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Updated: 2 days 4 hours ago

Promoting Jury Appreciation Week

Wed, 05/02/2018 - 10:00

The following article first appeared in the summer 2017 In Chambers magazine and is republished with permission.

Serving on a jury—few understand the fundamental importance of jury service more than trial judges and appellate justices. But, how well do we communicate the significance or express our appreciation for those who are answering the summons to serve?

As the Texas Uniform Jury Handbook states, “The United States Constitution and the Texas Constitution guarantee all people, regardless of race, religion, sex, national origin, or economic status, the right to trial by an impartial jury. Justice ultimately depends to a large measure upon the quality of the jurors who serve in our courts.” When members of the venire leave the courthouse, are we adequately helping them understand the importance and solemnity of the judicial proceedings in which they participated?

In 2015, the Texas Legislature passed a bill creating “Jury Appreciation Week” to be celebrated the first week of May. The bill’s author, Sen. Royce West, filed this statement of intent with the bill:

The fundamental importance of a trial by jury in our system of justice is demonstrated by its enshrinement in the 6th and 7th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, along with Article 1 of the Constitution of Texas, our state bill of rights. The work of juries is extremely important to the function of our democracy and without it many of the liberties and freedoms we have as a society could be in jeopardy. To serve on a jury is to serve one of the most important civic duties in both our state and our nation. A juror’s work is an often tough, tiring, and thankless job. However, without it, one of the foundations of our democracy, the judicial system that ensures a safe and free society, would crumble. The first week in May is designated as Jury Appreciation Week to express to those who have served or are currently serving on juries of all kinds that their work is noted and appreciated.

Texas Government Code Section 662.155 states, “The first seven days in May are Jury Appreciation Week in recognition of the outstanding and important contributions made by Texas citizens who serve as jurors.”

The week corresponds with Law Day on May 1st, proclaimed by President Eisenhower, and later codified as a special day of celebration by the people of the United States in appreciation of their liberties and ideals of equality and justice under law and for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.

Jury Appreciation Week is dedicated to honoring those citizens who give of their time to participate in the judicial system. And, although Jury Appreciation Week is designated to occur during the first week in May, it can be scheduled during any week that jurors are empaneled, as not every county tries a case to a jury during the month of May, much less the first week. The important thing is to make an effort to be intentional in expressing appreciation for our citizens’ participation in the judicial branch of government.

This year was the second year of this effort to celebrate the jurors for their service. The primary effort thus far has been two-fold: (1) communicating with county and district clerks about the week, providing them with toolkits containing resources that will aid them in promoting the week, and (2) providing information and resources on the State Bar of Texas’ Jury Service Committee website. The website has many resources for judges, including a sample “thank you” letter to send to jurors selected for service on a jury.

The State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee is dedicated to developing and implementing programs to ensure broad citizen participation and support of jury service. Visit the Committee’s website for additional resources, including public service announcements, educational pamphlets, and articles of interest. Links to all of the Jury Service Committee resources are available here.

Judges are, among other things, leaders. Leadership in promoting the effort to raise awareness, provide information, and express appreciation for our jurors can, and should, start with the judges who summon jurors for service. We can work in collaboration with our clerks and local bar associations to formulate plans that work well for the courts we serve.

By small, intentional, consistent acts of appreciation, jurors will better understand their critical role in our system of justice and truly feel our gratitude.

Judge Eddie Northcutt serves as the judge of the 8th Judicial District and is currently in his second term.

Randy Sorrels of Houston elected State Bar of Texas president-elect

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 20:00

Texas attorneys have elected Randy Sorrels of Houston as president-elect of the State Bar of Texas. Sorrels received 58 percent of the 32,445 votes cast during the month-long voting period that ended May 1. His opponent, Lisa Blue of Dallas, received 41 percent of the votes.

The 32,445 votes set a record for the highest total of votes ever cast in a State Bar election. With 31.8 percent of the bar membership voting, it was also the highest turnout percentage since 2000.

In the Texas Young Lawyers Association election, Victor Flores of Denton was elected president-elect.

View State Bar election results here; click here for TYLA results. For the news release, click here.

