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Archive for the ‘Your friendly state bar.’ Category

Two months ago, the State Bar of Arizona ran a lame contest via Instagram to encourage voters to 

Voters here aren’t particularly fond of playing to figure out who to vote for among scores of judges up for judicial retention elections. The numbers can run upwards of 50 to 60 — even 70. Unfortunately, most of the populace has never heard of the candidates. And for Red State Arizonans, it’s even tougher since judicial elections aren’t partisan.

So in lieu of throwing darts at a list or visiting the judicial performance review website, which 99% of the time rubber-stamps its approval anyway — many voters take a pass. They either vote “No” on everyone or they don’t vote altogether for the judges.

Faced with this, the Bar, at the behest of the Court, — came up with its contest to encourage the electorate to fill out the ballots completely. In fairness, it’s is a tall order trying to pour energy into voter ennui.

Just the same this wasn’t the contest to do it, not by any stretch. Assuming anyone paid attention, the contest was purely a sop for those crying out for something — anything to stem the tide of persistent problematic ballot roll-off.

The sole prize for the winning video entry was supposed to have been a $250 Visa gift card. But since the November election, it’s been a minor mystery on whether or not the Bar received any contest video entries or whether anybody actually won. I’ve seen no pronouncements from our friendly state bar, which is highly unusual since this stands in stark contrast to all the email announcements ballyhooing the start of the contest. Odd, too, as the local Bar is quite fond of filling up lawyer inboxes with unsolicited email newsletters, redundant CLE advertisements and just today, an especially unwelcome “time to pay your State Bar of Arizona’s annual dues” email.

At least for now, it appears mum’s the word on “Finish the Ballot,” which naturally prompts the question whether or not the Bar ever plans to “Finish the Contest.”

To be clear, I don’t actually care a rat’s hindquarters about the contest. This is merely my snarky segue into posting more FREE CLE offerings for lawyers still trying to “Finish the CLE” by year-end. The usual disclaimers on content; continued availability; and jurisdictional approval apply.

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FREE CLE

First American Exchange Company

http://firstexchange.com/webinars

1031 Exchanges and
Commercial Real Estate

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

11 AM Pacific / 2 PM Eastern
50 minutes
Topics will include:

  • Current Trends
  • Allowable Closing Costs
  • Recapture of Depreciation
  • How Reverse Exchanges Can Save a Transaction
  • Exchange Deposit Accounts
  • State Regs for QIs

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Wolters Kluwer
Alternative Entities — Navigating New Choices for Business Formations Webinar
December 9, 2014 – 1:00PM(ET)

http://www.cvent.com/events/alternative-entities-navigating-new-choices-for-business-formations-webinar-december-9-2014-1-00p-et/event-summary-ec6cf48dac2244db92fd51c114fd0e2d.aspx?elq_mid=3977&elq_cid=41694

1.0 CLE credit hours in California, Illinois, Missouri, NALA, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas and other jurisdictions under reciprocity.

Topics:

  • Series LLC
  • Benefit Corporations
  • Low-Profit LLC
  • Unincorporated nonprofit associations
  • Limited cooperative associations
  • Master Limited Partnership

Attendees will learn:

  • What new entities are now available
  • How they are different from and similar to traditional entities such as the corporation or LLC
  • Where they can be formed
  • How they are formed, maintained and terminated
REGISTER NOW

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LexisNexis® Presents a Complimentary CLE-eligible Webinar: Ethical Concerns Conducting Research via the open Web
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
2 – 3:35 P.M. ET (11 A.M. PT)
Duration: 95 minutes
Earn 1.5 CLE credits
Topics:
• Risks of legal research on the open Web
• Developing a firm policy on utilizing the open Web
• Preserving information found on the Internet
• Protecting your own Internet content

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Photo Credits: 214/365, at Flickr by Morgan via Creative Commons attribution.

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File:Simpleton takes The Golden Goose to the inn - Project Gutenberg eText 15661.jpgThis Wednesday, it’ll be two months since the State Bar of Arizona considered a proposal to protect its two-million dollar revenue laying Golden Goose known as Bar-sponsored continuing legal education (CLE).

