Change of Venue


In partnership with the Florence Project, The Rogue Trio will perform February 24 at ASU's Katzin Hall.

In partnership with the Florence Project, The Rogue Trio will perform February 24 at ASU’s Katzin Hall.

This month’s headlines were filled with developments regarding immigration law and significant changes that are proposed for its enforcement.

If you’re seeking a very creative way to be imbued with the immigrant experience, an event this Friday night at ASU may be the (free) ticket—or the boleto, if you’d prefer.

Florence Project logo 25 years

As organizers describe it: For one night only, The Rogue Trio partners with the Florence Project to create a unique musical experience, featuring testimony of Florence Project clients. Making his southwest debut, composer Ralph Lewis takes powerful testimony of immigrants detained in Arizona and combines their accounts with live and electroacoustic music for a moving musical juxtaposition that brings hope amongst fear.

Did you catch that? Migrant testimony in combination with music.

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The performance will be held at Arizona State University’s Katzin Hall on Friday, February 24, at 7:30 p.m. Doors will open at 7:15 p.m., and admission is free. Parking information can be found here. If you have any questions, reach out to Greer Millard at gmillard@firrp.org or 602-795-7407. More information on the The Rogue Trio is here.

And who are The Rogue Trio? They are: Justin Rollefson on saxophones, Kathleen Strahm on violin, and Mary Strobel-Price on piano. They describe their work as “a contemporary chamber ensemble that explores the diverse color palate of an unconventional assortment of instruments.” Color me interested. You can visit their website here, and find them on Facebook here.

Meantime, in other legal news related to the high-profile nature of immigration cases today, here’s an ABA Journal article about a website that connects volunteer lawyers with travelers affected by the immigration ban.

As ABA Journal reporter Debra Cassens Weiss writes, “Airport Lawyer allows users to input information about people targeted by the ban who are traveling to the United States—whether it’s the user, a friend or family member. The information can be shared with lawyers who can be available at the airport to monitor arrivals. … A list of the airports where volunteer lawyers are available through the app is here.”

airport-lawyer-website-connects-volunteer-lawyers-with-travelers-affected-by-immigration-ban

Winding canal of the Central Arizona Project (Wikimedia Commons)

Winding canal of the Central Arizona Project (Wikimedia Commons)

If you live in the American West and are a person who uses water, or if your body is approximately 70 percent water, you may need to be interested in the state of water resources.

Fortunately, a program this Thursday provides a clear-eyed view of the issues.

This Thursday, February 9, a panel discussion will examine the “Arizona Lower Basin Drought Contingency Plan: Arizona Water Glass Half-Full or Half-Empty.” All the detail is here.

It begins at 1:00 p.m., and will also be available via live simulcast.

Here is more background about the program from its organizers:

The State Bar of Arizona CLE Department, Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice Section, and Environmental & Natural Resources Sections are sponsoring a water program on February 9, 2017.

Of the 7 million acre-feet of water Arizona uses annually, 40 percent is Colorado River water. Arizona water managers predict Colorado River water shortages for Arizona may be as early as 2018 with the water in Lake Mead and Lake Powell now at historic low levels.

Bill Ralls, former federal water regulator of the Environmental Protection Agency and Chair of this water program, says, “With documented significant imbalances between future demands and water supply in Arizona, the time for action is now to find state and regional solutions to realize growth potential. The solution will likely be regional. The first chapter in this historic effort is now focused in the current negotiations to develop a regional drought contingency plan in the lower basin states of California, Nevada and Arizona.”

A distinguished panel of regulatory and water experts will analyze the current status of the Lower Basin Drought Contingency; Plan and Contingency Plan Plus of the Central Arizona Project.

The Colorado River cuts a pathway of 1,450 miles from the mountains of Colorado and Wyoming to Mexico, providing a water supply to nearly 40 million people in seven states. The Central Arizona Project currently transports Colorado River water several hundred miles to Maricopa, Pinal and Pima Counties, since 1986 to Phoenix, and 1994 to Tucson.

