On Tuesday, after the formal State Bar Board photos, Bar CEO John Phelps invited two leaders to participate in what has become a photographic tradition at Convention: the choo-choo photo.

Here it is.

Leaving the station: Whitney Cunningham, Richard Platt, John Phelps

Leaving the station: Whitney Cunningham, Richard Platt, John Phelps

Who is captured? From left, here is State Bar 2013-14 President Whitney Cunningham, 2014-15 President Richard Platt, and John Phelps.

I presume there is an underlying message about organizational change and a parade of talented leaders, some coming, some going.

But why should I presume? Instead, I’d like to know what you think.

Yes, it’s a caption contest. Tell me how you would title this photo. But, because lawyers, we have rules:

  1. Nothing obscene.
  2. Nothing you wouldn’t share with your mother.

OK, I guess I’m saying the same rule twice. But you get the picture (see what I did there?).

(You need not be a lawyer to submit a caption.)

I will take submissions three ways: posted below (always a risk); tweeted with the hashtags #caption and #azbarcon; or emailed to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

What’s the prize? How about a $20 Starbucks gift card, and the praise and admiration of your legal colleagues (and your mother).

Who’s the judge? I’m the judge. But all complaints will be heard by your mother.

Deadline: 9:00 am, Friday, June 13, 2014.

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Whitney Cunningahm presides over his last board meeting as President, June 11, 2014, Tucson. Ariz.

Whitney Cunningahm presides over his last board meeting as President, June 11, 2014, Tucson. Ariz.

Here’s an easy way to start your Convention morning: Enjoy some photos from yesterday’s Board of Governors meeting. (More photos are below.)

And don’t forget that you can participate too. Send me brief stories or story suggestions. Or if you have convention photos, we’d be glad to share them with readers.

And don’t forget to tweet from convention. Use the hashtag #azbarcon.

Questions or suggestions? Reach the Editor, Tim Eigo, on-site at the Westin La Paloma, at 602-908-6991.

"I'm just a bill" is a pretty humble thing for a powerful opinion-shaper to say. gif

“I’m just a bill” is a pretty humble thing for a powerful opinion-shaper to say.

A few days ago, I mentioned an association leader’s written response to breaking legal events. Today, I share my own takeaways to the same events, as I wrote in my April editor’s column.

Like Whitney Cunningham, I did not directly address the Arizona bill titled SB1062. Instead, I marveled at the community engagement—on both sides of the issue—that the proposed law brought to life.

SB 1062 open for business sign_opt

Always open for dialogue and discussion

I titled my column “The Civics Brain Stirs,” which opened:

“The notion that we are a nation(state) of laws may never have been more apparent than in February, as Arizona was held in the grip of a controversial bill sent from the Legislature to the Governor. As she wrestled with her decision of what to do with SB 1062 (which she ultimately vetoed), we in the state got a front-row seat to civics and remarkable political drama.”

“In an age dominated by sound bites and Xbox, it is amazing how often people will set down the joystick to engage with each other on difficult elements of law and public policy. Here are four things that occurred to me as events unfolded.”

To read those four things—and the entire column—go here.

And for a more pointed commentary on events, read Grant Woods’ column on our back-page “Last Word.”

I'm just a bill veto

SB 1062 open for business sign_optIn March, I had the opportunity to present at the American Bar Association on the topic of association presidents’ messages—typically magazine or newsletter columns penned by the attorney who helms the bar association for a year.

Since then, however, I’ve come across a message that I wish I could have shared in Chicago. It was drafted by Whitney Cunningham, the State Bar of Arizona President.

Whitney Cunnigham is an attorney at Aspey, Watkins & Diesel in Flagstaff, and I had the privilege of writing a profile of him last summer.

So here was Whitney’s challenge in the April issue of Arizona Attorney Magazine: how to explore a delicate topic made even more controversial by a high-profile and breaking piece of state legislation, without crossing any lines into inappropriate legislative advocacy.

