George Bisharat is Big Harp George, and he's a presenter at the 2015 #azbarcon

George Bisharat is Big Harp George, and he’s a presenter at the 2015 #azbarcon

Last week, I wrote about an #azbarcon panel discussion on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. I’ll be there when it starts at 2:00 today.

But in the meantime, you should take a moment to hear from one of the panelists, Professor George Bisharat. (I disclosed before that he was my law school crim-law professor.) Today, he’ll be giving insight on the Palestinian side of the dialogue. But more pertinent for your lunchtime listening? He is Big Harp George, an accomplished harmonica player.

He’s released a CD (maybe more), but here is one of his songs.

Here is news that he was nominated for Best New Artist Album at the Blues Music Awards.

And here is his website and Facebook page.

Here’s hoping you have some chromatic blues in your day!

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I wrote on Monday about a New York Times op-ed written by Dean Frank Wu of the Univ. of California, Hastings College of Law. But on Change of Venue Friday I wanted to add a postscript that says more about social media than it does about the historic Vincent Chin case.

I was struck by the op-ed, but I was also struck by a strange social media coincidence. (Prepare for a meandering sidebar.) To understand it, you’ll have to bear with me and a brief history lesson.

UC Hastings has long been proud of something called the 1066 Foundation. It provides funding to bring on stellar faculty from around the country, some of whom may have been precluded from continued teaching at their top-ranked schools due to mandatory retirement. And the 1066? It emanates from the famous Battle of Hastings in that same year (witty, huh?)

The oddity arose when I noticed that Dean Wu’s NYT op-ed was tweeted by Hastings on the same day I happened to have 1,066 Twitter followers. I “favorited” the tweet, so you can see a screen shot of the confluence.

And speaking of Twitter realities, below is a shot the day I hit 1,000 followers. I agree that’s pretty random, but I was struck by the tweets at the top of my stream when I noticed I had reached that milestone in mid-April: A hilarious post by comic Jim Gaffigan, a thoughtful post by LexBlog CEO Kevin O’Keefe, and a determined-at-all-costs-to-appear-normal post by an Arizona legislator who had just been forced to resign from the Assembly amidst a criminal and ethical scandal. All in all, that demonstrates pretty well the chaotic creativity available in Twitter!

So in honor of Twitter mashups and today’s Social Media Day celebration (which I wrote about yesterday), send a tweet or write a blog post. It’ll make you feel better.

Have a great weekend.

Vincent Chin

This past weekend, I read a moving op-ed piece in the New York Times. It was in regard to the brutal slaying of a Chinese American man in 1982. Significantly, his death and the legal events that followed so angered the Asian American community that it demanded substantive changes.

The author, I happily noted, was Frank Wu, who is an accomplished scholar—and the Dean of my alma mater (UC Hastings College of Law). His piece is titled “Why Vincent Chin Matters.”

I previously wrote about the Vincent Chin case here and here. It was brought to my attention by great Arizona lawyers, who featured a documentary about the case at the 2011 Minority Bar Convention.

Here is how Dean Wu opens his editorial:

“On June 23, 1982, in Detroit, a young man named Vincent Chin died. Four nights earlier, he had been enjoying his bachelor party with friends at a local bar when they were accosted by two white men, who blamed them for the success of Japan’s auto industry. ‘It’s because of you we’re out of work,’ they were said to have shouted, adding a word that can’t be printed here. The men bludgeoned Mr. Chin, 27, with a baseball bat until his head cracked open.

“I was a Chinese-American teenager growing up near Detroit then. I remember the haunting photograph of a smiling, fresh-faced Mr. Chin, shown repeatedly in newspapers and on TV, and the tears of his mother, Lily Chin, who lamented that his killers had escaped justice. Mr. Chin was buried on the day he was to have been married.”

So congratulations to my dean for writing on a matter of great importance—and in the New York Times, no less. Well done.

Later this week, I will share two remaining posts arising from the State Bar Convention last week. Both were phenomenal speaker opportunities, the kind that stay with you long after the applause fades.

Kim Demarchi, President-Elect of the Arizona Women Lawyers Association, summed up a recent event well: “We focus on how the shape of our workplaces shapes our experiences within them.”

Demarchi was offering an introduction for a keynote speaker at the group’s annual convention on November 4. But the concern—creating successful workplaces or their opposite—is one that is shared by many in a difficult profession.

The special speaker was Jessica Natkin, a national expert on workplaces and retention efforts that improve them. She arrived from the Project for Attorney Retention for WorkLife Law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law.

The Center is a national model and a leader in the topic. And Natkin’s pertinent remarks demonstrate why. (Full disclosure: I graduated from UC Hastings Law School in 1993, three years before the Center launched. And, while I’m at it, I am an AWLA member.)

Natkin’s lunchtime talk examined what it takes to have a successful law firm. But, going in, she acknowledged that the order was a tall one, given that our accepted model for success is based on “an ideal worker”—someone who lives and breathes for the workplace, one who “manifests a singular devotion” to work. In that rigid law office, according to one scholar, time becomes a proxy for dedication and excellence. In today’s society, Natkin said, a significant number of lawyers seek a work–life balance that is greater than that.

Kim Demarchi

She explained that “work-life” does not necessarily mean part-time, and it definitely does not mean reduced commitment to the job. In a world in which many firms are expecting 2,200 billable hours a year, “work-life” may often mean simply reclaiming a 40-hour workweek.

“Maternal wall bias” is one of the highest obstacles to women in the workforce, Natkin said. That is simply bias against women because they are or may become mothers. In that worldview, mothers are seen as less competent and committed than other lawyers.

Due that and other biases, women find themselves pushed out of the workplace. Women who are mothers are less likely to be hired, are offered a lower starting salary. And, researchers have found, mothers are held to higher standards of punctuality and performance.

In law firms, Natkin said, men are twice as likely as women to make partner. Women of color comprise only about three percent of the profession nationally. And less than one percent of equity partners in law firms are women of color.

Despite statistics like those, Natkin pointed out that work/life is not merely a woman’s problem: 70 percent of male attorneys and 71 percent of female attorneys report such conflict in their law firms, one in which the work to be accomplished never ends, and time outside work is seen as suspect by firm leaders. As one research respondent aptly put it, “It’s like a pie-eating contest where the prize is more pie.”

One possible solution to the dilemma, Natkin said, may lie in something called “balanced hours.” Though it may be similar to what we formerly called “part-time,” balanced hours is an individually tailored approach that also fits the firm’s business needs. “Balanced hours programs involve active management of workloads in proportion to reduced hours, emphasize client service, and promote the values of the firm.”

Jessica Natkin

Natkin also urged lawyers who seek to negotiate a better workplace to be open to the fact that there are occasional job emergencies: “We cannot be rigid. We must be flexible in our flexibility.” When those sometimes occur, she said, be prepared to pitch in.

Perhaps the law profession is pretty far from adopting solutions and approaches like those touted by the Center for WorkLife Law. In fact, many lawyers may reside comfortably in the notion that things are pretty good and change is unlikely—or unnecessary. If so, then perhaps the words of another research respondent—a woman who decided to vacate the profession—may give them pause:

“So I decided to quit, and this was a really, really big deal … because I never envisioned myself not working. I just felt like I would be a nobody if I quit. Well, I was sort of a nobody working, too. So it was sort of, ‘Which nobody do I want to be?’

Congratulations to the Arizona Women Lawyers Association for putting on another great program. More information on WorkLife is available here.