Florence Project logo 25 yearsTonight, I’ll be attending a great annual event: the Pro Bono Appreciation and Awards evening hosted by the Florence Immigrant & Refugee Rights Project.

It starts at 5:30, at Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP in downtown Phoenix. I hope to see you there.

Down below, I list those who will be honored tonight. They truly deserve the thanks of all of us for the work they do.

But before I get to those names: If we needed another example of how important the Project’s work is, a recent story from the New York Times provides it. It’s titled “It’s Children Versus Federal Lawyers in Immigration Court,” and you should read it here.

As the Project’s Executive Director, Lauren Dasse, points out in an email to supporters:

“I’m happy to share that the Florence Project’s work representing children was featured in last Sunday’s New York Times! These days, it seems that the only national news attention to immigration issues revolves around campaign promises. That’s why it was refreshing to hear from a reporter who wanted to write a story about immigrant and refugee children who have no right to government provided legal representation. I gladly shared about the Florence Project’s work, and about how we support efforts to increase representation for all immigrants in detention—men, women, and children.”

Lauren Dasse Executive Director The Florence Project

Lauren Dasse, Executive Director, The Florence Project

“The article focuses on a 15-year-old boy from El Salvador, whose dramatic story of escaping gang violence is one we hear from hundreds of children that we have helped over recent years. The article gives an overview of what children face in immigration court, if they can’t afford a lawyer, and how even children are expected to represent themselves. The boy was afraid to speak for himself in court, but he met a Florence Project attorney who offered assistance. Thankfully, we are able to represent him and he won’t have to go to court alone again.”

“We are closely following the efforts in federal court to obtain the right to government-provided counsel. In the meantime, we will continue our important work providing know your rights presentations, legal intakes, legal representation, and doing all we can to connect children and adults with lawyers.”

The Fire Line by Fernanda Santos Yarnell Hill Fire Granite Mountain Hotshots(It’s worth noting that the reporter on the article is Fernanda Santos, who also serves as the Times’ Arizona bureau chief. If her name sounds familiar for another reason, it may be due to her exemplary coverage of the Yarnell Hill Fire that took the lives of 19 firefighters. She later turned her breaking-news coverage into a moving and informative book about those men and the families they left behind. It’s titled The Fire Line: The Story of the Granite Mountain Hotshots and One of the Deadliest Days in American Firefighting, and I recommend it. You can read more about it and her here.)

Here, finally, are the names of the attorneys and firms to be honored tonight (photos down below):

  • Law Firm Partner of the Year: Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP
  • Lifetime Achievement Award: Anthony Pelino, Esq., Law Office of Anthony Pelino
  • Rookie Pro Bono of the Year: Adam Kaplan, Esq., Honeywell International Inc.
  • Adult Program Pro Bono of the Year: Lilia Alvarez, Esq., Alvarez Law PLC
  • Children’s Program Pro Bono of the Year: Brian Kim, Esq., Lewis Roca Rothgerber Christie LLP
  • Pro Bono All-Star: Sambo Dul, Esq., Perkins Coie LLP

If you can’t attend this evening but you know these folks, be sure to reach out with congratulations and thanks.

 

A March 10, 2016, forum heard from corporate chief legal officers. From L to R: Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson General Counsel; Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel; Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel; and Ahron Cohen, Barrett Jackson General Counsel.

A March 10, 2016, forum heard from corporate chief legal officers. From L to R: Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson General Counsel; Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel; Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel; and Ahron Cohen, Barrett Jackson General Counsel.

Among the things a lawyer audience appreciates the most are smart and candid remarks by corporate counsel. Those were in rich supply at a March 10 event hosted by the Jewish Federation’s Cardozo Society.

The General Counsel Forum was held at the Phoenix office of Perkins Coie and moderated by Eliot Kaplan, Business & Professionals Chair and partner at the firm.

The panelists were the following General Counsel:

  • Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel
  • Ahron Cohen, Arizona Coyotes General Counsel
  • Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel
  • Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson GC

The topics raised by moderator Eliot Kaplan were well selected as of the most interest to attendees. First up was panelists describing their work and what elements most appealed to them. Audience members were likely not surprised to hear the corporate counsel liked their jobs quite a bit.