State Bar of Arizona President Whitney Cunningham (photo by John Hall)

State Bar of Arizona President Whitney Cunningham (photo by John Hall)

The topic was a bill called SB1062. I’ll let Wikipedia tell you more about the law here.

Of course, the State Bar of Arizona is a member organization. Among members, there may be many views of this and other laws. And if you cross a line, they let you know.

So how can a Bar President convey the mission and values of the organization, but do so without taking an overt stand on a pending law?

The answer was: Quite well, thank you.

Top to bottom, Whitney never discusses the bill itself, but instead focuses on the value of diversity that runs through the Bar association. He wisely titled his column “Getting Rich,” and then delineates the scores of ways diversity aids the association and the State of Arizona. And then he ends, “As a bar, we are rich and getting richer.”

Read Whitney’s entire column here. And let me know what you think by writing to me at arizona.attorney@azbar.org.

Do you have an opinion on a possible dues increase by the State Bar of Arizona?

I will pause here, as I am sure you’re laughing at my simple-minded question.

pause buttonMy point is that everyone seems to have an opinion on the possibility of an increase, which would be the first since 2005.

If you’re curious to hear contrary views on the topic staked out, this Wednesday afternoon will be a good opportunity.

Maricopa County Bar Association MCBA logoAt 5:00 pm, Wednesday, Feb. 19, the Maricopa County Bar Association is hosting what it calls an “informational session” (let’s hope that means more light than heat). It is free, but they would prefer that you RSVP here.

I spoke with Allen Kimbrough, the MCBA Executive Director, and I’m happy to report that Arizona Attorney content will be part of the dialogue. Attendees will receive copies of our February issue FAQs, as well as our published pro and con.

The Wednesday event will feature two speakers who were our same authors—State Bar President Whitney Cunningham on the pro side, and Bar Governor Sam Saks taking up the con gauntlet.

I look forward to seeing you there. As always, feel free to share your thoughts with me about a possible increase; I may include them in an upcoming blog post.

possible dues increase calculator

Amelia Craig Cramer opens her gift of a bound volume of Arizona Attorney Magazine, while State Bar CEO John Phelps looks on, June 18, 2013.

Amelia Craig Cramer opens her gift of a bound volume of Arizona Attorney Magazine, while State Bar CEO John Phelps looks on, June 18, 2013.

On the Tuesday before the State Bar Convention begins, the Board of Governors holds its June board meeting. It takes most of the afternoon (OK, the whole afternoon), but it does have its charms.

First of all, it’s the last board meeting over which the outgoing President presides. That means Tuesday was Amelia Craig Cramer’s last meeting. She was a pleasure to work with, and we were lucky to have her lead the Bar in the past year.

Others, too, cycle off the board at that meeting. And it is always great to hear the warm best wishes uttered among people who work hard together and often do not have a free minute to commiserate and visit as friends. The June meeting provides that opportunity.

The passing of the gavel includes a few gifts to the outgoing President. Amelia wanted the Bar to donate to the Foundation the money they would have spent on her gift—and so they will. But she still receives (whether she likes it or not) a gift of a leather-bound year of Arizona Attorney Magazine. She opened the gift, smiled, and then mentioned that with the Bar’s green and paperless initiative, this may be the last year the gift will be possible. Gulp. I’ll take that as being part of her great sense of humor!

Another tradition that’s arisen is the oh-so-brief crowning of the Incoming President. And so we got to view the already-tall Whitney Cunningham achieve a truly regal height. He generously allowed a photo or three as Amelia placed the velvet and ermine piece on his head, but then declined to wear it further—being a man of the people, I suppose (me, I would have worn that around the Biltmore throughout the Convention’s duration!).

Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer crowns her successor, Whitney Cunningham, June 18, 2013.

Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer crowns her successor, Whitney Cunningham, June 18, 2013.

The reveal: Bar President Amelia Craig Cramer displays her crowned successor, Whitney Cunningham, June 18, 2013.

Congratulations and thanks to Amelia, Whitney and all those others who offer their time and more in service to Arizona’s lawyers.

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.