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April, 2011:

SALK Day 117: Happy Birthday John!!

My classmate, Linda, sponsored a day to give special tribute to her husband, John.

John is a retired attorney and the patriarch of a family of attorneys, and thus, he has put his birthday celebration “on hold” every year for the last fifteen years because it would interfere with someone’s law school finals.  His three children and two son-in-laws are attorneys, and now his beautiful wife will soon join the ranks of the legal community.  John’s passion for the legal profession and for helping people has inspired everyone around him to follow in his footsteps.

Happy birthday to a remarkable and genuine man who his deeply loved by his entire family.  May your day be filled with joy.

Photo courtesy of Linda Day

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Linda Day.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

ASU Law Awesome Awards

I have been lucky to have some amazing professors during my time at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.  With graduation approaching, I polled my classmates and asked them which professors deserved awards for their excellence in teaching or dedication to students.  These are the results:

Arizona State University logo

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Best In-class Quotes: Andy Hessick
I took a class from him two years ago, and I still remember, “When someone cuts off your face, you don’t get your face back. You get money. It’s a substitute.”

Best Open Door Policy: Chad Noreuil
I don’t know how many times I popped by his office hours to vent, get advice, and re-gain some perspective on life.  He always said that he was there for his students, and you knew he meant it.

Best Comedian: Doug Sylvester
He explained concepts brilliantly and he always did it in a way that made me laugh.

Best Heart-to-Heart Talks: Judy Stinson
She is the best person to talk when you need a conversation about law school or life without the professor-student relationship getting in the way of her awesome advice.

Best Rants: Michael Berch
You never knew what he would say next.  Every class was a jaw-dropping performance.

Best Professor for Showing Students the Big Picture: Bob Clinton
Taking his classes hurts your head because you have to understand the historical and social issues that correspond to the legal issues in each case.  It makes his classes challenging, but you get more out of them.

Most Dedicated to the Student Experience: Shelli Soto
She is devoted to helping students make the best of their experience at law school & celebrates the student perspective.

Most Knowledgeable: Tom Williams
The man knows everything about everything from policies to professors.  He’s also the best person to sit next to at an event because he knows Berman’s speeches so he’ll know when they’ll be over.

Biggest Heart: Charles Calleros
It only takes one conversation with him to know how dedicated he is to his students.

Awesome Adjuncts: Larry Cohen, Troy Foster, Andy Halaby, Bill Richards, & Anne Tiffen
These professors are known for their incredible knowledge base and for providing a valuable real-world element to their courses.

Most Dedicated to Helping Students Achieve their Dreams: Michael Bossone
When I was a 1L, his entire job was helping students achieve their dreams.  Even after he left the law school, he was always there when we needed his encouragement or guidance.

Honorable Mentions: John Becker, Marianne Alcorn, Chuck Dallyn, Amy Langenfeld, & Mary Sigler

Thank you all for you energy and dedication to the graduating class of 2011!

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Hello? Did you really not know this was my doing?

Photo by Adam Almaraz

I love these types of flyers.  They always make me smile.  I am trying to add as much joy to my last days of law school as possible.  I’m so excited to be done.

Improv Arizona got its hands on this Lionel Richie flyer a few weeks ago and hung some up around the Mill Avenue area of Tempe.  I decided to bring the Lionel Richie love to the law school on Tuesday morning.  I hung two of these up on bulletin boards in classrooms in the law school on Tuesday morning.  I didn’t see anyone reacting to it while I was in class, but later the responses to my friend’s picture of the flyer on his Facebook page showed that people enjoyed it.

I was a little bummed that both flyers were gone by Wednesday morning.  I guess professors and future lawyers, as a whole, don’t have much of a sense of humor.  Thankfully I found one of them in a recycling bin and put it back up.

If you want the Lionel Richie flyer, Improv Arizona has a linked to it on their blog.

Heartbreak of Cyberbullying

One of the legal issues that pulls at my heart strings is cyberbullying, especially when it involves kids.  It’s hard enough to be a young person when you don’t have to worry about being taunted and threatened every day.  With regular bullying, students dread going to school.  With cyberbullying, students can be constantly harassed by their peers via emails, text messages, or worse – a website dedicated to torturing them. I was cyberharassed at school last year, and it was awful.  For the first time ever, I was afraid to go to school, and I was 30 years old with the support of family, friends, and my school’s administration in my corner.  I can’t image what it would be like to go through the same thing as a kid and alone.

I hope with my law degree, I can help students and schools combat and prevent the bullying of children.  My heart breaks every time I hear about another student taking their own life, in part because of bullying.

Big rainbow flag hanging on side of building

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Arizona has a law that requires schools to have policies and procedures in place regarding harassment, intimidation, and bullying on school property, buses, bus stops, and at school sponsored events.  Schools must investigate suspected bullying and disciplinary procedures for those who are found guilty.  A revision to this law was proposed in February 2011 – SB 1549.  This law would expand harassment to include behaviors involving school computers, networks, forums, and mailing lists.  I think this is a good start, but I wish it would be expanded to specifically include any harassment that occurs on school grounds or at a school sponsored event that occurs via any electronic means.  This could expand the definition of harassment to include text messages and any communication that occurs via the internet on a school computer or a student’s smartphone that is present on school property.

