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https://cdn.morguefile.com/imageData/public/files/b/BonnieHenderson/01/l/1451713664si0nf.jpgThis week signals the official start of summer, which also means — it’s state bar convention time! The annual silly season has begun.

In addition to being the last continuing legal education money grab for state bars before the fiscal year ends, it’s also the annual “orgy of self-adulation”like the Oscars for bar insiders and connected elites.

Lawyers you never heard of — chosen by who-knows-who — will get awards only recipients will care about.

And oh, yeah incoming bar leaders will fatuously speechify after being pompously sworn in.

The Texas, South Dakota and Wisconsin Bar Annual Conventions started this week. Next week Arizona holds its 2018 State Bar of Arizona Annual Convention.

Termed its “flagship event,” Arizona conventioneers can anticipate at least a partial antidote to the rest of the Butt-Numb-A-Thon with a Thursday Party and the State Bar’s “Lawyers Got Talent” Contest.” And the jokes almost write themselves — a lawyer amateur talent show.

Anyhow, if there’s a dance competition, I hope these guys show up. They’re among Arizona’s cheekiest, ineradicable personal injury advertisers. Ka-ching! — they even bought a full-page color ad in the convention brochure. And with dance steps like these, how can they miss?

The Naked Truth.

In truth, the silliness started months ago. In March, the Utah State Bar inadvertently emailed a photo of a topless woman to every lawyer in the state to herald its upcoming Spring Bar Convention.

ABA Journal recounted, “The message, sent to all active Utah lawyers, was intended to promote the bar’s spring convention, reported the Salt Lake Tribune, the Deseret News and Above the Law, which posted the email and the nude photo (not safe for work) here. The email also included photos of a clothed Lady Justice statue and a rock formation.”

Embarrassed bar officials tweeted “Apologies to all who received an inappropriate email from the Utah State Bar. We are aware of the situation and are investigating the matter.”

And underscoring how you can’t make this stuff up, the Utah Spring Bar Convention kickoff reception also featured, “the 16th Annual “Secret Lives of Lawyers” Silent Auction.” See “Utah State Bar sends every local lawyer an email of a topless woman.”

Parenthetically, the Utah Bar holds not just one yearly convention — but two. The Summer Convention is July 25-28 in St. George — undoubtedly with new safeguards to prevent another bare-chested recurrence.

‘How do I love me . . . let me count the ways.’

Generally speaking, bar conventions are not well attended. Well under 10% of the bar’s lawyers, for example, annually attend in Arizona and even fewer in Nevada. This is unlikely to improve, especially for Nevada, which continues to price itself out of reach of many members by holding conventions in expensive venues.

Last year’s convention was in Austin and the year before it was Hawaii. This year’s paean to self-congratulation is next month at Chicago’s iconic Drake Hotel. Registration for the Nevada Bar Convention comes in at a hefty $590 per registrant — likely the most expensive registration of any bar annual meeting this year.

Those paying the hefty fee on top of airfare and hotel expenses can at least look to their inclusion at the President’s Dinner. According to the convention brochure, “This semi-formal (black tie optional) event celebrates the recipients of the 2018 State Bar of Nevada’s Membership Awards and incoming bar President Rick Pocker, who will become the state bar’s 90th president. In addition to a plated meal, guests will be able to enjoy entertainment and dancing, as well as a red-carpet style photographed entrance.”

Not to be outdone, though, the Arizona Bar will similarly fete its incoming president and dole out member awards only the recipients care about. And why not? Patting yourself on the back is part and parcel of these annual meetings.

With a hat tip to my buddy, The Legal Watchdog, Wisconsin’s 2018 Annual Meeting & Conference starts June 21st and apparently still scrounging for attendees, bar cheeseheads mistakenly curtailed the registration deadline before extending it to the penultimate day.

