A big thank-you to Patty Johnson, at Connections Marketing & Communications, for passing on the following news:

Under the leadership of Justice Sandra O’Connor, the Avon Program for Women and Justice at the O’Connor House launched the Volunteer Lawyers Network in May 2012 to assist victims of domestic violence with legal issues like protective orders, child custody and bankruptcy, which often keep them trapped in abusive situations.

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor at the kickoff reception of the Volunteer Lawyers Network program through the Avon Program for Women and Justice and the O’Connor House. (L to R: Kim Sterling, Justice O’Connor, Allen Kimbrough and Lucia Howard)

The new program is a collaboration of organizations and volunteers, including Community Legal Services, volunteer lawyers, the state and county Bar Associations, the Halle Center for Family Justice and Lewis and Roca, which signed on as the first law firm to sponsor the project.

Justice O’Connor extended her personal “thank you” at the kick-off event to the volunteers, who will be paired with more experienced lawyers and law students to form “teams” to assist victims unable to get legal representation.

Justice O’Connor noted that this project was another example of what is possible through collaboration. “I believe there is a great deal of talent and compassion in Arizona, and if we work together we can find creative solutions to many of the problems facing our community.”

If you wanted to explore one component of the legal community that may serve as a bellwether for many others, you’d be wise to select corporate counsel.

These are the people on the leading edge of the economy, who have a sense when to hire lawyers and law firms freely, and when to take care of things in-house. They often interact with government and regulatory agencies, and they may know in a very direct way which way juries are tending. They can tell us a lot about the economy, government–business interaction, and the health of the legal market.

For those and other reasons, the Legal Marketing Association Southwest Chapter was wise to host another in its great series of Corporate Counsel Roundtables last week. (Before the event occurred, I wrote about it here.)

I was privileged to be asked to moderate the lunchtime conversation, and it was a hoot and a half. In fact, I couldn’t resist one of my dorkier pleasures: taking a cell-phone photo of the attendees as they watched me and the panel.

Legal professionals wondering why their photo is being taken

The praise for the great event goes to the three lawyers willing to sit in a hot seat and answer questions from me and the attendees.

Once again, let me thank:

Understand, these guys all have day jobs that keep them pretty swamped. Taking time out of a week with few minutes to spare is a great service. And, once there, they brought their “A” game. Each of them shared great insight and anecdotes on a range of topics the audience wanted to know. And then they added humor, to boot.

If there is a definition of “good job,” it would be the ability to work with people who take their work seriously without taking themselves too seriously. Thank you, John, Mike and Larry, for letting me have a good job on Thursday.

Thanks also to Kristi Phillips and the staff at Lewis and Roca, who shared their offices and their talents. Events like these take a huge amount of planning, and they handled it all with grace. (They were even kind enough to wrap me a plate of food to go, as I hadn’t gotten a chance to eat—thanks, Anna!).

Finally, thanks to AZ Business Magazine. Though I am most pleased to be able to tout my own publication, I have to send them my gratitude for sponsoring the event. Here’s looking to more of that kind of synergy in the future.

Between now and Thursday, I am developing a list of questions that may inspire and entertain during a lunch-panel presentation. And I’m hoping you can help.

And you may get a free lunch out of it.

On Thursday, I will moderate a panel of corporate general counsel at a gathering at Lewis and Roca in Phoenix. The event is another in a series put on by the Legal Marketing Association—Southwest Chapter. And it is sponsored by AZ Business Magazine.

As editor of Arizona Attorney Magazine, I was privileged to be asked to moderate a discussion before an audience of lawyers and legal marketers.

As I write this, the panelist list is still evolving. But they will include:

The LMA is a great organization, and they kindly provided me a list of possible questions. I’m reviewing and adopting them now. But I wanted to ask you: If you could sit a GC or two down in front of you, what would you ask them?

Have at it. You may have questions about how they hire outside counsel. Or about whether law firms committed to diversity fare better in such searches. Or if corporations are demanding alternatives to the billable hour—or if that is a lot of national blather.

Send me a question or two. (Post them below, or write to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.)

And if you can, consider attending. You can register here.

Finally, here’s a chance to combine the two. Send me a question by Wednesday at noon and I will randomly select a submitter to receive one free ticket to the event.

