On Monday and Tuesday this week, a horde of extremely smart people (and I) will gather to discuss solar power. More specifically: “The Southwest’s future as a solar superpower.”

The speaker lineup is impressive, and many are hoping that it yields a practical way forward on a topic that shines almost every day of the year in Arizona.

Mostly, though, I’m curious about its impact on lawyers and law practice.

Below, I have included a terrific press release (actually, it’s a full-blown article) by ASU’s Janie Magruder. She explains who’ll be there and what they plan to achieve.

It’s in the last graf of Janie’s article, though, that I found what I was interested in. It was bound up in a quote from ASU scholar (and former Corporation Commissioner) Kris Mayes. She said that the conference is a good opportunity for anyone interested in practicing in renewable energy law. “When solar energy takes off, this will become a significant practice area for a lot of attorneys in Arizona and other states in the Southwest,” she said.

(We covered Kris Mayes and some her work at ASU here for Arizona Attorney Magazine.)

Do you agree with her? Are there opportunities here? And more important, will you attend the conference?

If you can’t be there, tell me what you’d like to know; I’d be happy to ask your questions.

The Summit’s website is here. And more detail is here.

Here’s the article from ASU:

The Southwest’s future as a solar superpower to be explored at national policy summit in Phoenix

By Janie Magruder

The legal and policy structures necessary to foster solar energy development in the Southwest and propel Arizona to national prominence in the field is the focus of a conference to be hosted March 26-27 by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

“Arizona Solar Summit 2012: Breaking through the Barriers to a Solar Future in the Southwest” will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday, March 26, and from 8:30 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, March 27, at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix. Registration is $75 for general audiences and $125 for attorneys seeking CLE; visit law.asu.edu/solarsummit2012 for more information and to register.

“Arizona has the natural resources, the human capital and the legal structure to make this happen,” said Kris Mayes, Faculty Director of the College of Law’s Program on Law and Sustainability, housed in the Center for Law, Science & Innovation. “This conference is about making sure we advance the legal infrastructure in Arizona to create conditions that will allow us to really expand our solar energy capacity.”

Mayes, a Senior Sustainability Scholar in ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, is a lead organizer of the conference, along with ASU LightWorks, ASU SkySong and the Greater Phoenix Economic Council (GPEC). ASU’s first Solar Summit, in August 2011, drew dozens of participants from government, academia, industry and technology to launch a network designed to address specific challenges that, if met, will move Arizona forward. The first conference established four working groups whose members will report on their recommendations during Solar Summit 2012. (For information about the first summit, go here.)

“When you talk to Arizonans, you quickly realize that this is a state that believes solar energy is its economic destiny,” said Mayes, former chair of the Arizona Corporation Commission and co-author of the state’s Renewable Energy Standard. “This conference is the next step in making that a reality, and we’re doing that by bringing together some of the best thinkers to continue what ASU started last August.”

Arizona Solar Summit 2012 will offer five panels during Monday’s schedule. Todd Hardy, ASU’s Associate Vice President for Economic Affairs and a participant in the 2011 summit, will moderate a panel of representatives from the Solar Summit working groups.

“Four working groups were formed at the 2011 Arizona Solar Summit to address the primary challenges we face in developing Arizona’s solar industry: Supply Chain and Workforce Development, Applied Research Collaborations and Pilot Projects, Policy and Finance, and Building and Strengthening the Narrative,” Hardy said. “Each of these working groups is actively engaged in identifying strategies that will be implemented to foster growth and development of the solar energy industry, on a national and regional scale.”

Gary Dirks, Director of ASU LightWorks, who also participated in the first summit, will moderate the panel, “A solar super hub in the Southwest: Imagining Arizona and surrounding states as the exporters of solar energy to the rest of the nation.”

Dirks said the topic is critical because “this discussion will explore opportunity for a solar super hub in the Southwest. We will cover both the challenges and the benefits of becoming a state and region that can be the leader in producing and exporting solar energy. We hope to identify goals and next steps that will allow us to collectively reach our potential as a solar energy center.”

