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LAWYERS HELP PUT LEARNING TOOL IN STUDENTS’ HANDS Mark Robinson and Barry Graynor were both captivated when they read an article in The Wall Street Journal last year about a South Carolina woman who distributes dictionaries to third-graders. Robinson called the woman, Mary French, to find out if she was handing out dictionaries to children in the Bay Area. “She said, ‘No, why don’t you do it?’” recalled Robinson, a technology sales executive. Meanwhile, French was also fielding calls from Graynor, a special counsel at Cooley Godward, and two other interested Bay Area residents. She passed their names along to Robinson, who with his wife, Ann Wong, incorporated the nonprofit group dubbed the California Dictionary Project. Graynor and Cooley associate Heather Burror became part of a six-member team that got the project off the ground. So far, the group has given dictionaries to 16,000 third-graders in the Oakland, San Jose and San Francisco Unified School Districts. The distribution in San Francisco took place May 2, when volunteers handed out 6,000 dictionaries to students at 78 elementary schools. “It’s just been fantastic,” Graynor said. “The best part is when you go to the classroom and see the kids. It’s incredible how enthusiastic the kids are.” Graynor was so enthused that after the group’s first distribution he started tutoring a third-grader once a week through the Oakland Heroes program, which recruits volunteers to assist in Oakland schools. The goal of the California Dictionary Project is to provide children with a tool for learning. The motto on the group’s Web site (www.dictionariesforkids.org) is: “Today a Reader. Tomorrow a Leader.” The group gives students either a Webster’s Classic Reference Library Dictionary or a Spanish/English dictionary. Students in Spanish immersion classes receive both books. The San Francisco distribution cost $9,000, which was primarily covered by donations from six law firms. At Graynor’s request, Cooley; Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich; Heller Ehrman White & McAuliffe; Morrison & Foerster; Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati each chipped in $1,000. The San Francisco Youth Fund, a local foundation, also provided $2,500. At the S.F. event, a few hundred volunteers from the San Francisco School Volunteers gave students a lesson on how to use the dictionary. A MoFo legal assistant also helped hand out dictionaries at Bessie Carmichael Elementary School, where MoFo attorneys and legal assistants have tutored students for the past 15 years. “Some teachers in Oakland told us they don’t know what sparks a kid’s interest or gets them to read,” Robinson said. “They are willing to try anything and thought this was a great tool.” – Brenda Sandburg CHANGE OF HEART Bill Fazio feels differently about the death penalty than he did the last time he ran for San Francisco district attorney in 1999. “I no longer think it’s a tool that is necessary” for prosecutors, said the solo criminal defense attorney and third-time DA candidate. In 1999 Fazio told The Recorder that if he were elected, “I suspect [the death penalty] would be very seldomly used, but I’m not going to say I’m never going to use it.” Last week, Fazio said that if elected in November, he would not pursue the death penalty in any case — a sentiment that brings him in line with the two others running for the office. Incumbent DA Terence Hallinan and Deputy City Attorney Kamala Harris, a former prosecutor, said they would not seek the death penalty either. “It has been shown to disproportionately affect African-American men,” Harris said in explaining her position. “I have a moratorium on the death penalty during my tenure in office, for a whole variety of reasons,” Hallinan said. Fazio said he began to rethink his position at least two years ago, after the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals found a judge had given faulty jury instructions and reversed the death sentence of Russell Coleman — the only man Fazio had successfully prosecuted to death row. Coleman ended up with a sentence of life without parole, and Fazio said he began to wonder if it was worth it to pursue a death conviction at all. “It doesn’t provide closure. Here’s a guy that had been on death row 21 years,” said Fazio. “Had he gotten life without parole, his case would’ve been over a long time ago.” Fazio didn’t publicly declare that he had changed his mind until May 2002, when he wrote a letter to the editor published in the San Francisco Bay Guardian. “I now believe the death penalty serves no legal, deterrent, or moral purpose,” he wrote. “I have concluded that life without the possibility of parole is the appropriate penalty for the most serious violent crimes.” — Pam Smith FRIENDS AT THE BAR California lawyers who rushed to