A cybersecurity panel discussion offered some tips and many warnings, Fennemore Craig, Phoenix, Ariz., May 14, 2015.

A cybersecurity panel discussion offered some tips and many warnings, Fennemore Craig, Phoenix, Ariz., May 14, 2015.

How concerned should we be about the sorry results that may befall us if we suffer a cybersecurity breach?

However bad you think things could be, they’re probably going to be worse.

That’s the challenging takeaway I got from a panel discussion on cyber due diligence. It was hosted at Fennemore Craig on May 14, and it included speakers from the firm, prosecutors’ offices, and security firm Kroll.

(The June issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine contains some practical takeaways on cybersecurity preparedness. Read the complete article by attorney Paul Stoller.)

At the Fennemore event, FBI Special Agent Martin Hellmer urged attendees to consider whether their computers housing sensitive data must even “touch the Internet.” Instead, he said, “air-gapped” computers may fill your needs.

“Threats are very real and everywhere,” he said. “Chances are, if your computers are regularly on the Net, and even if you’re regularly patched, you’ve probably been hacked.”

Generations of FBI-watchers hearken back to their work tracking down bank-robbers. But Hellmer said times have changed.

“It’s a great time to be a criminal in the cyberworld. Why someone would walk into a bank today with a note and a gun, I don’t know. Instead, you could sit in the comfort of your own home and steal millions of dollars from someone on the other side of the world.”

Cybersecurity panel at Fennemore Craig, May 14, 2015, L to R: Jim Knapp, U.S. Attorney's Office; Jonathan Fairtlough, Kroll; Sarah Strunk, Fennemore Craig; Martin Hellmer, FBI; and Melvin Glapion, Kroll.

Cybersecurity panel at Fennemore Craig, May 14, 2015, L to R: Jim Knapp, U.S. Attorney’s Office; Jonathan Fairtlough, Kroll; Sarah Strunk, Fennemore Craig; Martin Hellmer, FBI; and Melvin Glapion, Kroll.

Jonathan Fairtlough of Kroll described the “common vulnerabilities and exploits”—“CVEs”—that are most often seen. They include ransomware, spearfish attacks, and “social engineering”—that is, calling customer service and claiming you “can’t find your password”; it works more often than companies like to admit.

Fairtlough added that last year’s large-scale data breaches involved ransom demands seeking bitcoin.

Kroll’s Melvin Glapion reitereated that “Every cyber problem is a human problem.” In fact, 80 percent of breaches include some form of insider (including vendors and consultants). Given that, companies must ask, “Who are we locking inside the gate?”

Another problem may arise via the BYOD movement—which urges companies to allow employees to bring their own device and to use those multiple devices to connect to company servers.

Glapion told the story of a director and screenwriter for Twilight series who refused to be on Sony Pictures’ computer system, opting instead to use their own device. That gap in security, plus a successful phishing expedition, was all that hackers needed to get access to daily updates of scenes during shooting, and even multiple versions of screenplays.

Fortunately, Glapion said, the hacking was done not by criminals with evil intent, but by fans who were obsessed with actor Robert Pattinson (and who hated his co-star Kristen Stewart).

“Those teen girls had the keys to the kingdom,” Glapion said. And your system may be just as exposed.

Also on the panel were Jim Knapp of the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He—like Kroll representatives—urged companies that had been hacked to contact the authorities.

Knapp said, “You do NOT lose control of your case if you call the feds.” Because the company is a victim, the prosecutors will keep you apprised of every step.

The prosecutor also suggested all of us to use “stock false answers” to those multiple password questions we all face. That way, “correct” and accurate answers cannot be ferreted out by hackers examining your life via social media.

Thanks and congratulations to Fennemore Director Sarah Strunk for gathering together such a helpful panel.