Mayes said the summit will be a standout for a number of reasons:

  • Jon Wellinghoff, Chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, will deliver the keynote address on Tuesday, March 27. Wellinghoff is expected to discuss how the federal government is helping the Southwest develop its solar potential.
  • Five CEOs of solar energy firms will sit on a roundtable panel, following Wellinghoff’s remarks, to talk about the challenges facing their industry in 2012 and beyond.
  • Public utilities commissioners from Arizona, California, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada will sit on the panel, “Getting along?: Imagining a strong regional future for solar, and the build-out of regional transmission needed to get us there.”

“Transmission is a big theme of this conference, and it’s a huge issue as we try to expand, so having these commissioners coming to Arizona to talk about these issues is a very big deal,” Mayes said. “By the same token, it’s critical to have these CEOs here to discuss where they see their industry going and also to delve into what they believe are the regulatory needs. This is an industry at a pivotal point and where we go from the legal and policy standpoints is going to be critical for them.”

The panel of solar CEOs will be moderated by Barry Broome, CEO and President of GPEC, another returning participant from the first summit.

“Arizona is indeed a solar leader,” Broome said. “However, the solar industry has seen dynamic changes over the past year, so understanding the corporate challenges facing these CEOs will be critical to not only maintaining our position as the ‘Solar Energy King,’ but also expanding into other areas of the clean economy.”

Conference organizers have tapped for consideration these three distinct scenarios for a bright solar future in the Southwest:

  • A robust distributed generation future in which rooftop solar takes off, aided by a smarter grid and the development if micro-grids in cities such as Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Albuquerque and Denver.
  • A solar future driven by strong interregional cooperation among the states on transmission, leading to regional solar development.
  • A transformational solar future in which the Southwest becomes the solar hub of the nation, drive by interregional development of transmission and generation or the creation of a national Renewable Energy Corporation

Mayes will moderate the first panel of the day, “Is solar temporarily stuck: Immediate challenges to the development of solar energy in the Southwest and what I necessary to break through the logjam.”

“There’s a feeling out there that we are a little bit stuck in first gear and we need to do something from a legal standpoint to get out of it and get moving,” said Mayes, noting that tax credits, the build-out of transmission grids and support for state Renewable Portfolio Standards will be on the table for discussion.

The conference also will debut a 10-minute documentary film about solar energy development in Arizona, including a segment about the great progress in Gila Bend, a town about 70 miles southwest of the Phoenix metropolitan area. Town Manager Frederick Buss will join the panel of public utilities commissioners discussing the creation of a Southwestern market for renewable energy.

“Gila Bend is the little solar town that could,” Mayes said. “It’s a great story about a part of Arizona that’s’ been overlooked. You can walk into any restaurant in town and the waitresses are conversant in solar energy, and they have come to believe that solar is their future. We can learn a lot from them.”

A fifth panel is “Distributed generation goes the distance: Imagining a robust future for distributed generation in the Southwest,” moderated by Bud Annan, ASU’s Senior Advisor for Solar Energy.

Attorneys will be able to obtain up to 10 credits of Continuing Legal Education at the conference, said Mayes, noting it’s a good opportunity for anyone interested in practicing in renewable energy law. “When solar energy takes off, this will become a significant practice area for a lot of attorneys in Arizona and other states in the Southwest,” she said.

It came to my attention just the other day that December is well afoot, and that what many call “The Holidays” are near upon us.

Distressed at the disappearance of October and November, and aghast that what I call “The Troubles” are rising into view, I suspect that at least a few of you share those non-sentimental sentiments. But today is Change of Venue Friday, so let’s take those lemons and make a blog post out of it, shall we?