And in a rather ironic programming twist, one of the plenary speakers is P.J. O’Rourke, “author, humorist, and political satirist.” I hope he includes some of his most quotable observations about hubris — “one of the great renewable resources” as well as his pointed observations on bureaucracy, greed, and power — in other words all the traits of a compulsory membership bar association.

I suspect, however, there may be limits to the silliness in Lake Geneva, WI. O’Rourke will probably leave out his lawyer jokes such as this chestnut: “During the mid-1980s dairy farmers decided there was too much cheap milk at the supermarket. So the government bought and slaughtered 1.6 million dairy cows. How come the government never does anything like this with lawyers?”

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Credits: silly, bonnie henderson at morguefile.com; Thank You Gif via Tenor; Blog OMG! by Mike Licht at Flickr Creative Commons attribution; Shocking!!! “that guy isn’t wearing pants,” by Chuck Olson, Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

 

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File:Snooki in Chicago adj.jpg

I was surprised no one recommended Snooki’sA Shore Thing,’ in the ABA Journal’s recently announced “30 Lawyers Pick 30 Books Every Lawyer Should Read.”

The list might have garnered more credibility had it listed “A Shore Thing,”‘authored’ by Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, star of reality television’s “Jersey Shore.”

Nevertheless, even without “Snooki,” it was some list. But save for those I’ve already read, nothing on the list induced me to hop in my car and hit the local Borders” before it closes forever.

The ABA Journal said, “We asked 30 lawyers to pick a book they’d recommend to other lawyers — a book they might not have already read or may have overlooked or might not know.” Say what? “. . . a book they might not have already read or may have overlooked or might not know”?

We’ve all heard about doofus celebrities only too ready to impress a curious entertainment and gossip magazine reporter by claiming to be reading some trifling bit of high brow esoterica. But it’s rare to meet a lawyer, let alone 30 of them willing to admit to reading anything outside of work.

Most lawyers are of the type who say, “My God, man, . . . I’m so busy . . . so overworked . . . so focused . . . no time.” But to quote Snooki, “My castmates are very surprised that I’m an author ‘cause they didn’t even know that I read books.”

So kudos to the ABA Journal for scaring up 30 lawyers willing to admit they read books and also willing to stick out their necks to tell the rest what books they think we should’ve all read. Or as the indelicate Snooki puts it, “I think my crotch is sticking out.”

Some of the listed recommendations raise a skeptical eyebrow. Sure, there were the usual suspects like Louis Nizer’s, “My Life in Court” but “The Little Prince”?

academics,books,hands

66 years ago, TIME ran down a Reading List for Lawyers, courtesy of two Harvard Law Professors. Theirs was a more traditional list, which included, for example, Charles Dickens’ “The Pickwick Papers and Stephen Vincent Benet’s “The Devil and Daniel Webster.” The list ran 90 books and was created for G.I.s with intentions of becoming lawyers.

So here’s the ABA Journal List, which includes some potential cures for insomnia. And what was wrong with recommending good escapist fiction?