war as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom might have once less thing to worry about — the State Bar is considering waiving their bar dues for the whole year. “We have a number of members who, due to circumstances beyond their control, are serving their country in the Gulf, and the last thing we would want to do is penalize them in any way for that service,” State Bar President James Herman said last week. Herman, a partner in Santa Barbara’s Reicker, Pfau, Pyle, McRoy & Herman, said waiving the fees would save lawyer-reservists from paying penalty fees of up to 25 percent and keep them from being recommended for suspension by the California Supreme Court. “It just didn’t seem right that someone called up to the reserves would have to suffer any kind of penalty, or certainly a suspension,” said Elyse Cotant, director of the Bar’s member services and information. Cotant pointed out that the secretary for one Southern California lawyer told her that her boss had been given only 23 hours to report for duty. The Bar’s Board of Governors will vote on the issue Saturday during a meeting in San Francisco. There’s always a chance the board could say no, but the dues waiver isn’t unprecedented. In 1991, during the first Gulf War, the Bar did the same thing. No records were kept, so Bar officials have no idea how many waivers were issued or how much money was at stake. That also means the Bar has no idea how many lawyers and how much money could be involved this time. But it could amount to $3,900 even if only 10 active lawyers who pay $390 a year for dues qualify for a waiver. Multiply that by 100 and the number looms large. “Obviously, cost is a concern to us,” Herman said, “but this is one where the support of the members outweighs any financial issue.” To qualify, lawyers must have been called to duty for more than 30 days and provide a copy of their orders. “We can be notified by a law partner, a spouse, whatever,” Cotant said, “because the person’s probably over there in Turkey or Iraq. This wouldn’t be the important thing on their mind.” — Mike McKee DOCTOR FEEL-GOOD The lawyer’s life is full of long hours and hostile interactions that can take a toll on even the most calloused psyche. For generations, frazzled attorneys have decompressed on a barstool. But in San Francisco, some lawyers are turning to a more holistic alternative. Meet Dean Herman, Ph.D. A litigator turned psychologist, Herman teaches lawyers to deal with the stress and negative energy they encounter at work in effective ways. Attorneys attend his classes, and he recently spoke at a Bar Association of San Francisco event. “These attorneys are physically and emotionally exhausted,” says Herman in a press release touting his relevance to the legal community. “They deal all day long with other attorneys who are hostile, touchy, manipulative and themselves mentally collapsing under unbearable stress.” Many lawyers respond to this pressure by becoming hostile. But Herman advocates a kinder, gentler course of action, which focuses on courtesy and sensitivity. Can this feel-good sentimentality cut it at the negotiating table? “When lawyers help their opponents feel good about themselves,” says the good doctor, “it is actually easier and a lot less expensive to achieve a favorable result for the client.” – Alexei Oreskovic CALLOUSED HANDS, SOFT HEARTS Baker & McKenzie corporate associate Matthew Gemello likes to get his hands dirty for a good cause. Gemello was set to join more than a dozen volunteers from Baker’s San Francisco office Saturday to hammer away on the roof of a Habitat for Humanity International dwelling. “There are a lot of different programs you can get involved in, but this is one where you are actually building something for somebody,” Gemello said. Baker had some 170 people firmwide preparing to spend their Saturday working on Habitat for Humanity homes, according to Corinne Chance, a Baker spokeswoman. The San Francisco project, on Mission Street, is an eight-unit, five-story condominium building that when completed will be the tallest Habitat structure in the nation, Chance said. The day of hard labor marks Baker’s second annual “Day in Service,” said Angela Vigil, director of Baker’s pro bono and public service program. “The firm has been trying to deepen our relationships with issues and organizations,” Vigil said. Lawyers in several of Baker’s U.S. offices donate legal work to Habitat for Humanity, and last year the firm took it one step further, Vigil said — it lined up volunteers to help with construction. “There’s no magic to it,” Gemello said. “It’s an opportunity to give back to the community. It sounds overused, but it’s an area of town and a program I think could use some support. This is a way as an individual to get in there.” – Renee Deger

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