In the September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we cover facial hair on witnesses. It's not just for hipsters, y'know.

In the September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we cover facial hair on witnesses. It’s not just for hipsters, y’know.

Short and sweet, just as a Change of Venue Friday should be.

As we were putting together our September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, it occurred to me that our cover story could be a great candidate for a Vine video.

Don’t know Vine? Well, as Monsieur Wikipedia puts it so well:

“Vine is a short-form video sharing service where users can share six-second-long looping video clips. The service was founded in June 2012, and microblogging website Twitter acquired it in October 2012, just before its official launch. Users’ videos are published through Vine’s social network and can be shared on other services such as Facebook and Twitter. Vine’s app can also be used to browse through videos posted by other users, along with groups of videos by theme, and trending, or popular, videos.”

Anyhoo, our cover story examines the views people have about facial hair on witnesses. Who knew there was detailed research on the topic?

Along with sharing that research, we share great photos that could be illustrate the authors’ points. How else can a legal magazine find a way to feature Brad Pitt, Ashton Kutcher, David Beckham, and Adolph Hitler—all in the same story?

Vine logo v2Anyway, you can watch the Vine here. (C’mon, it’s 6 seconds! Click already!)

And yes, I’ll use a tripod next time.

The best way to view Vines is on your phone through the app. And once you’re there, feel free to follow me. Who knows what we’ll post next.

Have a great—and video-worthy—weekend.

National Hot Dog Day 2015 v1

Harvey Shinblock can’t be the first lawyer who wanted to open a hot-dog stand.

So today, Thursday, is National Hot Dog Day. Don’t believe me? Well, would the Des Moines Register lie to you?

Not legal enough a topic for your bloggish reading? Stick around. I’ll get to the legal in a moment.

In the meantime, here are a few places in the Phoenix area you might enjoy a hot dog.

Musing on the wonderment of wieners, I was curious about this, so I checked: In the five-plus years I’ve written my daily blog, I’m chagrined to note that the words “hot dog” appear more than a dozen times.

That seems high for a legal blog. Agreed? Well, maybe it’s a cry for help.

In any casing (see what I did there?), I thought I would share my first-ever documented blogular use of the phrase. It occurred in the prologue to a legal novel I wrote (detail about that endeavor is here.)

The book is titled The Supremes, and it involves a new law firm composed of former state supreme court justices. They thought clients would come knocking—which they did—but the law firm partners underestimated how much they disliked each other—and disliked hard work.

The hot dog reference came early, when the new firm’s administrator thinks about Harvey Shinblock, a colorful lawyer who is now disbarred (for numerous offenses, including a Circle K assault with a pocketknife). Harvey owns a hot-dog stand, and he carries quite a grudge against the legal profession. Here’s a portion:

Bernie Galvez liked hot dogs, and Harvey Shinblock sold the best in the city.

Galvez smiled as he recalled how Shinblock had managed to get 30 days in the county lockup for his “misunderstanding” at the convenience store—the best lawyering Shinblock had ever done, representing himself before old Judge Barnes. And after that 30 days, Shinblock woke up driven by a dream of opening his own hot-dog stand.

Human nature being the self-destructive little imp that it is, Shinblock drove his metaphoric stake in the ground on the sidewalk right outside the criminal courts complex. There, he gazed balefully as lawyers and judges streamed by him daily. If looks could kill—or wound with a pocketknife—those members of the bench and bar would have been a bloody mess on the Phoenix streets.

National Hot Dog Day 2015But maybe they got their comeuppance. For in the last three years since Shinblock opened “Court Wieners,” he had received the praise of every publication in town, from the “Best in Phoenix” to the “Best in the Southwest” to the “Best Nooner in a Casing.” Shinblock knew what he was doing as he steamed his hand-crafted dogs.

Nonetheless, no lawyer or judge was ever known to be brave enough to step up and purchase a meal. The history, the bad blood, and the fear of poisoning kept a significant portion of the suited sidewalk denizens from venturing forward and trying Shinblock’s bliss in a bun. They salivated and gnashed their teeth, but the gray and blue army marched past the stainless steel stand, thinking hungrily that they may have been a tad hard on good old Shinblock. Still, march by they did.

The complete prologue is here. Want to keep reading? Here’s Chapter 1.

And … do get out and eat a hot dog.

Hot and Not law practice areasIs your law practice on the leading edge; or is it bringing up the rear? A preview of an annual assessment of burgeoning law practice areas is out, and it may be helpful to track your own path.

