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Day 26/90 – Marriage Equality!

Day 26 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriage is legal and protected the by the U.S. Constitution!

Rainbow by Benson Kua from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Rainbow by Benson Kua from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

It seemed like this ruling was going to be a given for same-sex marriage, but conversely, it means so much. Remember, homosexuality was regarded as a mental illness by the American Psychiatric Association until the 1970s. Just under 30 years later, I was at San Francisco Pride right after the Lawrence v. Texas (which legalized consensual sodomy between adults) came out. I was a newly-out baby queer, just basking in the fabulousness of the Castro. I hope people at Pride festivals this weekend are having a similar experience.

During my lifetime, we went from calling homosexuality an “alternative lifestyle,” to legalizing gay sex, to legalizing same-sex marriage. Not only have we legalized getting laid and getting hitched (woo-hoo!) the Supreme Court has legitimized same-sex marriages. At this point, we don’t need to say, “gay marriage” or “gay wedding.” When two people decide to get married, they have a “wedding.”

As I drove into work, I listened to some of the reaction on NPR from people who were unhappy about the ruling. I thought, “Ugh. Just leave each other alone,” before changing the channel. I always thought it was strange when opponents said that legalizing same-sex marriage would damage heterosexual relationships. I can think of only two instances when someone’s relationship creates a problem in my life – and I use the term “problem” loosely:

  1. If I’m attracted to someone and thinking about hitting on them. (Note to self: always check the left hand.)
  2. If my friend is connected at the hip to their significant other whom I don’t like. (The same is true for a friend who is perpetually with their best friend and I can’t stand the best friend.)
queer pride butt

That’s my butt & my Queer Pride shirt (2003)

Neither of these issues have anything to do with sexual orientation (or race, religion, gender, etc.). I hope as a country we are moving towards the idea of protecting individual rights, including the right to your own beliefs – with the caveat that this doesn’t give you permission to dictate what’s right for others. Stay out of my wallet, my sex life, and my reproductive organs. I don’t tell you what’s wrong with your relationship or life choices (to your face) and I would appreciate the same courtesy.

FYI – Your relationship – no one’s relationship – has ever legitimized or minimized any of my romantic relationships.

I probably spent two hours after the announcement reading the reactions on Facebook and Twitter with giddy excitement. I finally had to tell myself, “You need to calm the fuck down and get some work done today.”

It was a good day. Congratulations everyone! Thank you U.S. Supreme Court – at the five of you who made the right decision.

In case you missed it: Day 25 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I got to Teach a Webinar on Social Media Marketing for Lawyers!

Day 25/90 – Social Media Marketing Webinar for Lawyers

Day 25 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to do a webinar on social media marketing for the Washington Bar Association, Solo and Small Practice Section!

Live Tweet from Today's Webinar

Live Tweet from Today’s Webinar

I spoke to law students and lawyers along the west coast about social media marketing during The Undeniable Tour earlier this year. The Washington Bar Association asked if I would do a webinar version of this talk. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity.

So today was the day – at noon, I jumped on the webinar with Mark Jordan of the Solo and Small Practice Section and spent just over an hour talking with 3-4 dozen people about how I use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube, and blogging to network and build my practice. I really tried to emphasize the interactive nature of social media, compared to print ads and billboards which are a one-way communication. I also tried to focus on how important it is to make time to blog, to be present on the platforms where you choose to create an account, and to be authentic. There is no split between my professional and personal lives.

We ended the webinar with questions from the audience and the thoughtfulness of their questions suggested that many of them are ready to take the plunge into blogging and being more active on social media. All the feedback I’ve heard so far was positive, so I hope I’ve helped this group be more effective at networking and promoting their knowledge and work.

I hope I get to do more things like this in the future. It’s a bit weird to post a sign on my door that says “Webinar in Progress. Please Do Not Disturb” and spend an hour talking at my laptop screen and webcam, but it’s a lot of fun too.

In case you missed it: Day 24 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I’m so lucky to have so much freedom in my life.

Day 23/90 – The Satisfaction of Helping People

Day 23 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I got to help people!

Photo by Devon Christopher Adams - used with permission

Pictures of me working at my desk are boring. Here’s an image that embodies how I feel about my work. (Photo by Devon Christopher Adams – used with permission)

For those of you who don’t know, I’m an existentialist – a big one. An essential part of who I am is based on the idea that what I do matters. It’s not an ego thing, but rather a why-am-I-here thing.

One of the things I love about being a lawyer is that I get help people in ways that they can’t help themselves. I love being able to tell clients, “We can fix that,” or “We can make that work.” I see my job as being an educator about the law as well as a problem solver because most people don’t know what their rights are, how to protect them, or their options for recourse are when there’s a problem.