State Bar of Texas warns public of jury duty scams

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 14:05

As Texas’ annual Jury Appreciation Week approaches in the first week of May, the State Bar of Texas wants to warn Texans about the proliferation of jury duty scams across the state in recent months.

There have been widespread reports of scammers calling residents and accusing them of failing to show up for jury duty. The scammers may claim to be with a local sheriff’s department, the U.S. Marshal’s Office, a district or county clerk’s office, or even a court.

The callers threaten that the person answering will be arrested unless he or she pays an amount, typically $500 but it may vary, using either prepaid gift cards or a wire transfer.

The callers have some knowledge of the jury duty system and often use language that makes them sound legitimate. The callers can get very aggressive and may also ask for personal information, like social security numbers.

Texans should know that no government agency will demand payment over the phone.

If you receive this type of call, hang up the phone. Do not send money and do not answer their questions. Call your local sheriff’s department, district attorney’s office, or court clerk’s office using publicly available phone numbers to report the scammers.

Final Updates from the 2018 State Bar President-elect Candidates

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 13:07

Editor’s Note: The following message was sent to State Bar of Texas members on Tuesday. 

In an effort to encourage voter participation and educate members on the 2018 State Bar president-elect candidates, the State Bar is sending periodic emails with messages submitted by the candidates addressing topics of their choosing. The seventh and final messages are available at the links below.

Note: Opinions expressed by the candidates do not necessarily reflect the views of the State Bar of Texas.

Lisa Blue
Dallas

Randy Sorrels
Houston Click here to read Lisa Blue’s message.  Click here to read Randy Sorrels’ message. 

Voting in the 2018 election for State Bar president-elect and district director is under way through 5 p.m. CT May 1. On April 2, attorneys eligible to vote were mailed an election packet that included a paper ballot, candidate brochures, and instructions on how to cast their vote. An email also was sent to attorneys, giving them instructions on how to vote online. Be sure to check your spam filter. Election emails are sent by the State Bar¹s election provider, Election Services Corporation, from statebaroftexas@electionservicescorp.com.

The election packet and email contain a voter authorization number (VAN) with instructions on how to vote online. Attorneys may use this VAN and their bar card number to log on to the election website to cast their ballot. If attorneys do not have their VAN, they can also go to the State Bar website, texasbar.com, to cast their vote during the voting period.

Attorneys may either submit their paper ballot via mail or vote online using the information provided. The secure election system will not allow duplicate votes.

More information on the election is available at texasbar.com/election.

Jury Appreciation Week: A time to honor jurors

Tue, 05/01/2018 - 10:39

By Kaci Singer

As Texas celebrates its third annual Jury Appreciation Week starting today, we pause to honor those citizens who give of their time to participate in our judicial system.

Jury Appreciation Week was created by the 84th Legislature and was first celebrated in 2016. To mark the occasion, the State Bar of Texas has produced the Jury Appreciation Week Guide to offer ideas on how to celebrate Jury Appreciation Week in your communities. Please note that although Jury Appreciation Week is designated to occur during the first week in May each year, it may be observed anytime.

The State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee is dedicated to developing and implementing programs to help ensure broad citizen participation and support for jury service. We encourage you to visit our website at texasbar.com/juryservice for additional resources, including public service announcements, educational pamphlets, and articles of interest.

Many other states will be celebrating jury service during the first week in May, which also coincides with Law Day on May 1. You can find additional ideas for celebrating jury service week at americanbar.org. The State Bar of Texas has provided this information to court clerks and judges across the state and encouraged them to organize Jury Appreciation Week activities.

We hope that by small, consistent acts of appreciation, jurors will better understand the critical role they play in our system of justice and truly feel our gratitude.

Kaci Singer is an Austin attorney and the 2017-2018 chair of the State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee.

Laura Gibson chosen State Bar of Texas board chair-elect

Mon, 04/30/2018 - 21:51

Laura Gibson

Houston attorney Laura Gibson was chosen to be chair-elect of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors during the board’s meeting in Fort Worth on Friday.

Gibson will take office during the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting to be held June 21-22 in Houston. She will serve as chair until June 2019.

Read the full news release here.

