Change of Venue


Would pro bono legal help lead to the patenting of more useful items? (Here, an 1879 plow)

Would pro bono legal help lead to the patenting of more useful items? (Here, an 1879 plow)

I routinely hear about—and share—stories of the need for increased legal services, and how pro bono service fills some of that gap.

The needs are great and often thought of as being in areas such as bankruptcy, landlord–tenant, or employment law.

But what about a more esoteric area of law? Could there be a pro bono need for practice experts like that—such as in patent law?

That was the kind of thinking that led to the creation—the invention, you might say—of a patent law pro bono program. A friend, Diane D’Angelo, shared a recent story with me. It’s from the Denver Post, and you can read the whole thing here.

As the story indicates, the initiative, launched in 2012, involves a bar association and its attorneys in that practice area. The Pro Bono Patent Program is “led by Mi Casa Resource Center and Colorado Bar Association Intellectual Property Section to pair low-income inventors with patent professionals. Since its launch, 67 inventors have begun the application process and two were able to get their ideas patented.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes the initiative well; it arose from a law signed in 2011:

Patents and the ideas behind them are an engine of the economy (like this Scuderi split-cycle engine).

Patents and the ideas behind them are an engine of the economy (like this Scuderi split-cycle engine).

“The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) understands that one of the main barriers to getting a patent is cost-not necessarily the USPTO fees associated with patents, but the cost of hiring a skilled patent attorney to file and prosecute an application.”

“On September 16, 2011, President Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law. Section 32 of the AIA specifies that, ‘The Director shall work with and support intellectual property law associations across the country in the establishment of pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses.’ ‘Pro bono’ is a Latin phrase meaning ‘done for the public good without compensation.’ With this directive, the USPTO effectively switched into full gear to implement its AIA Pro Bono Program, which it had already been developing in anticipation of the legislation. The president’s ink was still drying when the first client signed with the pilot program in Minnesota. Since that date, the program has expanded to connect clients with volunteer pro bono attorneys across the country in multiple regional programs.”

Read the full history here.

Just as important—and why I share the story now—on May 12, “Mi Casa, the Colorado Bar Association and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced the extension of the program—or ProBoPat—to the states of New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.”

According to the story, that increases the program’s range to 49 states. And the U.S. PTO shows Arizona as being one of those. Unfortunately, its link to the Grand Canyon State takes you to a California program. So I’m curious: Who in Arizona is participating in or coordinating this program here? (I’m being a little inventive myself and crowd-sourcing the answer!)

If it’s you—or if you know who it is—contact me. I’d like to hear more about patent pro bono in Arizona.

The 'G' on the mountainside means you're in Globe, Ariz.The 'G' on the mountainside means you're in Globe, Ariz.

The ‘G’ on the mountainside means you’re in Globe, Ariz.

On Monday, I traveled to Globe, Ariz., to work on a magazine story. And as it was my very first trip to the Cobre Valley, I’m pleased to report that it was a pleasure, beginning to end.

My only previous experience of Globe came via an article in Arizona Attorney Magazine. There, in 2004, (Judge) Sally Simmons wrote about the historic mining town and one lawyer’s impact on it.

Tommy Thompson in Globe, Ariz., by photographer Cassandra Tomei

Tommy Thompson in Globe, Ariz., by photographer Cassandra Tomei

As she said, Tommy Thompson has been committed to the restoration and preservation of the town’s history for decades.

You can read her story here. It’s titled “Lawyering at Street Level: Tom Thompson’s Highest Service.”

While I was in southeastern Arizona, I also visited one of those preserved buildings—the one that formerly housed the Gila County Superior Court. Now it’s home to the Cobre Valley Center for the Arts. (I wrote about it here.)

I also was privileged to get a one-person tour of the old county jail. It was as filled with history—and maybe poltergeists—as you would guess.

Less than two hours from Phoenix, the area offered many enjoyable sites to the traveler. Clearly, a longer, more leisurely trip is demanded!

Later this week, I’ll share a few photos from my visit.

Screen-shot of State Bar Governors election for Pinal County, which closes this Wednesday, May 20.

Screen-shot of State Bar Governors election for Pinal County, which closes this Wednesday, May 20.

A funny thing happened on the way to the forum—the election forum, that is.

This month, elections are open for State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors positions for attorney from Pinal County, which is District 8. If you’re in that district and haven’t voted, get to it; all voting is online, and polls close at 5:00 pm this Wednesday, May 20.