Therefore, here are three only quasi-random things to occupy you as The Troubles bear down on us like an out-of-control sleigh:

1. Gawk at cakes you cannot eat.

The Arizona Make-A-Wish Foundation does great work, and until December 19, you can view some amazing gingerbread houses in the Arizona Biltmore lobby. The cakes will be silent-auctioned to support the foundation’s work, so if you’ve always wanted a confectionary Gammage Auditorium or Guggenheim Museum or Fallingwater, hie thee to the Biltmore, a Frank Lloyd Wright jewel in its own right.

(More cake photos are at the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.)

2. Buy some “lawyer gifts” that may be ridiculous, but by purchasing them you’ll help the economy, or something.

Yearn for a Lincoln bobblehead (see above)? Can’t exist without some red-tape cufflinks? Obtaining both items may be some kind of cry for help, but they’re destined to generate a chuckle or, among lawyers, a guffaw.

3. Tread on the boards that actors have trod.

Granted, this may seem like a time-waster in the busy month of December, but a backstage tour of Phoenix’s Orpheum Theatre could be just the ticket to alleviate a law-filled month. Here’s some info on next week’s (free!) tours:

The Friends of the Orpheum Theatre invite you to enjoy the holidays with a free tour of the historic Orpheum Theatre.

Originally opened in 1929, the Orpheum Theatre premiered as a much sought-after venue for vaudeville acts. The theatre changed ownership and became a deluxe movie palace prior to being purchased by the city of Phoenix in 1984. The city registered the site as a national historic landmark in 1985 and embarked upon a massive restoration project.

Orpheum interior by (my brother-in-law) Keith Taylor. More great work at http://www.keithtaylor.com/photography/

Visit the Orpheum to learn more about how the restoration project became a reality and what production premiered when the theatre reopened in 1997.  Tour reservations are not required, but encouraged. For more information please contact Patty McMahon at 602.495.7139 or patty.mcmahon@phoenix.gov.

WHAT: FREE Orpheum Theatre Public Tours

WHEN: 12 – 1 p.m., Tuesday, Dec. 20; Thursday, Dec. 22; Monday, Dec. 26; and Friday, Dec. 30

WHERE: Orpheum Theatre, 203 W. Adams St., Phoenix, AZ 85003 (Meet under the marquee)

Have a great weekend.

Orpheum Theatre from the actors' view

Barb Dawson, Snell & Wilmer

Modern large-firm law practice has thrown a variety of challenges toward firms that want to excel and grow. One of the tools those firms use to grow their business and their market-share is networking—often on a global scale.

Organizations like Lex Mundi and Mackrell International allow and encourage interaction among lawyers globally. They also provide a great way to send legal work to lawyers in a score of localities.

Recently, those two groups have seen Arizona—Phoenix in particular—as a great spot to meet and re-energize.

In late March, Lex Mundi, in collaboration with the Association of Corporate Counsel, held a two-day event in and around Snell & Wilmer. Lex Mundi calls itself “the world’s leading association of independent law firms,” and Snell partner Barb Dawson is chair of its board of directors.

More information on the conference is here. And go here for some photos from the conference, posted on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

This coming week is Mackrell’s turn. Mackrell describes itself as “one of the world’s premier networks of independent legal firms.”

Hosted by Polsinelli Shughart (whose own Marty Harper is chair of the international network), the April-27-30 event will be held at the Arizona Biltmore.

Marty Harper, Polsinelli Shughart

More information on this week’s Mackrell event is here. And a press release from Polsinelli is below.

Polsinelli Shughart Welcomes Mackrell International for Annual General Meeting in Phoenix

Press Releases

April 22, 2011

When United States companies explore business opportunities beyond our borders, the need arises often for legal services abroad. An international conference, held in Phoenix, will explore cross-border relationships to help attorneys better serve the business community globally. More than 100 attorneys from Africa, the Asia Pacific Region, Europe, North America, the Middle East, and South America will be in Phoenix to attend the 2011 Mackrell International Annual General Meeting (AGM). In recent years, the AGM has previously been held in Sydney, Athens, Berlin, Istanbul, and Buenos Aires. This is the first time the AGM will be held in the in the United States in 12 years. The event will be held at the Arizona Biltmore from April 27 – April 30.

