Who doesn't cheer the First Amendment? (Well, most of us do.)

Who doesn’t cheer the First Amendment? (Well, most of us do.)

Have you heard the phrase unconference?

It’s been applied—or maybe misapplied—to almost any gathering organized by participants rather than by hosts. It’s a way to have a professional conference without all the trappings that often get in the way of true communication.

We’ve all been to an unconference, of course. When you emerge, haggard and exhausted from a hotel conference room seminar and sink with happiness into a comfortable lobby chair, and engage in the best conversation of the day with a fellow wanderer, you’re at an unconference.

When you follow up with a speaker and get her to engage on the issues facing you and your practice (unaddressed in the formal presentation), you’ve created your own unconference. You have grasped the sinews of the conference, which had been organized to the tiniest detail, and bent them to be responsive to you. When you do that, and when you and your conversant both come away richer, you’ve become an unconference aficionado.

I recall hearing about the concept at—of course—a conference a few years ago, where a Tennessee bar leader urged attendees to think creatively. And I’ve been intrigued ever since by how we all learn, really learn, what we need to learn. And that learning happens only occasionally in a seminar room.

1st Amendment Gallery SF logo

A modern logo for a traditional concept

A few weeks ago, I participated in an unconference in the back of a cab. As I shared a ride from the airport into the San Francisco NABE conference, I had a great conversation with a Bar colleague whom I only sometimes get to converse with. We work close by, but the day-to-day always takes precedence over the leisurely chat. In the cab’s enforced lethargy, I was able to gain valuable insight into his thoughts and vision for the organization.

The ensuing conference itself was great, but its high points were almost all marked by conversations like that—brief, shining moments of genuineness and clarity. Who could wish for better?

As it is Change of Venue Friday, I must share one odd view I got during that cab ride (but it’s related, I promise). As we spoke, I looked out the taxi window and was surprised to see a sign bearing a legal term. “First Amendment,” it proclaimed. But was it a dive bar, a political office, a nostalgic cry? (Its retro font immediately put me in mind of the TV show Cheers. Young readers, ask someone old what that means.)

I snapped this bad photo:

The First Amendment Gallery, San Francisco

The First Amendment Gallery, San Francisco

But it wasn’t until later that I discovered the meaning on the organization’s website:

“1AM, short for First Amendment, is a gallery dedicated to street and urban art. Monthly themed exhibitions will feature artists from San Francisco to around the world. Seeing is believing, so come witness the 1AM movement.”

Read more about them here.

And they’re on Facebook and Twitter too.

So on this Friday, when I consider conferences and the people who transform them, enjoy looking at some art of people wholly dedicated to all the enumerated rights, including that to peaceably assemble.

When I’m next in San Francisco, I know I will return to 1AM (despite the font choice).

Have a communicative weekend.

Bar Association of San Francisco logoThis may be odd, but when I travel for work or otherwise, I enjoy coming across legal news or a legal organization that is compelling or that provides significant value to attorneyslike here or here or here.

Don’t judge.

This week, I’m in San Francisco, and I’m pleased to report that the Bar Association of San Francisco does both those things.

Granted, I’m biased, as I know a few of the folks who run that bar, but I’m often pleased by the work that emanates from their offices. In member engagement, publications and online offerings, they are a leader and worthy of stealing from emulating.

San Francisco Attorney Magazine cover

You can read about the BASF here. But I point you to a few praiseworthy items.

First, here is a BASF initiative that was mentioned at the annual NABE Wednesday morning meeting by the group’s Executive Director, Daniel Burkhardt.

It is called the “Mind the Gap Initiative,” which aims to “provide recent law school graduates who are unemployed or underemployed with training, work experience, mentorship and debt reduction information.” You really need to read about the initiative’s five elements here.

Second, I am blown away by a new blog launched by the BASF. It’s called “Legal By the Bay,” and you should read it (and bookmark it) here.

Legal By the Bay includes constantly changing content, all aggregated in a variety of intuitive categories, including technology, family law, work life balance, dispute resolution and others.

There are many law blogs I enjoy and read regularly. But there are a few that I am routinely jealous of. What Colorado does is one. And now Legal By the Bay is another.

Finally, because I love print as much as digital, let me point you to a great, SF-style magazine story that I’m considering appropriating for our own Arizona Attorney.

The article, happily, is not about a drowsy new statute or regulation. Instead, it explores the trend of lawyers who like to bicycle—either to work or otherwise.

Lawyers in form-fitting Spandex may not seem to be the most appealing idea, but the BASF made it work—and in the process revealed a unique side of its membership.

Well done.

In a future Arizona Attorney, look for our coverage of lawyers who scale mountains, or brave triathlons, or get their own coffee. Just do it.

Crowdfunding may work, or could be like finding a pig in a poke.

Crowdfunding may work, or could be like finding a pig in a poke.

Money? On social media? Where?

Tomorrow morning about this time, I’ll face a roomful of association leaders, each eager to hear how their organizations can finally—finally!—make some revenue off this social media thing we’ll all convinced them is worthwhile.