On September 19th, the Bar weighed a recommendation to seek state supreme court approval for a requiring third-party CLE providers to pay a precertification fee for Bar-accreditation to sell credit-eligible courses in Arizona.

Angry businessman yelling into bullhorn 1Following a universal outcry from members who criticized the proposal as an unnecessary added cost, the vote was apparently tabled. But who knows for sure? Since the board of governors meeting minutes have yet to see the light of day, the lawyer hoi polloi in Arizona are left to wonder whether or not the Bar’s goose will lay another golden egg.

But fortunately, there’s no need to wonder about the continued availability of FREE CLE — from third-party providers, naturally. Along with the usual disclaimers about content, continued availability and jurisdictional approval, here are the latest updates.

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Rimon Law

Nov 21, 2014 11:00 AM to 12:00 PM EST

One hour CLE; approved in California and credit-eligible in NY.

CPE/CLE Webinar – State and Local Taxation: Headline News and Trends.

http://rimonlaw.com/events/cpe-cle-webinar-state-and-local-taxation-headline-news-and-trends

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Lewis Brisbois 

http://www.lewisbrisbois.com/webinars

November 20, 2014

Managing and Mitigating Damages in the Wrongful Death Case

Time: 9:00 am – 10:00 am PST

Fee: Complimentary

REGISTER

December 18, 2014

Encore Performance: Affordable Care Act – Part I: The Impact of The Affordable Care Act on Personal Injury Litigation. A Plan to Defend Against Claims for Future Medical Costs, Loss of Health Insurance, and Life Care Plans.

Time: 9:00 am – 10:00 am PST

Fee: Complimentary

REGISTER

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West Legal Ed

Content Partner: Robert Half Legal

Client Dynamics Driving Change in the Legal Profession

http://westlegaledcenter.com/program_guide/course_detail.jsf?courseId=100031914

One hour, Video On Demand, Complimentary

Approved in multiple jurisdictions.

Enroll in Course

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American Society of Law, Medicine and Ethics, ASLME

Alcohol Law and Policy: Lessons Learned from the Field

Thursday, November 20th
1:00pm – 2:30pm (ET)

Free

http://www.aslme.org/webinar-alcohol-law-and-policy-lessons-learned-from-the-field

Presented in Partnership by: American Society of Law Medicine and Ethics (ASLME); Network for Public Health Law; and Public Health Law Research

(Hat tip: 4FreeCLE: Free Continuing Legal Education)

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Photo Credits: Simpleton_takes_The_Golden_Goose_to_the_inn_-_Project_Gutenberg_eText_15661.jpg, Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

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Last week, the State Bar of Arizona launched an odd campaign. It’s a social media contest using the photo sharing, video streaming site Instagram.

Called Finish the Ballot!, the contest is supposed to promote voter information about judicial retention elections. Yeah, there’s a challenge — ginning up excitement for a dull but important topic.

Dangling all of a $250 Visa gift card as the sole prize, contestants vie by creating a 15-second Instagram video that must include the phrase, “Finish the ballot. Vote for the judges!”

Bar employees will pick the winner based on “creativity and originality as they reflect the contest’s theme.” Instead of “Just Say No!” think “Just Say Vote!” 

Undervoting worries.

The goal is to increase voter participation — at least on that really long part of the ballot with all the judicial names expecting retention.

Problem is that voters in Arizona and in other judicial retention states continue choosing not to complete their ballots. The phenomenon has a name. It’s called “undervoting” or “roll off.”

The worry is that for merit selection and judicial retention election proponents, all those non-votes undermine the argument that retention elections are supposedly great at ensuring judicial accountability.

And with ever longer ballots and so many judges listed, it’s not getting any better. In one recent Maricopa County election, for example,

Indeed, according to a June 2014 Arizona Law Review article, “Judicial Performance Review in Arizona: A Critical Assessment,” authors former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch and her former law clerk now attorney Erin Norris Bass, reference Professor Larry Aspin’s studies revealing that between 1964 and 2010, Arizona judges up for retention averaged an undervote of 42.9%.

