Arizona Attorney Magazine


True, the American Museum of Tort Law (and its Unsafe Pinto T-shirt) looks fun. But is that enough reason to advocate a legal career?

True, the American Museum of Tort Law (and its Unsafe Pinto T-shirt) looks fun. But is that enough reason to advocate a legal career?

Just as February begins, I’ve decided to share with you my column from this month’s issue of Arizona Attorney—for a single reason, framed as a question at the end of my column.

Namely, would you encourage someone to go to law school today? If so, what qualities would you stress that they should have or develop to maximize the value of the experience?

Here’s the piece:

 

“Bullish” is typically how I would describe my viewpoint about the future of the legal profession. We certainly face challenges, even big ones, and I do not agree with those who think things will return to “normal”—if normal means bushelfuls of billable hours, clients who don’t scrutinize invoices, the elimination of offshore legal services, and equity partnerships for those who simply put in the time.

Despite the new normal, I remain confident that the field is a worthy one to pursue—even if you accumulate some student debt along the way. In a month featuring Valentine’s Day, the law still deserves our love.

RBG Valentine via Georgetown Law Weekly

RBG Valentine via Georgetown Law Weekly

But what if I have to put my money where my mouth is? What if the lawyerly profession were to darken my own door? Would I be so sanguine?

That occurred to me over the holiday season, when my daughter was home from university. She’s a sophomore, studying a decidedly non-prelaw major. But this past semester, she took an elective on Business Law—and liked it very much. (Except for the way the instructor taught torts, which seemed pretty dull to her. I explained that when you get beyond business torts, you’re into eye-opening and awe-inspiring territory. Maybe we’ll take a field trip to the American Museum of Tort Law in Connecticut!)

For the first time ever, I heard our daughter say that she would consider aiming for a law degree after college.

Gulp. Time to decide if I walk the walk.

And my hesitation to embrace a legal future for someone I care for is not unique. I recently spoke with a partner at a large multistate law firm. He had previously reached positions of national prominence in the realm of criminal and civil law, and now is a shareholder in a respected, white-shoe national firm. The law has been very good to him.

Despite that, he confessed his own hesitation when his son, a recent college graduate, mentioned he may sit for the LSAT. “I wasn’t sure what to tell him,” the attorney admitted to me. “But I certainly didn’t encourage it.”

In a time when job prospects are still sparse and the practice is shifting in numerous ways, how do we encourage future applicants in a LegalZoom era? How do we describe the field, and what core skills do we emphasize as the future of a profession? How do we characterize important elements like fulfillment, service, and meaning in 2016 and beyond?

Your thoughts are welcome at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. The legal field—and at least a few of our kids—would appreciate the input.

Arizona lawyer—and our arts competition music winner—Stu De Haan made a devilish argument about free speech and freedom of religion.

Arizona lawyer—and our arts competition music winner—Stu De Haan made a devilish argument about free speech and freedom of religion.

If politics and religion are two topics we should never discuss in polite company, the Phoenix City Council seems like the ideal place to address both.

This week has seen a firestorm of hellish indignation over the news that a group of satanists petitioned the Phoenix city clerk’s office to offer the “invocation” at an upcoming City Council meeting. After reviewing the request and the fact that municipalities cannot be in the business of “picking winners and losers” when it comes to deities, it OKed the request.

As Phoenix City Attorney Brad Holm said in a statement, “Consistent with the U.S. Supreme Court’s direction, the city cannot dictate religious viewpoints or the content of a prayer.”

Imagine that—following the law.

Cue the choirs, celestial and otherwise.

Read a news story about the devilish quandary here.

To the surprise of almost no one, there is not unanimous agreement with the decision—though the February 17 meeting will likely be standing-room only due to the controversy.

One Phoenix councilman said it’s “a dumb idea,” and another insisted the Satanists should have been denied and simply let them sue. Knowing there’s often fire where there’s smoke, media are all over this. Here’s a video news story:

I confess I’m surprised by the uproar. I’ve been in that chamber many times, and I’m pretty sure I’ve spotted Lucifer at numerous zoning hearings. And who hasn’t smelled the distinct odor of sulfur as countless variance requests are rubber-stamped? Or maybe I need to get my eyes and nose checked.