Central High School in Phoenix was kind enough to send me their current policies and procedures for addressing bullying and harassment.  Their definitions for harassment and bullying seem to encompass all the behaviors that should be prevented in schools.  I was also pleased to see that their rules already address cyberbullying and that the procedures include involving the police if warranted.  It suggests that they take bullying seriously and address it as such.

I would have liked to have seen their definition of harassment specifically include harassment based on sexual orientation.  Given that gay teens are much more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual counterparts, schools have an obligation to keep a special eye out of these kids.

Unfortunately, a rule is worthless unless it is enforced.  Historically, teachers at schools across the nation have turned a blind eye to bullying or tell gay kids to expect harassment if they’re going to act like sissies.  I feel horrible for any student who is legally obligated to attend school where they are harassed on a daily basis, with disciplinary system in place that isn’t being utilized, and an administration that turns a blind eye to these kids’ pain.  I hope that there’s something I can do after graduation to address these problems, whether it’s by empowering school administrations to support these kids or helping to protect these kids who cannot protect themselves.

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The Marathon of Bar Prep

I’m graduating from law school in 30 days, and I’m tired.

Usually around this time of the semester, I’m gearing up for the sprint to the end of the semester.  There are many late nights of studying and writing papers and excessive caffeination.  Once finals are done, I’m exhausted, and usually get to collapse for a few days if not a few weeks.

At the end of my first semester of law school, I went to my parents’ house for Christmas and I literally did nothing but sit on the couch for two days.  One day, I literally watched courtroom dramas (People’s Court, Judge Judy, Divorce Court, etc.) from 9am until 5pm, with the exception of one hour.  At the end of my third semester of law school, I drove for over 12 hours to my parents’ house and I was so exhausted that I have no memory of the trip.

I don’t have the luxury of burning myself out at the end of this semester.  Three days after I graduate I will start BarBri, the class that teaches you how to pass the Bar Exam.  For this semester, once I finish the sprint to finish finals, I have to turn around and line up for the marathon of studying for the Bar.

From what I’ve heard from other lawyers, all I have to do is follow the BarBri program and study schedule and I’ll pass the Bar.  My classmate looked at our study schedule and reported that we’re expected to study and/or go to class 8 hours a day, 7 days a week.  I did the math and considering study time, sleep, and everyday activities, I’m going to have maybe 4 hours a day for myself.  I suspect that my life is going to get really simple.

My friends and I have been formulating our plan of attack.  We will have a focused study group in the morning followed by class in the afternoon.  Everyone will be banned from my house unless a specific invitation is extended.  All stressful people, places, and events will be avoided at all costs.  I contemplated having someone change my Facebook and Twitter passwords, but I decided I needed the ability to see what’s going on the real world on occasion.  My phone is usually on or near my person; however, when I’m studying, it will be in a place where I can’t see or hear it except when I’m not studying.

I will still have scheduled relaxation and fun.  There are select fun events on my calendar during the weeks leading up to the Bar.  I’m hoping to keep a regular workout schedule – walking, hiking, biking, and/or yoga – to maintain my health and sanity.  I have great friends who will remind me how normal people live.  They are also on notice that when I finish the Bar Exam, one of them better be waiting outside the testing center with a strawberry milkshake and a hug.

There’s a saying in the Carter family: “You can do anything for 6 months.”  I only have to make it through the next 105 days.

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SALK Day 102: The Kelly Law Firm

In honor of National Be Kind to Lawyers Day, today’s sponsor is Aaron M. Kelly, founder of The Kelly Law Firm, LLC.   The Kelly Law Firm provides comprehensive legal representation and counseling in most areas of law.  His practice areas include civil litigation, business law litigation, and criminal law.

The stereotypical lawyer is stern and stoic.  They work in a fancy law firm and wear a business suit every day.  The stereotype also says that they are a type-A workaholic with a high risk of developing a drug addiction.  They have the reputation of being cut throat and are somewhat intimidating to be around.

The stereotype couldn’t be further away from the approach at The Kelly Law Firm.  There the office has a more relaxed atmosphere.  Kelly has a couch and an Xbox so he can mentally recharge his batteries during the day.  He usually works in jeans.  Kelly says that 90% of his clients enjoy his approach to practicing law.  It makes him more approachable, and they are probably more comfortable around him as a result.

Kelly is proof that a lawyer can be professional, well-respected, and thrive in this working environment.   What matters is that he performs effectively on behalf of his clients and respects them.  Communication and client satisfaction are his top priorities.  He takes the time to listen to his clients and maintain close working relationships with them.  I love that he frequently communicates with his clients via instant messenger.  It’s an innovative way to maintain open lines of communication and provide extra support to clients when they need it.

This is not an approach that works for all clients.  Some clients need a lawyer who is stressed out and wears a suit, and that’s ok.  It’s a benefit to the profession to have lawyers with different personalities so that clients can pick someone who fits their needs.

