The Cactus Quarterly Newsletter - 2Q 2019 Print

President's Report

According to our Chapter History log…it has been approximately 38 years since our chapter has had a member repeat as President.  And now we are about to embark on a three year stretch where a Past President once again assumes the role of Chapter President.  There is me for this upcoming 2019 term, Jerri Buchtel in 2020 and Sharon Williams in 2021.  I’m not exactly sure yet what this says about the future of volunteer leadership in the Arizona Chapter of ALA, but I do know I couldn’t have asked for a better Board to move our chapter forward.   

Some exciting changes are already in the works including a completely re-imagined Business of Law conference on August 7th at the Bentley Projects in downtown Phoenix.  The committee has already put together an amazing agenda where attendees and business partners will spend the day together learning and building relationships through advanced programming and meaningful conversations.  Be sure to look for additional details in the weeks to come as it is sure to be the “must attend” event of the year for all involved with the chapter. 

Also, the Chapter’s Managing Partner/Leadership lunch has shifted it’s focus to what our Managing Partners want to know.  We are excited to announce that Dean Sylvester will be speaking on “Changes in Law Schools” at the Phoenix Country Club on November 14th.   

Other exciting news includes the Chapter’s community challenge initiative which this year will benefit the Pitt Hopkins Research Foundation  Be sure to come to the May 28th luncheon to hear about this amazing organization and how you can help raise funds. 

Finally in terms of big news, we have recently signed on to sponsor ASU’s Small Firm Education Conference, Tuesday, May 21st.  Co-sponsoring with the chapter will be ALA VIP Business Partner GLJ & Associates.  This one day conference will take place at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Beus Center for Law and Society.  Speakers include attorney Patricia Sallen who will speak on best practices for fee agreements, billing and collections; Robert Tepper with the State Bar speaking about the resources available from the Arizona State Bar and Ray English, Assistant Dean and Professor of Practice at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law who will speak on substance abuse and mental health issues impacting the practice of law.  This event is marketed to lawyers and law firms of 25 attorneys or less but all are welcome.  It is free to all who attend (lunch is provided) and may qualify for up to 2 hours of MCLE credit, including 2 hours of ethics.  The chapter will do a brief presentation during lunch on the benefits of ALA and the value we provide to the legal industry and Alan Wilson will present on the products and services available from GLJ & Associates.  For more information on all these happenings go to the chapter’s calendar of events at

Warmest regards,

Katie Bryant, CLM
President, ALA Arizona Chapter

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More Sugar less Salt Please

One of the most important leadership characteristics in my opinion is being transparent and truthful especially in times when it is the most difficult.  With that in mind, I have a confession.  These past few months have been very difficult for me both professionally and personally and I find myself feeling under pressure more than I am accustomed to and it has made me, well let’s just say, more difficult and not all that likable to those around me.  And although it may be difficult to admit, the best leaders are those who are genuinely liked.  Now for those of you who know me, I’m a bit more of the salty than sweet type and because of that I decided to do a little research on specific areas I could focus on to improve my likability.  Here is what I found.  None of them will compromise your credibility or authority as a leader–so give them a try and see what happens.

  1. Listen more and talk less. That means not interrupting and not asking questions until the speaker is done. Rather than listening to frame your own rebuttal, listen to genuinely understand.
  2. Smile more. Smiling and warmth make others around you feel good. It may seem simple, but smiling is a lost skill of sorts. Smiling and warmth make others around you feel good.
  3. Don’t lecture or dictate. Treat all conversations as a two-way street. Speak and share your thoughts and ideas but set them forth in a way that respects the voice of others.
  4. Give rather than get. Don’t keep score; give with a genuine heart because it makes you happy.
  5. Gratitude. Enjoy and be grateful for all that you have. It is gratitude that gives us the best reasons not to complain.
  6. Be accountable with no excuses. People with good intentions make promises; people with great character keep them. Doing what you said you would do should be your highest priority–because when you give your word, there is no room to forget.
  7. Forgive without punishing. There are two kinds of forgiveness. There’s the kind which gives the other person another chance, and there’s the kind that forgives but you choose to move on without that person. Both should be used wisely but neither should be about punishment. The healthy way to forgive is whatever works best for you without punishing the other person.
  8. Honesty. The people we like the best are those who are honest, who follow their convictions and speak their truth. We like people who act on their beliefs. They may not always win, but you know what they stand for.
  9. Be positive. Law firms can often be a contentious environment. If you think about it, who ever really wants to hire a lawyer?  Work on maintaining a positive attitude at work and in life. Make an effort to look for and focus on opportunities and solutions instead of barriers and problems.

