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December, 2013:

The Undeniable Plans for 2014

I recently asked my readers what they wanted me to write about and someone suggested I share my 2014 plans. That gave me reason to pause, because in 2012 I was focused on getting the law firm off the ground and last year I spent the beginning of 2013 getting ready to speak at SXSW. This year I don’t have a big event or activity taking up all my time. I think I get to just live for year. But of course I have plans for how I’d like to spend my time.

My legs after  a session of ASTYM.

My legs after a session of ASTYM.

1. Get Healthy. Years of gymnastics and running has resulted in a buildup of scar tissue in my lower legs. I finished my last half marathon with so much pain that I thought I had three stress fractures. Instead of training for the 2014 race, I’m in physical therapy. They’re breaking up the scar tissue with ASTYM and dry needling, building up my strength, and working on my running posture. They said I should be good to go to run a 10K in March.

2. Separate Work from my Personal Life.  Carter Law Firm got a brick and mortar office in December 2013. To go along with that, I want to work on keeping work at the office and not work once I’m home for the day. This includes not working on the weekends and getting all my blogs written during the week. (When I was writing books last year I’d work on the books during the week and blogs on the weekend.) I got used to working all the time and it’s time make more time for fun.

More Adventures = More Handstands

More Adventures = More Handstands

3. Go on More Adventures.  Going to law school really got me out of the habit of having a life on the weekend and it’s too easy to fill the weekend with work stuff, so this year I want to make it a point to do more new things during my down time. There are so many wonderful places and events in Arizona I’ve never experienced. I’ll be using Roadside America and community calendars for inspiration but I’ll be starting the year by doing the Polar Plunge in Tempe. And I definitely want to see Bisbee this year and take advantage of the night in Sedona I won during Indie Week.

4. Continue to be a Minimalist.  I made a huge donation run to Goodwill a few weeks ago. My backseat and trunk were packed with stuff I don’t use anymore. Since then, I’ve already started the next pile of stuff to be donated. I will continue to be mindful of what I do and don’t use and periodically do a sweep of the house to get rid of things that don’t add value to my life. Next year will also start with the reversal of all my closet hangers. Every garment will have to earn its right to stay in my wardrobe again.

5. Release my Next Book.  The American Bar Association is publishing my next book – The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers. It’s expected to be released in February 2014. I’m excited for it to be released and I hope it will open more doors for me to do more professional speaking.

Those are basically my plans on top my standard events, activities, and goals of having fun and being productive. I hope your 2013 is winding down on a high note and that you have an awesome year in 2014. I’ll keep you in the loop about my adventures.

Undeniable Recap of 2013

It’s been an incredible year. I’ve had so many things happen that I had to start keeping notes months ago to keep up with all the awesome things that were happening – personally and professionally.  It’s really hard to pare the list of top events from the year down to the top five but here goes.

1. Seeing my Gymnastics Family at Rocky’s Memorial.  I had a lot of achievements this year, but by far the best day was hanging out with my teammates and coaches from my gymnastics days. I hadn’t seen some of these people in 20 years and it was like no time had passed. It’s unfortunate that it took the death of my coach and mentor, Rocky Kees, to bring us together again.

REG-Reunion

2. Speaking at SXSW.  I was shocked when I saw that I made the list of people who were invited to speak at South by Southwest this year. Over 4400 applications were submitted for 450 slots. I had a blast in Austin at the conference and just taking in the city. Doing my talk on copyright in digital media was an incredible but so was meeting Improv Everywhere’s founder Charlie Todd (and doing the MP3 Experiment with his crew) and running into/inviting myself to coffee with three of the captains from Deadliest Catch.

3. Book Contracts with the American Bar Association.  It was a very busy year of writing. I signed contracts to write two books for the ABA – Flash Mob Law and The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers – so I basically was brainstorming and writing from mid-February until mid-August. And then my publisher asked for a rewrite one of my manuscripts in October so that was another two weeks of whirlwind writing. Flash Mob Law was released in July and The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers is due out in February 2014. I’m really pleased with these books.