I work on preventing problems in solving problems in my work, and lately I’ve been putting in a lot more work on the problem-solving side. I spent a good chunk of today drafting and revising a demand letter for one of my clients, and it felt really good to know that this document may bring my client the resolution he’s seeking. I am both pleased and proud of the work I did today.

One of the benefits and challenges of my work is that it’s not about me personally; it’s about using my skills and talents to achieve my clients’ desired results. So there are times that I have draft documents and negotiate on their behalf in ways that I don’t personally agree with, but are not legally wrong. On the flip side, it also means that it’s possible to have a cordial relationship with the opposing counsel when both sides are acting as zealous advocates for their clients without their egos getting in the way. Those tend to be the fastest and the easiest negotiations.

Today was a good day.

In case you missed it: Day 22 of the 90 Days of Awesome – I took my Fake British Accent to the Verizon Store!

Day 11/90 – Last Lecture

Day 11 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I gave the last lecture to my class.

Almost There, Day 228 of 365 by DieselDemon from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Almost There, Day 228 of 365 by DieselDemon from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

For the last 10 weeks, I’ve been teaching a media business aw class at the Art Institute of Phoenix. Tonight with my last lecture. Their final is next week.

My goal for this class was to help these professional artists develop a working knowledge of copyright, trademark, contracts, and the legalities of running a business. I hope they will be able to have intelligent conversations with their clients and employers about their rights and to know when to call a lawyer for help.

Looking back on this semester, many students told me they were dreading this class because they feared it would be boring and they were pleased to learn that those fears were unwarranted. Many of them remarked that they learned a lot from being in the class and that it should be a required course for all art students. (I agree!) According to my students, several of their classmates were disappointed to learn that I will not be returning to teach this course again. (I have too many obligations that prohibit me from making the commitment necessary to be an adjunct professor. However, I hope to be invited back to the school as a guest speaker in the future.)

One of my students told me tonight that another student in the school who wasn’t in my class asked for a copy of her notes. Another student added that her employer asked for her class notes. I really enjoy a being in an instructor-type role and hearing that the knowledge I impart to my students/audience is being passed on to even more people.

At the end of class tonight, one of my students gave me a thumbs up as he headed out the door. It gives me a deep sense of satisfaction knowing that I’ve helped these 13 students be more effective in their professional lives.

In case you missed it: Day 10 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Tweaking my Terms of Service for Good!

Day 10/90 – Tweaking my Terms of Service for Good

Day 10 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I updated my sites’ terms of service! (I swear it’s not as boring as it sounds.)

Walter Ball!!

Walter Ball!

I write a monthly column for a site called Attorney at Work that helps lawyers run their firms and market themselves more effectively. I love this gig.

Previously, I wrote a post about how I feel when others copy my content. I’ve never said “no” when anyone has asked to use one of my posts for an event or to distribute it to their organization; however, it peeves me when people use my work without asking permission and without adding any original thoughts to the conversation. Unfortunately, too many people think this is permissible as long as they provide in attribution and a link to the original post. Whenever someone does this with one of my posts for Attorney at Work, I get a notification.

I’ll admit, I was pretty annoyed when I saw that someone stole one of my posts today. I grabbed my Walter Ball and played with it furiously while ranting to a coworker. I notified my editors of the situation and asked if they wanted me to call him out. Luckily for him (and me), they are much more tactful than I am. They addressed the situation appropriately and mentioned that they should revise the provision on their site about requesting a license to use or reprint posts. I suggested they add a provision that says failure to request permission in advance is an expression of the person’s willingness to donate $100 to the charity of my editors’ choosing when they discover what the person did. They liked that idea.

I like that idea.

I’ve had terms of service on this site and my law firm’s site for years. Here is what part of it used to say:

I am Not Interested in Unsolicited Emails that Pitch Content or Services
Do not contact me to pitch your SEO, other marketing, or lead generation services.
I’m not interested in a new website design.
I’m not interested in letting you pay me to embed a link on an existing post.
I’m not interested in your infographic.
No, you cannot write guest posts for my site.

Contacting me for any of the above reasons is an expression of your willingness to pay me $100 for annoying me.

Any time anyone sends me in unsolicited email hocking their marketing services or asking to write a guest post, I have a canned response I send that informs them of my terms of service and provides my mailing address for sending payment.

After today’s experience, I decided to change it:

I am Not Interested in Unsolicited Emails that Pitch Content or Services
Do not contact me to pitch your SEO, other marketing, or lead generation services.
I’m not interested in a new website design.
I’m not interested in letting you pay me to embed a link on an existing post.
I’m not interested in your infographic.
No, you cannot write guest posts for my site.