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  1. My Life in Court by Louis Nizer [Picked by Roy Black, who has represented high-profile clients]
  2. Colossus: Hoover Dam and the Making of the American Century by Michael Hiltzik [Picked by Donal B. Ayer, former deputy attorney general, George H.W. Bush administration]
  3. 1861: The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart [Picked by Trevor Potter, former counsel, John McCain’s 2000 & 2008 campaigns]
  4. The Story of My Life by Clarence Darrow (1) [Picked by Morris Dees, co-founder/chief trial attorney, Southern Poverty Law Center]
  5. Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being by Martin E.P. Seligman [Picked by Fred H. Bartlit Jr., a corporate defense lawyer]
  6. And the Dead Shall Rise: The Murder of Mary Phagan and the Lynching of Leo Frank by Steve Oney [Picked by David E. Kendall, legal advisor to Bill Clinton, including during impeachment]
  7. Personal History by Katharine Graham [Picked by Robert B. Barnett, lawyer behind recent political books and client roster includes Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama]
  8. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison [Picked by Dale Minami, led legal team that reopened Korematsu v. United States]
  9. Cleopatra: A Life by Stacy Schiff [Picked by James J. Brosnahan, “legendary trial lawyer”]
  10. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry [Picked by Geoffrey Fieger, PI lawyer and best known for defending Dr. Jack Kevorkian]
  11. Leadership on the Federal Bench: The Craft and Activism of Jack Weinstein by Jeffrey B. Morris [Picked by Kenneth Feinberg, mass tort and disaster mediator, including BP gulf disaster]
  12. My Personal Best: Life Lessons from an All-American Journey by John Wooden with Steve Jamison [Picked by Jay Foonberg, author of “How to start and build a law practice   ]
  13. The Death and Life of Great American Cities by Jane Jacobs [Picked by Neal Katyal, Georgetown University Professor]
  14. The Horse’s Mouth by Joyce Cary [Picked by Marci Hamilton, Cardozo Law School Professor]
  15. In the Shadow of the Law by Kermit Roosevelt [Picked by Cynthia Lewin, VP and General Counsel, AARP]
  16. One L: The Turbulent True Story of a First Year at Harvard Law School by Scott Turow [Picked by Dahlia Lithwick, Editor, Newsweek and Slate, covers US Supreme Court]
  17. Simple Justice: The History of Brown v. Board of Education and Black America’s Struggle for Equality by Richard Kluger [Picked by Adam Liptak, who covers the US Supreme Court for the New York Times] (2)
  18. The Man to See by Evan Thomas [Picked by Abbe David Lowell, who defended Gary Condit and Jack Abramoff, among others]
  19. The End of Anger: A New Generation’s Take on Race and Rage by Ellis Cose [Picked by Robert Morgenthau, retired after 34 years as NY County District Attorney]
  20. Justice Accused: Antislavery and the Judicial Process by Robert M. Cover [Picked by Judith Resnik, Yale Law School Professor]
  21. Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman [Picked by Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III, as of August, president of the ABA]
  22. A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines [Picked by Brendan V. Sullivan, Jr., who represented Ollie North and the late Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska]
  23. The Legal Analyst: A Toolkit for Thinking about the Law by Ward Farnsworth [Picked by Eugene Volokh, UCLA Law Professor and legal blogger, The Volokh Conspiracy.]
  24. Cry, the Beloved Country by Alan Paton [Picked by Kim McLane Wardlaw, 9th US Circuit Judge]
  25. A Nation of Immigrants by John F. Kennedy [Picked by Stephen N. Zack, ABA president]
  26. Respect for Acting by Uta Hagen and Haskel Frankel [Picked by Sam Adam Jr., defense lawyer who recently defended former Illinois Gov. Rod. Blagojevich]
  27. The Trial by Franz Kafka [Picked by Thane Rosenbaum, Fordham Law Profoessor and well-regarded author]
  28. Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas D. Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn [Picked by Gloria Allred, high-profile lawyer who never saw a TV camera she didn’t like and who most recently supposedly ticked off former client, Rachel Uchitel, of Tiger Woods’ fame]
  29. Justice for All: Earl Warren and the Nation He Made by Jim Newton [Picked by Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of UC Irvine Law School]
  30. Civility: Manners, Morals and the Etiquette of Democracy by Stephen L. Carter [Picked by Leah Ward Sears, former Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice]

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(1) For my money, I would instead prefer to read the new 2011 biography,Clarence Darrow, American Iconoclast,” by Andrew Kersten, which reveals a more unvarnished Darrow, who “In some of his biggest cases [Darrow] bought the testimony he needed.”

(2) Adam Liptak is not to be confused with another NY Times reporter, Adam Clymer, who George W. Bush impolitely referred to as A “major league asshole” and to which, sidekick Dick Cheney replied, “Yeah, big time.”

Photo Credits: “A zonked out religious man,” by pearlandjacksmom at Flickr; “Bored out of my mind,” by Tom Stovall, stovak at Flickr

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