"The Dirt" on a law firm breakup was never more entertaining. Let's hear it for lawyers with a sense of humor!

“The Dirt” on a law firm breakup was never more entertaining. Let’s hear it for lawyers with a sense of humor!

A magazine is made of many great parts (I’m a big fan, as you might guess). But too often we tout only the “edit” side of the magazine—that is, all of the parts that are not advertising.

As I look back over my writing, I see that’s the case. I’ve praised stories, writing, authors, photos, design—but not ads.

In one way, that’s understandable: I really have nothing to do with the ads. As at many publications, we have a (conceptual) wall between “edit” and “ads.” Getting your content into one side in no way relates to getting your content into the other.

Therefore, I see the ads very late in the production process, often at proof stage. That’s where I can see how the ads lay out, and we can determine if there are any awkward “adjacencies,” either in content or design/color/look.

But once the issue comes out, I read those ads closely. Sure, I appreciate them beyond measure, as the revenue they represent makes our magazine be “in the black.” But I appreciate them for a deeper reason: They serve our readers as much as the edit does.

Besides their service value, they also teach me a lot. It’s not uncommon that upon reading an ad I learn something I didn’t know, or that I get a story lead. They can often be idea-generators.

And, every now and then, they make me pause in admiration. Some are simply gorgeous ads; others are evocative or revealing. And some make me laugh.

In future posts, I may mention what I’ve seen in regard to the first two categories. But “make me laugh” I will cover today.

The humorous ad that grabbed me came from a law firm, recently formed via a break-up of one firm into two. This may be less common than a merger, but it is still a staple of legal-profession communications, and rarely makes me slow down as I read.

But the joint ad of Lang & Klain and Baker Law Offices was different.

Here, first, is their full ad, as it appeared on proof:

An ad regarding the break-up of a single law firm into two ...

An ad regarding the break-up of a single law firm into two …

And there, at the bottom of the ad, was a rather unique inscription:

Curious about the break-up? Visit http://lang-klain.com/thedirt

Here’s the close-up:

... contained an eye-opening surprise for the careful reader.

… contained an eye-opening surprise for the careful reader.

Cheeky, that!

When you head over to that site, you can read a very witty series of FAQs about the firm’s break-up.

To read more about the firm in its more buttoned-down approach, go to their (two!) law firm websites for Lang & Klain and for Baker Law Offices.

What ads have made you stop in your tracks, in Arizona Attorney or elsewhere? Write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

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grammar police badgeLate I am, but I still cannot let National Grammar Day pass without taking note.

It was “celebrated” on March 4, but I didn’t spot any parades or floats. However, the day gives us the opportunity to consider the role grammar plays in our lives.

Actually, that’s a little bit high-falutin’. What the day allows us to do is to get all judgy about other people’s awful grammar.

To mark the day on this Change of Venue Friday, I suggest you test your skills as a grammarian here. You might be pleasantly surprised that your you’re quite the talented expert.

Or, if you’re feeling pretty poetic, enjoy the results of the Twitter-borne haiku entries in a National Grammar Day contest.

Here are a few favorites:

Punctuation needs To be more important than The Kardashians #GrammarDay @copyeditors

— marducey (@marducey) March 3, 2014

Do not attempt a semicolonoscopy. Ask an editor. #GrammarDay

— John McIntyre (@johnemcintyre) March 1, 2014

And yes, I am now following those two insightful wags.

And then, because every fake American holiday must be marked via humorous T-shirts (memes before anyone invented memes), I offer you a Buzzfeed site that contains some shirt-borne grammar humor. (A hat tip to my friend William Tandy for spotting this sartorial site.)

Many are quite good, but here, I think, is my favorite.

T-shirt evokes national security: Grammar Day error terror

Finally, if you seek a rousing defense of adverbs that is really, really well written (hold it; that seems to be a piss-poor use of intensifying adverbs), enjoy this.

Here’s wishing you a typo-free weekend.

Standing out: Not bad advice for a law school, your law practice -- or a legal magazine.

Standing out: Not bad advice for a law school, your law practice — or a legal magazine.

You don’t often hear magazine editors tout the advertising side of the business. After all, there is a cherished and sensible “wall” between the edit and the ad side of publications, a distinction that serves each side well.

But the existence of that wall doesn’t mean editorial staff are blind to the value ads provide. At Arizona Attorney Magazine, we understand which side our bread is buttered on. And a robust ad side—made possible, we believe, by having a robust edit side—has helped the magazine stay in the black for a good number of years now. That has been a benefit to State Bar of Arizona members and the magazine itself, both in costs and in expanded “real estate” in which we may provide valuable articles.