In his report, Judicial retention election trends,” Aspin highlighted the undervoting increase in the state’s largest county, Maricopa, where it ran “an average 48.8% in the 1996-2006 period, peaking at 54.5% in 2004.”  And citing 2012 Maricopa County Election Results, Justice Berch and Ms. Bass noted more recently that “In the 2012 retention election, Maricopa County Superior Court judges on the ballot had an average 50.7% undervote.”

But besides undervoting, there’s another concern troubling the legal establishment. Justice Berch and Ms. Bass’ law review article, also cited findings that “approximately 30% of the electorate routinely votes ‘no’ in judicial retention elections no matter who the judge happens to be.” 

In Maricopa County, among those taking the time to vote for all the judges, the median affirmative vote in the 2012 county election was 69%. Anecdotally at least, one can speculate this may be a form of protest by restive voters dissatisfied with the present system.

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Photo Credits: 214/365, at Flickr by Morgan via Creative Commons attribution; Making Faces, at Flickr by a2gemma via Creative Commons-attribution license;My Kitty Boys Doing the Big Eye Stare, by joanna8555 at Flickr Creative Commons attribution license;Instagram-logo, uploaded by José Moutinho at Flickr Creative Commons attribution;DeMoulin’s Patented Hoodwink, at Flickr Creative Commons-attribution license uploaded by Arallyn!

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File:Falafel.JPG“What the falafel?” I rhetorically asked after two colleagues separately emailed me the past day about the State Bar of Arizona’s new CLE Institute Training Program.

Ahead of the Arizona Bar’s likely imminent approval of a new CLE provider precertification system that passes on more costs on lawyers, comes the same “friendly state bar’s” new “voluntary faculty development program.” Participants sign up for $50 apiece to attend a CLE Institute to become a “State Bar Certified CLE Presenter.” Wow!

Apparently someone had a brain infarction that Arizona lawyers were clamoring for such a credential! If I’d only known. Just tell me, though, when “voluntary” becomes “mandatory.” Meantime, my right-hand wearies from one-handed clapping.

Hushpuppies 5stack.jpgAccording to the Bar’s promotional flyer, attendees take part in a day-long “training session” in full business professional dress. They view pre-recorded video lectures and create a 10-minute video presentation for analytical discussion. On completion, they’re required to chair or take part in a SBA CLE program within 12 months of graduation.

On second thought, skip the falafel and pass me a hushpuppy! In truth, I never acquired a taste for either although I have friends who’ll drive miles for a good falafel sandwich. Don’t know about the hushpuppy. As for me — hand me a gyro.

But enough about food, frivolity and the foolhardy. So just before the Arizona Bar makes it more difficult for third-party providers to market and sell CLE, here’s more FREE CLE.

PLEASE NOTE: The in-person Phoenix, AZ CLE program worth “up to 7.0 CLE hours, including 1.0 Ethics and 1.5 Domestic Violence Plus BONUS .5 credit during lunch hour” is not technically FREE — but requires a $65 payment for materials, lunch, snacks and refreshments. All the same, quite the deal!

The usual disclaimers about content quality, jurisdictional acceptability and continued availability apply.

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LexisNexis® presents a Complimentary CLE-eligible* Webinar: Finding Shelter After the Storm: Survival Following Hurricanes, Earthquakes, Floods and Fires

Wednesday, September 24, 2014
2:00 – 3:35pm ET (11am PT)
95 minutes
1.5 CLE Credits

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Is Your Legal Hold Process “Reasonable” Under the Updated FRCP?

Presented by Exterro as part of its E-Discovery Masters Series

Webcast: October 1, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. Eastern (10:00 a.m. Pacific)
Space is limited. Register Now!
CLE-Accredited Webcast but separate registration is required on www.nacle.com/exterro to receive CLE credit.

