Lawyer kudos


State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_Color“Free” may never have sounded more enticing. But that word describes an event this Saturday, April 25, when you can ask lawyers questions for free!

That’s when the State Bar participates in Law Day and when its attorney volunteers give of their time and expertise in the fourth annual Law Day Legal Aid Clinics.

The one-on-one sessions are available in the following areas:

  • Divorce & Child Support
  • Immigration
  • Wills & Trusts
  • Bankruptcy & Foreclosure

The event will be staged at two locations. For more information, click here.

And be sure to share this link with those who might benefit. All of the information on the site is available in both English and Spanish.

The event is sponsored by the State Bar, ABC-15 News, Univision Arizona, and St. Matthew Catholic Parish in Phoenix.

Our opening spread for coverage of the Pima County Courthouse, April 2015.

Our opening spread for coverage of the Pima County Courthouse, April 2015.

Rarely are courthouses themselves in the news. Sure, the trials and people who occupy them often occupy the headlines. But the building and courtrooms themselves? Not so much.

Arizona Attorney, April 2015

Arizona Attorney, April 2015

That’s why we are doubly pleased to feature the Pima County Courthouse in our April issue. For not only is the building a remarkable historic structure, but within it are noteworthy courtrooms. And one is so noteworthy it has its own feature story in our issue. That story tells some of the tales that occurred within its walls.

If you read all the way to the end, you’ll see that courtroom had a petition associated with it. But even if the political issues don’t concern you, we think the amazing spaces will move you.

Enjoy our coverage by Judge José Luis Castillo, Jr., and the amazing photos by Jim Palka. The story is here, and the photo essay is here.

Attorney-author Gary Fry (photo by Karen Shell)

Attorney-author Gary Fry (photo by Karen Shell)

What appears on the back page of your favorite magazines?

The reason I ask is that a publication’s final page is routinely ranked as one of the “most-read” pages of a magazine. So editor-types tend to put a lot of thought into that content.

Our own last page has included written columns, photos, and even quizzes. Over the past few years we have engaged readers with “The Last Word,” columns by regularly recurring authors.

After a while, though, it occurred to us that someone may have an idea or two that they want to share, even if they do not commit to a nearly monthly writing regimen. And so we devised “My Last Word,” for those more sporadic and yet still compelling notions.

The April issue of Arizona Attorney contains one of my favorites.

I have always enjoyed the writing of attorney Gary Fry, and you may agree. He prevailed in our Poetry category for our arts competitions in 2007 and 2013.

And here he is again writing, this time on the life of a retired, rural lawyer. His essay opens:

“I am a shepherd tending his flocks, four rescue mutts and two elfin Cornish Rex kittens in one, seven medicinals in the other—hawked on TV with taglines like, ‘Ask your doctor if Cymbalta is right for you.’ One flock is messy but brings me joy. The other protects me from messes I am prey to in my eighth decade.”

 “I am also a retired lawyer: Bar number 001880 (circa 1966). After a brief go as a courtroom lawyer—going nowhere fast—I turned to real estate law, paid to mine dense legal text and define ‘acts of god’ in elegant stacks of paper. But the emotional return on documenting a complex financial transaction could never match helping some poor soul out of a jam.”

Please read his whole piece here. (And the image of his back-page column is below.)

My Last Word by Gary Fry, Arizona Attorney Magazine, April 2015

My Last Word by Gary Fry, Arizona Attorney Magazine, April 2015

Dr. David Weil, Director of the Wage & Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, speaks at the University of Arizona Medical School, Phoenix, April 1, 2015. On stage are Wage and Hour Division Phoenix District Director Eric Murray (at left) and Attorney Matt Meaker, who was also the event coordinator (Photo courtesy of the DOL Wage and Hour Division.)

Dr. David Weil, Director of the Wage & Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor, speaks at the University of Arizona Medical School, Phoenix, April 1, 2015. On stage are Wage and Hour Division Phoenix District Director Eric Murray (at left) and Attorney Matt Meaker, who was also the event coordinator (Photo courtesy of the DOL Wage and Hour Division.)

A recent visit to Arizona by a federal official was made possible by attorneys and others concerned about employee misclassification. The result was a day of speaking events and community meetings for Dr. David Weil, Director of the Wage & Hour Division of the U.S. Department of Labor.

It’s hard to overestimate the economic and other problems that misclassification causes.

At an April 1 event, Wage and Hour Division Phoenix District Director Eric Murray said that fully one-half of his office’s time is taken up with the issue. It affects: individual workers who may be underpaid, state and other agencies that get artificially lower revenue because of the errors, and businesses that may be forced into difficult decisions regarding compliance.

Wage and Hour Division Phoenix District Director Eric Murray speaks at employee misclassification event, April 1, 2015.

Wage and Hour Division Phoenix District Director Eric Murray speaks at employee misclassification event, April 1, 2015.

That constellation of problems led lawyers like Matt Meaker to form the Employee Misclassification Compliance Assistance Program (EMCAP) Working Group. He is the group’s Chair, and he took the lead on bringing the issue to the attention of the federal agency.