Lawyer Melissa Ho, center, following her keynote speech at the Asian LEAD Academy graduation. Also pictured: community supporter Claudia Kaercher (left) and program coordinator Norean Sablan

An educational event in late June exposed a group of young people to a variety of leadership possibilities. And an important part of that gathering was a peek into the world of courts and lawyers.

The Asian LEAD Academy at Arizona State University provides high school kids and incoming college freshmen the chance to learn in a wide range of areas. Much of the focus is instruction in the Asian American experience (though it is open to students of all ethnicities).

You can read more about it here and here.

Held the last two weeks of June, the academy culminated in a mock trial performed by the high school students. They spent days preparing their cases, and the resulting theater, staged at the Phoenix Municipal Court, was a terrific example of civic engagement by future leaders.

Kirstin Story

(I am compelled to confess my family’s involvement in the academy: My wife, an ASU associate professor, taught one of the seminars. And our 15-year-old daughter was a participant; she wrote and delivered the prosecution closing argument, and as long as I’m disclosing fully, she was phenomenal!)

As I see it, a significant benefit of the program is the exposure it affords young people to the legal profession. And in that regard, I have to tender kudos to a few people.

Kirstin Story is a lawyer at Lewis and Roca, and she gave days of her time preparing the students for the trial; it could never have happened without her.

Matthew Meaker

And Matthew Meaker is a Scottsdale lawyer with the Andante Law Group who served extremely well as the guest judge. He guided the youngsters and used many of the trial events, like objections, as teaching moments.

Finally, Melissa Ho delivered a rousing keynote address at the academy’s closing luncheon and graduation. The Polsinelli Shughart lawyer provided a refreshing antidote to the all-too-common perception that lawyers are unhappy with their work. Melissa—who also serves on the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors—explained the value of remaining connected with others who have shared your experience. And she invited any of the graduates to contact her in the future as they find their own path.

Congratulations, and thanks, to all the participants.

Melissa Ho

To see more photos, go to the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

Asian LEAD Mock Trial participants

Last week was the National Pro Bono Celebration. In honor of that event sponsored by the American Bar Association, we posted stories on lawyers who have stepped up to help at the Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project. In doing that, we got additional ideas sent our way. So this week, we will publish a few more stories about these stand-up lawyers.

Lawyers travel many paths to become someone who offers help to those in need. Often, the gap between legal services and those whose lives depend on it is brought to their attention. In other situations, the lawyer seeks out the gap and plunges in to fill it.

David Krupski, Lewis and Roca

David Krupski is a products liability lawyer at Lewis and Roca in Phoenix. In his day-to-day practice involving pharmaceutical and medical devices, it is safe to say that clients in that industry get top-notch legal service. But even before Krupski launched himself into that practice, he sought to help others.

“I wanted a strong commitment to pro bono,” Krupski says. “And I sought it out in a firm.”

That desire to work at a place with a pro bono commitment took him to Lewis and Roca.

It was two summers ago, Krupski explains, that he took on an asylum case that came from the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project. (Though that case is completed, he currently has another pro bono case through the Volunteer Lawyers Program.)

Details of the two-year-old case are still fresh in Krupski’s mind—and for good reason. The facts of his African client’s life and struggle were tragic. They included a father who left the family when the youngster was about 1—and burned the family house to the ground as he left. The boy left home when he was 5 or 6, and was completely on his own since age 8. His life by that point had been marked by deprivation and abuse at the hands of his mother and siblings.

Eventually and a world away, the young man found himself in Arizona a few months shy of his 18th birthday. Krupski filed a petition for asylum for his client, which eventually was granted. Along the way, he had to address a number of issues, including the difficulty of establishing identity.

That issue is always a difficult one, the lawyer says, in cases where the client is a refugee. It was made more difficult by the young age at which his client left home, and the fact that he had absent and uncooperative parents.

Krupski doesn’t hesitate when he’s asked what he took away from the experience.

“It’s about helping people who couldn’t help themselves.”

The Lewis and Roca associate says he very much enjoys his law practice. “But getting the opportunity to help a person who is in a lot of trouble—that is on an entirely different level.”

To offer your legal services to the Florence Project pro bono, contact Tally Kingsnorth, a staff attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator, at tkingsnorth@firrp.org

Staff and Interns of the Florence Project