Here are a few images of slides from the presentation:

Cyber security Fennemore 3 presentation slideCyber security Fennemore 4 presentation slide

Do you know what’s sexy in business? Understanding and addressing complexity. Schwing! (Image: Wikimedia Commons, which is all about the sexiness of sharing)

Do you know what’s sexy in business? Understanding and addressing complexity. Schwing! (Image: Wikimedia Commons, which is all about the sexiness of sharing)

Regular readers of this blog know that on Fridays, I sometimes seek an item that is lighter than my usual legal fare. Why have a heavy lawyerly meal when you’d really prefer a lighter snack?

Well, there are lighter days, and then there’s this. Under the strictures of the International Guild of Blog Creators and Purveyors (Local 4201), I am obligated to share with you the following news: In a highly unscientific manner, a human occupation has been deemed the … wait for it … world’s sexiest job.

Lawyers clock in at no. 4 on the got-it-going-ohhhnnn scale. But that’s not what is troubling here. Not even close.

First, head over to the interwebs for the story. It’s everywhere, so why don’t you try the Phoenix Business Journal? They provide a slideshow of those oh-so-sexy jobs in a hot-hot-hot top 10 list. And they manage to lead off with some stock art that I would guess they located by using search terms like “male, white, glasses, inappropriate office attire, pecs.” (You’re welcome, Biz Journal, for the SEO-service I’m offering here.)

If you like the beefcake but are simply too tired to click through, here is the list, from ice-cube chilly to steamin’ hot:

Engineer, architect, marketing/advertising executive, real estate developer, physician, business consultant, attorney, software developer, financial adviser, and … CEO/entrepreneur.

Where do we begin to unpack this unsexiness sandwich?

First, you really should look at what I believed was the stock art used for “attorney.” In fact, here it is (drawn, I guessed at first, from search terms like white, suit and powerful).

The Phoenix Business Journal's photo to exemplify its "attorney" category.

The Phoenix Business Journal’s photo to exemplify its “attorney” category.

Of course, why spend money on stock art when lawyer websites are filled with the real thing? And hey, that’s the identical photo on the website of Fennemore Craig! Don’t believe me?! Say hi to attorney John Balitis. A screenshot of his firm’s web page is below, along with the Business Journal’s slideshow.

I really hope John doesn’t take it personally. I mean, if national rankers had seen his toothsome photo, lawyers’ ranking would be much higher than 4!

So that takes me to the obvious issue—no, not the “interesting” state of business journalism, but the question of where this occupational ranking came from in the first place.

It came from here, the What’s Your Price website, where people pay for dates; more attractive people garner higher payouts. You can set your fee and (perhaps) get taken out. Hmmm. That sounds familiar. In fact, their business model sounds a lot like the world’s oldest profession.

screenshot what's your price

Yes, do read the small print on the bottom.

So it was “data” from this site that yielded the sexiness assessments. I mean. I can’t. I can’t even.

Adding to my skepticism is the fact that a few of these jobs must have been as amorphous and unclear to those who are willing to “date for dollars” as they are to the rest of us. I mean, “business consultant”? “Financial adviser”? Why don’t we just tell people we’re an importer/exporter and watch the dating dollars flow in?

OK, here is a final point that may salvage this Change of Venue Friday from what appear to be the dregs of a declining civilization: I wondered: Why do business publications care so much about the sexiest occupations?

It’s true; they do. As (more) evidence, here is none other than the Harvard Business Review examining the sexiest job in the 21st century. In case you were wondering (and I know you were) that job is not CEO/entrepreneur, or attorney. That job is … data scientist.

What is a data scientist? No one knows. But in 3,600 words or so, two educated fellows clue us in.

Bored? Between paid dates? Take some time to read their opus and let me know what they say. I simply couldn’t.

But I did zip down to the end to read their bios. And uh-huh, you’re right. One of the authors is a data scientist. The hot one, I assume.

Have a great—and data-driven—weekend. I’ll be importing/exporting, in case anyone wants to buy me a drink.

Wordcrimes 1 Weird Al Yankovic video

Nothing lightens a busy week’s load like a grammar lesson.