This morning, I was working in the Innovative Advancement Program – a legal clinic that works with entrepreneurs.  I looked out the window into the building next door and saw two men playing ping pong in their office.  They were probably computer programmers, but it made me happy to see that some people still appreciate the benefit of the simplicity of play for percolating creative thoughts and recharging the brain.

Sponsor A Law Kid is my endeavor to pay for my last semester of law school. Today’s sponsor is Aaron M. Kelly of The Kelly Law Firm, LLC.  For more information about Sponsor A Law Kid or to see what days are still available for sponsorship, visit my Sponsor A Law Kid page.

It’s Official – I Have a Big Brain

A few weeks ago I got a message from Jonathan McNamara of the Phoenix New Times informing me that I had been nominated and was a finalist for the 2011 Big Brain Awards.  The Big Brain Awards are annual awards give out by the New Times to exceptional and innovative people in the arts in the Phoenix community.  I never thought that I would be nominated, let alone a finalist.  The committee started with nearly 400 nominees and whittled the list down to 18 finalists, 3 in each of 6 categories.  I’m a finalist in the Performing Arts category.

I was selected as a finalist because of my work with Improv AZ and because of Sponsor A Law Kid.  I am very excited and humbled to be nominated.  I have been blown away by the phenomenal people I’ve met in the Phoenix area in the last two years that to be singled out for my work is quite an honor.

I will find out if I’m a Big Brain winner or just honored to be nominated this Saturday at Artopia.

None of this could have happened without the love, support, and guidance from some special people in my life:

There are two special people I need to single out and thank for their support and guidance.

  1. Jeff Moriarty – If it wasn’t for Jeff organizing the first No Pants Ride, none of this would have ever happened.  There wouldn’t be Improv AZ, and I wouldn’t have met most of the amazing people in my life today.  Jeff was also the person who encouraged me to become a blogger and helped make Undeniable Ruth possible.
  2. Evo Terra – Evo is one of the most outspoken and brilliant people that I know.  A few months ago I asked him how he he developed a thick skin against criticism.  He responded, “Figure out who’s opinions matter to you. Then genuinely do not give a shit what anyone else thinks.”  That is easier said than done, but those have become my guiding words when I’m against people who disagree with what I write or what I do.

Thank you to everyone who has helped me get this far.  I’m up against some phenomenal people this Saturday: Tom Leveen and Joseph Perez.  While it would be nice to win, I will be pleased regardless of the outcome.



Reputation Management – Learn From Others’ Mistakes

There are two main ways to look like a prick.  The first is by the actions you take.   Case in point – GoDaddy CEO Bob Parson got a lot of flak, and lost a lot of customers, for his recent participation in an elephant hunt.

The other way to look like a prick is to take an action that may be completely reasonable, but do it in a way that appears to be wholly self-focused and without consideration to the impact on others.  Such an act was allegedly committed this past week by one Paul Schiff Berman, dean of the law school at Arizona State University.

Photo by Ryan Cassella, used with permission from WNPR

In the last few years, ASU law school has added numerous programs and exalted faculty, increased the size of each incoming class, and added an undergraduate program.  Space at the law school is now at a premium and it’s been a challenge to accommodate everyone.  I would not be surprised if the school has given serious consideration to how it’s using its space and how it can use it more efficiently until the new facility is built downtown.

A few suspicious things have happened recently within the law school.  First, on the schedule of classes for Fall 2011, some classes are located in the “Law Library Basement.”  There are currently no classrooms in the library’s basement, and no classes have previously been held down there.  Second, there is a rumor that architects were discovered in the law journal’s room taking measurements, allegedly for “code compliance,” but they also had design plans with them.  It looks like the school plans to take away the law journal’s space in the basement and turn it into a classroom.  The fact that space is being reallocated does not surprise me, and it’s even reasonable given the circumstances.  What disturbs me is the fact that it was done without consideration of or notification to the people who will be directly impacted, not even the journal’s faculty advisor.

I’ve heard a few reactions from the law school student body regarding the expected changes and Berman’s reputation:

  • He made a bad assumption without proper investigation.  He assumed that journal doesn’t need the space because the journal’s layout is completed electronically instead of manually.
  • He’s a prick.
  • He acts in a way that says, “I do what I want and I’m not going to tell you about it.”

Berman already has a reputation of acting without transparency or considering the impact of his decisions on all parties.  Here’s what Berman could have done that would have had the same result but without further damaging his already tarnished reputation.

  1. Identify that the school has a space issue.
  2. Notify anyone whose space could be changed to resolve the problem.  Explain what the problem is and what the school’s overall goal is in reallocating space.
  3. Provide an opportunity to everyone involved to express their concerns about losing their space and what their needs are regardless of what space they are in.  Providing at least a token opportunity to be heard goes a long way.  It at least gives the impression that you care.
  4. Inform people who are losing their space in advance of disclosing it directly or indirectly to the entire student body.  Apologize for any inconveniences you’re causing and try to make the transition as easy as possible.

So what did we learn from this?  What you do matters.  How you do it matters more.