Vick: State Bar of Texas Board Takes Action on Transparency, Budget

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 17:11

Tom Vick

Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Tom Vick sent the following message to members on Friday.

I’m writing with an update on today’s State Bar of Texas Board of Directors meeting in Fort Worth, which included action on transparency, the budget, and president-elect task forces; an update on possible advertising review changes; a next step in our general counsel search; and the election of a new board chair. As promised, the meeting was taped, and the video will be available at texasbar.com/board by next week.

Transparency Efforts
The board voted unanimously to request proposals from qualified firms to conduct a thorough, independent review of transparency issues at the State Bar. The findings will be reported to the board and shared publicly.

This is a positive step that further illustrates our commitment to being a leader in open government. It is the latest in a series of transparency improvements at the State Bar in recent months, including the launch of the Our Finances webpage and the videotaping of board meetings. We are looking into technology to allow possible live streaming of future board meetings.

President-elect Task Forces
President-elect Joe K. Longley has appointed two president-elect task forces—one on State Bar finances, the other on transparency. The board voted to request that both task forces present an update at the June 20 board meeting in Houston and prepare a written report to the board two weeks before that meeting.

The State Bar leadership and staff have worked in good faith to fulfill every request of these task forces, including sending staff members to answer in-person questions and assigning staff members as liaisons to facilitate their work. We have made it known to the task forces that we welcome any recommendations as to how we can better address financial and transparency issues. And we widely publicized the first and only official report we have received from either task force to date, which looked at the State Bar’s proactive response to an embezzlement of funds from a Supreme Court account that the State Bar discovered in 2012.

At today’s board meeting, State Bar director Scott Stolley of Dallas and a number of other board members raised concerns about how the Transparency Task Force has been operating. Scott was appointed to that task force and later resigned over his concerns. He called it a “flawed vehicle” for achieving what we all want: a more open State Bar.

One of Scott’s major concerns was that statements made by the State Bar’s legal counsel to the task force in March were taken from their intended context and used against the State Bar in a pending litigation matter. His concerns prompted considerable discussion by the board, and I invite you to watch the discussion on the State Bar website when the video is available if you’re interested.

Our directors were clear that they support the objectives of both task forces. Both task forces will continue their work.Our directors simply want to ensure their work is progressing and isn’t duplicative of the work being done by the board’s existing committees. In the meantime, they directed State Bar staff to continue responding to written requests from the task forces but to pause additional in-person interviews until the board receives the requested reports.

The State Bar has invested more than 400 staff hours and approximately $50,000 in time and expenses to support the work of the Financial Responsibility & Fiscal Control Task Force since it started meeting in August. The State Bar has also devoted resources to the Transparency Task Force, which formed in November and started meeting in January. As the governing body of the State Bar, the board has a responsibility to ensure these resources are being used wisely. We look forward to hearing from the task forces in coming weeks.

General Counsel Search
The board’s General Counsel Search Committee announced it has narrowed its short list of candidates from six to three (listed in alphabetical order): Martha S. Dickie, Ross Fischer, and Michael A. Shaunessy. The committee is gathering more information on the candidates and will continue deliberations. The committee ultimately will make a recommendation to the full board, which will elect the general counsel by a majority vote.

As I explained in prior messages, the board voted unanimously in January to approve the hiring of a general counsel, a statutory position under the State Bar Act. The general counsel will provide counsel to the State Bar board and officers on an as-needed, contract basis as the board directed. As prescribed by the RFP, this individual will be independent—reporting straight to the board, not to the executive director—and will perform duties usually expected of a general counsel.

You should know that a group calling itself Texas Lawyers for State Bar Reform has distributed emails on the general counsel search that contain inaccurate and misleading statements. I want to directly address those claims here, so there is no confusion about the board’s actions:

  • The board is not hiring an “outside law firm” to serve as general counsel. The State Bar Act is clear that the general counsel is an individual, and the board will be electing an individual to this position.
  • The State Bar Act does not require the general counsel to be a full-time, in-house position. The board agreed to structure the position as an independent contractor after determining there wasn’t enough work to justify the cost of a full-time general counsel. The general counsel will still fulfill all statutory requirements—including by serving as an ex officio member of the board’s executive committee.
  • The State Bar’s in-house legal counsel will not perform the general counsel’s work, nor will the general counsel report to the in-house counsel or to the executive director. If you read the RFP used to solicit the candidates, you will see the roles of general counsel and legal counsel are clearly delineated and independent of each other.