Wherever you stand, this is a fantastic lesson in the First Amendment, playing out right in the heart of our state. You’re welcome, America.

Stu De Haan and his instrument in Arizona Attorney Magazine, May 2015.

Stu De Haan and his instrument in Arizona Attorney Magazine, May 2015.

And yes, there is an even more intimate legal angle to this. Spokesman and legal adviser to the Satanic Temple (and a “Satanic Templar”) is Arizona lawyer Stu De Haan. And here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we are a big fan of him—and his music.

Those with good memories will recall that Stu was the winner in the Music category in our 2015 Creative Arts Competition. He appeared on our cover and inside pages, and we featured “Don’t Get Stuck in a Roadside Ditch” online. That song is by his band Scar Eater, “a five piece post-hardcore band from Tucson.”

As Stu described his song, “This song is about facing fears, shedding one’s negative past, and embracing an aggressive but positive outlook on the inevitable difficulties of life.”

You can read more what I wrote about Stu, and listen to “Roadside Ditch,” here.

Arizona Attorney Magazine May 2015 cover arts competition winnersA final thought: It bears noting that Stu and his fellow Satanic Templar Michelle Shortt are traveling north from Tucson to deliver an invocation—and make a point, I suppose—because the Tucson City Council gets to the work of its meetings without bothering with a prayer of any kind. No muss, no fuss.

Imagine that—focusing on governing.

As we head into our Friday, please enjoy “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones. “Pleased to meet you; hope you guess my name.”

Have a terrific—and free-speech-filled—weekend.

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A new Phoenix Compliance Assistance Program aims to assist residents whose civil fines have led to the loss of a driver's license or worse.

A new Phoenix Compliance Assistance Program aims to assist residents whose civil fines have led to the loss of a driver’s license or worse.

This week, the City of Phoenix and its Municipal Court announced a new program that aims to counter situations that have too often have led people into financial straits and even into the justice system.

The new “Compliance Assistance Program” is “designed to give residents with past-due traffic fines a path to repay the debts and work towards restoring driving privileges.”

The past year has provided numerous examples from around the country in which residents faced financial ruin and increased interaction with police because of an accumulation of unpaid tickets, fines, and penalties. But these issues didn’t just face residents of Ferguson, Missouri, or other newsworthy places; they face residents of Arizona cities too. The Phoenix program is a salutary effort to address those problems; you can read more about it here.

As Megan Cassidy reports:

“The Compliance Assistance Program is designed to break what can become a crippling cycle of fines and subsequent driving penalties: Unpaid fines can lead to a suspended license. And driving on a suspended license can lead to criminal charges and jail time for the working poor. As of Dec. 31, Phoenix was owed more than $283 million in overdue municipal fines, fees and restitution dating back decades. As many as 6,000 people currently have their licenses suspended because of delinquent Phoenix fines.”

Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego

Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego

Quoted in the story and a key driver of the change is Phoenix City Councilwoman Kate Gallego.

“We want people to be able to pay their fines in a sustainable way,” she said. “If you push people to the brink of their financial ability, the consequences are more negative.”

New Chief Presiding Municipal Judge B. Don Taylor came into the job via a contentious process, but his advocacy for these changes is a welcome sign for a progressive court, one that has substantial daily interactions with residents. Though the program is just a first step, residents should be heartened by the actions of Judge Taylor and Councilwoman Gallego, who “said she made reforming the Municipal Court system a priority in her decision-making when the City Council selected a new presiding municipal judge last year.”

As Judge Taylor says in the Arizona Republic story, “It’s really providing a mechanism that people haven’t really had before. I think creating something that will allow them to be compliant, get the license back, really helps them be in a good place.”

If the name Don Taylor sounds familiar, it may be because he’s a longtime lawyer, former prosecutor, and even a story-subject in Arizona Attorney Magazine. In 2007, we spoke with him as he worked at the International Criminal Tribunal at The Hague.

Congratulations on the new program.