Contacting me for any of the above reasons is an expression of your willingness to pay $10 to the charity of my choosing.

I’ve been telling people to send me $100 for annoying me for years, and so far no one’s paid it. I figured it would be better to ask for less. Hopefully some people will actually do it. It’ll be for a good cause.

In case you missed it: Day 9 of the 90 Days of Awesome – WordTasting Tour!

Day 8/90 – I Almost Met The Namby Pamby

Day 8 of the 90 Days of Awesome is in the bank! What made today awesome? I almost met The Namby Pamby!

Yeah...I wrote this.

Yeah…I wrote this.

Ok, so it’s not as awesome as it would have been to actually meet him, but sometimes trying to make something happen is pretty awesome even if it doesn’t work out.

I’ve known of The Namby Pamby since law school. He’s my favorite Cheez-It loving lawyer. Behind his alter ego, he tells the truth of what it’s like to be an associate at a big law firm (or so he claims). I can usually count on him to make me laugh.

One of my favorite things about The Namby Pamby is I don’t know who he is. A few years ago, I asked him to write the afterword for The Legal Side of Blogging for Lawyers. I was surprised and overjoyed when he responded within minutes with an astounding “Yes.” He wrote the essay under his pseudonym that allows him to speak candidly about his experiences, except for the details he has to change to protect his identity. My agreement with him includes a provision that says in the event I learn his true identity, I’m obligated to keep it a secret.
Just my luck The Namby Pamby had a meeting in Phoenix today. Unfortunately, he had to prep for his meeting the evening before and catch his flight home right after so we didn’t get to meet for drinks as we hoped.

Someday we’ll be in the same city and we’ll finally get to meet face-to-face.

In case you missed it: Day 7 of the 90 Days of Awesome – Sleeping In!

Why Does the AZ State Bar Charge for CLEs?

Arizona has one of the highest bar dues in the country and it’s a mandatory bar so you can’t be an Arizona lawyer unless you’re a member (although the Arizona legislature may change that this session). We’re also required to complete 15 hours of continuing legal education (CLE) each year, including 3 hours of ethics training.

Photo by Ellasdad from Flickr

Photo by Ellasdad from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I just paid $475 for this year’s bar dues. That’s just the price to maintain my license.  (For anyone who still paying off their law school debt, $475 = 1900 packages of ramen.) The State Bar also offers a variety of CLEs, and recently there have been a few that I’ve been interested in attending either because I wanted the information or I thought it would be a good forum to make connections with other lawyers.

But I’m not going to CLEs that are put on by the State Bar of Arizona and here’s why – they charge for them. Why does the State Bar of Arizona need to charge for CLEs? In my experience, they don’t pay their instructors to teach and they own their building so they don’t need to rent space. So why are they charging $39 to $129 to let their members attend an educational event?

As an outsider looking in, it appears that the State Bar is milking its membership for money any chance it can get. I’m already unhappy with the way my State Bar is running the show. (The legal industry is a self-governing profession and I voted in the last Board of Governors election so I’ve maintained my right to bitch.)

Now there may be a legitimate reason why the State Bar has to charge for CLEs. I responded to a recent announcement about an upcoming CLE with that very question because I am genuinely curious why they charge. If there’s a real reason, I’ll respect it. So far they haven’t responded.

I can’t change the fact that Arizona has a mandatory State Bar (for now) or that we have mandatory CLEs, but I can put my money where my mouth is and get my CLEs  elsewhere – like ASU CLE. They don’t pay their CLE instructors to teach either but all the money goes towards law student scholarships. And ASU Law School alums get to choose what they pay – so I could get my CLEs for free if I was so inclined. (Hat tip to ASU Law for thinking about their students educational needs after they graduate.)

Alternative Uses for the State Bar Directory

My Arizona State Bar Membership Directory - aka Massive Dust Collector

My Arizona State Bar Membership Directory – aka Massive Dust Collector

I just paid $475 for the privilege of being a licensed Arizona attorney for the next year. One of the most frustrating things about having to pay for a mandatory state bar membership is watching the people in power spend it on things we don’t need or want – like a paper membership directory. It’s the phone book of lawyers. Every licensed attorney in the state gets one – and our dues pay to have it printed, shipped, and mailed to us every year.

Some people like having a paper directory. I’m sure this is the same minority that still uses the regular phone book while the rest of us use the internet to look up whatever information we need. I wish there was a way to opt out of getting this, or at least limit it to one directory per law firm. I recently joined a law firm that has 7 other attorneys. We don’t need 8 directories!