More detail about the election is here.

There are a few noteworthy things about that page. First, the functionality is pretty cool. Clicking on the candidates causes their photos to increase in size and their candidate statement to appear. Nicely done by someone in the Bar’s IT world.

But the other interesting things is about the candidate statements themselves. One of the candidates opted not to post a statement (though he may have sent something to voting attorneys directly, as he is permitted to do). And the other candidate statement—well, I’ll get to that in a minute.

The statements (or lack thereof) surprised me, as we published statements for each of the candidates in the print version of Arizona Attorney. You can read them online here. And below is a screen shot of those statements in the May issue.

Pinal County candidate statements in the May 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine.

Pinal County candidate statements in the May 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine.

So the changes in the online versions caught my attention. And in fact, one of the statements takes an election tack I have never seen before. As Bret Huggins writes:

“I find myself in a pleasant predicament. I was nominated for the position of Pinal County representative on the State Bar Board of Governors before I found out Denis Fitzgibbons would be a candidate as well.”

“Denis Fitzgibbons is a wonderful lawyer and a very good man.  Denis would be an excellent representative for all of us practicing in Pinal County.”

“Denis runs a prestigious and successful law firm with his brother Dave in Casa Grande. Their practice is primarily business and civil litigation. The law firm has several lawyers and a quality support staff.”

Mr. Huggins has more to say (and you should read it). But he concludes, “I would not be disappointed in the least if I lose this election to such a strong opponent.”

I will be very interested to see how this election concludes. But has anyone seen such a dialogue in Bar elections? If so, I’d like to know. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

It was Bar events like this one in March that made me wonder: Should we publish more member photos?

It was Bar events like this one in March that made me wonder: Should we publish more member photos?

In my work life, I receive a lot of magazines in the mail. A lot.

Most of them come from other bar associations. Between many other tasks, I strive to at least flip through each one, seeking ideas that spur my own thinking and, perhaps, my own stealing.

One idea I routinely see in others’ magazines is the use of member photos from events. Folks mill about, smile (or not), and the publication is able to capture numerous lawyers every month enjoying and engaging.

Arizona Attorney has never done too much of that—with one exception. When I first started as editor almost 15 years ago, our annual Convention coverage included pages of those party shots. I paged through them, grimaced, and deep-sixed them. No one (and I mean no one) complained.

But as I read other bars’ magazines, I wondered if I was too hasty. Maybe those that publish these photos are on to something. After all, if statistics are right, fewer and fewer people want to belong to associations (or participate if they are in a mandatory organization). Would seeing their own faces or the faces of their colleagues turn that frown upside-down?

Lawyers gather at The Duce Phoenix, on March 26, 2015.

Lawyers gather at The Duce Phoenix, on March 26, 2015.

I asked that question in my May Editor’s Letter. I’m awaiting some feedback from readers to my musings: “If lawyers want to gather and nosh and talk and listen, would they like to see those moments captured in photos? Maybe they would. Perhaps it would be useful and entertaining to find a way to publish some event photos in the magazine, in print and online.”

You can read the whole column here.

I can tip my hand about one thing: At our most recent meeting, the Editorial Board offered a resounding blecccchhh at the idea. They reside firmly in the camp that I have occupied for a decade, believing that seeing what may be the same recurring faces month after month won’t do much for readership.

Hmmm. Well, as I say in my column, it does not have to be a feature of the print magazine; we have an online presence too. Maybe those faces of mingling lawyers would do better in the cloud.

Let me know what you think about member photos (especially if you belong to multiple bars and associations that take varying approaches to the issue). Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Reviewed in the June 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine: Magna Carta by Dan Jones

Reviewed in the June 2015 Arizona Attorney Magazine: Magna Carta by Dan Jones

Yesterday, I got to CLE Snippet.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know what I mean. I got to have a taped conversation with the author of an upcoming Arizona Attorney article.

The result is a brief-ish video for sale by the CLE Department. I say brief-ish because, though we’ve been told we may speak for as little as 15 minutes, our past dialogues have rambled two to four times beyond that.

What can I say? Our authors are fascinating people, and I get to select the authors and topics I want to sit down with.

Yesterday’s Snippet was with Judge George Anagnost. He is the Presiding Judge of the Peoria Municipal Court. And at the magazine, he’s one of our resident historians and a book-reviewer par excellence.

I have written about his approach to book reviews here.