Why do I raise the topic today? Well, I’m pretty pleased with a new ad feature we were able to provide readers (and advertisers) in our January and February issues—a gatefold ad in the “front of the book.”

That ad—a first for us—allows our cover to fold out, giving the advertiser three pages to convey its message. That space is especially valuable for an organization rolling out a rebranding—which is exactly what the Arizona Summit Law School did in the ad.

You can see the whole ad here and here. But really, you should pick up the print magazine to appreciate the entire effect.

(I should point out that I have nothing to do with ad sales in the magazine. I work alongside terrific advertising colleagues, but someone buying an ad—whether a three-page gatefold or a tiny classified—has zero effect on whether we accept and publish their article on the edit side. Just sayin’.)

I routinely ask readers for story ideas or other content they would like to see in the magazine. But today, I wonder about ad products and tools you’ve viewed in other magazines. Whether they were in a national consumer publication or in a much smaller local publication, what ad types have caught your eye? What ads have led to improvements in your law practice?

Your insights have been a great help to me on the edit side. But a magazine is a complex organism, and we believe the ads should serve your purposes, too. How can we improve?

Arizona Attorney Magazine Creative Arts Competition ad 2013 cropped

Our current grinning look for the Arts Competition

We’ve hit the 10-year mark for our Creative Arts Competition at Arizona Attorney Magazine. Here is how I drafted the opening to our arts pages in the May 2013 issue (on newsstands soon!):

“10 years is a long time to do most anything. But here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, it stuns us that we’ve been privileged to host our lawyer–artists since 2004. It may not feel like just yesterday that we launched the finest attorney arts competition in the country, but a decade? It’s hard to believe.”

“In those years, we have had the opportunity to enjoy sharing parts of the legal brain beyond pleadings and contracts. And we have been pleased beyond words by the commitment of hundreds and hundreds of lawyers, each of whom answers ‘Yes yes yes’ to the question of whether there is more to life than work work work.”

A lot of amazing occurred in those 10 years. But one thing that struck me was this: What nervous Nellies we were.

When we decided to launch this new initiative early in the 2000s, the Editorial Board and I were concerned that our lawyer–readers would see it as fluff, and that no one would submit. And even if they did, how talented were the lawyers, really?

Pretty funny concerns, I think, now that I look back. But if we want a glimpse at the odd worries that possessed us, we need look only to the evolution of our “call for artists” ads through the years. As you’ll see below in this sample of work, we began with a look that would have fit in a 19th-century paleontology journal. And our categories were strictly legal—and included zero visual-arts content!

Over time, as we saw the popularity of the competition, we loosened up a bit, on our categories and our design. Finally, in the past few years we have posted ads that could be run in any magazine of general circulation.

Write to arizona.attorney@azbar.org and tell me your favorites.

Here is a selection of our ads through the past decade.

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On Twitter, I follow hundreds of people and organizations, the Sonoran Alliance being one of them. And today, I clicked on a link to their site, only to be confronted by an odd combination—of their content and randomly populated ad.

Here is what they tweeted:

sonoranalliance The Case for Marriage http://bit.ly/oO2WHq #azright

When I clicked through—to http://sonoranalliance.com/2011/08/05/the-case-for-marriage/—I got more than they bargained for.

Here is a screen shot of what I saw. As they would say, #lookright. (Click to make it larger.)

I have considered using the Google ad system for other sites. But this makes me think about the possible conflict between your content and your values, and whatever happens to pop up to the right.

It is an accepted truth that your workspace may play a role in the quality of your output.

For that reason, I am abashed to tell you for how long I have stared at my office’s white walls. Unadorned—by anything—since I moved in years ago, my space envelopes me like an arctic floe, or a blank page. I knew on many levels that such a thing was not positive for someone who writes—I have plenty of blank pages already. But I held out for just the right piece to obliterate the snowy expanse.

I finally have given up that ghost. Instead, this past weekend I pounded some nails and hung some art.

Well, I call it art.

It is a collection I have of old lawyerabilia (yes, I insist there is such a word). It includes a few prints and a hand-written cartoon by Steve Benson.

But the main things I enjoy are the old ads that feature lawyers, such as the “judge” shilling for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes (“More judges pass down a friendly verdict on Kellogg’s Corn Flakes than on any other cereal”), trial lawyer F. Lee Bailey tipping back for Smirnoff Vodka, and a circa-1930s campaign card for a Pennsylvania judge (“Your vote and influence will be appreciated” – Canons, anyone?).

I also love the Time Magazine cover from 1978 headlined “Those **@!! Lawyers.” Who among us hasn’t felt the same?

Here are a few photos.

In the democratic spirit on this Change of Venue Friday, let me know what you appreciate. Make your selection from the poll below. (For a better view before you vote, click on any of the images.)