Hmmm, scratch that. Instead:

Nothing lightens a busy week’s load like “Weird Al” Yankovic.

That’s more like it.

OK, even if you’re not a “Weird Al” fan, you may enjoy his video take on the importance of grammar (didn’t see that coming, did you?)

(And before I forget to ask, how many decades do we have to see “Weird Al” Yankovic in this country before we’re able to simply drop the apostrophes? Odd, don’t you think? Probably a legal name, like somewhere in performance history, there’s already an Equity actor named Weird Al, no apostrophe. Oh well, back to our regularly scheduled programming.)

Here, in one compact video, Al points out a wide variety of the grammatical missteps folks make every day.

Hat tip to Fennemore Craig attorney Chad Mead for alerting me to “Weird Al’s” great public service.

Have a terrific—and wordcrime-free—weekend.

Wordcrimes 2 Weird Al Yankovic video

[This article was edited 4/8/14 to reflect the fact that the dancers represented a lion, not a dragon. There is a traditional lion dance and a traditional dragon dance. Here is some information on the lion dance, performed at the APALSA event.]

Yes, that is a dragon at a legal event. Why do you ask? APALSA banquet dragon 1 04-05-14

Yes, that is a lion at a legal event. Why do you ask?

It never fails to amaze how often those new to a profession lead the way.

That’s what occurred to me last Saturday evening, as I attended the first-ever banquet of the Asian Pacific American Law Student Association (APALSA) of Arizona Summit Law School.

Out of the box, the talented law students took to heart a few of the most important lessons of professional event planning. Experienced (long in the tooth) planners, take note.

Here are three of those lessons, gleaned from Saturday’s gathering:

1. Food: Good, easy, relevant

Your legal event need not have food and drink. But if you go down that road, bring it, would you, please?

APALSA Asian Pacific American Law Students Assn logoAPALSA brought it, indulging its guests with terrific dishes from the Curry Corner. (Would it kill you to Like them on Facebook?)

This is how terrific their combination of various Asian foods was: I had planned to snack lightly at the event, as I had promised my younger daughter that we would get a bite together afterward. As I strolled the buffet line, though, that plan went out the window. Yes, I did get my daughter dinner later; but all my senses insisted that I eat a full meal at the APALSA banquet. And so I did.

A special shout out to law student Mary Tran, who hand-crafted a Thai iced tea that was the perfect complement to the meal. As I sit here Tuesday, I know my morning would be improved mightily by a glass of that!

All of the food and drink (plus the open bar) contributed to an evening of celebration and cultural identity. Nicely done.

2. Speaker: Smart, funny, brief

Let me be the first to say it: More Jared Leung, please.

Jared Leung

Jared Leung

The evening’s keynote was the Fennemore Craig lawyer, and he caught our attention in two ways.

First, he opened by admiring and critiquing the bathrooms in Fennemore Craig’s new-ish space. Restroom-talk is not the typical go-to intro for legal keynotes, but it got our attention as he described the difficulty some have mastering the motion-activated sinks. Leung’s message was about the importance of finding the sweet spot in our professional lives.

And that’s why Leung carried a tennis racquet (his second unique approach) up to the microphone.

“What are you comfortable doing as a lawyer?” he asked the assembled law students. “What is your thing?”

“If we just all stick with what we’re comfortable with,” he continued, “our growth will be limited.”

Punctuating his point with a tennis swing, he offered a story about a Queen Creek high school football player, Carson Jones, who, with some teammates, opted to stand up for a bullied special-needs classmate. (Read the story here.)

“Here we have a 16-year-old showing us how it should be done,” Leung said, explaining how Jones’s actions required courage. He reminded the students that law school and the legal profession offer ongoing opportunities to decide how and when to do the right thing.

Jared Leung delivers the keynote address (with tennis racquet) at the APALSA banquet, April 5, 2014.