If you have any questions or comments on the search process or the candidates, please contact Amy Turner, the State Bar’s human resources director, at (512) 427-1708.

Ad Review Changes
This year, I asked the Advertising Review Committee to take a look at the advertising rules and regulatory structure and recommend improvements, and the committee submitted a report with some thoughtful recommendations.

The report describes how the committee is making changes to its administrative procedures to streamline the ad review system. The committee is also making suggestions for amending many of the disciplinary rules that govern lawyer advertising.

Today, the board voted to refer the report to its Discipline and Client Attorney Assistance Committee for review. That committee will return with its recommendations on the proposed rule changes at a future board meeting.

State Bar Budget
The board voted unanimously to submit the proposed 2018-2019 State Bar budget to the Texas Supreme Court, which will review and consider approval of the budget in May. I have sent several messages about this budget (the latest one is here), but in short it would reduce overall general-fund spending by 5 percent compared with the current budget while adding additional money in reserves and without reducing member services.

Board Chair Election
I want to congratulate Laura Gibson of Houston, whom the board elected to serve as chair for the 2018-2019 bar year starting in June. Laura is a partner in Dentons’ litigation and dispute resolution practice. She is board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a dedicated volunteer for our profession, having served as president of the Houston Bar Association among many other roles. Laura will succeed our current board chair, Rehan Alimohammad of Sugar Land.

Remember to Vote!
Finally, don’t forget to vote in the 2018 State Bar and Texas Young Lawyers Association election, which ends at 5 p.m. CT on May 1. Go to texasbar.com/election to cast your ballot or to learn more about the candidates.

As always, I welcome your questions and comments.

Sincerely,

Tom Vick, President
State Bar of Texas

Champions of Justice Gala Benefiting Veterans raises $404,000

Fri, 04/27/2018 - 07:13

Veterans across Texas were honored at the Champions for Justice Gala Benefitting Veterans on April 25. More than $404,000 was raised to provide civil legal services to low-income Texas veterans at the event.

The gala, co-sponsored by the Texas Access to Justice Commission and the State Bar of Texas, was held at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin. Keynote speaker for the evening was the Hon. Nathan Hecht, the 27th Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Texas.

Click here to read the full news release.

Sponsored Content: 3 Roles to Outsource for your Law Firm

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 23:01

The legal world is still deeply steeped in tradition, but sometimes defying the norm can have enormous benefits for your law firm. One way to bend the rules is to think creatively when hiring your team. Often, that means thinking remotely.

The amount of people working remotely at least part time has jumped from 15% to 20% in the last 4 years, according to Thrive Global. This rising rate shows no signs of stopping, because the benefits are undeniable.

A study by TINYpulse concluded that remote workers are happier, more productive, and feel more valued than their in office counter parts. They value flexibility and freedom and more detailed contact with their managers, and can do amazing things for your law firm.

Here are 3 roles you should definitely consider outsourcing for your legal team.

Marketing

Marketing might not be a huge priority for your firm, especially if you work with a small team. However, you absolutely need to be thinking about the way your law firm represents itself. Webris reports that “96% of people seeking legal advice use a search engine”. If you don’t have a solid website ready with FAQs, rates and services, and information about your firm, you are missing a huge demographic of potential customers.

“Your firm needs a high-quality website with valuable content and effective search engine optimization (SEO),” reports Answer 1. “The right website is instrumental in bringing in new clients. Local SEO is especially important so that you get visitors who are looking for lawyers in your area.”

Reception

As a lawyer, you absolutely need a receptionist to help you manage scheduling and paperwork. “There is a tremendous amount of administrative work that is associated with running a law firm,” says Parker Davis on a recent episode of the Lawyerist podcast. A receptionist can help you keep your business in order, as well as maintain the crucial line of contact for potential clients.

But having a full time, in house receptionist can be expensive and ineffective for law firms, especially smaller firms.