Comparing his work in a law firm and his in-house work now, DeRespino appreciates that now there are “fewer distractions expected of me,” and he can focus more simply on the practice of law.

Jewish Federation of Greater Phoenix logoIn-house counsel, he said, “get to know a particular client and focus on business solutions. That always was what the practice of law is supposed to be for me.”

But aren’t the hours in-house better? Yes, but … said Richard Lustiger.

“There are fewer hours but they’re more intense. You’re dealing with the crisis du jour.”

The other panelists agreed on the differences between in-house and “outhouse” (which got quite a laugh). Ohre contrasted the difference by describing “legal speed and business speed.” And, like DeRespino, Ahron Cohen enjoys the fact that he can concentrate more on “macro goals” rather than the “micro goals” that are the focus in law firms.

A primary mission of corporate counsel is offering sometimes challenging legal advice that may run hard into the company’s business goals.

Ohre said that he and other corporate counsel may occasionally be called “Mr. No” by colleagues on the business side. But getting brought in earlier in a strategic process may decrease the prevalence of No in the conversation.

Cohen agreed and said finding a way to say yes goes a long way. If the lawyer can help the company achieve its business goals, that will help foster trust in the legal department.

“The legal department should not get the reputation of being the place where deals go to die,” said Lustiger—though he added that some deals need to die. “Improve the output and be a better partner for the company.”

Communicating clearly, concisely, and free of legalese is probably the most important skill an in-house counsel can develop, panelists agreed.

“You have to learn to talk to people who may not particularly like lawyers,” said DeRespino. “It’s a complex dynamic when you want someone to heed your counsel.”

From L to R: Raphael Avraham, Cardozo Society Chair; Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel; Ahron Cohen, Arizona Coyotes General Counsel; Eliot Kaplan, Business & Professionals Chair and Partner at Perkins Coie; Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel; Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson General Counsel.

From L to R: Raphael Avraham, Cardozo Society Chair; Richard Lustiger, Harkins Theatres General Counsel; Ahron Cohen, Arizona Coyotes General Counsel; Eliot Kaplan, Business & Professionals Chair and Partner at Perkins Coie; Larry DeRespino, U-Haul General Counsel; Matt Ohre, Barrett Jackson General Counsel.

But all of that work building relationships is worth it, DeRespino added.

“It’s a tremendous value to speak with your client with absolute candor.”

More information about the Cardozo Society is here. Congratulations to moderator Eliot Kaplan and the Society for a terrific program.

Howard Cabot

In the February issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, I wrote about Howard Cabot and a great ASU Law School program at which he spoke. But I wanted to add a few things.

(In case you missed it, I pasted in below my editor’s column.)

Howard spoke that evening about the power of the sabbatical to refresh and re-energize. When the idea first started to gain traction at law firms, a bug was discovered in the system: Lawyers who went away for six months to “rest, relax and to get recharged” did not return. Life “on the outside” was simply too appealing. Reducing it to four months (a three-month sabbatical plus a month’s vacation) did nothing to reduce the attrition level. So finally his firm struck an agreement with those desiring a sabbatical: They had to return from their sabbatical and remain for t least two years, or they would forfeit some compensation. Giddyup.

Now, Cabot said, he compiles enough “credits” to take a sabbatical every seven years. Most recently, he took three months off-though he had enough credits for eight.

Before the ASU audience, Cabot was extremely willing to explore his own personal reasons for endorsing the sabbatical:

“The practice of law is difficult—dealing with the billable hour while keeping your family together. I had been at the firm 10 to 13 years, and I was growing short-tempered and was losing my focus.”

Until a firm partner told him, “Go away, Howard. You’re not doing anyone any good here.”

“Is it OK just to go away and golf?” Cabot asked ASU listeners rhetorically. “Yes, if you need to, by God, do it.”

He and his wife made other choices. For the first sabbatical, they traveled abroad to study at Worcester College, Oxford. With their kids, they took the Grand Tour. Most important, though, “We all had breakfast, lunch and dinner together every day. We got to know each other as a family again. It saved us as a family.”

Their second sabbatical involved volunteer work in Eastern Europe, where they were able to trace their Jewish roots.

In those trips, Cabot says he learned a few overarching lessons: Life really goes on (“The world can get along pretty well without you.”). And the sabbatical can be used to prepare clients for new lawyers—after all, life changes.

