The talented and courageous are encouraged to enter the magazine's arts competition.

The talented and courageous are encouraged to enter the magazine’s arts competition.

There is ONE WEEK left for Arizona lawyers to submit to our annual Creative Arts Competition. But because the holidays are so crazy, why not submit now, rather than on the evening of January 15, the deadline?

We welcome entries in the following categories:

  • Fiction
  • Nonfiction
  • Poetry
  • Humor
  • Music
  • Visual Arts: Painting, Photography, Drawing, Sculpture

We will publish the winners in the May 2018 issue.

Send submissions to and queries to the editor at

And do you like reading rules? We’ve got them.

For inspiration, here is last year’s issue with the 2017 awesome winners.

2018 Creative Arts Competition call for artists

Philip Levine

Philip Levine

Yes, before you ask: I do know that Labor Day was yesterday. But as you and other smart readers were relaxing, maybe attending a parade—and NOT reading legal blogs—I waited until today to share a post on the topic.

Today, I urge you to read the remarkable poem “What Work Is,” by Philip Levine. To read more of his poetry, go here, and to read the work of many other poets, go to the Poetry Foundation website.

Here is Philip:


We stand in the rain in a long line

waiting at Ford Highland Park. For work.

You know what work is—if you’re

old enough to read this you know what

work is, although you may not do it.

Forget you. This is about waiting,

shifting from one foot to another.

Feeling the light rain falling like mist

into your hair, blurring your vision

until you think you see your own brother

ahead of you, maybe ten places.

You rub your glasses with your fingers,

and of course it’s someone else’s brother,

narrower across the shoulders than

yours but with the same sad slouch, the grin

that does not hide the stubbornness,

the sad refusal to give in to

rain, to the hours of wasted waiting,

to the knowledge that somewhere ahead

a man is waiting who will say, “No,

we’re not hiring today,” for any

reason he wants. You love your brother,

now suddenly you can hardly stand

the love flooding you for your brother,

who’s not beside you or behind or

ahead because he’s home trying to

sleep off a miserable night shift

at Cadillac so he can get up

before noon to study his German.

What Work Is book cover by Philip LevineWorks eight hours a night so he can sing

Wagner, the opera you hate most,

the worst music ever invented.

How long has it been since you told him

you loved him, held his wide shoulders,

opened your eyes wide and said those words,

and maybe kissed his cheek? You’ve never

done something so simple, so obvious,

not because you’re too young or too dumb,

not because you’re jealous or even mean

or incapable of crying in

the presence of another man, no,

just because you don’t know what work is.

Philip Levine, “What Work Is” from What Work Is. Copyright © 1992 by Philip Levine

Four Chambers Press logo/header

As we head into the annual arts competition for Arizona Attorney Magazine, I hear from many lawyers who express “I wish I were as talented as an artist.”

Well, you never know until you try (I respond), but I understand how many folks are nervous about taking that leap.

The next month may provide you an opportunity to take a hop, if not a leap. A joint initiative of a small press and an art museum has put out a call for work. And what they seek are creative viewer responses to something (anything; your choice) in the Phoenix Art Museum.

The great publication is Four Chambers Press. And you can read all the details of the project here.

As you’ll see, the result of the initiative will be “to assemble a small collection of poetry and prose responding to exhibits and collections within the Phoenix Art Museum towards the release of a chapbook and a live performance during Art Detour on First Friday March 6, 2015.”

What if you can’t get to the museum in person? No problem; you can view its collection online (and then write and submit your piece online too).

Before you avert your arts-nervous gaze, read the whole set of guidelines. They include this gem:

“RESPONDING TO ART: As one of the goals of this project is to provide a formal space for collaboration between different art forms here in Phoenix (thereby increasing the cohesiveness in our city’s cultural scene, we might be looking for a new insight or avenue of meaning into the work at hand–an explication of the process behind it, an exploration of it’s social or cultural context, etc etc.”

That “etc etc” and the examples they offer mean that they are completely open to new ways of seeing and expressing. You can’t do it wrong, you won’t break anything by trying. And if your work is selected, it will be immortalized in a marvelous printed book.

Limits? They have a few: A poem cannot exceed 200 lines; prose should be no longer than 3,000 words. (And I suspect it would break no one’s heart if they were even briefer.)

The deadline for submissions is Sunday, February 1st at 11:59 PM MST. (Yes, they mean it.)