This is where outsourcing comes in. Hiring a virtual receptionist for your law firm makes sense; VR services are 1/10th the cost of an in-house option. Not only will they save you time, a comprehensive virtual reception service will help you qualify leads, schedule appointments, and make sure every potential client is taken care of.

Answer 1 offers call answering 24/7/365, which is crucial for lawyers. Your future clients will be in tense legal situations and need answers at all times, which is why services like Answer 1 make sense for legal professionals. The 2017 Clio Legal Trend Report discovered that 2 out of 3 potential clients will choose a firm that promptly answer their first call. You need a live voice, virtual receptionist to assure clients that you are their best legal option.

Make sure to look for a virtual receptionist service that covers after hours.

Paralegals

Another area that attorneys should consider outsourcing is their paralegals. This might prove trickier because of privacy concerns with sensitive legal material. However, that shouldn’t hold attorneys back from exploring this option;

The American Bar reports that “Virtual paralegals offer attorneys a seamless, remote staffing alternative while maximizing the value of each billable hour…not only are attorneys who outsource more productive, but they also realize higher revenues because they pay only for the work being done.”

Hiring on a virtual paralegal will increase your billable hours and allow you to get back to the real work of practicing law.

Moving Forward with Legal Outsourcing

Outsourcing as a lawyer can feel nontraditional, but makes a lot of sense for the average, busy legal professional. Research your options, and consider hiring freelance marketers, virtual receptionist services, and remote paralegals to elevate your law practice.

Texas Bar Journal announces 2018 Short Story Contest winners

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 09:00

Thank you to the 28 writers who submitted entries to the Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest this year.

Author names were removed from entries before being submitted to judges in order to keep the contest fair and impartial. Two panels of judges faced the challenging task of selecting the winners, and for each round, the same evaluation form was used for consistency. Twelve entries advanced to the final round, which was judged by Pamela Buchmeyer of Dallas and Jupiter, Florida, Mike Farris of Dallas, and last year’s winner, Gregg Mayer, of Brandon.

The winner, “The Protective Order,” by Rosanne Gordon, earned the highest number of points.

Please congratulate these attorney-authors for making it through the competitive first round of judging to the finals.

“The Protective Order,” by Rosanne Gordon (First Place)

“Whiskey Hands,” by Ron Uselton (Second Place)

“Max’s Mindspeak,” by Marvin Sprouse (Third Place)

“Hart’s Calling,” by Brandon Beck

“Pity the Dinosaur?,” by Frank J. Gonynor

“Weary Mr. Wycliffe,” by Francis Mwangi

“The Spillover Room,” by David Jones

“2,519,” by Ronald Brown

“Ben’s Paradox,” by William Cornelius

“What He Said,” by Victor Segura

“The Wrath of Stephen, The Pirate-Wizard of Galveston County,” by Andrew Culbertson

“Vignette,” by Robert “Jim” Middleton

Here’s an excerpt from “The Protective Order”:

“The overwhelming smell of pine cleaner grabbed my throat as I opened the glass door. I walked quickly across the rural community center’s glistening tile floor, glancing at the dozens of people sitting on folding chairs against the walls. A pair of young women. One probably applying for a divorce, the other making sure she didn’t chicken out. A scowling man holding a bundle of papers. An elderly couple with an adult, disabled child. I avoided eye contact with the volunteer law students stationed at tables in the middle of the room, hoping they were too busy interviewing potential clients to notice my arrival. No such luck. A tall, young man in a crisp, gray suit called out, ‘Professor?’”

The entire story, along with the second and third place winning entries, will be published in the June issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

State Bar of Texas announces 2018 winners of Law Day contests

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:00

The State Bar announced the winners of the annual Law Day editorial, photography, and poster contests this month.

Each year, Law Day is celebrated nationally on May 1 to honor the rule of law and underscore how law and the legal process contribute to the freedoms that all Americans share. The State Bar of Texas and the Texas Young Lawyers Association celebrate the importance of law and its impact on our nation and local communities by hosting the statewide editorial, photo, and poster contests based on the American Bar Association Law Day yearly theme. Local bars and young lawyer affiliates are encouraged to hold local contests and submit their first-place winners in each category to the State Bar for the statewide contest.