By: Katie Bryant, CLM

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Inspired - 2019 Annual Conference & Expo in Grapevine, Texas

Conference Scholarship winner 
Cynthia Webler, PHR

First, thank you to the Arizona Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators for the scholarship award to attend the 2019 Association of Legal Administrators Annual Conference & Expo in Grapevine, Texas!  Thanks also to Sharon Williams for encouraging me to apply for the scholarship and for welcoming me to the ALA family in general. 

As an HR Professional of 18 years and former Project Manager, I have had numerous occasions to attend and present at large conferences, with as many as 6,000 attendees!  New to the legal profession as a Firm Administrator, I knew I could learn a great deal from attending an international conference of legal management professionals.  The conference was well organized, well planned and provided me with so many learning opportunities, which I did not anticipate.  When it was recommended I should download the app or go online to begin selecting the many educational offerings, I was overwhelmed by the amount of information, events and breakout sessions offered.  How does one choose?  What track should I follow?  As many of you know, the Firm Administrator of a firm wears many hats, HR, IT, Marketing, Finance and Facilities, among other daily operational responsibilities.  Which of the sessions within the Essentials Track should I attend?  Again, Sharon, the seasoned attendee gave me some pointers… select specific sessions, but also have a back-up session.  I choose a number of the HR sessions as HRCI credit is given.  However, I also benefited from communications and organizational management, financial management and operations management sessions.  I dove right in, resolved to get in as many sessions as possible, while at the same, go to every event such as Kickin It Country, First Legal’s client appreciation party at the Circle R Ranch and the Awards Gala and VIP Finale. 

Day 1, the conference starts on a Sunday?  Well, Sunday was a great day to connect and attend Idea Exchanges.  I was able to connect with a Managing Partner who was also the Firm Administrator and able to pick her brain.  Then, there is the Exhibit Hall with over 162 exhibitors!  The prizes given away!  How does one manage to visit all the booths?  I devised a strategy to speak to the business partners with whom our Firm does business.  I met several new people, exchanged emails, promised to keep in touch (and I will) as there is so much knowledge I can glean from them.  No need to reinvent the wheel if others have already found a way to make it run more smoothly.  I made great friends who have similar situations/dilemmas as I and will have many lifelines. 

I am so glad I did not skip any of the keynote speakers!  Leading the Way:  Inspiring Go Getters and Game Changers by Molly Fletcher was so motivating!  As an avid tennis player myself, not only was I able to relate to her tennis and sports stories and analogies, but I was moved by her admission that mistakes and adversity can lead to better outcomes.  I walked away encouraged and inspired.  Then, there was the Tuesday breakfast and keynote by USAF retired Colonel Nicole Malachowski, a combat veteran and the first woman to pilot a Thunderbird, among other accomplishments.  Her story, her delivery, her metaphors, one would not have guessed she too had conquered adversity and come out the other end in a better place than where she started.  She states, “Failure is the price of entry.” 

Wow!  What amazing, motivating and inspiring women!  I can go back to the Firm and know I may make mistakes, but know that I will learn from them and grow even more.  Resilience…it is the key to success. 

Thanks, again for the gift of the conference scholarship! 

Cynthia Webler, PHR
May, Potenza, Baran & Gillespie, P.C.


Conference Scholarship winner 

Thank you Arizona Chapter for the scholarship to attend the national conference in Grapevine, TX. Attending the conference granted me the opportunity to network with so many professionals and vendors that have become great resources to myself and our firm. Many of the conference sessions were tailored to specific practice groups and certain size firms. Coupled with the mobile app, I was able to customize my schedule to efficiently navigate the conference and select sessions specific to our firm’s needs. While there were a number of sessions that overlapped that I would have wanted to attend, I found the special interest group sessions the most beneficial to me. I was able to learn directly from individuals who are in similar roles as myself and who share similar challenges as our practice areas. In general, many of the sessions granted opportunities for one on one discussions, allowing attendees to collaborate and share ideas with one another. Overall, the conference was a wonderful experience in networking and learning. Thank you Arizona Chapter members for guiding and helping me at the national conference, it wouldn’t have been the same without you!

Linda Nunez
Nunez & Associates


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Ahern Insurance Brokerage


A senior partner burst into the managing partner’s office.  Looking concerned, she handed over a document.  “I just found this on the copier.” 