Map of the Central Arizona Project

Map of the Central Arizona Project

In addition, the panel of legal and hydrogeology experts will analyze the Arizona water regulatory framework:

  • The Arizona Corporation Commission regulation of water utilities
  • The Arizona Department of Water Resources regulation of groundwater
  • Pending Arizona wastewater reuse rule-making of the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  • Recent important water court decisions

Chair and Moderator:

  • William R. Ralls

Faculty:

  • Jay M. Johnson, General Counsel, Central Arizona Project
  • Kenneth C. Slowinski, Chief Counsel, Arizona Department of Water Resources
  • Timothy J. Sabo, Snell & Wilmer LLP
  • Charles S. Graf, R.G. Principal Hydrogeologist, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality

The Anxious Lawyer by Jeena Cho Karen Gifford book cover

In the current issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, a book review explores what attorneys can learn about themselves and their world via meditation.

If you’re unsure about that idea and cotton toward the tried and true, let’s remember that meditation has been around for millennia. So it should be acceptable, even to your firm’s management committee. Just sayin’.

The review author is attorney Juliet Peters, and you can read the entire review here.

And the book co-authors are Jeena Cho and Karen Gifford—lawyers themselves, in case lawyers are the only ones you trust with your self-improvement.

Happily, Jeena will be a panelist on a program I’m co-producing in just a few weeks. Unhappily, the program will be in Miami, not Phoenix. But if you happen to be at the midyear meeting of the National Association of Bar Executives, drop in! Or if you’re in the environs that week for the ABA meeting, drop me a line at arizona.attorney@azbar.org, or tweet to me @azatty. It’d be great to meet and compare mindfulness strategies! (Spoiler alert: You’ve got me beat, and I don’t even know you.)

Here is a link to the conference. And here is a description of the panel, titled “Mindful Lawyer, Mindful Bar,” which also features Jayne Reardon, Executive Director of the Illinois Supreme Court Commission on Professionalism:

“Mindfulness has become top-of-mind for many people, including your members. Even as work–life balance, meditation, and increased fulfillment and satisfaction have become a more central part of a professional’s goals, those aspirations may seem harder than ever to achieve. Our panelists have learned through law and life experience how challenging incorporating practices such as self-care and mindfulness can be—but they have discovered the many wonderful benefits of these practices, including more joy and satisfaction. They will talk about the importance of mindfulness for the attorney. They also will offer practical tips and next steps to create robust mindfulness programs at your bar.”

See you in Miami … or wherever thoughtful lawyers gather.

what's hot and not in law practice

On a regular basis, Bob Denney puts himself and his judgment out there and predicts what will be the coming year’s hot—and cold—law practice areas.

He recently did so again, and I encourage you to read his prognostications.

In the meantime, here are a few he mentioned that made me pause and wonder how lawyers and law firms are responding to these new pushes and pulls. As Bob says:

Social media. Continues to be far more effective for building individual lawyer reputations than for firms.

Competition. It’s no longer just from other law firms. It’s now coming from two other directions: Non-legal business entities like LegalZoom and, for large firms, more and more from the clients themselves who are using their legal departments as well as alternate service providers.

Cybersecurity. While many firms have developed plans for reacting to a cyberattack, many more have still not developed or implemented cybersecurity plans to prevent such attacks. One overlooked factor is what actually constitutes a breach. Some firms regard any unsanctioned access of a firm system as a breach, while others do not regard it as a breach until something — data, files or money — has been taken.

Scamblogging. A category of online writing by debt-burdened law school graduates who are convinced their law schools misled them about their opportunities for employment.

What’s growing in your law practice? If it’s a niche or topic that surprises you, please write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

modern law practice technology tools niche

AZCourtHelp logo

Here is some important news from the Arizona Supreme Court. This information may be helpful to you, but it may be even more vital to friends, neighbors, and family members.