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Keeping Legal Minds Intact: Mitigating Compassion Fatigue Among Legal Professionals

American Bar Association

Wednesday, October 22nd at 12:00pm-1:30pm CST

1.50 General CLE Credit Hours, FREE

http://shop.americanbar.org/ebus/ABAEventsCalendar/EventDetails.aspx?productId=135023765

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How the Separation of Powers Informs the Executive Duty to Defend the Law  

Case Western University Law School

OCT 2, 2014
4:30 P.M. – 5:30 P.M.

1 hour of in-person CLE credit available, pending approval

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Volunteer Atty & Child Advocacy seminar

Defenders of Children and Arizona Summit Law School

LIVE IN-PERSON CLE PROGRAM

‘KEEPING IT REAL’ Educational Seminar
Seating is Limited.
RESERVATIONS ARE A MUST!

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 31, 2014
8:15 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.

AZ SUMMIT LAW SCHOOL
1 N.Central Ave. (at Washington)
PHOENIX, AZ 85004

$65 Early Bird received during September ensures the full day’s amenities, materials and lunch.

Educational credits available for lawyers and mental health providers with an interest in Family and Juvenile Court.

REGISTER AT:
https://events.r20.constantcontact.com/register/eventReg?oeidk=a07e9tab5l6c4f4fe81&oseq=&c=&ch=
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Photo Credits: Falafel, at Wikimedia Commons by Jerem at fr.wikipedia under the GNU Free Documentation License; Hushpuppies 5 stack, Uploaded by CrazyLegsKC, Wikimedia Commons under Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license.

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http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/d/d1/Avarice.jpg/321px-Avarice.jpg“When somebody says it’s not about the money — it’s about the money.” - H.L. Mencken

This Friday, the State Bar of Arizona considers whether or not to ask the state supreme court to approve a precertification system for organizations offering continuing legal education (CLE) in Arizona.

Those favoring a first-ever pay-to-play arrangement wherein CLE providers have to pay a fee to be Bar-accredited to sell credit-eligible courses in Arizona are making like it’s all good. They’re saying it’s about insuring program quality and attorney competency; enhancing member services; and advancing the Bar’s mission to protect the public — from its lawyers.

But recalling Mencken and as every lawyer who’s ever heard clients sayit’s not about the money’ knows — the proposed change is about the money. And we’re talking about a lot — well into the 7 figures of gross revenue, at least here in Arizona. For mandatory and voluntary bars across the country, continuing legal education is a cash cow business.

And thanks to the Arizona Bar’s latest proposal to require provider precertification, it means to keep its cash-generating bovine healthy by:

► Generating more money via another CLE revenue stream and by;

► Protecting its $2M+ annual CLE revenue turf from increased competition from third-party CLE providers.

How high the annual or course-by-course certification fees will be is anybody’s guess. However, the Bar subcommittee recommending the changes noted that other state bars have annual fees ranging “from $100-$500.”  Unfortunately, the subcommittee neglected to similarly emphasize that the mandatory continuing legal education jurisdictions of Nevada, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, and New York have CLE certification guidelines but without fee generating mechanisms. See http://www.barancle.com/mcle/course-application-requirements/

Those aforementioned states, which include both mandatory and voluntary bars, only require lawyers to comply with MCLE — but do not impose accreditation fees on providers. See https://www.reqwiredlegal.com/reqwired/resources/ and http://www.barancle.com/mcle/mcle-requirement/ And why not mention that the jurisdictions of Michigan, South Dakota, District of Columbia, Maryland, and Massachusetts have no MCLE requirements at all?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3d/Limbo1.JPG/1024px-Limbo1.JPGTo be fair, there’s talk here of possible exemptions for non-profits and local organizations that do not charge dues and seminar registration fees, which must mean that unlike the non-profit Arizona Bar — such organizations have to undertake CLE strictly as a labor of love.

Sarcasm aside, it presumably means law firms with free in-house employee CLE would get a pass. Yet undetermined, though, is whether state agencies or state-funded organizations would be charged fees or reduced fees and whether or not Arizona lawyers would be charged to get credit approval for non-Bar accredited third-party CLE.