It was a detailed exit plan for three partners, which had been left on the copier inadvertently.  There was no inkling this was coming.  It was a serious development, since the lawyers did substantial work for the firm’s largest client.

The managing partner called the firm’s administrator to the office.  Feeling shocked, and betrayed by people she had worked with for many years, her first reaction was to direct the administrator to confront each of the departing partners and tell them they were being expelled from the firm immediately, and had one hour to gather their personal effects and leave the building.

Attempting to calm a volatile situation, the administrator agreed it was a serious situation, but gently pointed out that the partnership agreement set the procedures for expelling partners, and it could not be done on the spot.  She also reminded them that the lawyers were handling many litigated matters, and the cases could be hurt if the lawyers were suddenly locked out, with hearings and trials pending.  After taking a few deep breaths, the partners agreed with the administrator. 

Now came the difficult task of handling the departures most effectively, and controlling the emotions.

Maintaining Calm Professionalism

Attorney departures often impact firms significantly.  Emotions will certainly, and understandably, run high.  People who worked together for years on the same team, are suddenly about to become competitors.  Analogies to a divorce are apt.

But if emotions are allowed to set the tone, the process will be ugly and adversely affect everyone at the firm, as well as clients.  Lawyers who used to work well together might now be arguing, sometimes publically and heatedly, in front of other lawyers and staff at the firm.  If the legal press gets wind of the problem and its contentiousness, unflattering reporting will surely follow.  When clients learn of the situation, they will be concerned their lawyers are unable to act professionally.  They will resent being dragged into the lawyers’ dispute.

Hard as it will be, the key is to remain calm and carefully follow the firm’s procedures and the ethical rules governing such situations.  Law firm administrators are critical to being able to step back from the personal issues between the lawyers, and provide the clear-eyed guidance such situations absolutely require. 

Protecting Client Interests Is Paramount

What lawyers may or may not do when withdrawing from a firm is governed by the over-arching principal of what is in the best interests of the clients.  All actions related to attorney departures must be viewed through that lens.

The immediate issue is which clients and matters will be following the departing lawyers, and leaving the firm.  The best practice is for the departing lawyers and the firm to communicate about which clients and matters the departing lawyers hope to take with them, and to jointly draft a letter to be sent to those clients – signed by both a firm representative and the appropriate departing lawyer.  The letter should be “plain vanilla,” simply advising the client of the departure, where the attorney will be going, and that the client has three options: send their case with the departing lawyer; keep the case with the firm; or retain a new lawyer.  If a joint letter cannot be agreed to, each side should send their own letters along the same lines, though a jointly letter is vastly preferable.

Use the letter as an opportunity to assure the client that all of the involved lawyers are handling this professionally to prevent any negative impact on the client, and in a way that the client’s matters will be attended to fully during the transition.

Make it easy for the clients.  With the joint letter, provide a form for them to complete and return, with boxes they can simply check to indicate who they want to handle their matters and authorizing the transfer of files (including electronic files). 

Handling Matters in Transition

Carefully track which clients are involved and that you have received their completed forms confirming their decisions.  Also closely track the transfer of files to assure that everything needed to protect the clients’ interests is in the hands of the right person when they need it.  In litigated matters, make sure that all substitutions of attorney are signed and promptly filed with the court.

When matters are staying with the firm and necessarily being re-staffed, get the departing attorneys’ cooperation in obtaining detailed status reports, particularly of all upcoming deadlines (which your calendar program should help with).

The process of lawyers moving out of a firm, and taking clients, matters, and files with them, requires ongoing interactions between the two “sides.”  A professional, calm administrator is the perfect intermediary to keep that process civil and effective.

Understanding the Rules

There is sometimes concern that departing attorneys may, for example, be improperly soliciting clients or soliciting other firm lawyers or staff, despite their continuing fiduciary obligations to the firm. 

At the very outset of the process it is therefore useful to provide departing lawyers (and the firm’s leadership) with written legal analysis of the parties’ obligations when lawyers leave firms.  Providing that information, and emphasizing to all concerned that it is in everyone’s interest to make it a smooth, seamless process, will help the parties move past their emotional reactions.


There are too many necessary administrative steps in attorney departures to address all of them in a short article.  If your firm does not already have detailed procedures in place, checklists can often be obtained from your E&O (Errors & Omissions aka Professional Liability) carrier or broker, or simply by searching online.