This year’s theme “Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom,” encouraged students to reflect on why the separation of powers is fundamental to preserving freedom. The State Bar contest winners, who based their work on the theme, will be recognized at the Texas Law Center May 1.

Here is an excerpt from the editorial of first-place winner, Caroline Knauth of West Brook High School in Beaumont, representing the Jefferson County Bar Association:

Balanced Ballads

By Caroline Knauth

For music to sound correct and create the perfect harmony, there must be a blend and balance of multiple different crescendos and decrescendos. If one note is given all of the power and overpowers the rest, the musical piece will most likely end up sounding like a train horn. Beethoven’s use of many different keys and notes created balanced and beautiful pieces that are still celebrated and listened to today. If he played the same note over and over again without the help of any others, people wouldn’t know him as the musical genius that he was. Just as balance is critical while playing instruments, it also plays an immense part within the American government. The Founding Fathers implemented the separation of powers into the government to govern the balance between the three branches of government ensuring that no branch has so much power that it suppresses the others. This system preserves the liberty and freedom that is granted to every American, keeping the authority from being in one section of the government.

Peruse the rest of Knauth’s editorial, the other winning entries, and the top photographs and posters at texasbar.com/lawday.

Members appointed to Judicial Commission on Mental Health

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 11:30

The Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals have appointed 31 members to lead the newly established Judicial Commission on Mental Health. The commission will examine best practices in the administration of civil and criminal justice for persons with mental illness.

The newly appointed members will serve through August 2020 and include, Hon. Brent Carr, of Fort Worth; Camille Cain, of Austin; Terry Crocker, of Edinburg; Jerry Davis, of Austin; Hon. Francisco Dominguez, of El Paso; Hon. Camile DuBose, of Hondo; Dr. Tony Fabelo, of Austin; Sonja Gaines, of Austin; Hon. Ernie Glenn, of San Antonio; Hon. Sid Harle, of San Antonio; Dr. Andrew Keller, of Dallas; Adrienne Kennedy, of Austin; Hon. M. Sue Kurita, of El Paso; Beth Ann Lawson, of Lubbock; Major Mike Lee, of Houston; Chief James McLaughlin Jr. (ret.), of Elgin; Mike Maples, of Austin; Dr. Octavio Martinez, of Austin; Hon. Stacey Matthews, of Round Rock; Beth Mitchell, of Austin; Tom Mitchell, of Houston; Hon. Roxanne Nelson, of Marble Falls; Hon. Robert Newsom, of Sulphur Springs; Hon. Harriet O’Neill (ret.), of Austin; Denise Oncken, of Houston; Dr. William B. Schnapp, of Houston; Dr. Brian Shannon, of Lubbock; Reginald Smith, of Austin; Hon. Polly Jackson Spencer (ret.), of San Antonio; and Hon. Cynthia Wheles, of Plano.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Jeff Brown and Judge Barbara Hervey of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will serve as the initial co-chairs of the commission. Justice Bill Boyce, of the 14th Court of Appeals in Houston, will serve as the initial vice chair.

The governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the house have been invited to each designate a person to serve as an ex-officio member.

The first meeting of the commission is scheduled for May 15, 2018, in Austin. The meeting will be available by webcast and later archived at TexasBarCLE.com.

The signed order can be viewed at TexasJCMH.gov.

State Bar of Texas launches Knowledge Center

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 07:04

The State Bar of Texas has launched a new program on its website aimed at offering its members a resource for the latest whitepapers, case studies, trial reports, and more. The Knowledge Center is a repository chock-full of relevant news and information that practitioners can access for free. For more information, go to texasbar.com/knowledgecenter.

State Bar Board of Directors to Meet April 27 in Fort Worth

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 15:59

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors will hold its quarterly meeting April 27 in Fort Worth.

The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. at the Fort Worth Omni, 1300 Houston St. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Click here to view the meeting agenda.

 

2018 TLCL Convention will be held in June

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 13:00

The 29th annual Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers Convention will be held June 1-3 at the Marriott South in Austin.