PHOENIX – A new website launched on January 12 to offer basic assistance to people of all walks of life who have legal questions or need assistance in resolving disputes in court. AzCourtHelp.org is organized by topic and geographical location to help people find the court locations, forms, and other information they may need.

Geographical information includes court locations, maps, hours, payment terms, parking, and accessibility information. The site also features live chat forums to assist with legal information, legal talk clinics on popular topics, and other information helpful to self-represented individuals. Frequently asked questions are arranged by topic so users can quickly find the information that is most helpful to their situation. The site will also include video tutorials, webinars, and a calendar of free legal workshops around Arizona.

AZCourtHelp.org has a presence on Facebook as a way to expand its reach.

The backbone of the website’s video and interactive component is the Coconino County Superior Court’s Virtual Resource Center, which will be hosting the video outreach for statewide viewing.

gary-krcmarik

Gary Krcmarik, Coconino County Superior Court Administrator

“The Chief Justice challenged us to work together to improve access to justice,” said Coconino County Superior Court Administrator Gary Krcmarik. “We took up that challenge by developing this website in conjunction with our Virtual Resource Center to provide this valuable information statewide. We are grateful to the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education, which graciously partnered with us to design the website and curate the information on it.”

Krcmarik said that today’s public launch is a beginning of a larger effort and more information, including Spanish-language content, will be added to the site on a daily and weekly basis.

Like AzCourtHelp.org on Facebook.

AZFLSE Arizona Foundation for Legal Services and Education logo

instagram-terms-of-service

An Instagram employee takes a video using Instagram’s new video function at Facebook’s corporate headquarters during a media event in Menlo Park, Calif. (Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)

If you had to guess what documents are most central to your daily life and to your future possibilities, I’d wager many Americans would point to works like the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Probably because they think that’s how they should answer.

I am the biggest fan of those documents, but that answer might not be entirely correct. Instead, I’d point you to those below-the-radar Terms of Service that populate the legal life of every app you use. And that means they populate your life too, like it or not.

I’ve written about terms of service before, and I find these tiny little, unassuming adhesion contracts to be fascinating. I wrote here about a change to the Snapchat ToS.

And for good measure, let me re-share a Venn diagram that explains the intersection of law and love. (Spoiler alert: It’s complicated.)

Very scientific Venn diagram catalogs the human condition. love technology law

Very scientific Venn diagram catalogs the human condition.

This past week I read a terrific article (by the similarly terrific Amy Wang) about efforts to make terms of service more understandable, especially to youngsters. (Hat-tip to Wayne Rainey for the lead on the article.)

The Washington Post story was driven by the January 4 release of a report called “Growing Up Digital,” which examined young people’s interactions with those ever-present tech marvels that transform—and complicate—our lives.

And where good things happen, I’m never surprised to see a lawyer in the mix. The story tells how one of the task force members was charged with trying to redraft the Instagram terms of service to make them understandable to teens and other humans.

So that’s what London-based privacy lawyer Jenny Afia did.

Here’s a bit from the story:

Lawyer Jenny Afia rewrote the Instagram terms of service so kids would know their privacy rights.

Lawyer Jenny Afia rewrote the Instagram terms of service so kids would know their privacy rights.

“Afia was a member of a ‘Growing Up Digital’ task force group convened by the Children’s Commissioner for England to study Internet use among teens and the concerns children might face as they grow up in the digital age. The group found more than a third of Internet users are younger than 18, with 12- to 15-year-olds spending more than 20 hours a week online. Most of those children have no idea what their privacy rights are, despite all of them agreeing to terms and conditions before starting their social media accounts, Afia said. The task force, which included experts from the public and private sector, worked for a year and released its report Wednesday [Jan. 4].”

If you’ve ever read terms of service (and I hope you do), the next statement won’t surprise you: “The group ran Instagram’s terms and conditions through a readability study and found that it registered at a postgraduate reading level, Afia said.”