4. Minimalism Project.  I was inspired to clean out my life this year – to go through everything I own and get rid of the things I don’t use and don’t add value to my life. Since I started this project, I got rid of at least a quarter of my wardrobe, cleaned out my files and memory boxes, and I’m in the process of downsizing my Star Trek collection. I feel much more clear-headed when my surroundings are simple and uncluttered. I plan to maintain my minimalistic perspective when it comes to bringing new things into my life and continue to regularly examine my life to make sure I’m only keeping useful things around me.

5. Carter Law Firm went Brick and Mortar.  One of the last significant things I did this year was sign the lease for my law firm’s first brick and mortar office. It’s an office space with seven offices – all attorneys – who share a receptionist. Almost everyone is a solo practitioner. I’ve only been there about a month but it’s been great so far. I love that Rosie gets to come to work with me.

International Go Topless Day by Sheila Dee from Flickr (used with permission)

International Go Topless Day by Sheila Dee from Flickr (used with permission)

Firsts in 2013
First trip to Austin
First mission with Improv Everywhere
First time running with a headlamp
First bike ride with my iPod
First Go Topless Day Protest
First road trip with Rosie
First trip to the Google ‘Plex
First bad bike accident – flipped over my bike’s handlebars
First ASU tailgate party
First Arizona State Fair, including a first ride on the Zipper
First trip to Ford Theater
First ASU football game in Sun Devil Stadium
First night parade
First Phoestivus – with airing of grievances
First office space
First ASTYM
First dry needling
Food Firsts: bacon maple bar, hush puppy, brownie in a mug, fish tacos, scrapple, hot pot

Ruth & CharlieCelebrity Sightings in 2013
Best-selling author Gary Vaynerchuk
Captain Keith Colburn from Deadliest Catch
Captain Jonathan Hillstrand from Deadliest Catch
Captain Sig Hansen from Deadliest Catch
Improv Everywhere founder Charlie Todd
Bully Director Lee Hirsch
Dr. Drew Pinsky

In Memoriam
Rev. Charlie Coppinger
Jerry Grucky
Rocky Kees

My Favorite Things 2013

Oprah used to do a “My Favorite Things” show every year so I decided to do the same, but without all the freebies. Sorry.

I reviewed my calendar and Yelp reviews from the past year and here’s my list of my favorite things. Everything on this list is something I use or do and enjoy. I’ve not been compensated in any way for including anyone in this post.

Working Out
2013 half marathon pre raceFavorite Phoenix Area Race: P.F. Chang Rock ‘n’ Roll Half Marathon

Favorite Place to get Running Shoes: Runner’s Den

Favorite Place to Work Out: Arizona Canal

Favorite Device for Sore Muscles: The Stick

Favorite Place to get Fixed when I Break Myself: Endurance Rehab

Food
Favorite Doughnut: Buttermilk bar from BoSa Donuts (open ‘til 10pm)

0702131205Favorite Mexican Food: Jordan’s

Favorite Greek Food: Greektown

Favorite Indian Food: The Dhaba

Favorite Dessert for Lunch: Yogurtland

Favorite Food Truck: Jamburritos

Favorite Dessert Food Truck: Mamma Toledo’s

Favorite Ice Krem (Phoenix): Churn

Favorite Ice Krem (Scottsdale): Sugar Bowl

Favorite Place for Late-Night Eats and Work: Gay Denny’s

Life
0511131339Favorite Dog Park: Margaret T. Hance Dog Park

Favorite Place for Shirts with Custom Verbiage: Brand X Custom T-shirts

Favorite Site for Shirts with Original Artwork: Threadless

Favorite Snuggle Wear: REI Yoga Pants

Favorite Person for Fixing my Sore Body: Thomas Porter

Favorite Shop for Music Geeks: Central Music

Favorite Bookstore: Changing Hands

Favorite TV Show: The Big Bang Theory

Favorite Reality Show: Deadliest Catch

Favorite Place to Go When I Really Need to Escape: Firefly Room at the Phoenix Art Museum

