Finis: Our icon for the My Last Word column in Arizona Attorney Magazine

Finis: Our icon for the My Last Word column

On this last day of August, I pause to praise a piece of writing in our July/August issue—and to praise the column it inhabits.

Longtime readers of Arizona Attorney Magazine will know that the name of our occasional back-page column is “The Last Word”—so named when we have one of our three primary columnists writing.

But we also invite any attorney—or non-attorney—to write a single column when the mood strikes them. On those months, we call the column “My Last Word.” And it has become one of my favorite places in the magazine.

I think I enjoy the surprise and discovery, as multiple people inevitably have inevitable viewpoints.

In that space, we have had people write on all sorts of things. And this month, attorney Gary Fry muses on—the act of musing. He wonders—as we should—whether we take enough time to do exactly that. Or are we too caught up in the minutiae of daily life to pause and reflect.

You can read his essay here. And if you want, you then can start at the other end of the issue; here’s the first page. Enjoy.

Gary also reminds me how much I enjoy the incredible photography of Jeff Wall. Here is a story about him and his process.

One piece of his I enjoy very much is called “Picture for Women,” which takes the dialogue about “the male gaze” in a decidedly modern direction. Here it is:

Picture for Women, by Jeff Wall (via Wikimedia Commons)

Picture for Women, by Jeff Wall (via Wikimedia Commons)

Here is a description of the work, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Picture for Women is a 142.5 × 204.5 cm cibachrome transparency mounted on a lightbox. Along with The Destroyed Room, Wall considers Picture for Women to be his first success in challenging photographic tradition. According to Tate Modern, this success allows Wall to reference “both popular culture (the illuminated signs of cinema and advertising hoardings) and the sense of scale he admires in classical painting. As three-dimensional objects, the lightboxes take on a sculptural presence, impacting on the viewer’s physical sense of orientation in relationship to the work.”

There are two figures in the scene, Wall himself, and a woman looking into the camera. In a profile of Wall in the The New Republic, art critic Jed Perl describes Picture for Women as Wall’s signature piece, “since it doubles as a portrait of the late-twentieth-century artist in his studio.” Art historian David Campany calls Picture for Women an important early work for Wall as it establishes central themes and motifs found in much of his later work.

A response to Manet’s Un bar aux Folies Bergère, the Tate Modern wall text for Picture of Women, from the 2005–2006 exhibition Jeff Wall Photographs 1978–2004, outlines the influence of Manet’s painting:

“In Manet’s painting, a barmaid gazes out of frame, observed by a shadowy male figure. The whole scene appears to be reflected in the mirror behind the bar, creating a complex web of viewpoints. Wall borrows the internal structure of the painting, and motifs such as the light bulbs that give it spatial depth. The figures are similarly reflected in a mirror, and the woman has the absorbed gaze and posture of Manet’s barmaid, while the man is the artist himself. Though issues of the male gaze, particularly the power relationship between male artist and female model, and the viewer’s role as onlooker, are implicit in Manet’s painting, Wall updates the theme by positioning the camera at the centre of the work, so that it captures the act of making the image (the scene reflected in the mirror) and, at the same time, looks straight out at us.”

Interesting, right? And because it’s fun to compare, here is Manet’s Un bar aux Folies Bergère:

Un bar aux Folies Bergère, by Edouard Manet (via Wikimedia Commons)

Un bar aux Folies Bergère, by Edouard Manet (via Wikimedia Commons)

If you or someone you know is interested in writing a 700-word column for the magazine, contact me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org. It doesn’t have to be on law, exactly, though it should resonate with attorneys—their careers or their wider lives.

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American Bar Association Bar Leadership Institute 2014 BLI logo

Last Friday, I had the chance to present to leaders of three sizes of bar associations—small, medium and large. Among the three, the best audience was those from bar associations that were —

Hold it. Let me pause before revealing who was the most engaged of my audiences at the ABA Bar Leadership Institute.

creating content that influences member engagement requires a plan and support.But I will tell you now that one thing I learned most as I prepared for my presentation was this: Everyone—even a bar president—seeks to be engaging. Even when we get the opportunity, though, we must have a plan, preparation and sufficient support to execute well.

To kick things off, here is what I opened with to each group:

“My modest charge this morning is to recommend ways for each of you to create phenomenal written content, fearlessly and with joy.”

“How hard can that be?” I may have continued.

It was a real privilege to be able to address attendees on one of their reported biggest concerns—Presidents’ messages or columns. My overall message to them—which I hope they appreciated—is that the primary job of a bar president is Chief Engagement Officer. And that there are techniques they could adopt that would help them create compelling content.