Jared Leung delivers the keynote address (with tennis racquet) at the APALSA banquet, April 5, 2014.

“Get out of your comfort zone, and find the sweet spot. Someday I’ll learn from you.”

With a smile, Leung noted that he (like the rest of us) already was doing just that.

3. Lions: Yes, please

No, I suppose you’re right. Every legal event need not have a Chinese lion and a traditional lion dance. It might be odd to spring that on Bar Convention attendees.

But the APALSA banquet had one, and the articulated, two-man operation teaches us volumes about connecting with your audience.

First, it had obvious relevance to the association, and its presence was certainly evocative for many at the banquet.

APALSA President Vic Reid speaks at annual banquet, April 5, 2014.

APALSA President Vic Reid speaks at annual banquet, April 5, 2014.

But more important, it provided a lift in spirits—aurally and visually—that far too many bar events overlook. I’ve heard for too many years that legal affairs must be serious business—and then watched as attendees nodded off or checked their email during sonorous speeches.

No one checked email as the dragon marched about the room, demanding attention and collecting donations to the ASU Asian LEAD Academy. No one nodded off as the terrific DJ filled the room with music.

After all, the spirit is not fed only by footnotes and legal speeches. For your next event, consider a lion. Or maybe learn from TED talks. Or at least (please!) have some Thai iced tea.

Congratulations to APALSA and its president, Vicente Reid Y Lugto, and the whole board. I’m already looking forward to next year’s event.

Spot the lawyer: I also got the oportunity to pose with Asian community leaders and a talented Chinese dragon.

Spot the lawyer: I also got the opportunity to pose with Asian American community leaders and a talented Chinese lion.


Can an iPad help your law practice?

Arizona has been abuzz over the opening of what some describe as an Apple plant (although, if we take off our booster hat, it’s really a non-Apple manufacturing facility. But that’s OK.)

As I followed the fascinating story (and how a school board in Gilbert nearly put the kibosh on the whole deal; read here and here), I was pleased to see how an Arizona law firm has been featured by Apple.

Of course, Apple is always pleased to relate stories of how folks in business make great use of its iPad. After all, it wasn’t so long ago that folks tended to think of the product as a luxury item that was enjoyable but not business-centered. (Yes, we at Arizona Attorney Magazine have tried to convey the contrary view, but lawyers can be resistant.)

That’s why I was doubly pleased at the coverage given to Phoenix law firm Fennemore Craig, especially via a case study (published in 2012) and a cool new video featuring partner James Goodnow.

(Viewing the great coverage of Fennemore by Apple, I asked the firm if it received any benefits from being in the Apple campaign. I got a response from one of the firm’s communications pro, the extremely helpful Linda Vejnoska, a senior account executive at R&R Partners, who confirmed that “the firm did not get any enticement or discount from Apple.” But how did the two get connected? “A story about Fennemore’s usage of the iPad was in the Republic,” Linda continued, “which got picked up on the Gannett wire, and Apple actually called Fennemore.” Thanks, Linda!)

Because Apple is nothing if not multimedia, why don’t you start by clicking here to watch the video.

James Goodnow (on left), Director, Fennemore Craig. (Photo: Apple)

James Goodnow (on left), Director, Fennemore Craig. (Photo: Apple)

And here’s an excerpt from the case study that describes the work of Goodnow and partner Marc Lamber:

“Lamber and Goodnow, who focus on catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases, provide iPads to clients creating instant ‘red phone’ access to the Fennemore Craig legal team. The iPads enable clients to provide key information as it happens such as photos, video logs and signed release forms. It’s instant access to information for clients to receive and provide information and a lifeline helps level the playing field against those with limited resources. In courtroom situations, they can link their iPads to multimedia systems bringing exhibits and presentations to life on individual screens for juries, opposing counsel and the judge.”