Come on; you got this! And as an added benefit, I may even submit something myself. When it’s all done, whether my piece gets in or not, I’ll share it with you.

Will you share back? See you at the museum.

A clean desk: Is that what we aspire to? Really?

No, this desk is NOT the winner of a prize for revealing workspaces.

And the winner is …

Wait wait wait! Taking a tip from the Academy Awards, I have to stretch this out for a bit.

Back in January, I offered a prize—a book of legal poetry—to a reader who shared a photo of their desk, messy or not. A description was invited but not required.

You may recall that my desk-psychosis grew deep as my own workspace got lost under piles. And I started to wonder what a clean or dirty desk says about each of us. Like my paper piles, that musing got pretty deep; read it here.)

I am happy to report that my messiness concerns resonated with readers. I heard from a number of folks who reported the state of their workspaces’ messiness levels.

As promised, I randomly selected a winner, and she is … K Royal. Congratulations, K!

K Royal's desk photo won her a book of poetry (though storage bins might have been a better prize!).

K Royal’s desk photo won her a book of poetry (though storage bins might have been a better prize!).

And here is K’s description of her space:

“Your note about a messy desk made me laugh out loud, so although not noteworthy, here is mine. Yes … double monitors, family photos … including my dog, shoe tape dispenser, diamond post it note holder, Dutch slippers, m&m coffee mug, and although you may not be able to see them … shoe phone holders for two cell phones and a Hedwig mug to hold pens.”

She ends with a cheery but noncommittal “May your organization remain exactly what you need it to be!”

By coincidence (yes, it’s a coincidence), I’ve known K from when she was at ASU Law School. She’s gone on to other things (including a stint in Texas), and she’s now Privacy Counsel at Align Technology in San Jose, California.

Privacy Counsel? Hmm, am I allowed to mention that?

In any case, I hope K enjoys “Poetic Justice” as much as I did.

K, send me a note at with your snail-mail address and I’ll get this posted tout de suite.

K Royal's desk photo won her this book of poetry!

K Royal’s desk photo won her this book of poetry!

When it comes to law practice, there’s nothing that quite says “Change of Venue Friday” more than poetry. So let’s get rhymin’.

What made me think of the topic was the annual writing competition by the American Bar Association. The Ross essay contest is almost always—you guessed it—an essay.

Recently, though, the ABA has been on the haiku bandwagon. Given the short attention spans of busy people, 17 syllables may be just about right. You can read more about the contest here.

Unfortunately—and this will be the subject of my poetical rant belowyou must be an ABA member to participate. (Full disclosure: Our annual Arizona Attorney Creative Arts Competition is open only to Arizona lawyers. But we’re talking about the ABA, people. Come on. It’s almost a public institution.)

If you are an ABA member, submissions are due September 28. Here are the rules (yes, of course there are rules) and the submission form.

Here is the ABA’s short description (if they could have kept the rules to 17 syllables, THAT would have been an accomplishment):

“In this year’s Ross Essay Contest, we’re looking for 17 syllables that address one of these five topics: Innovation, Inspiration, Law Practice, On Being a Lawyer or the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Members Only? It went out with the jacket.

Yes, that’s right: You must select one of the topics, and be explicit about it; there’s even a dropdown menu on the submission form (just as Bashō originally required, I’m sure).

(And I assume in their topic list they should have included a comma before “or”—otherwise, I may be inclined to write a haiku on the topic “On Being the U.S. Supreme Court.” Hmm. “I got opinions …”.)

So back to my issue with the members-only submissions. Here’s my one-word reaction.

Really? Or, as Judge Learned Hand used to say, “REALLY?”

I get it. Paywalls are everywhere, and members like to feel special. But walling out poets? Say it isn’t so, ABA. You may be full up with tax lawyers, or securities specialists. But I’m willing to wager that your poet coffers are not full to bursting.

So I beseech you.

Don’t get all dictatorial with your caesura. We could be a pair—even a couplet—you and I. Stop being a pest with the anapest. Don’t get literal over your conceit.

We could be epic.

Amidst the constraint of the 5 7 5, I offer a few writing samples, my own protest wrought into rhyme. I invite you to offer your own, my fellow non-ABA members:


Within the gilt gates

ABA members harrumph.

Without, poets seethe.


Fencing out meter

May be lawyerly and all,

But learned it ain’t.


Erskine Mayo Ross

Bequeathed $100-sweet-K

To prod all, not some.