I always enjoy these annual articles by Bob Denney, who writes a “what’s hot” assessment. (Let’s admit it right now; the what’s hot trope is an awkward one, but no need to go on about it.)

His full piece will not be out for months, when he describes his predictions for 2016. But we get a preview here.

As you can see, Denney identifies labor & employment and elder law as on an upward trajectory. But litigation and bankruptcy are not faring as well.

You also can see his predictions from last December here. How’d he do?

What’s working in your own law office? Are there any niche areas that are growing faster than you would have expected? I’d like to hear about them. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

What’s Hot and What’s Not In The Legal Profession Hot_tamales

OK, I give in to the “hotness” analogy: What’s hot and what’s not in the legal profession?

standin- app logo 1

It’s true that law practice may be more challenging than it’s ever been. And yet I marvel at the ingenuity some have brought to the profession, finding ways to automate the parts that should not require a graduate education to master.

So as we work on our October issue at Arizona Attorney Magazine, dedicated in large part to law office management, my radar is up for tools that take the arrggh out of an attorney’s day.

The smartest tools do not seek to do everything a lawyer does. Instead, they identify a single element of practice that could be improved. And that’s what a new app called “StandIn” appears to do.

How many of you have appeared in court or in chambers for another lawyer on her or his case? I recall doing that in California as a part of my solo practice. The money could be pretty good, and the work was flexible.

Plus, if you were lucky, a standard status conference might yield a few challenging questions from the judge—and who has graduated from law school and not yearned for a little of that? You had become familiar with the case file, so you could handle it, and it definitely got the blood pumping to: (1) interact with an inquiring judge while (2) not royally screwing up another lawyer’s case on what was supposed to be a 10-minute appearance.

But the cost of those great minutes as an oral advocate for your client was often an organizational headache. Getting hired for the appearance required significant back-and-forth with the attorney hiring you, especially if you didn’t yet know each other. It involved phone calls, faxing (remember that?), negotiating your fee, ensuing you knew which court to go to and what time. Plus, of course, getting photocopies of the case elements that were relevant to that day’s hearing. (And don’t get me started on finding a pay phone the day of when something went amiss. That used to be something lawyers had to do.)

Well, all of those concerns may not be eliminated for the lawyer doing appearances, but a recent essay pointed me to a solution to some of them. “StandIn” is called a replacement lawyer app, and it’s described well here by Cathy Reisenwitz. As she says, “StandIn lets lawyers who can’t make it to a court appearance find a stand-in for them. Lawyers log in and see who is available near the courthouse they need to be at. They can sort by experience, expertise, and availability.”

capterra logoLike other location-based apps you’re probably already familiar with, StandIn will also process payments and allow reviews of the hiring and hired attorney.

More about the product itself is on their website. It is based in Canada, but it’s moving into U.S. cities (and you can urge them to come to yours).

Even if you have no need of such an app, I recommend reading the essay anyway. And even though it’s not (yet) in Arizona, I commend the article to you. Why? Well, it’s well written, plus it probes these inventive people for their views of the future of the legal profession. Whether you’re doing appearances for others or writing wills or arguing zoning cases—or whatever—that future should interest you.

I also recommend following Cathy Reisenwitz and her firm Capterra (deets here). She covers many topics that might help your law practice, with just the right amount of snark to make law practice management less legally snoozeworthy. In fact, as we work on our October issue, I was pleased to see that one of our authors is a fan of an infographic that emerged from Capterra. That’s cool, as I am a fan too. You can see the graphic here.

And a final bit of pleasure for my blogging day: I was pleased to see that one of the StandIn founders came out of the Michigan State Reinvent Law initiative. I’ve written about it before, and I’m intrigued at the smart ideas that percolate up from entrepreneurial centers like this one. As I mentioned before, you really should follow their work; if you do that often enough, you’ll probably find other lawyers are following you.

Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" may be informative reading in a presidential election year.

Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” may be informative reading in a presidential election year.

I haven’t read the “new” book by Harper Lee titled “Go Set a Watchman.” Should I? Have you? Will you?

If the author’s name doesn’t ring bells, her more prominent book’s title may, for “To Kill a Mockingbird” has moved generations of readers and led to a fabulously successful movie version. (Though it took me quite a while to get around to reading it, as I described here.) The film was impactful enough that the State Bar of Arizona screened it for a fund-raising evening a few years ago.