This situation made me think, “What would be a better use of our directories than letting them collect dust on the shelf for the year or automatically recycling them upon arrival?” I did some research and here are some of my favorite ideas.

Make spit balls or paper airplanes to throw during boring CLEs

Paper mache project

Kindling

Door stop (I’ve actually done this with my bar directory.)

Booster seat for kids

Cut a hole in the middle and hide stuff in it

Garden mulch

Wrapping paper (The minimalist in me loves this idea!)

Kill bugs with it

Alternative for packing peanuts

Origami

I recently got a new desk and I’m pretty sure my bar directory is going to become my new foot rest. I can’t help my state bar membership directory fulfill its destiny as a phone book but I can give it a new purpose.

What did you do with your state bar directory?

New Business Cards – Pretty Freakin’ Awesome

I’m sure plenty of people who don’t know me but hear that my name is “Ruth” and that I’m lawyer envision me to be a stuff old Jewish woman who embodies all the lawyer stereotypes.  I suspect that’s who my co-panelist at Phoenix Comicon thought he was pair with when he heard he was doing a panel on Comic Creator Rights with “the lawyer.” He was probably surprised to see a young pixie of thing in a pink geeky t-shirt instead. We had a great time doing our panel. He said we looked like gurus but I think we look like a couple of Muppets in the photos.

It’s always been important to me to have effective non-boring business cards. I made a joke after Phoenix Comicon that I should have business cards made that say, “Ruth Carter, Esq., Not That Kind Of Lawyer.” Recently, I needed to order more business cards and I figured, since I’m paying for shipping for two boxes of cards, I might as well make it four – so I made them! I’ll probably use them at events where I’m more likely to meet people who are likely to wrinkle their noses when they hear I’m a lawyer.

New Business Card - front

New Business Card - back

What do you think? A friend mentioned that these fit in well with my goal to becoming a minimalist.

I love these cards. We’ll see if these become my standard business card. It takes me about six months to go through two boxes of cards so we’ll see how I feel the next time I need to reorder.

The Slippery Slope of the Hobby Lobby Fallout

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby case that a closely-held for-profit company could use their religious beliefs as a reason to refuse to pay for birth control their employees. I think the court was 100% wrong in this decision and I’m annoyed that it’s probably going to take us decades to undo the damage this ruling is going to cause.

Hey, You Got Your Church In My State! by David Goehring from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Hey, You Got Your Church In My State! by David Goehring from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m a huge advocate for the separation of church and state and the notion that people can have whatever religious beliefs they want, as long as they don’t try to inflict them on others. This ruling crosses that line. If the federal government passed a law that says companies with 50 employees or more have to provide certain health insurance to employees and a company doesn’t like it, their options should have been to pay the penalty for violating the law or shrink their company so the law wouldn’t apply to them, not getting an exception based on religious beliefs.

This week I read about a similar case – a pharmacy in Washington State wants to refuse on religious grounds to stock and dispense Plan B (the morning after pill) even though all pharmacies are mandated by state law to carry it.

Here’s my take on these situations – laws should be passed for the good of the general public. If you don’t like a law, don’t put yourself in a situation where you have to abide by it. If you’re a pharmacist who dislikes your state’s laws about what products you have to carry, get out of the business or move to a state that doesn’t have that requirement.

There are plenty of laws that I don’t like but I accept that I have to follow them or accept the penalty if I get caught breaking them. I can try to get the law changed, but until that happens, I’m stuck with them.

Having legally recognized exceptions written into laws is one thing, but giving people the ability to refuse to follow the law based on religious beliefs is a slippery slope. When I was an undergrad, I was furious to learn that a pharmacist at the student health center wasn’t filling prescriptions for the morning after pill because of her religious beliefs so students could only get that prescription filled when she wasn’t working. She should have been fired for that. What’s next – a clerk at a sex shop telling his boss that he’s ok with selling sex toys but he can’t sell porn because it violates his religion? Or a biblical literalist who works at a department store who claims she can’t ring up customers who buy garments made of more than one fabric?

If I had to claim a religion, I’d say it’s Wheaton’s Law (“Don’t be a dick”). As a business owner, I get to handpick who I do business with, and I don’t work with clients who are dicks. But if there was a law that said I had to, I’d look for a way to change my business to get out of it or make it worth my while. However, if I was ever someone’s employee again, I would never get away with that. If I refused a direct order from my superior, claiming that dealing with dicks violated my religious beliefs, I’d expect to be fired.

(Mental note: If business owners and employees are allowed to violate or get exceptions to the law based on religious beliefs, I need to start documenting my sincerely held religious beliefs which are not affiliated with any official religion so I can use them to get my way when it suits me.)