Here’s more from the case study:

“If there’s one thing lawyers have too much of, it’s paper; boxes and binders, folders and reams and piles of paper. But at Fennemore Craig, a full-service legal firm based in Phoenix, Arizona, iPad is enabling them to go paperless, saving money and becoming more efficient.”

“‘You used to have three or four copies of everything,’ explains Marc Lamber, one of the firm’s Directors and Chairman of the Plaintiffs’ Personal Injury Practice Group. ‘You could have ten thousand pages of documents for each case. But now it’s on the iPad. You want to highlight a document, underline something, annotate it, or add a note that this page is important? Now you can do all that on an iPad.’”

Keep reading here.

That all makes me wonder: How is technology transforming your practice? Maybe you’re handling matters in an innovative way—so much so that we should cover your work in 2014 via our NextLaw coverage.

Curious about NextLaw? I’ll write more about it in the coming week.

Contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Telescope in the new Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge. What's next for the profession?

Telescope in the new Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge. What’s next for the profession?

We’re all wondering what direction the legal profession is heading. Is its foundation sound, or are there cracks that threaten the entire structure?

That’s kind of a heavy concept for Change of Venue Friday. So instead, I will simply share the direction that law firm Fennemore Craig is heading.


Fennemore Craig Managing Partner Tim Berg addresses a pcked room at the new-office reception, June 11, 2013.

Fennemore Craig Managing Partner Tim Berg addresses a pcked room at the new-office reception, June 11, 2013.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

On Tuesday, I attended the firm’s new office reception. Or, more accurately, their new building reception, as they now occupy all the floors (save some first-floor space) in their new digs across from the Biltmore Fashion Park.

Their location is now 2394 East Camelback Road, Phoenix (Suite 600).

The event, hosted by managing partner Tim Berg, was nicely done. The spaces are bright and modern, and the walls are lined with the firm’s collection of striking art. Though I always liked their old offices on Central Avenue (in the building that once housed Phoenix’s Playboy Club), this looks like quite a nice building.

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 3The firm’s executive director, Kathy Hancock, gave me a tour of the spaces. She demonstrated how the building’s shape dictated that offices now come in quite a variety of shapes. Some lawyers, I’d guess, might take a tape measure to the square footage to assess “parity,” but the diversity of spaces is kind of refreshing.

Kathy also pointed out how the firm had reduced its huge trove of print law books. And those that remain have been divided and shared throughout the building. No more will the firm have a single large library. Instead, the volumes are housed near the relevant lawyers and practice areas, aiding ready access.

She also showed me the building’s less-traveled spaces, which houses the multiplicity of back-end tasks that keep a law firm moving. That space includes kitchens, including catering spaces, storage, and a staff lunch room that is large, sunny, well stocked and adjacent to a large outdoor deck.

In contrast, the lawyer lounge is quite a bit ritzier (click the photos below to enlarge). No surprise there. But the surprise came when I compared the sizes of the spaces. Seating and lighting may be more mod in the lawyer space, but that lounge is pretty diminutive in size—apropos in a profession where attorneys are encouraged to stretch their legs for a bit, but not get carried away and forget the work awaiting them in their office.

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 1

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge

Fennemore Craig lawyer lounge 2

One charming feature of the lawyer lounge is a beautiful telescope on a tripod. It reminded me that all law firms must be seeking tools to gaze forward and predict the future of this profession. The telescopic view I gained from that lounge was merely a close-up of Macy’s department store—and Camelback Mountain beyond. The next few years will show which firms have raised their gaze even higher. Success in a changing marketplace will require it.

For some contrast, I share below one vintage photo of Fennemore Craig lawyers. Even if they had possessed the Hubble Telescope, I doubt they could have envisioned the profession as it is today.

Fennemore Craig lawyers, closer to their beginnings 127 years ago.

Fennemore Craig lawyers, closer to their beginnings 127 years ago.

I will leave you with one gulp-inducing fact Kathy shared with me: In the process of moving the 127-year-old firm, their leadership took a hard look at paper materials, deciding what had to be saved and what could be discarded. Ultimately, Kathy says, the firm threw out 15 tons of paper in various forms.