Attorney B. Don Taylor in the February 2007 Arizona Attorney, describing his work at The Hague.

Attorney B. Don Taylor in the February 2007 Arizona Attorney, describing his work at The Hague.

State Bar of Arizona dues are due on or before Feb. 1, 2016.

State Bar of Arizona dues are due on or before Feb. 1, 2016.

On the very top of the front cover of Arizona Attorney Magazine’s January issue (the space we call an eyebrow), we reminded Arizona Bar members of an important deadline: February 1 is when the annual statement and dues are required to be filed.

Because everyone can stand another reminder (and because I suddenly remembered my own California Bar dues this past Friday!), I share the news with you again.

All the detail, and a place to get started online, are here.

Our January magazine 'eyebrow' shares the dues news.

Our January magazine ‘eyebrow’ shares the dues news.

Paying dues may be the least-enjoyable part of any membership. But it sure makes February 2 feel better.

"The Jury" (1861) by John Morgan: Persuading a jury is one important quality of an expert witness. What else do you value?

“The Jury” (1861) by John Morgan: Persuading a jury is one important quality of an expert witness. What else do you value?

We’re working hard on our March issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, which largely will focus on expert witnesses. So important and relevant is the topic, in fact, that we are building an entire separate magazine to hold the content. In a historic move for us, that special issue and our regular March issue will by “polybagged” together and mailed to readers. I think you’re going to like it!

But all of this focus makes me wonder about your own experience with expert witnesses. So please (please!) send me a quick note that answers any or all of the following questions:

  • The one great thing an expert witness can do to ensure their value to you and your case.
  • The one sucky thing an expert witness can do that is guaranteed to send you into paroxysms of anger.
  • The one thing you would advise fellow lawyers to do better that would assist the lawyer–expert relationship. (After all, you’ve got to admit that the problem may be on the lawyer end of the equation!)

Your quick comments and/or anecdotes (without naming names, I’m assuming) are welcome in the comments section or via email to me: arizona.attorney@azbar.org. I’d appreciate hearing any insight you can share.

The witness box is only one place an expert can demonstrate show his or her value.

The witness box is only one place an expert can demonstrate show his or her value.

road sign What can make a judge frown upon receiving a request for attorneys' fees?

What can make a judge frown upon receiving a request for attorneys’ fees?

A fee award, cut in half.

You may have done a spit-take when you read this story, about a judge in Texas who granted an award of attorneys’ fees, but halved the awards in two instances.

As the Texas Monthly reports:

“[David] Harper and his fellow lawyers only got half of what they wanted from [U.S. District Judge Jane] Boyle in fees. She cut their $1.2 million request down $600,000 in a recent order in Spear Marketing Inc. v BancorpSouth Bank.”

Discretion being the better part of valor, the attorney himself complained hardly at all, noting that judges “have broad discretion in making attorney fee determinations.”

Maybe it was the $600 an hour being claimed that set the judge off. Or, who knows, there could be many other things that occurred—or didn’t occur—in the lawsuit that informed her decision.

Time and money, the lawyer's calculus. justice scales clock time money lawyer attorney fees

Time and money, the lawyer’s calculus.

In any case, the judge found that the fees were “unreasonably inflated.” Meaning, I suppose, that the more proper course is to reasonably inflate them.

Whatever led to her decision, it had to be a rude wake-up call to the lawyers, who, for planning purposes, probably had certain million-dollar expectations. Who doesn’t like predictable outcomes, after all?

As you dear readers are pretty discreet yourselves, you likely will not reply to my own query to you: Have you been in a fee-award situation in which the judge made such a drastic *gulp* adjustment? Or, put more charitably, what are your best practices for submitting an attorneys’ fee affidavit that garners the judge’s support?

Come to think of it, that could make a terrific magazine article, one that folks would rip out and save.

Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

basketball denied tumblr_mucwilVVxM1rc9kago1_400 Win your case. Check. Persuade judge you deserve a fee award. Check. Take the shot, and ...

Win your case. Check. Persuade judge you deserve a fee award. Check. Take the shot, and …

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