Fourteen years later, Cabot was in need of another sabbatical, which is when he was approached about Guantanamo litigation.

“You learn as a young lawyer that there is a code for cases to avoid.” This, he saw later, may have been one of those cases. At the time, though, he was asked if he “would mind helping out” on a case that should only require a bit of his supervisorial duties.

The only thing Cabot hadn’t counted on was that his client—Noor Uthman Muhammed—would be one of only 10 detainees who were indicted for war crimes. “Of 800 or so in and out of Guantanamo, he’s 1 of 10.”

To illustrate the seriousness of the situation, Cabot reminds listeners that 5 of the 10 were implicated in the 9-11 attacks.

ASU Law School Interim Dean Doug Sylvester, Center for Law and Global Affairs Executive Director Daniel Rothenberg, and Perkins Coie partner Howard Cabot

ASU Law School Interim Dean Doug Sylvester, Center for Law and Global Affairs Executive Director Daniel Rothenberg, and Perkins Coie partner Howard Cabot

Cabot described his work as a lawyer on behalf of his client in that matter. But a unique view into that work may come from Cabot’s son, who is a writer for Esquire Magazine. He wrote two features about his dad—read them here and here.

Back at ASU, Howard Cabot was eloquent as he described his wrestling with ethical dilemmas, as a Jewish American representing a man who opposed the state of Israel and whom the government contended was an enemy of the United States.

Finally, he concluded, “Who but we as lawyers will take on unpopular causes? If we don’t take on the higher issues—like torture and prolonged detention—are we any better than our supposed enemies?”

That case led Cabot and his wife to another sabbatical. As he described his travel pitch, “Let’s go to places that know about unlawful detention and torture: Buenos Aires, Morocco, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia, Sarajevo, Israel, Capetown, Johannesburg.”

To help them prepare for the trip Daniel Rothenberg gave them huge binders of background material. That work by Rothenberg, the Executive Director for ASU’s Center for Law and Global Affairs, allowed the couple to get a running start on their education.

In regard to law-firm sabbaticals, Cabot’s takeaway at his talk was pretty simple: He is a strong advocate of “living a whole life.”

“If the people with you don’t find that important, find different people.”

(More photos for this story are on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.)

Here is my column from the February issue:

Please Release Me

Raise your hand if you’d like to take a sabbatical. Anyone?

I write this on the third day of a new year, and my hand is high in the air. Perhaps immediately after a welcome break and a return to work is the wrong time to ask.

The notion of a sabbatical arose thanks to a unique event at Arizona State University. There, a successful large-firm lawyer extolled the virtues of—down time. Will wonders never cease?

The speaker melded the time-off idea with his own experience representing a detainee housed in Guantanamo Bay—quite the synopsis.

Congratulations to Perkins Coie partner Howard Cabot, who joined the topics surprisingly well. He offered candid insights into his own path toward rejuvenation, and even shared what he could about his imprisoned client.

The event was presented by the Center for Law and Global Affairs, and its Executive Director, Daniel Rothenberg, adeptly engaged Cabot in a far-ranging dialogue.

As Cabot called it, the sabbatical is like a schmita—a Hebrew term signifying how it’s best to allow fields to lie fallow for a season so they may regenerate their nutrients (a literal translation is “release”). His experience with lawyer sabbaticals started at Brown & Bain, which had borrowed the idea from Latham & Watkins. At the firm, Cabot said, Jack Brown, Paul Eckstein, Randy Bain and others “developed a culture that saw a lot of good in taking a break.”

In his long career, Cabot is pleased to have taken three extended breaks, each of which involved travel and mind-broadening experiences. His most recent included the representation of a Guantanamo detainee—a release in more than one sense.

Later in 2012, we will publish the results of a unique survey of Arizona lawyers—on their professional happiness. Until then, consider some well-deserved time away, and enjoy the ninth verse of the wisdom of Tao, which Howard Cabot shared:

Fill your bowl to the brim and it will spill.
Keep sharpening your knife and it will blunt.
Chase after money and security and your heart will never unclench.
Care about other people’s approval and you will be their prisoner.
Do your work, then step back. The only path to serenity.

On July 27, I attended a panel discussion that aimed to give insight into judges’ thinking. And that’s something that most lawyers find of interest.