Our topic this week was Magna Carta. Our jumping-off point was a book the judge reviewed, by Dan Jones. But the conversation ranged farther than that.

Continuing our sort-of tradition, a selfie with the author was a pleasure, snapped this month by my Bar colleague Jenn Sonier. (Thanks!)

Judge George Anagnost (left) and his shorter interlocutor.

Judge George Anagnost (left) and his shorter interlocutor.

When the video and June article are available, I hope you read and watch in tandem. More information, as always, will be on the Bar’s website.

A new icon is available to indicate accessibility in the City of Phoenix.

A new icon is available to indicate accessibility in the City of Phoenix.

This morning, a group gathers in the Phoenix City Hall to announce the launch and allowed use of a new symbol designating accessibility (you can see it above). It’s been a long time coming.

The new icon is described as “reflecting a disabled community that is active, motivated and determined.” Phoenix is the first Arizona city to adopt the icon.

Mayor Greg Stanton will speak at the event at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. Also offering remarks will be Alisa Blandford, Phoenix Equal Opportunity Department Director; Edward Kim, President & General Manager of Cigna; and Jennifer Longdon, disabled rights advocate (and a neighbor of mine!).

As an Arizona Republic article has explained, Cigna was the company in Arizona that instigated the requested use. The new icon was designed by Sara Hendren, a professor of design at Olin College of Engineering in Massachusetts. She also helped found the Accessible Icon Project, “a group dedicated to providing people with supplies and services they need to make the switch.”

As the Accessible Icon Project so well describes it:

“The symbol does not ‘represent’ people with disabilities, but symbolizes the idea that all people with disabilities can be active and engaged in their lived environment. Our active accessibility symbol helps re-imagine how society and individuals view people with disabilities.”

The Project also provides a timeline of sorts of accessibility icons over time:

Accessibility icons through the years (from the Accessible Icon Project)

Accessibility icons through the years (from the Accessible Icon Project)

Below you can see the symbol that is being phased out (it is called the International Symbol of Access, which was created in 1969). Congratulations to the City of Phoenix for your leadership in this area.

This accessibility icon, designed in 1969, may become less prevalent in Phoenix.

This accessibility icon, designed in 1969, may become less prevalent in Phoenix.

The American response to hateful words is traditionally more words. Is there a better way?

The American response to hateful words is traditionally more words. Is there a better way?

This spring saw a sometimes-troubling dialogue about campus speech erupt. Some of that dialogue was spurred by videotape catching the racist chants of members of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity at the University of Oklahoma.

Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini wrote about the incident, and some of the reactions he’s gotten.

In it, Montini says he supports the school’s expulsion of students who perform that way. But he got pushback from an ASU student who said all speech should be permitted—even the offensive speech.

First Amendment challenges have never been more challenging.

I’ve written before about the difficulties a free society faces where speech is concerned. And the newest skirmishes remind me of a book I’ve touted in the past: The Harm in Hate Speech, by Jeremy Waldron.

In these United States, we have been taught to believe that (pretty much) all speech should be unregulated. But Waldron points out that the American view is not the only possible course.

Maybe the American view is correct. Maybe the only antidote to horrific speech is simply more speech, as if the latter will shout out the former.

But other nations—even many who have a rule of law we respect—take a decidedly different tack. Their approaches are founded on a belief that the public utterance of hateful speech can cause harm, even if it is not paired with criminal behaviors.

Harm in Hate Speech book cover Jeremy WaldronThose nations could be wrong, and “speech codes” find little support in the United States. But I wonder what would happen if the next time an incident of hate speech makes the national headlines, those in the majority culture took a rhetorical pass and remained silent for a bit. It might be enlightening to hear only from people of color on the topic of how to address hate speech.

Who knows? Their response may be the same, as we are all steeped in an American culture that insists, “I condemn your speech, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

But maybe not. Maybe the response will be more nuanced than simply calling for tolerance and more speech.

It is far too easy for those who are never affected by hate speech (except to find it vaguely distasteful) to insist that such utterances are a sad but necessary part of our republic. As I’ve written before, it is offensive to maintain a position that requires people in minority communities to carry the burden of daily insults so that an American sense of fair play can by upheld.

Sure, everyone’s opinion on hate speech is welcome. But I’d prefer if we gave prime position to those opinions that arise from minority communities. Does hate speech simply “come with democracy”? Or can words alone be such a debilitating harm that they should be addressed and maybe curtailed in some way?

What do you think? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

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