What can go wrong?

The annual meeting of the National Association of Bar Executives (“NABE,” an ABA affiliate) meets in San Francisco this week. I plan to have an Irish coffee at the famed Buena Vista Cafe, sit down with two other talented presenters, and face the challenging questions.

Among us, we have more decades of communications experience than I’d like to admit, and we’re all social media advocates. But when it comes to increasing revenue via social media, we’ll be discussing a topic that is still in serious flux.

For instance, how much do you want your bar association to be increasing non-dues revenue via online channels? Maybe you have no opinion. But maybe the last thing you want is to be “sold” via yet another medium.

Below you’ll see an image of our panel description in the program brochure. And you can click here to read our handout of other resources.

NABE program description on monetizing social mediaOn Thursday morning, after a Kickstarter expert explains that tool, I will discuss challenges bar associations face in monetizing. My three-part presentation is divided into:

  1. Why many people like the idea of monetizing (even when they don’t quite understand it);
  2. What are the many possible missteps inherent in trying to make money online; and
  3. Why, despite my negativity, there may be hope after all to increase revenue.

Word on the street: “Monetize”

In my talk, I get to touch upon:

  • Spiderman
  • Veronica Mars
  • Law students
  • Herd mentality
  • The A-Team
  • Venice Beach
  • CLE
  • Spilled watermelons
  • The Bill of Rights Monument
  • Al Pacino
  • Subway trains
  • The Bar Foundation

Curious, right? Kind of feel bad you can’t be there, eh?

I may report back about what we covered, and how it was received. If you see big honking pop-up ads cluttering my blog in the coming month, you’ll know our message did not get through.

Newly appointed District Attorney George Gascon (left) smiles as he listens to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom speak in the City Hall on Sunday. (Brant Ward/The Chronicle)

Outgoing San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom made a bold announcement this week when he tapped the City’s police chief, George Gascón, as the new District Attorney.

Here in Arizona, we recall Gascón as the former top cop in Mesa. There, he made headlines for butting heads with Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

As Newsom and his staff ruminated on a new police chief (just before the mayor was about to leave to begin his new job as California Lieutenant Governor), someone recalled that Gascón is also a lawyer (he graduated from Western State University College of Law in Fullerton, Calif., and was admitted in 1996).

Read more about the appointment here.

San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi

That new hire helps seal San Francisco’s ranking as top city for unique criminal law leaders. Jeff Adachi, the city’s Public Defender, also has a reputation beyond the state’s borders. We wrote about Adachi here, when he visited Arizona in regard to a movie–and a protest in regard to the signing of SB1070, our immigration law.

As always, the city is worth watching.

The oldest law school west of the Rockies has been in the news a lot lately, legally speaking. In fact, they got to go to the big show—as a defendant at the United States Supreme Court (Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, 08-1371).

UC Hastings in flattering evening light

University of California, Hastings College of the Law is not only one of the longer names of a law school; it also is a party to a suit in which the Christian Legal Society says it should be deemed an official campus organization. They insist that the school’s refusal—because the Society will not agree to abide by the school’s nondiscrimination policy—is a constitutional violation.

The argument was this morning. You can read about it here.

The legal issues are fascinating. The Court must decide (as the New York Times reports) “whether a law school can deny recognition to a Christian student group because it won’t let gays join. [It is] a case that could determine whether college nondiscrimination policies trump the rights of private organizations to determine who can—and cannot—belong to their ranks.”

What’s of even more interest to me—as an alum of that esteemed law school—is hearing the Justices talk about the “campus” of Hastings.


UC Hastings, The Dark Tower, in unflattering 1950s-era light

The two—OK, three—buildings that comprise the “campus” are at the butt end of what San Franciscans call the “Tenderloin.”

And sure, it’s possible that law students skipping class could engage in a little hacky-sack or Frisbee (do students still play hacky-sack or Frisbee anymore? I wouldn’t know, being such old caselaw myself). The place they would do that is termed, hilariously, “the beach,” a strip of concrete mounded with concrete benches and concrete planters. Sounds very garden-spot, doesn’t it?

Despite its sad-sack location, I and many of my fellows came to enjoy the surroundings. It wasn’t just the easy access to pool halls and watering holes we liked. It also had amazing Vietnamese food close by, the great public library was down the street, and access to courthouses (federal and state) that other law school denizens can only dream about.

Eating a Vietnamese sandwich as you walk to the Ninth Circuit to watch oral arguments? It’s hard to get a better law school experience than that.

And when we tired of proletariat surroundings, we would ride Muni (SF public transit) out to the UC Medical School, where we would commandeer conference tables in its beautiful library. Even then, we learned, doctors know how to live.

So good luck to the Justices in determining what’s acceptable among school clubs. For the rest of us, think about a visit to San Francisco’s lesser-visited neighborhoods, like the Tenderloin. To get you started on Tenderloin tourism, read this New York Times article, from a reporter who did just that.