The most significant point is to have experienced, dispassionate firm administrators be the steady hands making sure required procedures are followed and keeping emotions from spiraling out of control, to everyone’s detriment.

By Daniel W. Hager
Corporate Counsel, Ahern Insurance Brokerage

*No portion of this article is intended to constitute legal advice. Be sure to perform independent research and analysis. Any views expressed are those of the author only.

AHERN Insurance Brokerage (AHERN) is an industry leader in providing customized insurance solutions for law firms. As one of the largest full-service insurance brokerages in the country specializing in law firms, we currently deliver the most comprehensive programs to over 5,000 law firm clients. Contact an AHERN Professional at (800) 282-9786 or visit us online at to request a no-obligation quote.

AHERN is an Official Member Benefit Provider of the State Bar of Arizona.

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Total Networks


Managing IT security has many facets and layers. However, phishing continues to stand out as likely the most persistent and dangerous threat of all. Moreover, it appears to be getting even worse. Awareness programs and training to help everyone identify phishing emails and how to handle them are essential components of any security management plan.

An awareness program succinctly reminds people what to look out for and what to do. This might be implemented as a section in your employee handbook, some papers or posters on a few walls throughout the office, and an occasional email reminder. Training may involve in-person or video training, which might be assigned. A simulated phishing campaign can be a particularly effective training technique where someone who clicks on a simulated bad link is directed to a site that provides training. Additionally, a report of who clicked when they shouldn’t have can be reviewed by management.

A single click can be all that it takes for malware to infect a system or worse. However, the “payload” may not be malware at all. It may be inducing someone to share information that should not be shared or perform a financial transaction. A common scam that has been making the rounds is to have an email that purports to be sent from someone in the company to their assistant. This message requests that they go to the store and get a number of gift cards, scratch the cover to reveal the codes, and reply to the email with those numbers.

The phishers are getting much smarter at figuring out the names and email addresses inside companies so that the requests appear legitimate. Automation and artificial intelligence appear to be helping gather the correct information so that these scams seem can seem very believable. In addition to the gift cards, scammers sometimes request wire transfers. In virtually all cases, the scammers convey a strong sense of urgency. The goal is to convince the recipient of the email (or text message) that this is something that immediate action is required. The phisher is counting on their target not to stop and ask questions.

One item that I’ve been working on with my clients to combat this is with a special notification that is automatically added to all email received from outside the company. This notification alerts the recipient that the message came from an **External Sender**.

The notification text is highlighted with a yellow background to ensure that it stands out by providing a clear visual cue. Everyone should be looking out for phishing messages regardless if it is tagged as an external message. However, this notification provides an additional reason to treat these external messages with an extra bit of suspicion. Of course, always treat messages that are caught in your spam filter quarantine with a high degree of suspicion as well. Sometimes legitimate messages are accidentally flagged as spam, but often it may be a phishing email masquerading as a legitimate message. Never blindly release a suspected spam email and trust it.

The phishers are continually improving their game, so we need to improve ours as well. If in doubt, assume that a message is not legitimate and take extra steps to validate it. The quality of these phishing messages may be quite good and look legitimate when it is not. Put yourselves in the shoes of the phishing email creator. What might a “bad guy” try to fool you into doing? Click on a link? Send them money or gift card codes? Reveal confidential information? Expect deceptive emails, texts, or calls and be prepared to deal with them.

I recommend having an active company policy for dealing with suspicious emails. With respect to suspected phishing emails, company policy should be to avoid clicking on any links, opening any attachment, or responding to a suspected phishing email sender in any fashion. Additionally, I recommend that company policy be to forward any suspicious email to your IT support team with a notification of either:

  1. you've assumed it's not legitimate and deleted the message, so this is just FYI or
  2. you would like confirmation that the message is legitimate or not

Your IT should confirm if the message appears to be legit or not. If it is not, IT may be able to use this information to update your email filtering blacklist and further improve your defenses.

A little proactive phishing prevention goes a long way towards improving your IT security.

By: Dave Kinsey
Total Networks
4201 N. 24th Street, Suite 230
Phoenix, AZ 85016
(2nd Floor of the State Bar of Arizona Building)
[email protected]

Dave is the co-owner and President of Total Networks. The Total Networks team provides outsourced IT and strategic technology consulting to professional businesses. Their team is the first and only Arizona IT company to earn the CompTIA Security Trustmark, certifying that Total Networks meets or exceeds security best practices. For more information, email Dave at [email protected].