Another under-publicized Bar vote.

Politicians 19But for a belated blast email asking for member comments 9 days before the vote, Arizona’s lawyers might not have heard of the significant changes planned. That said, since lawyers are often too busy to pay attention to every email in a glutted inbox, I suspect very few of Arizona’s 17,300 active members will have heard of the proposal. They’ll find out only after the proverbial die’s been cast.

Seems the Bar learned nothing from the brouhaha it stirred when it tried last December 2013 to pass a 22% lawyer licensing fee increase when they thought no one was looking. Because of lawyer objections concerning insufficient due process and lack of transparency, the Bar had to table that vote. Unfortunately, despite subsequent revelations of bureaucratic bloat and budgetary waste, the Bar eventually eked out a 12-11 vote to hike Arizona lawyer dues albeit by ‘only’ 13% instead of 22%.

So no surprise to jaded Bar members about this latest under-publicized move by the ‘friendly state bar.’ Stoically resigned Arizona lawyers already know that despite an almost $15M annual budget; a just-passed dues increase; and a projected nearly $4M surplus by 2019, Bar leadership has sufficient brass to ask members to sustain one more financial burden on their practices. The imposition of new cost-of-business fees on third-party CLE providers will be passed on to participants.

The emperor has no clothes.

The irony of all of this is that from the first imposition of mandatory continuing legal education, lawyers have questioned the faulty assumptions and false conclusions underpinning it.

Indeed, as prominent Nevada family law attorney Marshal Willick writes in his brilliant post All studies known to date show no benefit whatsoever to imposition of mandatory CLE programs in terms of lawyer competency.  What we have is a time-and-money-consuming bureaucracy that falsely portrays itself as providing a service important to the public, but actually does not make lawyers any better, or provide the public any useful information; in short, it does no actual good.

Man with American money uid 1“Why would the organized Bar – formed for the stated purpose of serving the Bar and public – demonstrate such gross incapacity to see that the emperor has no clothes? Because, even beyond the PR value of the appearance of doing something valuable, there’s money to be made.”

And for additional perspectives concerning the absence of studies that mandatory CLE verifiably improves the quality of legal services or ensures the competency of lawyers, also see, e.g., “The MCLE Question No One Wants to Ask” at http://www.law21.ca/2013/04/the-mcle-question-no-one-wants-to-ask/ and “Colossal Cave-in: Why Reform of MCLE Was DOA” at https://www.myazbar.org/AZAttorney/PDF_Articles/AZAT0201-MCLE.pdf  and “Revisiting MCLE: Is Compulsory Passive Learning Building Better Lawyers?” at http://bit.ly/1uRNLDq R

Irksomely, however, mandatory CLE will continue to exist because state bars make a lot of money from it.

Bureaucrats.PNG

“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedure is everything and outcomes are nothing.”Thomas Sowell

The creation of yet another bureaucratic department at the Bar staffed with either more clerical or legal staff to vet CLE programs is a fiscal step in the wrong direction.

Among similarly-sized state bars, the Arizona Bar already has the dubious distinction of having one of the highest lawyer licensing fees; one of the largest annual budgets; and one of the biggest administrative staffs and exceptionally well-paid executive cadre in the country.

Instead of looking at fiscal discipline and cost-controls, this latest initiative virtually assures more member dues increases to satisfy the ongoing demands of the new bureaucracy created to qualify, certify, track and audit CLE providers in the future.

Whether there’s enough fiscal good sense left among the Bar’s Board of Governors to stop the proposal remains to be seen.

But when you’re talking Bar bovine bankrolling protection — don’t bet on it.

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Photo Credits: Deadly sins, Avarice, by Jesus Solana at Flickr Creative Commons-requiring attribution http://www.flickr.com/photos/pasotraspaso/6953271968/; The Emperor’s Clothes by Vilhelm Pedersen at Wikipedia Commons, public domain; Revenue by Simon Cunningham at Flickr via Creative Commons license requiring attribution; Limbo Dancer by Mariegriffiths at Wikipedia Commons under the GNU Free Documentation License; Imag0361, by Bruce Biles at Flickr via Creative Commons license requiring attribution; Money, by Philip Taylor at Flickr via Creative Commons license requiring attribution; Bureaucrats, by Raafael at Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license; Cash cow, adopted from watchingfrogsboil at Flickr, Creative Commons, Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic license.