15 tons.

As I type, I am surrounded by my own stacks, as I’m sure you are. I must admit I have never taken a scale to them, but I blanch at the thought of the extra weight associated with my work.

Look around. How heavy are you?

Have a great weekend.

Tomorrow, law firm Fennemore Craig, among others, will be honored for its commitment to improving the numbers of women lawyers in its leadership positions.

Pictured: Five of the Fennemore Craig women equity partners (and their office locations), L to R: Amanda Cowley (Las Vegas), Sarah Strunk (Phoenix), Laurel Davis (Las Vegas), Ann Morgan (Reno), Jodi Goodheart (Las Vegas), Sue Chetlin (Phoenix)

In the October Arizona Attorney, we are running a small item about the Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) awards. We noted that nine firms with Arizona offices reached the Gold Standard. However, in the state only Fennemore Craig excelled in the award’s six criteria.

Congratulations to Fennemore and all the firms that will be honored tomorrow in New York City. Here is more news from the firm on the achievement.

Women in Law Empowerment Forum recognizes firm’s commitment to women

PHOENIX  The Women in Law Empowerment Forum (WILEF) will honor Fennemore Craig for integrating women into leadership positions at its Gold Standard Awards Luncheon September 12 at the Yale Club in New York City. Twenty-six percent of the equity partners are women across Fennemore Craig’s six offices in Arizona, Colorado and Nevada.

According to Elizabeth Anne Tursi, national chair of WILEF, Fennemore Craig is one of three of nationwide certification winners that met or exceeded all six criteria set by WILEF. There were a total of 50 firms that received the Gold Standard Certification.

Half of the committee members responsible for managing Fennemore Craig are female partners, bypassing the 20 percent award criteria established by WILEF. Additionally over a quarter of the firm’s equity partners and department heads are women.

Firms of 100 or more lawyers in the United States are invited to apply for the Gold Standard certification. Law firms must meet three of the six specific criteria to become eligible for the award. Applicants are required to demonstrate that women account for at least 20 percent of the firm’s equity partnership and show that they hold positions of power and serve on committees.

Sarah Strunk

“At Fennemore Craig, we work actively to develop, recruit, and retain a diverse group of attorneys,” said Sarah Strunk, director and management committee member at Fennemore Craig.  She adds, “The firm devotes substantial time and resources to developing talent and leadership in all of its attorneys and is committed to maintaining gender equity in the ranks of its attorneys. We are honored to receive the 2012 WILEF Gold Standard Certification.” Strunk will accept the award for the firm in New York on September 12.

We got word this week that a law firm has received a prestigious award.

Fennemore Craig has been given the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project’s Pro Bono Leadership Award.

I have written before about the Florence Project, including the contributions to its clients made by Fennemore Craig attorneys.

Congratulations to the firm, and to all lawyers who give freely of their time to deserving causes.

Here is the complete press release:

Fennemore Craig recognized for work with Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project

Phoenix, AZ, Jan. 31, 2011— Fennemore Craig has been given the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project’s Pro Bono Leadership Award.

The award recognizes Fennemore Craig’s volunteer work and help to develop Florence Project Programs. Fennemore Craig attorneys took eight case referrals from the Florence Project in 2010. Fennemore Craig lawyers who worked pro bono on Florence Project cases are McKenzie Brown, Jason Covault, Andrew Breavington, Todd Allison, Meredith Marder, Jake Cranston, Jason Spect and Carrie Pixler.

The Florence Project provides legal assistance to people who are detained in the United States immigration system and who cannot afford a lawyer. Many refugees have fled their countries because they fear imprisonment, torture, or death because of their ethnic identity, religion or political beliefs.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency keeps many refugees in correctional facilities in Florence and Eloy while their cases are pending, sometimes for over a year. Pro bono assistance is required because immigration detainees do not have a right to government-appointed lawyers.

