynote speaker at the 2016 Prison Education Conference

Attorney Kirstin Eidenbach, a keynote speaker at the 2016 Prison Education Conference

Michelle Ribeiro, recently retired from the New Mexico Corrections Department, will speak on the creation of the Pen Project—a class that allows maximum security and other incarcerated writers to receive feedback from ASU interns. Sheldon Thompson, a Pen Project participant who, on his release, was accepted on scholarship to the Institute of American Indian Arts, will speak of his educational experiences (both in and out of prison) and also share some of his creative work.

Click here to watch a video of Michelle Ribeiro’s remarks at last year’s conference.

Michelle Ribeiro speaks at ASU in 2015.

Michelle Ribeiro speaks at ASU in 2015.

And you can read a class description of the Pen Project class here.

For a terrific roundup of last year’s conference, go here.

The conference is hosted by the Prison Education Awareness Club (PEAC) and the Department of English.

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