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Suspending for a heartbeat my natural skepticism when it comes to Arizona’s legal establishment, especially its ‘friendly state bar,’ the following announcement might be good news. But I’m not holding my breath.

By administrative order of Arizona’s highest court, a “Task Force on the Review and Governance of the State Bar of Arizona” Review the State Bar’s Role and Governance” was created July 29, 2014.

j0341699The purpose of the Task Force is to “examine the Rules of the Supreme Court on the mission and governance structure” and to recommend changes — albeit “if needed,” including but not limited to the following:

“a) Does the mission of the State Bar need to be clarified or modified?

b) Is the governance structure adequate to efficiently and effectively govern and carry out the duties of the Board?

c) Are Supreme Court Rules in the following areas related to Board structure and governance duties adequate to best serve the Board’s primary mission of protecting the public?

i. Qualifications for membership on the Board of Governors;

ii. Appointment, election and removal of members of the Board of Governors;

iii. Term limits for members of the Board of Governors;

iv. Election process;

v. Board of Governors size and composition; and

vi. State Bar leadership structure and composition.”

People 3050I’ll be monitoring the Task Force’s work, particularly whether the court does anything to arrest the serial reelection of governors (some, for example, have been on the Board for almost 20 years), see “Elvis never leaves the building without term limits;” or to rein in the unwieldy size and structure of the 30-member Board, e.g. see “Inside the tent: state bars and management by rugby scrum;” or to rethink the Bar’s exclusive consumer-protection mission, see “That time of year again . . . rendering to Caesar his annual bar dues.”

I have zero expectations on the latter as the court’s order makes abundantly clear the mission and governance review means “to ensure that they continue to best serve the public interest.” After all, the court adds: “The integrated State Bar is intended to regulate the legal profession to protect the public” [presumptively — from its lawyers].

But don’t misunderstand. Serving the public interest is critically important. Problem is, there are hordes of Arizona lawyers still clinging to the long discarded but quaint notion that like a trade association, the Arizona Bar also expressly serves members’ interests.

So perhaps a salutary outcome of the Task Force’s work will be to finally disabuse them of that delusion. For more about “the tension inherent between the two incompatible roles of our integrated bar, the governmental regulation role and the trade association role,” see David Cameron Carr’s insightful discussion of the California State Bar’s recent governance changes at “The Great Public Protection Perpetual Motion Machine.”

So thanks to its public protection marching orders, deliberations won’t start with a blank slate. Findings and recommendations are due September 1, 2015.

Everything’s dandy.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/1/12/Henri_Brispot_Gourmand.jpg/309px-Henri_Brispot_Gourmand.jpg

The court’s order may have also caught some of the true believing kool-aid drinkers on the Board of Governors by surprise, particularly if it was sprung on them during the Board’s just-concluded annual retreat boondoggle.

Rich Life 20Many governors, after all, like a bloated bureaucratic “full service, first class” bar. They savor their perquisite-filled status quo and gubernatorial privileges, including Bar-provided free continuing legal education. So despite the increasing restiveness of members, they think everything’s dandy the way it is.

But dandy or not, the court wants the review because of changes to the “legal services environment” along with growth of Bar membership and “demands placed on the State Bar.” I can only imagine what the last one means — but it sounds tailor-made to justify more fee increases.

Computer Hackers 22And coincidentally, there’s also another Arizona Supreme Court 13-member committee looking at “whether Arizona ethical and other regulatory rules should be amended because of the changing nature of legal practice in a technologically enabled and connected workplace and the growing trend toward multistate and international law practice.”