Fennemore Craig is a full service law firm for businesses with nearly 200 attorneys and offices in Phoenix, Tucson, Nogales, Las Vegas and Denver. For more information, visit http://www.fennemorecraig.com.

This week has been designated by the American Bar Association as the National Pro Bono Celebration. Today, we speak with a lawyer from Fennemore Craig who has taken on a client whose case came to the attention of the Florence Project. More stories on lawyer experiences will follow.

Jason Covault

For many attorneys, the law takes them to a focused area, both conceptually and geographically. There may be intellectual journeys, but they’re increasingly circumscribed as one’s practice develops. There may be opportunities to take the world atlas off the shelf, but once we locate Wilmington, Del., for our corporate clients, our search may be done.

A journey of a different magnitude was in store for Jason Covault, when he agreed to represent pro bono someone who was detained on an immigration matter. From his office at Fennemore Craig, the commercial litigator got the chance to examine affairs half a world away.

Covault did not hesitate when he was asked by his fellow associate Al Arpad to take a case that came to them from the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project.

“Florence selects cases carefully, and these are people who have a decent legal claim. But if they don’t have an attorney, it is very unlikely that they’ll win.”

Al Arpad

As a former prosecutor, Covault had experience arguing cases and questioning witnesses in an adversary proceeding. And he also was confident because of the resources available to him: The Florence Project bank of similar motions and declaration, as well as its network of lawyers and firms; online handbooks published by the U.S. Government; and his own firm’s extensive experience with immigration and detainee cases.

If the law appeared manageable, the facts of Covault’s case could be described as a curveball.

His client was a Somali man, younger than 20 years old. He had been displaced from his home when he was a child, and had been on a worldwide journey that took him eventually to ICE detention in Arizona.

Covault explains that the boy and his family had lived in Kismayo, a port town that is Somalia’s third-largest city. Their life was good, as his father was a high-level city official. But when a militant Islamist group, Al-Shabaab, took over the city, his father had to flee to Ethiopia.

The boy was “on the radar” of Al-Shabaab because of his father’s status and because the youth spoke English. He was captured and tortured, and then offered the chance to convert and fight with his captors. “In the narrow period of time he was given to think about it,” says Covault, he too escaped, to Ethiopia and to Kenya for a time. (A story in today’s New York Times reports that the Shabaab executed two teenaged girls—14 and 18—claiming that they were Ethiopian spies.)

Here in Arizona, the legal issues Covault had to address included identity (“always an issue,” he says, in cases where refugees fled and have no access to documents), whether his client would be discriminated against if he were returned to Somalia, and whether he had ever “firmly resettled” back in Ethiopia (for if he had, he may be in no danger to be returned there).

“The case took a lot longer than I expected,” admits Covault. To get through the initial hearing, he says, required only about 20 hours of legal work. But a government witness claimed that Covault’s client was Kenyan, leading the United States to want to deport him to that country. The judge continued the case, and the issue was eventually settled in his client’s favor. But the case took about 85 hours of pro bono time. The added issue also required more trips south to Florence—about six in total.

Susan Wissink

Covault is pleased to report a favorable outcome: The judge granted asylum, and the government waived its appeal.

He recommends the experience to other attorneys. He says that it was “solid litigation experience,” one he won’t soon forget. In fact, he just participated in a meeting with Fennemore’s newest associates. With Florence Pro Bono Coordinator Tally Kingsnorth, firm partner and Pro Bono Chair Susan Wissink and others, he described his experience and encouraged them to take a case.

“You definitely breathe a sigh of relief when you’re done,” he says. Because of what’s at stake, “It is more nerve-wracking than advocating for your corporate clients.” And in the process, Covault managed to earn a global education.

If you are considering offering your legal services to the Florence Project pro bono, contact Tally Kingsnorth, a staff attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator, at tkingsnorth@firrp.org

Tomorrow: Another lawyer’s story.