The subject generates much passion, Meaker said at the April 1 event. But it is not an easy subject to confront.

“Good guys want to compete on a level playing field,” Meaker told a roomful of employment lawyers, contractors and their representatives, and others. “They want to be good stewards of industry.”

Attorney Matt Meaker speaks at employee misclassification event, April 1, 2015.

Attorney Matt Meaker speaks at employee misclassification event, April 1, 2015.

And so a working group created a pilot program that became EMCAP. It allows “candid talks about business decisions, not just legal issues.”

The keynote speaker at the University of Arizona auditorium in downtown Phoenix was Dr. David Weil. In public remarks and a half-hour interview afterward, he explored the landscape of misclassification, its roots and future possible solutions.

Highlighting the politically fraught nature of his position, Weil was the first Senate-confirmed Wage and Hour Administrator in a decade. As he did in his confirmation hearings (introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren), he spoke in Phoenix at length on misclassification.

A portion of his confirmation hearing is below; his remarks on misclassification begin at 2:40 (though Senator Warren’s intro is worth watching too):

Given that political landscape, it’s not surprising that Weil comes from a business school (at Boston University). In Phoenix, he described his business bona fides and said he was “proud of his decades in a business school.” And he described the mission of the Department of Labor as twofold: to understand that business is a fundamental part of our economy, and to protect workers.

But on the elevator-pitch version of the DOL’s mission, Weil is crystal-clear: “Our job is to make sure people get a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.”

The reality of the department’s resources complicates that vision considerably. Weil discussed the strategic thinking that must go into enforcement decisions. As DOL staffers gaze at a landscape with 7.3 million workplaces, they have become adept at reviewing data to identify red flags. They also look closely at industries that have had traditional problems with misclassification—construction, janitorial, hospitals, restaurants, and logistics, to name a few.

Weil used the title of his book The Fissured Workplace to explain more deeply the challenging predicaments presented by an evolving economy. As companies have decided to focus on “core competencies” and shed “ancillary” activities, efficiencies have increased, even as the number of people on the payroll has decreased.

But what happens to those ancillary functions and all the people who used to do them? Often, they remain, but are now employed by a third-party entity, ostensibly more adept at that particular function.

That kind of outsourcing and subcontracting is not new, Weil admits. But what is new is the stringent and detailed standards that the large brands impose on those third-party firms and their many employees. The larger companies need to ensure a consistent delivery of all their brand elements, and so they often control non-employees’ work lives down to the granular level. And they have new and developing technologies that allow the larger brands to monitor every moment in the lives of their products and the workers.

So … are those workers employees, or not? Often, the larger brands rely on a strategy that says “not.”

Weil and we may sympathize with the challenge faced by those companies. A branded cellphone must work exactly the same, wherever it was manufactured. A person checking into a chain hotel expects a nearly identical level of customer experience, whether they are in Dubuque or Dallas. But some companies may be crossing the misclassification line.

The challenge may be just as great for companies that are not in violation. As they view their industry’s landscape, what if they find they cannot compete without certain questionable strategies?

That, said Weil, is where groups like EMCAP come in. Yes, DOL enforcement must be vigorous, and collaborations with state departments of labor must be robust. But business buy-in and self-regulation are vital.

Wage and Hour Division Administrator Dr. David Weil speaking with American Subcontractors Association of Arizona CEO Carol Floco (at left) and Attorney Julie Pace. (Photo courtesy Wage and Hour Division.)

Wage and Hour Division Administrator Dr. David Weil speaking with American Subcontractors Association of Arizona CEO Carol Floco (at left) and Attorney Julie Pace. (Photo courtesy Wage and Hour Division.)

Via EMCAP and similar approaches nationwide, employers may gather and use dialogue and other methods to curtail bad practices.

“When you hear from a peer, a fellow employer,” said Weil, “that is incredibly powerful.”

He cites the Florida citrus industry as an example of successful self-policing. He said that when the DOL shared data about which subcontractors were regularly violative in misclassification and in regard to worker rights, larger producers asked for a copy of their maps. Pointing to the red dots indicating poor performers, some industry leaders said, “We don’t want to do business with the red bubbles.”

And that altered toolbox of strategies is just fine with the Wage & Hour Director.

“We’re not into a game of gotcha,” said Weil, “but compliance.”

Though enforcement is still a tool, he said, the primary focus must be “thinking creatively about changing business decisions.”

My unedited follow-up interview with Dr. David Weil is here:

 

And more background on EMCAP is here. We may follow up with Matt Meaker and his partner Helen Holden on the committee’s progress.