No Pants Ride 2013 - Photo by Joseph Abbruscatto from Flickr (used with permission)

No Pants Ride 2013 – Photo by Joseph Abbruscatto from Flickr (used with permission)

Online
Favorite Webhost: Dreamhost

Favorite Social Media Platform: Twitter

Favorite Podcast: Savage Lovecast

Favorite Online Cartoon: Foamy the Squirrel

Favorite Site for Travel Suggestions: Roadside America

Favorite Site for Everything Else: Reddit

Events and Activities
Favorite Flash Mob: Improv AZ’s No Pants Light Rail Ride

Favorite Community Event: Ignite Phoenix

Favorite Place on a Friday Night: ASU Women’s Gymnastics Meets

Favorite Phoenix Geek Event: Phoenix Ultimate Geek Smackdown (PUGS)

Favorite Place to see Who’s Who in the Local Zoo: Local First Arizona Fall Festival

I hope you’ve enjoyed my list and perhaps it’s inspired you to try some of my favorite things. 😉

Oppose the Proposed Arizona Bar Dues Increase

I was frustrated and angry to learn that the State Bar of Arizona Board of Governors is considering raising our bar dues starting in 2015. Our dues would go up $25/year for four years. The State Bar gives new attorneys lower dues for their first two years of practice so this will be the first year I pay the full $460 for my annual bar dues. I don’t want them go to up to $560.

Arizona Grunge Flag by Free Grunge Textures from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Arizona Grunge Flag by Free Grunge Textures from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

The legal world is a self-regulating profession so I’m not frustrated with the State Bar; I’m frustrated with our State Bar. Yes, they regulate us, but they regulate us as we’ve told them to. So if I’m unhappy with the way they’re running the show, it’s my obligation to openly oppose it. I’m pleased that some members of the Board, namely Sam Saks, Melissa Ho, and Geoff Trachtenberg, are publicly opposing the increase. And for anyone who is unfamiliar with the Arizona Bar, it’s a mandatory pay-to-play state. You can’t be an Arizona attorney without being a member of the State Bar and our bar dues are already among the highest in the country.

My source at the State Bar told me there are 17,680 active attorneys in the Bar. Let’s say 17,000 of them have to pay full bar dues because they’ve been in practice for over two years. These 17,000 will pay $7.82 million in bar dues in 2014. If the proposed increase is accepted, these 17,000 attorneys will pay $9.52 million in bar dues in 2018. I would want to see what will cost $1.7 million more than what it costs now.

The fact that the Board of Governors is considering increasing our dues means that it’s time to take a closer look at how our money is currently being spent. I want to see how much money is coming in and where it’s being spent. I don’t mind paying for services that are necessary (like lawyer regulation, LOMAP, and the ethics hotline), that we’ve collectively agreed we should pay for, and occasional increases due to inflation. I don’t want to pay for things that don’t enhance the profession.

For example, I recently received my 2014 Arizona Bar Directory in the mail. How many people use the paper printing of the bar directory?  We have an online database. How much did we pay to print and ship these phonebooks? Unless this is somehow a moneymaker, the paper directory should only be printed for those who order and pay for it.

Maricopa County Court House by Ms. Phoenix from Flickr (Creative Common License)

Maricopa County Court House by Ms. Phoenix from Flickr (Creative Common License)

I wanted to gauge how my fellow attorneys felt about this issue so I sent a survey to my fellow Arizona legal eagles who graduated in or after 2007. As of this post, I’ve received 24 responses, mostly from the class of 2011. Twenty-one respondents said they took out loans to pay for law school (most of them over $100K) and all of them are still paying them off (up to $1,600/month). To ask them to pay $560/year just to be able to keep being attorneys, is asking a lot.

For anyone who wants to dismiss this problem by saying that attorneys don’t pay for their bar dues, their firms do; over half of the respondents reported that they were responsible for their bar dues, either paying directly out of pocket or because they were the owner of their firm so any business expenses can cut into their take-home pay. Even when the firm pays its attorneys’ bar dues, every dollar they spend on dues is a dollar they can’t put towards business development, pro bono work, and community involvement.