“Yo, tear down these walls,”

Say lawyer poets.

“Rhyme’s for sharin’, bro.”

Have a great weekend.

Hon. Ralph G. Smith

At the end of November, the legal and arts community lost a champion of both when Hon. Ralph Smith passed away.

Here at Arizona Attorney Magazine, we knew him mainly as the judge who won—twice—in our annual Creative Arts Competition. Not only that, he did so in two categories.

His April 2005 winner was in Nonfiction. His essay titled “In Praise of City Court” told us a lot about the author: humorous, generous and courteous. You can read that story here.

Then, in May 2010, he wowed us again by taking top honors in our Poetry category. You can read his entries here.

But, in case you don’t click, here are two of his pieces. Rest in peace, Judge.

The Pas De Deux Café

I am at the Pas de Deux Café, the Green House,

In time for the matinee ballet.

Shelly, the prima ballerina,

slim and blonde, makes her entrance,

(to my silent but appreciative applause),

Through the kitchen’s swinging doors,

To the cacophonous music of forks on plates.

She threads her way with dips and pirouettes

Executed with grace and authority,

around the tables and the chairs,

past the other ballerinas, and does a pas de deux

with Sandra, who approaches from the outside patio.

Shelly takes my order,

bending down with a friendly smile,

then pirouettes once more,

and disappears backstage.

The cacophony rises to a crescendo,

and the prima ballerina again emerges,

with tray held on high, as she dips and whirls,

and deftly opens the glass door to the patio

with a provocative bump of  her firm derriere,

never missing a beat of the music playing in my head.

Dance, ballerina, dance!

It was the performance of my day.

Torta En Toluca

Pretty as she was,

It was not Carlota that I remember so clearly,

On that sunny Mexican morning

On the plaza in Toluca, with the smell

Of charcoal in the air, grilling the chorizo, on market day

And the Indians sitting by their shaded lean-tos,

With the fruits and vegetables and that

Wonderful pottery with the black and yellow designs

Spread out around them.

No—It was the sandwich that she fixed

From a can of tuna she had brought along,

And mayo, and avocado, from those small

Purple aguacates that she got there in the market,

That taste so good when

Spread on a bolillo or telera, the buns

She bought for ten centavos from

The old lady with the basketful, and

Prepared while we sat on the hard bench

In the plaza, happy, laughing at each other

And devouring the impromptu tortas which were

Delicious, and matched our mood.

Yes, she was pretty, and perhaps it was her

Laugh, her smile, her tousled hair that overcame

The beauty of her being, the totality,

Which are like the things we cannot see

While looking into the sun.

But the sandwich I remember, and the sunny day.

And our happiness and laughter, all delicious.

Herodatus was right—you can never step into the same river


Does William Shakespeare have a lesson for lawyers?

“It’s a long way from the bar to The Bard.”

Any news story that opens thusly will probably get my attention. And so it was in this article about poetry and the law—brought to you on this Change of Venue Friday.

An Ontario lawyer believes poetry may be the antidote to decades of verbosity in his profession. Though admittedly whimsical, condensing lengthy legal documents into limericks, couplets and other rhymes is proposed as a way of teaching attorneys not to write a symphony where a song would suffice.”

The lawyer is Jordan Furlong, and I immediately liked him, but not just for his literary ambitions for lawyers—he also was the editor of the Canadian Bar Association’s magazine National. Booya for lawyer pubs and the people who helm them!

Reactions to his rhyming notions have been mixed. Read the story here. Still interested? Jordan blogs here.

Jordan Furlong

To hear his pitch for more legal poetry—of the briefer variety—click here to read his story Shall I Compare Thee to a Summary Judgment?” Boy, does that make a litigant swoon!

But why do that at all? He argues that it will help counter lawyers’ tendency toward maddening completeness, which leads to 400-word sentences transparent to no one.

“Ask a lawyer for a tune and she’ll give you a symphony. Ask him for a snack and he’ll bring you a three-course meal.”

So as an exercise, “Have your lawyers share, once a week, a single poetic expression of legal information.”

And yes, he gives some examples. Enjoy.

Finally, as long as we’re Bard-like today, I point you to a video making the rounds. It has performer Jim Meskimen reciting Clarence’s speech from Shakespeare’s Richard III.

Dry stuff, you say? Oh no no no, for he does it as a large number of different celebrities. We’re talking George Clooney to Droopy Dog.

I beseech you: Have a great weekend.