Maybe the power of “Mockingbird” is most clearly viewed through the upset people have over the possibility of a newly released book that includes the character Atticus Finch. Simply put, they love that character, and anything that sullies or even complicates their view of the lawyer who does good, best as he can, is not something they want to engage with.

I’ll admit, I’ve at least somewhat shared that view. Besides the fact that sequels usually pale in comparison to the original, I also felt that there are few enough portrayals of compassionate lawyers. Can’t we keep Atticus just as he is? Please?

Two things changed my mind. One was a great magazine story (let’s hear it for the power of magazines). And the other was a political town hall.

For the ABA Journal, Deborah Cassens Weiss examines some previous scholarship about “Mockingbird” in light of the release of “Watchman.”

As Weiss ends her article:

“Though Watchman isn’t Harper Lee’s best work, [Harvard Law Professor Randall] Kennedy says, it ‘does reveal more starkly the complexity of Atticus Finch, her most admired character. Go Set a Watchman demands that its readers abandon the immature sentimentality ingrained by middle school lessons about the nobility of the white savior and the mesmerizing performance of Gregory Peck in the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird.’”

Ouch. Is sentimentality blocking readers from a fuller and truer understanding of American history? Chagrined, we must admit that such a thing has happened time and again. So am I and others doing that when we seal our “favorite” Atticus in amber?

One clue that the scholars are on the right track is visible when you read the comments following the ABA Journal story. As the saying goes, Denial is not just a river in Egypt.

The second element that leads me to get over my bromance with Atticus Finch occurred this past Saturday, at a town hall featuring two presidential candidates.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Phoenix, Ariz., July 16 2015.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Phoenix, Ariz., July 16 2015.

I attended portions of the Netroots Nation annual conference mainly to cover the three or so “legalish” panel discussions they scheduled, featuring topics like redistricting and Supreme Court jurisprudence. But in the process, I managed to get into the Phoenix Convention Center room where journalist Jose Antonio Vargas would interview U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, each vying for the Democratic nomination.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Phoenix, Ariz., July 18, 2015

Sen. Bernie Sanders, Phoenix, Ariz., July 18, 2015

Gov. Martin O'Malley, Phoenix, Ariz., July 18, 2015

Gov. Martin O’Malley, Phoenix, Ariz., July 18, 2015

What I and 3,000 of my new friends expected was a moderated discussion. What we got was a highly effective staged protest by “Black Lives Matter” activists. About five minutes into the dialogue with O’Malley, activists rose from their seats or came from the back of the room, demanding to be heard.

You may have read about the event in the national news, for example, here and here.

Black Lives Matter activist Tia Oso confronts Gov. Martin O'Malley, July 18, 2015

Black Lives Matter activist Tia Oso confronts Gov. Martin O’Malley, July 18, 2015

What surprised was not that there was a protest—after all, this has been a year marked by flash-points in the intersection of policing and race. What surprised were the insufficient responses of the candidates. And that was followed by the irritation of many in the audience that the protestors spoke up at all, or for so long, or so stridently. And I heard from many audience members who professed to be pleased with their candidates’ responses, “given the circumstances.”

(For an insightful analysis of the Saturday event, read attorney Bob Lord, who managed to speak with a protest organizer.)

But in the era of Ferguson—and of Sandra Bland and Tamir Rice and Eric Garner and Freddie Gray and Michael Brown—it takes a special kind of denial to insist that the view of your candidate not be disturbed, distorted or made more complex by Saturday’s events. Both candidates may have had smart and compassionate things to say about race, the justice system, and people’s lives. But neither said those things. That is worth noting. They had the past tumultuous year-plus to think over their response to these tragedies. They did not take that opportunity. That is worth noting.

One thing that tells me is that the candidates and their staffs should immediately read the report issued just last week on the topic from the ABA and the NAACP. I covered it here.

So for those reasons and more, I’ll get a copy of “Go Set a Watchman.” Sure, the later years of Atticus may show a man who is not a shining beacon of enlightened views. But, sometime between now and a presidential election, we all should grow a little more open to complexity—in our novels, in our history, and in our public policy.

Let me know if you’re reading the book, and what you think. Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

In the meantime, here are some of my tweets from the town hall. You can follow me and read more of my coverage at @azatty.

Irene Diaz, Phoenix Convention Center, July 16, 2015.

Irene Diaz, Phoenix Convention Center, July 16, 2015.

How about a nice easy musical Change of Venue Friday? Agreed?