You’d almost think there’s something in the firewater hereabout, given the spate of rule reviews underway. But I think this other arose due to changes proposed by the American Bar Association’s Commission on Ethics 20/20. Indeed, other state bars have begun similar reviews. A copy of the June 17, 2014 administrative order is available here. And of course, I’ll be posting about that committee, too.

The bad news.

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/69/Ansdell_Richard_The_Gamekeeper.jpg/365px-Ansdell_Richard_The_Gamekeeper.jpgBut as for that task force on mission and governance, don’t expect meaningful reforms. Thirty-six percent of the task force is composed of former members of the Bar’s board of governors. Indeed, four of these five former governors are also past state bar presidents, including the immediate past president. He was instrumental in ramrodding through an unnecessary 13% dues increase to preserve business as usual. Moreover, the “consultant” to the Task Force is the Bar’s current CEO. A mission and governance review with such guiding lights is like hunting with the game warden.

Still, I guess it’s not quite as bad as the composition of the committee reviewing the Michigan State Bar’s purported use of dues for ideological activities. In Michigan, as one critic pointed out in February, “the task force is stacked with current and former state bar officials.”

At least this Task Force has more diversity. It includes a former state university president, a presiding judge, a libertarian from the Institute for Justice and even a former public utility lobbyist. And with the Bar’s prosecutorial mindset, no surprise it also includes a former state attorney general and a couple of former cops.

But while the Task Force appears to have seemingly covered the politically correct diversity dimensions, e.g., race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, age, etc., it’s missed a big one: there are no dissidents. Who will voice the saeva indignatio?

Yet understandably, in light of the Bar’s disposition toward group-think, why invite oppositionists? No matter, then, what Christopher Hitchens brilliantly wrote in Letters to a Young Contrarian that “. . . in life we make progress by conflict and in mental life by argument and disputation.” Of all people, you’d think lawyers would know that.

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Photo Credits: Day 121, at Flickr Creative Commons attribution share and share alike license by Bastian; The Good Shepherd, by Waiting For The Word at Flickr Creative Commons-license requiring attribution; Henri Brispot Gourmand.jpg at Wikipedia Commons, public domain; Gamekeeper by Richard Ansdell at Wikimedia Commons, public domain.

 

 

 

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“Are you a member or happy?”

Paraphrasing that other “Mo” — the one with an “e,” the State of Bar of Arizona is still asking. How happy are members with the Bar’s programs and services?

Although I already took the meaningless member survey, Monday morning I got another email reminding me to complete it. This is the third reminder — but who’s counting? The survey period ends this Friday.

 

achievements,business,flags,waving,metaphors,mountaintops,peaks,people,success,concepts

Doubtless the Bar’s trying to gin up something close to a representative response rate so its leaders can afterward claim victory just like they did three years ago.

Never mind the biased questions with their implicit assumptions or the forced choices from preselected answers. The results are preordained. But then I already I discussed all this last week at “Another ‘poppycock’ survey from the State Bar of Arizona.” At least the Bar’s not planning to survey us so they can later sell us the results.

Defensively speaking.

After last week’s post, I got an email from State Bar of Arizona Chief Communications Officer Rick DeBruhl. Understandably defensive, he wanted to explain a few things. With his consent, I’m posting his clarifications verbatim below.

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“A couple thoughts on your blog:

“Our survey was designed with input by Bruce Merrill. Formerly with ASU, he is one of the premiere survey experts in the country. Surveys are inherently imperfect. Experts like Merrill design them in such a way as to work around our human idiosyncrasies. I’ve never taken a survey that I considered perfect, and I wouldn’t put ours in that category. Using consultants such as Merrill simply allow us to step beyond the amateur ranks to get reasonably valid information.

“You mentioned the fact that 80% of the bar’s membership did not respond in 2011. Survey experts will tell you that a 20% response rate is phenomenal. In addition, we made sure to check that the final numbers were demographically similar to our membership. That gives our survey validity.

