Change of Venue


Law Day photo recap by Alberto Rodriguez

Law Day photo recap by Alberto Rodriguez

On Saturday, April 25, the State Bar of Arizona once again held its annual Law Day legal-aid clinics. There, more than 20 attorneys volunteered ther time and expertise to assist more than 200 consumers.

The following update comes from my colleague Alberto Rodriguez:

“On Saturday, April 25 the State Bar of Arizona held the 2015 Law Day Legal Aid Clinics where 21 of its members offered free one-on-one legal consultations from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at two locations in Phoenix.”

“The clinics offered free legal consultations by members who practice Family Law, Bankruptcy/Foreclosure, Probate/Trust Law, and Immigration Law at State Bar of Arizona headquarters and St. Matthew Parish in central Phoenix. This year, the Bar partnered with ABC15 and Univision Arizona to promote the day-long clinics, which proved to be overwhelmingly successful.”

“Volunteer attorneys provided 216 consultations during law clinic for the 208 consumers who were seen. In addition, many attorneys offered pro-bono legal services after the clinic to consumers who needed additional help.”

To read more about the Law Day clinics—including links to media coverage and the names of all the volunteers—click here.

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This post is not aimed at lawyers whose practice is sailing along exactly as they would hope it would. Who have ample work, quality work, with clients who pay on time or early, and who never, ever argue about a bill. Who find creative pursuits within and among their legal work. Who have found particularly effective ways to differentiate themselves in a field of talented competitors. Whose hair is always just so.

Those folks will benefit not a whit from a recent blog post (not mine) that touting blogging as one of the top three Internet marketing activities.

And why (once again) does blogging matter? Because the definition of business strategy can be summed up in that one word that starts with “D”—differentiation. And blogging may be uniquely suited to convey an attorney’s talents, approach, and world view.

Um, yes, your world view matters to potential clients. Not your take on politics (better left to yourself). But the way you align yourself amidst challenging and thorny legal issues. The way you think through things, convey your position, and remain focused on the client at all times (the most important thing, of course).

Websites can do some of that lifting, but that’s where clients typically find the milquetoast puffery that reminds the world you are “full-service” (whatever that is), or that you were in an Order that had to do with the Coif (I go to Supercuts myself). That kind of stuff? It’s the opposite of differentiation.

So read this helpful post that describes blogging and two other online activities you should consider.

And if you’re still on the cyberspace fence, read this piece to hear how referral networks—via blogging—may be helpful to you.

Does LSD -- or the medical profession's treatment of it -- hold any lessons for the legal profession?

Does LSD — or the medical profession’s treatment of it — hold any lessons for the legal profession?

If all goes according to plan, as you read this I will be standing in a spot where LSD made history.

No, I am not in Woodstock, N.Y. (close to where I grew up). Instead, I’m in Boston, Mass., for part of this week. And amidst the lobster traps and the Freedom Trail, there is a small bit of druggy history—which may hold lessons for how we do things in the legal profession. (Bear with me.)

Marsh Chapel is a beautiful structure on the Boston University campus. Besides being a (I think) non-denominational spot to relax and meditate, it also was the site of an LSD experiment co-led by the now-notorious Dr. Timothy Leary.

Boston University's Marsh Chapel

Boston University’s Marsh Chapel

Back in March, I recounted the experiment to an audience at the American Bar Association’s Bar Leadership Institute. I explained how the Leary experiment was one of a number across that nation that sought to determine if the drug had solid medicinal uses (beyond those experienced in a Woodstock meadow).

The experiment had its challenges. For instance, the researchers tried to blind themselves as to which subjects had taken LSD and which had been given a placebo. But even an inattentive researcher could immediately spot the college students who were lying prone on the floor, or standing and marching on the pews, or even wandering from the building in a manic daze (one student was found on Commonwealth Avenue claiming to channel the Messiah).

More about the Marsh Chapel Experiment is here.