I gave the respondents a chance to share their thoughts about the proposed increase. Here’s what some of them had to say:

“I would want to know what I’m getting with the extra money. The dues are already crazy high compared to most other states and I don’t understand why.”

“One would think that with technology to handle much of what used to be paperwork for bar applications, testing (we do not have to create our own exam any longer), etc., costs would go down, not up. These costs ultimately get passed onto the public in higher fees and legal representation is already prohibitively expensive for most people.”

“Bar dues are effectively a tax on attorneys, which we have only minimal representation on due to the lack of transparency of the bar association. I feel that many of the bar’s programs and expenditures are of little value and should be funded from non-mandatory sources. If the legal community really feels those programs are needed, people will contribute voluntarily to support them.”

For anyone who wants to have their voice heard, this proposal will be considered by the Board of Governors on Thursday, December 12th, 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Friday, December 13th, 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. at the Arizona State Bar office in Phoenix. Any member of the Bar can attend the board meeting (I’ll be there), and you can contact the Bar if you wish to speak on this issue. The vote is expected to occur on Friday.

Self-Publishing vs Using a Publisher – The Joys and Frustrations

ruthcover smallerI’ve had the privilege of becoming a book author. I self-published my first book The Legal Side of Blogging: How Not to get Sued, Fired, Arrested, or Killed last year (and published a revision of it this past summer). That book led to me getting a book contract with the American Bar Association to write Flash Mob Law: The Legal Side of Planning and Participating in Pillow Fights, No Pants Rides, and Other Shenanigans, which came out this summer and The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers, which is due to be published in February 2014.

Both types of publishing come with their joys and frustrations. I love the independence of being an indie author but then the responsibility is on me to do everything (or find people to outsource to). On the flip side, I’ve had a mostly great experience working with my publishing teams, but that also means more cooks in the kitchen and having to play by their rules.

In regards to my next book, I turned the first draft in to my publisher in August with the expectation that it would be published before the end of the year. (I turned the first draft of Flash Mob Law in to my publisher in May and it was published in August.) I did not expect to hear in October that they wanted a major re-write. In the big picture, it was the right thing to do, but definitely required me to rearrange my calendar a bit. I busted my ass to get it done by Halloween so they could get it out, or at the very least get me a galley, by December.

I was frustrated as hell when I heard that wasn’t possible, especially after I worked so hard to keep things on schedule. How long does it take to format, copyedit, and print a book? It’s already cleared legal review and I know I can review edits in 24 hours if I have to. My publication date is only delayed by a few months and in the long run everything will be fine but I definitely had a few expressive moments while I was adjusting to that information.

Here’s my compilation of the joys and frustrations that come with being an indie author and having a publisher.

INDIE AUTHOR PUBLISHER
PUBLICATION DATE I pick it. They pick it.
WRITING My work. My way. They can require re-writes.
DEADLINES No one’s holding my feet to the fire but me. Hard deadlines.
COPYEDITTING I’m responsible for hiring a good copyeditor. They take care of it. I have 5 days after receiving a draft to approve edits.
COVER ART I’m responsible for hiring a graphic designer and describing what I think I want. They have a team of artists and I get to pick the final version from the options they provide.
MARKETING That’s my job too. They have a team for that.
EBOOK OPTION Of course! They say they’re going to do it.
PAPER OPTION I got frustrated trying to figure out CreateSpace and gave up. Available on the ABA website.
PRICE I decide ($3.99). They decide ($39.95).
ROYALTIES Monthly. Annually.
SALES I work for every sale. Minimum sales guaranteed.
MY WORK Never ends. Basically done once the final draft is done, except for reviewing galleys.
COPYRIGHT Guaranteed mine. Had to negotiate to keep it.

Created with the HTML Table Generator

There is no one right way to be an author but it’s good to understand what you’re getting into when you decide which path you’re going to take.