The Eastern Seaboard may still be buried in ice and snow. But Spring beckons all the same. And come March — like swallows that supposedly always return to Mission San Juan Capistrano, U.S. lawyers receive their yearly state bar propaganda promoting that vestigial anachronism known as the annual state bar convention.
Last month I received the Arizona Bar’s annual sponsorship solicitation letter ‘inviting’ members to underwrite the convention as “Convention Patrons.” Suggested donations range from $200 plus to $4000 plus. The Nevada Bar, where I also belong, likewise looks for convention sponsors. But not nearly as enthusiastically as Arizona’s Bar, which spends thousands of dollars in member dues to solicit each member by direct mail.
To pry open lawyer billfolds, the cover letter from Arizona Bar leadership that accompanies the patron contribution form extols (without corroboration) the convention as “consistently recognized as one of the finest in the nation” and asks members’ “help to maintain this position of prominence by returning the attached sheet with your contribution.”
Given such tireless entreaties, mandatory state bars never ever leave a lawyer’s consciousness. So notwithstanding that creaky old song about swallows coming back to Capistrano — likewise the truth is that swallows never ever leave Capistrano. They’re always around.
In the good ole’ summertime.
State bar conferences are usually held in summer preferably at climatically pleasant locales like, for instance, Seattle, Washington where the State Bar of Nevada’s Annual Meeting is set for July 9-11, 2015. Or lovely Sun Valley, Idaho on July 29th when the Utah State Bar’s Summer Convention features keynote speaker Citizens United author U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy.
All well and good — except locally. The Arizona State Bar holds its annual meetings in June and in Arizona — hardly a climatically pleasant locale that time of year. Summer around here means hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.
And alternating the venues between Phoenix and Tucson is of little use. The average June temperatures in each city easily surpasses 100 degrees°F. And in Phoenix, site of this year’s Butt-Numb-A-Thon, the June thermometer averages 104 degrees°F. The good news for the Bar is that by keeping the air conditioning cranked up, bored conferees don’t wander far from the all-you-can-eat CLE buffet or from the shameless self-congratulation ceremonies.
Another way to keep ‘cheeks in seats’ — at least per the State Bar of Wisconsin, is to headline the event with the likes of humorist, actor, and author Mo Rocca. Wisconsin holds its 2015 Annual Meeting in June at Lake Geneva, Wisconsin and a Kenosha lawyer apprised me about this year’s speaker.
But Mo Rocca? In 2010, the Wisconsin Bar featured retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor delivering the keynote address. But in 2015, it’s the sobriquet sharing “Mo” whose fame comes via CBS Sunday Morning and frequent stinting as a panelist on NPR’s weekly quiz show, “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me.”
The other NPR quiz show panelists Tom Bodett and Paula Poundstone were probably busy. At any rate, they didn’t invite Dick Cheney who stirred up Wyoming lawyers when he was keynote speaker at last year’s Wyoming State Bar Convention.
So no matter years of lackluster attendance and past pronouncements about the demise of the annual cheesehead lawyer convention, it appears its death was “greatly exaggerated.” Instead, the Wisconsin Bar has come roaring back — with Mo Rocca.
Ready. Fire. Aim.
But in Arizona, no worries. Keynote speaker? Who knows? Last year, according to the bar’s website, the principal address was also by a humorist but leastways, that fellow was also a lawyer even though nobody I know had ever heard of him. Of course, the same may later be said of Mo Rocca.
If the Arizona Bar hasn’t thought of it, NBC News Anchor Brian Williams is probably available now that he has six months of extra time on his hands. Or maybe that’s not such a good idea since his honorarium would most likely top Mo Rocca’s.
But for now, those waiting with ‘bated breath and whispering humbleness‘ will simply have to wait longer for the identity of the keynote speaker. The schedule hasn’t been fully announced for Arizona’s 2015 feast of self-congratulation, even though there’s a theme. Reminiscent of “Ready, Fire, Aim” — it’s “Ready, Set, Practice.”
In the end, however, it makes scant difference. Like some 90 percent of my colleagues, I won’t be showing face at the convention — so all those marketing appeals will go for naught.
Photo Credits: 010 022.jpg by butkovicdub at Morguefile; IMG_4895copy.jpg By carmemlucia at Morguefile; Mo Rocca by Infrogmation (talk) at Wikimedia Commons via Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license; Dick Cheney by DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution; Brian Williams by DonkeyHotey at Flickr Creative Commons Attribution.