Timothy Leary's death on the New York Times front page, as modified by artist Nancy Chunn (her book is at http://www.amazon.com/Front-Pages-exhibition-catalogue-Nancy/dp/0847820815)

Timothy Leary’s death on the New York Times front page, as modified by artist Nancy Chunn (her book is at http://www.amazon.com/Front-Pages-exhibition-catalogue-Nancy/dp/0847820815)

As I told the ABA audience, my goal was not to advocate for LSD use. It was to explore ways that every profession may have learned valuable information, only to hide those very lessons from itself due to political or other reasons.

As an example, a terrific New Yorker article by Michael Pollan explains the waxing and waning of LSD research. Between 1953 and 1973, the federal government spent $4 million to fund 117 studies of LSD, involving more than 1,700 subjects. The benefits that flowed from the drug could be significant, and they applied to a wide variety of ailments. LSD looked to be on a path of becoming recognized as a useful tool in medical practitioners’ toolbox.

The work was necessarily inconclusive, though, because it was brought to an abrupt halt from the 1970s forward when federal and other dollars grew squeamish as the War on Drugs was ginned up. The developing body of research was shelved and placed in very deep drawers. It’s probably safe to say that many doctors today would be surprised to discover that substantial LSD research ever conducted—so deeply secreted is that work. It is typically thought of today (even among medical doctors) as a criminal drug.

Your should read Pollan’s complete article, titled “The Trip Treatment,” here.

So generations of doctors are unaware of the extensive experiments and a growing body of positive results that were developing and then squelched. Today, Pollan explains, a small group of doctors is excavating that decades-old research, developing new experiments, and seeing how LSD may become a useful tool in limited circumstances. What they are learning is that a wide variety of ailments may be alleviated or improved through that demonized drug.

So what, say lawyers? What is the takeaway for the legal profession?

There are always cool new lessons for cooler lawyers. Far out!

There are always cool new lessons for cooler lawyers. Far out!

First: No, I don’t have a vested interest in seeing LSD return.

But every profession has its blind spots, and few of us have an archival memory. We each may have forgotten or nerver learned hard-won lessons that could guide our profession.

For instance, the ways we deliver content, teach CLEs, train lawyers—each of them—who knows?—may be atop the pinnacle of human achievement. But it is more likely they lack important lessons that once were learned and then put away—either because they were considered unimportant or because someone’s ox was getting gored. Revisited, those lessons could transform lives for practitioners and the public who need them.

Smart bar associations, law schools, and attorneys are willing to look at everything and revisit lessons we thought we had learned. What could those lessons be? Well, let’s hope we start re-discovering them together—sooner rather than later.

As I enjoy some shellfish and Boston history, I wish you an illuminating—and not necessarily pharmaceutical—weekend.

Deschutes Brewey logo

Did someone say free samples?

Short, sweet, and on tap: A bevy of State Bar lawyer groups are hosting a mixer tonight, Thursday, April 30. The April networking event is titled Draft With Drafts Night.

Where: The Vig Uptown, 6015 N. 16th St., Phoenix 85014

Time: 5:00 pm to 7:30 pm (and later if it’s any good)

Your hosts: State Bar Young Lawyers Division, Tax Law Section, In-House Counsel Committee, and the Arizona Jewish Lawyers

Because?: Networking, happy-houring, free beer sampling from Deschutes Brewery and complimentary appetizers and desserts (that’s called “burying your lead”)

State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorCorporate sponsors:

More information about YLD is here.

The number-1 goal of the Arizona courts is access to justice.

The number-1 goal of the Arizona courts is access to justice.

How busy is your average day? How would you assess yourself on the helpfulness scale?

I hope you’re a typically helpful person, but when I saw what Arizona legal aid agencies do in a single day, I realized I’d have to step up to even come close.

The following terrific information came my way from Heather Murphy at the Arizona Supreme Court and the Administrative Office of the Courts. She passed on an analysis from the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education (or the Bar Foundation, if you prefer) that shows the activities of those agencies on just one day. As they say, what a difference a day makes.

As they indicate below, the agencies tracked the activity related to individuals seeking assistance for crises that only legal expertise can resolve. The help they offer is remarkable. The gap that remains is huge—and growing.