12 News logoI regularly report on the activities of Lawyers on Call, a State Bar public service program hosted at the ofices of 12 News, the Arizona Republic and azcentral.com. At the events, volunteer lawyers answer consumer questions on various topics. On Tuesday, March 31, the event focused on tax laws. In a moment, I’ll share the names of the generous volunteer attorneys. But first, it’s worth noting that this version of Lawyers on Call included a new development: the use of a streaming video app, Periscope, to better address some consumer questions. To add to the functionality, this past month’s event also includes a video recap (see it at the end of this post). I am very impressed by the video’s quality, achieved via free apps. That makes me think I should try my hand at some videos myself! State Bar of Arizona SBA_Logo_ColorThe Lawyers on Call news comes, as always, from my innovative colleague Alberto Rodriguez: Five attorneys volunteered their time and expertise on March 31, 2015, to offer legal advice on tax law. The attorneys were:

The lawyers answered 118 calls, 23 questions via Facbook, and a handful on Periscope, a streaming video app that had 55 participants. Sample consumer questions:

  • How do I report on gaming winnings?
  • How does the Affordable Health Care Act affect my file/return?
  • What are the penalties if I file late or file an extension?
  • How does filing bankruptcy affect my 2015 file/return?

Several callers reported scam activity—receiving phone calls from individuals claiming to be an “IRS” representative who request personal information and payments. Facebook continues to be a successful component of Lawyers on Call, as attorney Derek Kaczmarek answered 23 questions posted on the 12 News fan page. In addition, the 12 News social media team launched the use of Periscope, an interactive streaming video app where participants could ask their questions live. Four out of the five attorneys were first-time volunteers. All volunteers were extremely satisfied with the quality of the questions overall and were excited to have participated in the Lawyers on Call public service program. Here is a terrific video recap: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n83m1ZbclBs&feature=youtu.be

Scar Eater band photo via Facebook

Scar Eater band photo (via the band’s Facebook page)

Congratulations to all the winners of the annual Arizona Attorney Creative Arts Competition. Each of them is featured in our May issue, which will be available in late April.

Because of obvious restrictions, our music winner’s work cannot be published in the magazine. But it is available, here, for you to hear and enjoy. Well done, Stu de Haan.

His band, Scar Eater, is on Facebook (adult language warning!). They are Gabe Garcia (guitar), Stu de Haan (guitar), Chris Shwanberg (drums), Sonny Sutherland (vocals), and Gigi Owen (bass).

Here is Stu’s background and bio:

Scar Eater is a five piece post-hardcore band from Tucson, Arizona, comprised of Sonny Sutherland, Gabe Garcia, Stu de Haan, Gigi Owen, and Chris Swanberg. STU DE HAAN has played metal since he got his hands on a guitar and will continue for as long as he can get away with it. After graduating Gonzaga University Law School in 2008, he began practicing criminal law and opened de Haan Law Firm, PLLC in 2011. His firm deals solely with criminal law at all levels in Southern Arizona and frequently sponsors Tucson Roller Derby, a non-profit sports league that promotes women’s athleticism and empowerment.

Here is the band’s song “Don’t Get Stuck in a Roadside Ditch” (click to listen):

 

 

Gallagher & Kennedy associates Hannah Porter and Kimberly Allen pictured with a small selection of the clothing the firm's Professional Women's Group donated to Dress for Success.

Gallagher & Kennedy associates Hannah Porter and Kimberly Allen pictured with a small selection of the clothing the firm’s Professional Women’s Group donated to Dress for Success.

Recently, I was pleased to hear some great news out of a law firm and its Professional Women’s Group. Their efforts represent some of the best elements—and charitable impulses—of the Arizona Bar.

I have written about the Gallagher & Kennedy Professional Women’s Group before. That was when they committed themselves to a year’s worth of reading to school-aged children. You can read about that effort here.

Here is the news from G&K and their work on behalf of Dress for Success. Do you, your law firm or your law office have stories of community contribution? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

“On March 16, 2015, the Gallagher & Kennedy law firm donated more than 300 professional clothing items as well as a monetary donation to the Arizona affiliate of Dress for Success (DFS), an organization that supports women reentering the workforce. Over three weeks in February, the law firm’s Professional Women’s Group collected new and gently used women’s business clothing to donate to the Dress of Success Phoenix boutique. Donations were gathered from others in the Esplanade Complex, vendors and employees of the law firm.”

“The Professional Women’s Group became a new partner for DFS Phoenix in 2014 with members participating in various mentorship opportunities including interview skills and resume writing workshops. ‘Gallagher & Kennedy has been a wonderful partner this year,’ said Pat Torres, boutique coordinator for Dress for Success Phoenix. ‘Their dedication to helping women in the community through their contribution of time, professional expertise and clothing items will have a lasting impact for our clients.’”

“Whether partnering to support the causes of their clients or serving organizations that meet unique personal or professional interests of their employees, hundreds of volunteer service hours are given to hundreds of nonprofit and professional organizations each year by Gallagher & Kennedy employees.”

Kimberly Allen and Hannah Porter, associates with Gallagher & Kennedy, deliver donated items to Dress for Success, Phoenix.

Kimberly Allen and Hannah Porter, associates with Gallagher & Kennedy, deliver donated items to Dress for Success, Phoenix.

 

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