I managed to attend a few great sessions yesterday at a national conference held in downtown Phoenix. Amidst the #NN15 panel discussions on redistricting and other legal-ish topics, I saw that singer-songwriter Irene Diaz would be there.

You may already be a fan. And you may have seen her featured on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts. But there she was, in person, in the Phoenix Convention Center.

I took a (terrible) Vine of one song as she played and sang. (I also used Periscope to stream another, but getting to see a Periscope is a had-to-be-there affair, so don’t ask).

Much better than my Vine is enjoying a higher-quality video of one of her performances, here, where she sings Tricky Game.

Once you’ve done that, go to her website and buy some darned music, why don’t you.

Have a great and musical weekend.

ABA logoThis morning, the American Bar Association and the NAACP released a joint statement on “Eliminating Bias in the Criminal Justice System.” It’s likely to get a lot of attention, for a few reasons:

  1. It offers a dozen specific recommendations that have the possibility of engaging the community and law enforcement and criminal justice officials in a deep and change-making way.
  2. It is a joint statement that is a result of collaboration between two persuasive organizations, the ABA and the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.
  3. It is drafted in straightforward language that faces head-on a crisis in race and policing.
  4. Its signatories include respected legal leaders, including prosecuting attorneys. (And it also includes Arizona’s own Professor Myles Lynk, of the ASU College of Law.)

The complete statement is available here.

NAACP LDF logoAmong the opening paragraphs are sentences like these:

“One would have to have been outside of the United States and cut off from media to be unaware of the recent spate of killings of unarmed African American men and women at the hands of white law enforcement officers. … Given the history of implicit and explicit racial bias and discrimination in this country, there has long been a strained relationship between the African-American and law enforcement. But with video cameras and extensive news coverage bringing images and stories of violent encounters between (mostly white) law enforcement officers and (almost exclusively African-American and Latino) unarmed individuals into American homes, it is not surprising that the absence of criminal charges in many of these cases has caused so many people to doubt the ability of the criminal justice system to treat individuals fairly, impartially and without regard to their race.”

After mentioning statistics on race in the criminal justice system and the recent Justice Department investigation of law enforcement practices in Ferguson, Missouri, the statement continues:

“Given these realities, it is not only time for a careful look at what caused the current crisis, but also time to initiate an affirmative effort to eradicate implied or perceived racial bias—in all of its forms—from the criminal justice system.”

Among its suggestions, the statement calls for:

  • More complete and comprehensive data collection on interactions between law enforcement and citizens, and more transparency from prosecutors’ offices on the use of prosecutorial discretion.
  • More training and assistance for all members of the justice system on the problems that can occur from real or perceived bias.
  • More hiring and retention of lawyers and officers “who live in and reflect the communities they serve” by prosecutors’ offices and law enforcement.
  • Greater use of body and vehicle cameras “to create an actual record of police–citizen encounters.”
  • Promotion of dialogue about the criminal justice process between representatives of the judiciary, law enforcement and prosecutors, defenders and defense counsel, probation and parole officers and community organizations as well the community.
  • More accountability and quicker response to issues that arise.
  • A better understanding of the collateral consequences of convictions and the damage they can inflict on individuals who have paid their debt to society.
William Hubbard, American Bar Association

William Hubbard, American Bar Association

In a press release, leaders of the two organizations offered remarks.

“The American criminal justice system is clearly in need of reform on multiple levels,” said ABA President William C. Hubbard. “As lawyers, we have a duty and responsibility to ensure the fair administration of justice and to promote public trust in the system. The solutions are not quick or easy, but these proposals offer a tangible and potentially significant framework to make sure the system provides justice for all.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, the president and director-counsel of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, added, “The events of the last year have powerfully demonstrated the need for the members of our profession to confront the issue of racial bias in our justice system. We are very gratified that the ABA joined with us in convening a group of prosecutors to discuss the role they can play in dealing with this important issue.”

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

Sherrilyn Ifill, NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund

“Both the ABA and the LDF share a commitment to building confidence in the rule of law that has been badly shaken over the past year among many Americans. Prosecutors and other members of the criminal justice system must play a role as we move forward in the critical days ahead. The measures identified by the ABA and LDF present a powerful framework for prosecutors who are committed to taking on the issue of racial bias.”

I look forward to more news on this topic. Specifically, which of the 12 recommendations are likely to be adopted first and on a widespread basis? Are any of these suggestions currently being implemented, but on a smaller scale, perhaps in a state or in one jurisdiction?

After reading the statement, write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org to offer your thoughts.

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