Heather reminds me that access to justice is one of the five priority areas in Advancing Justice Together: Courts & Communities, the five-year strategic agenda for Arizona’s statewide network of courts. You can read the strategic agenda here.

And more about the Arizona Commission on Access to Justice is here.

And here is the Foundation:

The phones started ringing early at legal aid agencies across Arizona, and kept ringing as people also walked in and requested help via an online portal: 597 Arizona families were calling out for legal help on this one day.

In honor of Governor Doug Ducey’s proclamation declaring April “Access to Justice Month,” Arizona’s three legal aid agencies organized a “What a Difference a Day Makes” campaign to bring attention to the importance of and need for access to legal resources and assistance. For 24 hours, Community Legal Services, DNA People’s Legal Services and Southern Arizona Legal Aid tracked the activity related to individuals seeking assistance for crises that only legal expertise can resolve. On Tuesday, April 14, Arizona’s legal aid organizations made an enormous difference:

  • In the lives of 509 individuals who were offered help in their legal crisis
  • With the 69 people given support in self-help legal clinics
  • With the assistance of 25 volunteer attorneys donating their time and expertise free of charge

Each day, the legal aid agencies across Arizona are making a difference in the lives of those they serve and in the communities where they live.  These unsung heroes should be thanked. But you best send a note, because their phone lines will be busy helping the next person in need.

In 2014:

  • The three Arizona legal aid agencies helped 31,605 Arizonans: 17,663 adults and 13,942 children.
  • Legal assistance was provided to Arizonans in each of the state’s 15 counties and Arizona’s 21 Native American tribes.

Community Legal Services, DNA People’s Legal Services and Southern Arizona Legal Aid provide legal assistance on various areas of law, including: family law with an emphasis on eliminating domestic violence; consumer; employment; housing and mortgage foreclosure; individual rights; health/medical related; and public benefits (access to government benefits such as unemployment insurance and social security disability benefits).

More information about all three agencies is below. Contact them to make a difference yourself:

US Department of Labor logoIt was only back on April 1 that a major dialogue was raised in Arizona about the negative results that flow from employee misclassification. That’s when Dr. David Weil of the Department of Labor Wage and Hour Division spoke to audiences in downtown Phoenix and elsewhere.

Dr. Weil spoke about the combination of carrots and sticks that would be brought to bear to face the challenge.

This week, we got to see a little of the stick as we read a press release. It opens:

“A nearly five-year federal investigation of illegal business practices by 16 defendants in Utah and Arizona has yielded $700,000 in back wages, damages, penalties and other guarantees for more than 1,000 construction industry workers in the Southwest, the U.S. Department of Labor announced today.”

“Consent judgments put an end to an effort by the defendants—operating collectively as CSG Workforce Partners, Universal Contracting, LLC and Arizona Tract/Arizona CLA—to claim that their workers were not employees. The defendants required the construction workers to become ‘member/owners’ of limited liability companies, stripping them of federal and state protections that come with employee status. These construction workers were building houses in Utah and Arizona as employees one day and then the next day were performing the same work on the same job sites for the same companies but without the protection of federal and state wage and safety laws. The companies, in turn, avoided paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll taxes.”

You can read the entire release here. All of the targeted Arizona firms are listed at the bottom, as is the case name and caption number.

Adding to the value of the news to Arizona lawyers and others is a blog post by Labor Secretary Tom Perez himself. In it, he describes the legal action being taken in Utah and Arizona. And he gives valuable insight into the way this nefarious business gets done:

“The state of Utah was a helpful partner in the Wage and Hour Division’s investigation of these defendants, providing information from the state’s Worker Classification Coordinated Enforcement Council, an entity created by the state legislature to combat misclassification. The state ultimately outlawed the defendants’ business model by requiring workers compensation and unemployment insurance for members of LLCs. In response, the companies packed up, headed to Arizona, and set up shop under a new name, but with the same scheme.”