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Congratulations Katie Bryant, CLM!


In case you missed it, Legal Management, The Magazine of ALA  recapped the various award winners at this year's annual conference.  We are excited to announce that our own Katie Bryant, CLM was the recipient of the Outstanding Association Volunteer Award. 

The "award went to someone whose passion for this organization is evident. She thrives on challenge, has mentored many new members and volunteers and is a strong advocate for the Certified Legal Manager (CLM) program. She is a brave leader who creates a courageous culture. Katie J. Bryant, CLM, of Udall Shumway PLC in Mesa, Arizona, joined ALA in 2000 and began serving at the local level not long after. She’s held countless chapter roles, including Chapter President (this year will make it twice!), and was instrumental in developing BizLaw in a Flash, a mobile flashcard app created by the Arizona Chapter through a grant from the Foundation of the Association of Legal Administrators. At the international level, Katie has served as a Regional Representative, on the Association Nominating Committee, on multiple conference committees, chaired the Regional Nominating Committee and served on the Board of Directors for four years. She is currently serving as Chair of the Business Partner Relations Project Team, which is thriving under her leadership."

Thank you Katie, for all you have done and continue to do for the chapter!

View more award winners at

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Access Information Protected


Change sucks – especially change for the sake of changing.  But, if you could change the way leaders lead and the outcome of that transformed leadership was unprecedented success and well-being, not only in your business, but also in your life and the lives of those around you, would you do it?  Perhaps that’s overstating it. But, maybe not.

Creativity and innovation is key to the future success of sustainable, competitive businesses. A mindful leadership model challenges you to think about leadership differently. From people, team building, innovation, creativity and change management, mindfulness can impact every aspect of our law firms and our industry in a positive way.

I’m on a quest.  A daily quest – as Affinity’s Managing Partner and simply as a human being – to better understand mindfulness and to help clients, colleagues and partners find a better way to grow their law firms, retain their best employees and enjoy life while they do it. I’d like all of that, too. Who wouldn’t? Mindfulness is about being present in the moment and controlling your own attention without judgement in a very intentional way. Becoming a Mindful Leader is a worthy transformation in my quest.

Tips for being a Mindful Leader.

  1. Be Intentional in Everything You Do. Make a decision about how you are going to act and what you are going to do.
  2. Demonstrate Vulnerability. Showing weaknesses builds trust.
  3. Find the Truth. When you get feedback from someone else, you might not agree with everything they say. But, almost always, somewhere in the perception of others is a nugget of truth and, remember, people’s perception of reality IS their truth.
  4. Make People Feel Safe. Use 1?1 meetings to really connect with your people and make sure they know you genuinely care for them.
  5. Do the Hard Things. Address people problems head on, respectfully, and directly.
  6. Find Your Triggers. What sets you off? Then, control it.
  7. Separate Ego from Events, Experiences, and Thoughts. You don’t always have to be right.
  8. Be Grateful. Have a gratitude journal.
  9. Find Your Place. Find a place you can go that makes you stop, reconnect, and know when you need to go there. We all need a place to go that forces us to reset.
  10. Literally. Stand up, reach to the sky, breathe deep.  It changes everything. Your blood starts flowing and you feel better.
  11. Find the Pause. Find the thing that makes you stop, gather your thoughts, and act in a mindful way.

Mindfulness works.  Not only will your professional relationships improve with your colleagues and clients, but as a Mindful Leader life in general will change when you practice mindfulness in all things.

“Quiet Your Mind. Soak It All In. It’s a Game You Can’t Win. Enjoy the Ride.” Thank you, Zac Brown Band. You got it right.

When we are mindful and we practice Mindful Leadership, we will lead others to that place.

Debbie Foster, Affinity Consulting Group

AUTHOR – Affinity Managing Partner Debbie Foster

As Managing Partner, Debbie spends her time running Affinity, working with clients, and speaking to lawyers and other legal professionals all over the place. Her talks focus on fun topics like Law Firm Leadership, Effective Communication, Why Process Matters, Time Management and lots more. Debbie is passionate about all things law firm and legal department-related and she prides herself in sharing what she knows as much as possible. Debbie’s ultimate goal is to help people run firms that intentionally become more and more successful.  We're excited to annouce that Debbie will be a featured speaker and business partner at our Business of Law Conference on August 7th.

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ALA Resources and Useful Links

Do you need some help on your presentation skills? Here are 101 Presentation Tips to make your next presentation a success!

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