Polsinelli Shughart PC Shareholder Marty Harper, from the Phoenix office, is the chair of this international network of law firms that takes a “common sense” approach to conducting business internationally. Mayor Phil Gordon will welcome the international visitors, and discuss foreign investment opportunities in Phoenix and upward economic trends occurring in the Valley. The mayor will speak April 29 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 pm.

“We pride ourselves in being a global city, not only in our population, but in our business development,” said Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon. “Conversations such as these are important in assisting the world to recognize what our city and state can offer internationally. It is very exciting to be hosting more than 100 delegates from all over the world.”

In addition to Mayor Gordon, Polsinelli Shughart welcomes Dr. Angel Cabrera, president of Thunderbird Global School of Management. Dr. Cabrera will address trends in both the local and international economy, as well as discuss the legal issues impacting their specific regions and the potential for doing business in Arizona. His keynote address is April 28 from 12:30 p.m. to 1:30 pm.

In addition to Harper’s role as chair of Mackrell, Polsinelli Shughart has a growing international law practice to serve clients in Phoenix. The attorneys focus on high-profile litigation and complex business matters in a variety of practice areas and industries. Attorneys who have previously served as in-house counsel for national and international companies bring a unique perspective to several practice areas.

“We are honored to host our annual meeting here in Phoenix and showcase our great state,” said Harper. “Mackrell plays a critical role in assisting member firms to expand their geographic reach and connect clients to the very best legal representation around the world. The relationships built by Mackrell members at these regional meetings create a strong network of mid-sized firms, establishing a presence across geographies and practice areas, which ultimately benefit the clients they serve.”

Mackrell International, with 80 law firm members in 55 countries, brings together over 4,000 lawyers from independent law firms through its various actions. The AGM is the culmination of the work that happens globally all year.

“We are very proud that the largest-ever gathering of Mackrell International delegates would take place at the initiative of Polsinelli Shughart and particularly as Marty Harper comes to the end of his period as chair of our network,” said Mackrell International Managing Director Clive Miéville. “We are delighted to be here!”

Reporters will be able to find story ideas about the following topics:

• Phoenix as an international destination for business
• The realities of Phoenix businesses conducting business internationally
• Differences and similarities of lawyers in America versus other countries
• Phoenix attorney Marty Harper who serves as the chair of Mackrell can speak on the importance of global business relationships and help provide international attorneys for media interviews

Note to editors: Media interested in attending should contact Molly Edwards at medwards@polsinelli.com or via phone at 602.650-2338.

About Polsinelli Shughart PC

With more than 530 attorneys, Polsinelli Shughart PC (www.polsinelli.com) is a national law firm that is a recognized leader in the areas of business law, financial services, real estate and business litigation. Serving corporate, institutional and individual clients, Polsinelli Shughart is redefining the business of law by sharing ideas, goals and outcomes with its clients. The firm builds enduring relationships by creating value through legal services – with passion, ingenuity and a sense of urgency. The firm has offices located in Kansas City; St. Louis; Phoenix; Chicago; Denver; Washington, D.C.; New York; Wilmington, Del.; Overland Park, Kan.; St. Joseph, Springfield, and Jefferson City, Mo.; Topeka, Kan.; and Edwardsville, Ill.

About Mackrell International
Mackrell International (www.mackrell.net) is one of the world’s premier networks of independent legal firms. Membership enables our members to provide their clients with legal services at home and abroad. With member firms in 51 countries, Mackrell International gives clients access to 4,000 lawyers worldwide providing a seamless legal service wherever the client needs it.
The organization has increased its representation by 35% in the last three years by adding new firms to our network, particularly in Eastern Europe and in both North and South America. Expansion continues in the Middle East – Israel and Dubai are now on board – and representation is growing in other key areas of the world, such as Africa and Central America.