Perez concludes:

“The Utah and Arizona judgments send a strong, clear message: employers can’t hide behind deceptive legal partnerships to cut corners and save money on the backs of their employees. It’s our hope that this and other enforcement actions will serve as a credible deterrent that influences behavior throughout the economy. Especially in the fissured workplace, we will continue to be vigilant about protecting workers, taxpayers and law-abiding employers.”

If you represent clients in related industries, is this a wake-up call? Is misclassification as big a problem as it’s made out to be? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

P.S. Arizona has another close link to the Secretary: Four high-school kids from the Grand Canyon State just won an ABA award for best Magna Carta video. Among the luminaries they met in Washington DC in mid-April was Labor Secretary Perez. Here they all are:

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez meets with Arizona high school students who won first place in the ABA's 2015 Magna Carta video competition, April 2015.

U.S. Department of Labor Secretary Tom Perez meets with Arizona high school students who won first place in the ABA’s 2015 Magna Carta video competition, April 2015. (Full story in the June 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine)

 

Former Judge Mark Painter takes legal writing seriously (and you'd be advised to do the same, Counselor!).

Former Judge Mark Painter takes legal writing seriously (and you’d be advised to do the same, Counselor!).

In honor of Change of Venue Friday, how would you like to be beat about the head for your legal writing failures?

I didn’t think so. Writing is hard, and unnecessarily harsh criticism (and a beating) does not make the task any easier.

But a recent story out of Ohio tells me that our approach to better legal writing—cajoling and education, plus a little humor—may be the best course. To see what I mean, read Susie Salmon’s terrific recent column here.

Meanwhile, a former Ohio judge named Mark Painter penned his own legal-writing column in a bar magazine. (Sound familiar?) But things took a turn for the worse. Let me have a Cincinnati paper describe it:

“Former Judge Mark Painter never has been at a loss for words, especially when it comes to singling out lousy writing by his fellow lawyers.”

“But for the first time in years, his criticism has been silenced. Sort of.”

“The Cincinnati Bar Association recently refused to print Painter’s column on legal writing in its monthly magazine, prompting Painter to quit the association and take out a big ad in The Enquirer on Wednesday complaining about the decision. The problem, the association’s leadership told Painter, was that his critiques of local judges sometimes were not all that collegial.”

“In other words, he’s too mean.”

“Painter, who enjoys a good fight almost as much as good writing, said the real problem is censorship and wasted no time Wednesday making his case. He said his columns in the CBA Report were intended to educate, not embarrass, and the bar association went overboard by censoring him.”

“‘You’ve got a bureaucratic mindset, a don’t-rock-the-boat mindset,’ Painter said of the bar association. ‘It’s ridiculous. Mine is an opinion column. It’s amazing how thin-skinned people are.’”

“Officials at the bar association, the region’s largest organization for lawyers, declined comment on their decision, other than to say they appreciate Painter’s contributions over the years and regret his decision to drop his membership.”

You could—and really should—read the whole story here. And thank you to Brad Carr for alerting me to a story about mean judges and the sentences they loathe!

When does a writing-teacher's stern reproof become mean?

When does a writing-teacher’s stern reproof become mean?

And, so you can get the whole picture, why don’t you read the judge’s column here.

I have to admit I’m conflicted about this. Sure, columnists should have a tone that is unique to them. But is a writing column truly an opinion column? Well, it definitely should be opinionated. But if the opinion of the author is that other people are morons, is that an opinion we’d publish?

But I honestly have a hard time thinking of a column that could grate so badly that I would decline to publish. Compelling (even if stern) analysis might put asses in the seats. And engagement is (ideally) part if every publication’s strategy.

Just seeing a bar association irked that a writer was “too mean” is worth the price of admission, either way!

But maybe saying it was "mean" is malarkey. After all, there's no crying in baseball or legal writing. Time to put on your big-writer pantaloons.

But maybe saying it was “mean” is malarkey. After all, there’s no crying in baseball … or legal writing. Time to put on your big-writer pantaloons.

However you feel, try to have a great—and grammatically correct—weekend. And try not to be overly judgmental of others.

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