Convention attendees will hear from national speakers about current research on mental health, substance abuse recovery, and learn how to maintain a more balanced professional life. There will be opportunities to network, relax, and have fun with Texas lawyers in recovery. Up to six hours of CLE ethics credits can be earned at the convention.

Those who register before May 4 will receive a discounted rate.

For more information, call the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program at (800) 343-8527.

State Bar of Texas TLAP Director Bree Buchanan is honored for work on lawyer wellness

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 09:00

Bree Buchanan, director of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, was honored for her research and outreach on mental health and substance abuse disorders within the legal profession.

Buchanan, who is co-chair of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being and co-authored the task force’s report, “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change,” received the Excellence in Community Leadership Award from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation Legal Professionals Program.

“I’m honored by this award but want everyone to know this is a team effort by the task force,” she said. “Kudos go to all of them who sacrificed hundreds of hours to bring this report to fruition.”

The report, which came out in 2017, made 44 recommendations for fostering a healthier environment for attorneys. It focused on five general areas: (1) identifying stakeholders and their roles in reducing toxicity in law; (2) ending stigma on seeking help; (3) emphasizing that an attorney’s well-being is vital to his or her work; (4) educating attorneys, judges, and law students on mental health and substance use disorders; and (5) creating a culture that prioritizes self-care and helping others.

Legal Professionals Program Director Kevin Chandler, who presented the award at the annual Legal Professionals Recovery Retreat in Center City, Minnesota, praised Buchanan’s work.

“There is no one more deserving of this award, which recognizes extraordinary service on behalf of lawyers struggling with substance use and mental health disorders, than Bree Buchanan,” Chandler said in a press release. “Her tireless, selfless work is clearly changing the trajectory when it comes to wellness in the legal profession.”

The recommendations made in the task force report are similar to what the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program emphasizes. The State Bar of Texas TLAP program, which is aimed at lawyers of all ages, judges, law students, and legal employers, offers extensive resources on mental health and substance abuse disorders, as well as burnout and cognitive decline. The TLAP website, tlaphelps.org, features articles, podcasts, videos, and TED Talks to bring visibility to and support for those facing these issues.

“The legal profession has for too long been a breeding ground for substance use and mental health disorders as a result of its outdated culture and often indifference to lawyer wellness,” Chandler said. “Buchanan’s work is taking what has for too long been the legal profession’s dirty little secret and is dragging it kicking and screaming into the bright sunlight.”

Buchanan said it’s humbling to see how the legal profession has answered the call but said there is still much left to be done. “The next step is for each state to pick up the task force recommendations and use them as a guideline for how well-being for law students, lawyers, and judges in their own state can be improved.”

For more information about wellness and the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, go to tlaphelps.org.

Spring cleaning discounts

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 08:00

It’s the time of year for spring sprucing and financial planning. Whether you’re tidying up your finances or tidying up your home the Beneplace Savings Program has resources that can help. You’ll save on mortgage offers, appliances, refinancing services, security systems and much more. Just visit the Home & Garden and Financial Wellness pages on the website to start saving today.

  • Guaranteed Rate – Give yourself the gift of a lower mortgage rate! Use Guaranteed Rate for zero lender fees and a pain-free home buying experience.
  • LifeLock – Last year alone, one in 20 Americans was a victim of identity theft. Protect yourself with LifeLock identity protection services. Save 10%!
  • myAutoloan.com – With just one auto finance application, get up to four loan offers in minutes. The average customer saves up to $1,900.
  • SunPower Solar – Solar power is one of the wisest investments you can make today. Sign up for a free home evaluation and get a rebate of up to $1,000 with SunPower.
  • Suburban Propane – Use Suburban Propane—the nation’s trusted, reliable propane provider. You’ll save up to 30% on gas and $250 off installation and equipment!
  • Samsung – Save up to 15% on Samsung appliances and up to 50% on mobile phones, tablets and more. Enjoy the lowest possible pricing on Samsung’s product portfolio.
  • ADT Authorized Dealer – Sign up for a home monitoring service with ADT! You’ll get a free home security system (an $850 value) and a $200 gift card.