Fascinating and important stuff. Though Instagram wouldn’t comment for the story (probably upon advice of the same lawyers who drafted their ToS), here’s hoping efforts like this make a dent in the way these important, meaning-laden documents are drafted.

Once again, here’s a link to the complete Post story.

And you can read the complete “Growing Up Digital” report here.

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Big Data may mean Big Insights.

At least, that’s one major takeaway I got from the Legal Trends Report released by Clio late last year.

Yesterday, I shared my December editor’s column from Arizona Attorney Magazine in which I discussed the report and a few of its findings. But I also had promised to write about the part of the report that wasn’t so much about law practice, but about the power of data to make positive change.

Today, let me get back to that.

Here is the pertinent part of my column I’ll extrapolate on today:

“First—and maybe less interesting to you—is the newfound power of data to provide insight. I’ll write more about this in the future (probably in my blog https://azatty.wordpress.com/), but it’s incredible that via our own real-time software choices, companies like Clio can assess the state of law practice—all within the agreed-upon terms of use. They can see, moment by moment, how many new matters are opened, how many invoices are generated, how many remain unpaid. Does this spell the end of surveys based on self-reported data? We’ll see.”

Before I dive in, here again is a link to the complete report. Read it yourself and let me know what you think.

Clio logo

Data + lawyering? Yes, please, say Clio.

Besides the bullet points I mentioned in my column, here are a few more macro-level insights by Clio:

  • The total 2015 realization rate (actual hours billed as a proportion of actual billable hours worked) came in at 81 percent, but this differed noticeably by practice area and by state.
  • The total 2015 collection rate (actual revenue proportional to hours billed) was 86 percent.

So let’s jump in, shall we, and start with Clio’s premise, regarding the dearth of practice decisions driven by data.

Essentially, they’re saying, in the 4,000-year history of the legal profession, lawyers, firm owners, and decision makers have suffered from a scarcity of industry data. Law firms have had only sparse resources to find the business insights required to run a viable practice.

I know, dramatic, right? In the very first line of their executive summary, they’ve got me with a compelling narrative. Plus, they have subtly conjoined me with every great lawyer, from Hammurabi, to Abe Lincoln, to Sandra Day O’Connor. Those folks—and me. We’ve all suffered the same law practice pains that arise from insufficient reliable evidence. But we’ll solve it together.

OK, I joke, but there’s something to their point. The mass of data that we rely on do come from (as Clio says) self-reported data and often small sample sizes. And is there a way to know if the data we rely on REALLY came from firms of a size like our own firm? Unlikely.

hammurabi

Hammurabi had a great Code, the best, really. But who knows what he could have achieved with better data?!

But the advent of Big Data and data aggregators has changed all that. Now companies like Clio—and others you interact with every day—have access to your actual choices and interactions with their products. They can see, moment by moment, how many new matters are opened, and how many invoices are generated, and how many remain unpaid.

Here is where I must note that Clio (like all reputable companies) is using all of our online decision-making anonymously, stripped of identifying data. But when they take this massive batch of anonymous data, and analyze it, a remarkable picture of us as a profession emerges. The world is changed—for the better.

So that was a bit of a wake-up call.

But I leave you today again, once again, with their visceral image of your practice as a funnel.

Any of us who practice or have practiced law understand that there is a flow to the work, and that we need matters to begin, end, and get paid for—and hopefully all those things overlap in multiple matters so there is actual cash flow. But picturing it like a funnel invites a disturbingly accurate assessment of where we all stand.

Because we are all busy, I invite you to turn to the report’s page 35. Or, if you’re really busy, I’ll type it for you:

Funnel Cloud? The Devastating Conclusion

Out of an eight-hour workday, the average firm collects payment on only 1.4 hours of billable time. These unit economics would be devastating to almost any industry, and they help explain why, despite charging an average $232 per billable hour, the average small-to-mid-sized firm struggles to make ends meet.

I hope you weren’t standing up when you read that.

Once again, here is a link to the complete report.

Enjoy.

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