I wrote about this presentation a few weeks ago, and I thank those who offered suggestions for content and messages. As promised, those who shared ideas that I borrowed got a shout-out in my PowerPoint. Thank you especially to Dan Wise of the New Hampshire Bar, Brad Carr of the Alabama Bar, and Rick DeBruhl right here at the Arizona Bar. I also benefited from the insights of the past 15 years of Arizona Bar Presidents, a huge portion of whom responded generously to my queries about what makes an effective column.

My PowerPoint—minus its animated possibilities—is here. (It begins on the fourth page.) If I can figure out how, I may upload the robust version to SlideShare.

In my 14 years as editor at Arizona Attorney, I’ve read more than 150 such columns in our own magazine. Plus, I receive about 20 other bar magazines monthly—and yes, I try to read those, too. So I’ve come to be highly attuned to the challenge a president faces when she or he takes pen to paper. That’s why I ended my presentation with a toast (PowerPoint style).

Law and Order: "If you can lead your bar well, while making your practice thrive and keeping your family happy, I toast you."

“If you can lead your bar well, while making your practice thrive and keeping your family happy, I toast you.”

Finally, let me share the unofficial results of my assessment of audience engagement. I’d have to say that, all else being equal, the small and medium-sized bar groups were each highly engaged. If I were forced to choose, I suppose the medium group came in a nose ahead.

Let's give it up for ... the ABA BLI 2014 medium-bar group!

Let’s give it up for … the ABA BLI 2014 medium-bar group!

Both of those groups laughed and nodded in all the right places and ended with a bunch of questions. And the medium-bar group shouted out queries that even surprised me (“What was your favorite president’s column?” is something I am chagrined to say I had never considered—though I managed a response.)

Small but mighty: ... the ABA BLI 2014 small-bar group

Small but mighty … the ABA BLI 2014 small-bar group

So the large-bar group—my own people, you could say—take the number-three spot. But I won’t be too critical. After all, it was the final session of three, so they may have been a little shell-shocked. And as I headed into my third presentation, I faced a dry-mouth quandary, so my own delivery may have been on the decline. We got through it—together.

Don't be a (sleeping) giant ... the ABA BLI 2014 large-bar group

Don’t be a (sleeping) giant … the ABA BLI 2014 large-bar group

But what a privilege: To take some time to consider an important subject and to share ideas with smart and curious people—that may be one of the markers of a rewarding day job.

Tomorrow, I recommend to you the efforts of a law school that examines how the legal profession should be reinvented. I had heard of its work, but I learned more from someone who also spoke at the Bar Leadership Institute. But you’ll have to wait another day to know more.

magazine column dull + cats. What makes a compelling magazine column? Hmmm, let’s see. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two.

What makes a compelling magazine column? Hmmm, let’s see. The truth probably lies somewhere between these two.

I started out thinking today’s post was mainly for the lawyer readers. But now I’m not so sure.

In a few weeks, I’ll be presenting in Chicago at the American Bar Association’s annual Bar Leadership Institute. That’s where incoming leaders (often Presidents) of bar associations gather to get a crash course in numerous elements that go into guiding associations of attorneys.

My charge is to lend insight into what makes A-1 written materials—op-ds, letters to the editor, and the oft-feared President’s Message.

For the uninitiated, the President’s Message is a column-length essay published in a bar association’s magazine, newspaper or newsletter.

That message gives more agida to incoming leaders than virtually any other part of the job. And why shouldn’t it? Bar leaders are adept at many parts of the new job: They know how to run meetings, garner support and reach consensus (OK, “adept” may be a stretch). But how many of them have written a column?

Of course, most people have a good column in them. We have a powerful hankering to share the One Big Idea that has guided us, in life and practice. Without doubt, we can hit that column out of the park.

OK, that takes care of Month 1. Whatcha got for the other 11 months of your year? Gulp.

magazine column visual - Is it too much to expect bar leaders to write less and to think visually? Probably. Because law.

Is it too much to expect bar leaders to write less and to think visually? Probably. Because law.

I’ve read and edited President’s columns since 2000 (and I write my own monthly column; here’s January’s), so I have a pretty strong sense of what makes a good leader essay. But many of you read them; what do you think?

Because one of my messages to the presidents will be to crowdsource great ideas, today I am practicing what I preach. So …

In publications you enjoy (legal or not), what causes you to read a column (rather than a feature article)? What draws you in? What repels your gaze? Put another way:

  • What is the one piece of advice you would give a column writer?
  • What kind of content or approach do you find draws you in and leads you to respond?

If you have a thought that is not captured in my questions, please feel free to share that instead.

I am developing my presentation now. I’d be pleased to share your insight with the BLI attendees. And if I use your idea, I will credit you in my PowerPoint—so there; you, too, will be published!