 “Questions such as the “printed directory or a more robust online member search tool” were designed to give us guidance. We know from previous surveys that members overwhelmingly use and value the directory. We’ve heard that the current online search tool doesn’t go far enough. Would people be satisfied if we dumped the print directory for our existing search tool? Possibly not. What we’re ultimately trying to determine is whether they like the printed version because they want a book, or because they don’t have a better option.

“As for the answers on the “most serious problems” question, we actually got them from another state’s survey. We’re trying to build not just Arizona data but national trends as well. We looked them over carefully before deciding to include them. Any time you create a list, it has the potential to create bias to those answers. And yet survey experts say that respondents need lists to be reminded of the options.

“As for why we use SurveyMonkey, the answer is simple. It is the highest quality for the lowest cost. Of course there are other ways to survey members with greater anonymity. However, they cost significantly more money. Merrill feels we can achieve the same results with lower cost using this method. One other option would be a random sampling. Experts say we could get statistically valid results with just hundreds of responses. Perhaps, but we felt that if we were going to talk about the results of the member survey that all members should have the ability to give answers.

“Incidentally, we had a technical problem on the first day of the survey that prevented some people from submitting. As a result, our consultant decided that our best option was to remove the block that prevents a second survey from the same computer. The consultant feels that the number of people submitting two will be significantly small so that it won’t likely affect overall trends. We do have the ability to run a check on the number of repeat IP addresses which will let us know whether that number was significant. I’m sure if we had unlimited resources, we could no doubt determine the identity of each IP address, but that’s simply not in our realm. Incidentally, we don’t use the SurveyMonkey invitation system.

“We’d love it to be shorter, but we’ve done our best to chop it down. Because of the skip logic built into the survey, no one actually answers every question.

“The bottom line is that we understand that surveys are imperfect. We look for trends and directions and feel that gives us guidance as an organization.

“As always, let me know if you have questions or thoughts.”

__________________________________________________________________________________

Dollars to donuts.

Cartoon Characters 57 I said last week I wasn’t a survey expert. But dollars to donuts, it’s like asking 10 lawyers about anything. If you get 10 survey experts in one room — you’ll get 10 different opinions.

Survey design is as much art as science. So what’s a good response rate? Depends who’s asking. And it depends on how they ask the question. Also see AAPOR | Response Rate – An Overview.

But I’m glad at least that Rick DeBruhl conceded more than once that the Bar survey was “imperfect” — because it is. That was the crux of my post.

There’s a reason some 80% of lawyers don’t bother answering these surveys. They’ve figured out what a medical historian once said about something else, “The experience of the ignorant has routed the wisdom of the learned.”

Too bad my point about the Bar’s expensive printed directory got lost. The survey’s either/or question about the directory was a leading question. It was biased toward a choice preference for a more robust online member search tool.”

Not long ago, the Arizona Bar spent well over six figures supposedly improving and updating its website and its online member search tool. And now it appears some Bar executive is itching to spend even more money on what’s become a bloated website and online member search tool. Meantime regardless of the Bar’s claims at being eco-friendly — it’s just not yet because the Bar continues to print member directories and kill trees.

As for the survey having been designed “with input by Bruce Merrill” — well, that was a point I already footnoted last week. Still with an expert “like Merrill” on board, you have to ask why the Bar needed to crib stuff from other state bar surveys?

Satisfied?

Finally, as a learned colleague pointed out to me when I showed her Rick DeBruhl’s response, his email didn’t address the matter of his boss’s oversimplification of the Bar’s percentage of so-called ‘satisfied customers.’ This was last February 2013 when AZ Bar CEO John Phelps who’s also a lawyer addressed the state legislature’s house judiciary committee.

At about 27:33 on the tape and transcript, he omits the qualifier “somewhat” and asserts instead that “75% of the lawyers polled. . . were satisfied and 25% were not satisfied.”

Does such shorthand, she opined, potentially rise to an ethical rules violation under ER 7.1, i.e., that “a lawyer shall not make or knowingly permit to be made on the lawyer’s behalf a false or misleading communication”? Or as she also speculated, was it a possible violation of ER 8.4 (c) concerning “misleading” statements? The Bar’s communications chief doesn’t explain.

 

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