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.

The 2013 luncheon of the Arizona Foundation for Legal Services & Education once again recognized some of the finest lawyers in the state for their commitment to access to justice in Arizona.

Attorney Barbara Dawson accepting the Foundation's 2013 Walter E. Craig Award, June 20, 2013, Arizona Biltmore Resort.

Attorney Barbara Dawson accepting the Foundation’s 2013 Walter E. Craig Award, June 20, 2013, Arizona Biltmore Resort.

The following attorneys were honored:

  • Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch: Hon. Mark Santana LRE Award
  • Ellen S. Katz: Foundation for Justice Award
  • Stanley Friedman: William E. Morris Award
  • Barbara Dawson: Walter E. Craig Award

Congratulations to all the recipients.

The State Bar was also represented at the luncheon. Chief Communications Officer Rick DeBruhl led a conversation with CBS5 reporter Dave Cherry. They illuminated the audience on media and law.

And Incoming Bar President Whitney Cunningham brought the specifics when he urged five strategies on attendees who want to give back but are not sure how to begin:

  1. Take a pro bono case via one of the established legal aid organizations.
  2. When you cannot take on an entire case or matter, provide limited-scope representation.
  3. Ghost-write legal papers for an unrepresented person.
  4. Sign up for the Modest Means Program.
  5. Become a Foundation Fellow.

    Incoming State Bar President Whitney Cunningham, June 20, 2013.

    Incoming State Bar President Whitney Cunningham, June 20, 2013.

Cunningham included two fascinating statistics in his presentation:

  • If every lawyer in Arizona provided only half of the pro bono time recommended by Rule 6.1, its value would be greater than the $80 million cut from the Legal Services Corporation budget.
  • Becoming a Foundation Fellow (which nonlawyers may do too) will cost you $16.67 per month. That is approximately equal to one double-shot soy latter per day. Cunningham claims to have lost 20 pounds since he signed on.

The luncheon remains a high point in the Convention. Well done to all involved.

In early June, I received confirmation that being around legal matters for long enough makes you start seeing those matters everywhere—even at Disneyland!

The State Bar of Arizona Chief Communications Officer is Rick DeBruhl, and in early June he sent me a note about a Disney anniversary that involved—of all things—lawyers! Among his other skills, Rick has been an automotive journalist for many years (in fact, he still is), which explains his opening line to me:

“Disneyland’s California Adventure is having a sort of re-opening this weekend. They re-did the front entrance as well as create Cars Land (which will, of course, be my favorite).”

Rick then continued, revealing that the role of the lawyer in society has moved to be front-of-his-mind:

“I noticed a picture that got my attention and thought I’d pass it along. On the new Buena Vista Street section, there is a sign that says ‘Lessing, Kamen and James.’ I’m not sure about James, but Gunther Lessing and Kay Kamen worked for Walt Disney when the company was going through the big growth years. Lessing was the general counsel, and Kamen was the merchandising guru. Supposedly they were instrumental in going after copyright infringers.”

Ever the reporter, Rick attached a photo from the Disney stock.


He also provided some documentation, including a link describing the subject street, a biography of Lessing and a bio of Kamen.

In an upcoming issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine, we will be publishing the results of a survey assessing lawyer satisfaction and happiness in Arizona. But in the meantime, connecting lawyers and the happiest place on Earth may be sheer genius.

By coincidence, my family and I are in Laguna Beach this week, no more than 25 miles from the Mouse Kingdom (alas, we were not able to visit Mickey and friends on this California trip). But on this Change of Venue Friday, I share the news that lawyers have transformed every area of American life—even in fantasy kingdoms! Or, as Rick put it, “I just think it’s interesting because how many attorneys get the chance to be immortalized at a major theme park!”

Have a great weekend.

Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch at Law School for Legislators, Jan. 6, 2011

Last Thursday, January 6, the State Bar of Arizona hosted its fifth annual Law School for Legislators. I attended for the first time, and it was an insightful way to kick off a new legislative session, especially for the freshmen who are beginning their first term.

Held every two years at the House of Representatives, the school covers a variety of topics, including federal–state relations, how judges decide cases, and how the path can always be made smoother between branches of government.

Presenting were State Bar President Alan Bayham Jr. Bar CEO/ED John Phelps, Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch, and lawyer (and former newsman) Michael Grant. Keeping speakers on track was the Bar’s Chief Communications Officer, Rick DeBruhl. And Kathleen Lundgren, the Bar’s longtime Government Relations guru, put the event together.

U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor (ret.) and Arizona Justice Scott Bales, Law School for Legislators, Jan. 6, 2011

Following the morning session, attendees strolled down the Capitol Mall into the Supreme Court. (Surprisingly but perhaps symbolic, there is no sidewalk that takes you directly between the Legislature and the Court. The path meanders, and more than one walker teetered on a curb, looked for oncoming cars, and dashed across the street. Thus the phrase “checks and balances.”)

At the Court, attendees enjoyed lunch while keynote speaker Sandra Day O’Connor addressed them.

Everyone recalls O’Connor as an Associate Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court. But she reminded those gathered that she had been a legislator herself. Thus, she was able to sympathize with the lawmakers and the hard road that lay ahead of them in regard to the budget.