The event was sponsored by the Directors Roundtable, based out of Los Angeles. The title was “Recognizing America’s Judiciary: A Dialogue with Chief Justices on Key Issues for Leaders of Business & the Community.”

In my editor’s column for the September issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine (on press now), I wrote about the event. (A preview of that column is at right and printed below.)

The roundtable was enjoyable, even if some of the topics are pretty well-worn. For even if we have heard quite a bit already about, say, merit selection of judges, it’s still a wake-up call to hear how vehemently the Arizona Chief Justice speaks about it.

I’ve covered merit-selection developments before (as in this March panel discussion). And in the coming year’s run-up to a voter referendum on altering judicial selection, I’ll cover the continuing dialogue and debate—assuming readers find it compelling.

(Before I get to the column, I have to apologize in advance for the abysmal photography. Whenever an event is slated for the Sandra Day O’Connor Federal Courthouse, I sigh and seethe, knowing that getting a decent camera into the edifice is akin to smuggling a file in a homemade cake—even when you have permission. I secured permission for my camera through the event organizers, who then apparently failed to tell the only people who mattered—the guards at security. So please bear with the cellphone shots below.)

Here’s my column:

Choosing Our Judges

Those of you who just tumbled to Earth—or even to Arizona—from Mars may be forgiven your misunderstanding.

Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, July 27, 2011

You may be laboring under the Mars-y notion that the way we select our judges is likely noncontroversial and straightforward.

Kind of like raising the debt ceiling.

From whatever galaxy they hailed, attendees at a July event had that impulse checked. Sponsored by the California-based Directors Roundtable Institute, the panel of judges and lawyers provided a dialogue on “Key Issues for Leaders of Business & the Community.

Participants were Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, Hon. Roslyn Silver, Chief U.S. District Judge for Arizona, David Rosenbaum of Osborn Maledon, and Shane Swindle of Perkins Coie. Jack Friedman of the Institute moderated.

The dialogue by the panelists ranged far and wide, from commentary on media coverage, to crushing caseloads and security issues, to e-discovery. But the topic of how we select judges came up numerous times.

Perhaps it’s the black robes that give away little, or the judicial silence that typically repays public scorn heaped on that branch. Whatever it is, the courts have been in critics’ crosshairs for quite awhile.

David Rosenbaum, July 27, 2011

“Courts are the only branch not identified with the political process,” said moderator Jack Friedman. “But if you look at the media, we think that judges get up in the morning and say, ‘I can’t wait to get to the office to impose my views on everyone else.’”

Chief Justice Berch may not be “identified” with the political process, but she can see it from her porch. And though she shared news about court advances in technology and education, she also described the political challenges “to give a flavor of what the courts face.”

She recounted nine bills that the Legislature has considered that would alter—for the worse, in her thinking—the operation of the judicial branch. Worst of all, she said, those bills appear to solve problems that don’t exist.

If the Chief’s words treaded carefully on the matter, those of lawyer David Rosenbaum spoke more plainly.

Five years ago, he said, a similar roundtable featured then-Chief Justice Ruth McGregor and Justice Scott Bales, both of whom talked about attacks on the judiciary.

“The winds are blowing as strong now,” said Rosenbaum. “If not stronger.”

He described recent U.S. Supreme Court cases that have affected court operation and judicial selection, including Citizens United and Massey Coal. And statistics show that expenditures in judicial elections have more than doubled from the decade of the 1990s, when it came in at $84 million, to the 2000s, when it hit almost $207 million.

Here in Arizona, he and others said, we have a merit-selection system in at least a few counties. But it’s a system that’s been under fire.

A solution may lie in a ballot referendum that passed out of the Legislature in April. It will be on the general ballot in November 2012 (the State Bar has a good explanation of the legislation here).

This was a compromise among the Bar, the Court, the Arizona Judges Association, as well as the House and Senate.

Rosenbaum raised questions about the referendum: Without it, would far more harm be done to merit selection? Is it an effective compromise?

On page 76, Clint Bolick asserts his agreement with the State Bar that the compromise does its job well.

As we get closer to the 2012 election, we’ll hear from Arizona lawyers on the topic’s pros and cons. Write to me with your thoughts at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.