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

For more information on other discounts you’re eligible for as a member of the State Bar of Texas, visit texasbar.com/benefits.

Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Available to both individuals and employer groups, the exchange offers a wide range of health insurance choices and more.

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

Fifth Circuit adopts rule change

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 16:00

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit adopted a change to its rules this month.

The approved amendment is as follows:

FIFTH CIRCUIT RULE 35.5

35.5 Length. See Fed. R. App. P. 35(b)(2). The statement required by Fed. R. App. P. 35(b)(1) is included in the limit and is not a “certificate[ ] of counsel” that is excluded by Fed. R. App. P. 32(f).

The amended rule, which went into effect April 2, 2018, was approved by the court following a public comment period that ended March 9.

Free legal clinic for veterans in Katy

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 15:30

Veterans in Katy can receive free legal advice at a clinic hosted by the Katy Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative, with funding from the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, on Saturday, April 21.
The clinic will offer veterans, or spouses of deceased veterans, one-on-one advice and counsel from volunteer attorneys in areas of law including family law, wills and probate, consumer law, and real estate and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits.

Veterans who qualify for legal aid and are in need of legal representation may be assigned a pro bono attorney from the Houston Volunteer Lawyers.

The event will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Katy VA Outpatient Clinic, 750 Westgreen Blvd., Katy 77450. No appointment is necessary.

Additional Houston Bar Foundation legal clinics take place Fridays from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. For more information, go to hba.org.

To view a list of other free veteran legal clinics around the state, please go to the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans webpage at texasbar.com/veterans.

23 Best Apps for Lawyers

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 23:01

We think these are some of the top law firm apps available. Some of these apps were designed specifically for lawyers, while others simply work well in legal practice. We’ve included links for all these apps, so you can download them and get started right away.

Clio: For Legal Practice Management

First, you’ll need a cloud-based legal practice management solution that allows you to take your practice on the road. A solution with a powerful mobile app (like Clio’s) will allow you to access your client data securely, anywhere, anytime.

With the Clio mobile app, you can track time, view client information, create new matters and contacts, and more.

Also, Clio integrates with many of the apps on this list (we have over 90 app integration partners in total, many of which can be found in Clio’s App Directory), which means you’ll be able to run your entire practice from one place.

Clio for iOS and Android

OneDrive, Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive: For document storage

If you’re going mobile, you’ll need a cloud data storage service that lets you access your data from anywhere. OneDrive, Box, Dropbox, and Google Drive fit the bill. All feature mobile apps, and some have notable advantages:

  • OneDrive inherently integrates with the Microsoft Office suite, making this a good option for Microsoft users.
  • Google Drive offers direct integration with Google Docs, which allows you to edit all your documents directly from your browser without needing any other programs.
  • Box offers in-document searching for enterprise-level accounts.

Your data is safe in the cloud as well. Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive employ data encryption, as well as physical and electronic security protocols at their server sites. (Be sure to read the security policies for Dropbox, Box, and Google Drive, and check out this post on security and OneDrive.)

Fastcase: For legal research

Fastcase is the world’s largest free mobile law library. It’s an indispensable app for attorneys practicing law on the go. Fastcase also integrates with Clio, allowing users to accurately keep track of time spent on legal research.

These free mobile apps don’t have the same capabilities as the full version of Fastcase, but they’re still extremely helpful to have on hand while you’re away from the office.

Fastcase for iOS and Android

Zipwhip: For sending professional texts

The 2017 Legal Trends Report found that 27% of consumers see a willingness to exchange text messages as a key factor when choosing a lawyer. Zipwhip lets you send and receive texts from your business number, making it easy to be both professional and responsive.

Zipwhip also integrates directly with Clio, allowing you to keep all of your text conversations organized in a single system of record.

Zipwhip for iOS and Android (beta)

RightSignature: For getting documents signed

E-signatures are incredibly useful for getting documents signed quickly, and with RightSignature’s mobile apps, you can share documents with clients and get them signed from wherever you are.

RightSignature also integrates directly with Clio, so that you can keep all of your documents and information organized in one place.

RightSignature for iOS and Android (beta)

Read the full list of the best apps for lawyers on the Clio Blog.

 

 

 

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