In that vein, she told them that she was surprised to see that the state’s restrooms were closed for business on the freeways throughout Arizona.

“There must be some way to get those open again.” Justice O’Connor said. “Goodness. Maybe make them pay-as-you-go. Think about that, please.”

She told the legislators that she did not envy them the job of balancing a budget that is reported to be more than $1 billion out of whack.

“Maybe you’ll find a path. I hope so.”

She added her memory of the many affiliated tasks that lawmakers must take up.

“I remember being annoyed that the Legislature had to make the bola tie the official state neckwear. ‘Is that what we’re here for?’ I asked. I guess so.”

O’Connor ended her remarks by talking about her appointment to the Court by President Ronald Reagan. “It was a shock” when Reagan telephoned her, she said, and not an entirely welcome one. Though gratified to be selected, she did not look forward to relocating her family back east.

But when she recently attended oral argument at the Court as a spectator, she found reason to be pleased with the number of women Justices.

U.S. Supreme Court, 2010

“I looked and saw a woman on the far right, and a woman on the far left, and a woman in the middle. It was an amazing sight, and I’m glad that we’ve graduated to that level.”

More photos from the event are here on the Arizona Attorney Magazine Facebook page.

The State Bar of Arizona has just launched a significant portion of its redesigned website—and they want to know what you think.

The portion that is primarily tailored toward the public has seen remarkable changes over the past few months. Still to come are changes to the areas that lawyers use on a daily basis (such as Arizona Attorney Magazine, I like to think). But everyone is welcome to jump in, click, search—and then comment. Here is a page that invites your suggestions.

Praise and critiques can go directly to the State Bar’s Chief Communications Officer, Rick DeBruhl (

He’s also the guy to tell if you think that the staff who put out that remarkable Arizona Attorney deserve huge raises and a reward trip to Waikiki. Just saying.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

Protestors outside the State Bar of Arizona, August 9, 2010

On Monday afternoon, the State Bar of Arizona was the focus of a small gathering of protestors supportive of former Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

The eight people, holding signs and a flag, stood outside the southwest corner of the Bar offices. As traffic streamed by on 24th Street in Phoenix, one protestor broadcast her endorsement of Thomas via bullhorn.

Other protestors held signs supporting County Sheriff Joe Arpaio. Another held a sign touting the name “Russ,” likely shorthand for State Senator Russell Pearce, prime supporter of the SB1070 immigration legislation. One man wore a sombrero and stood next to a sign reading “Latina Legal Immigrant Tea Party Patriots Defending Our America U.S.A.”

Andrew Thomas is under investigation for a number of ethics complaints originally filed with the State Bar. In the past year, the Bar sought to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest by asking the Arizona Supreme Court to designate another investigator and prosecutor of the charges. The Court agreed and named John Gleason, a Colorado lawyer and chief of the Colorado Bar’s lawyer discipline unit.

The protestors appeared outside the Bar at about 3:00 p.m. Rick DeBruhl, the Bar’s Chief Communications Officer, spoke with them at length. He said that he explained the status of the matter, and that the State Bar no longer is the investigating body on the Thomas cases. He said that the protestors opted to continue protesting.

At one point, a bicyclist riding southbound on the sidewalk toward the protestors was forced into the roadway by one of the sign-holders, who extended his placard streetward in what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to drive the rider off the curb. The bicycle rider was able to regain the sidewalk after passing the protestors, but not before oncoming cars had to brake in order to avoid a collision.

At 4:20 p.m., the protestors disbanded and walked south.

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Ethics Game Show

With Rick DeBruhl as the emcee, and Lynda Shely and Pat Sallen as ringleaders, the annual Ethics Game Show was once again a raucous—yet educational—good time.

The esteemed panel, plus three volunteer-savants from the audience, answered ethics questions a la Jeopardy. The popular seminar was packed to the gills. In fact, a sea of people yearning for ethics information in a game-show format covered every chair and even lined the floor surrounding the huge ballroom.

Here are a few photos.

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Bidwell Touts Teamwork, Quality

Lawyer and Arizona Cardinals President Michael Bidwell delivered the keynote address at the Bar’s Convention Kick-Off luncheon at noon today, and his messages sounded in quality and customer service.

Introduced by State Bar Communications Chief Rick DeBruhl, Bidwell opened with a compelling history of professional football and his own family’s storied role in its evolution.

He is in the third-generation of Bidwells who run a pro team, and he said he appreciated the Convention’s theme of “The Future Is Now.”

“Our organization is all about innovation, technology, developing new things., and being responsive to our customers—our fans.”

As an example of excellence, he asked the attendees why Hertz remains the number-one rental car company. “Because they wake up in the morning and don’t want to be number 2.”

Bidwell bemoaned the way the way reputations of good professions like law and piloting aircraft—his avocation—can be damaged by a few bad actors. That means all in the lagal profession should ask themselves, “What are we doing to put our best foot forward?”

He emphasized the importance of customer service in creating a quality profession. At the Cardinals, that meant signing on with the Disney Institute to train all employees. Their goal is a great “driveway to driveway experience.”

The kickoff lunch is an opportunity for Bar members to gather. It is partially sponsored by the exhibitors.

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