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Texas Bar Journal Must-Reads for November

Wed, 11/01/2017 - 11:30

Can’t wait until the Texas Bar Journal arrives in the mail? Get a head start on the November issue online at texasbar.com/tbj. Our editorial staff’s must-reads include lessons from the basketball court to improve attorney performance, insights from veterans on living with PTS, post Hurricane Harvey FAQs, and humor from the judge’s daughter. Don’t forget to read Movers and Shakers, Disciplinary Actions, and Memorials.
Surviving the War Within
A panel of veterans offer insights on living with post-traumatic stress.

Post Hurricane Harvey
Answers to frequently asked questions about FEMA, insurance, and more.

Lessons From the Court
Improving attorney performance in the profession.

The Judge’s Daughter: Thank Goodness That’s Not My Case!

DBA hosts a fireside chat with Mayor Mike Rawlings

Tue, 10/31/2017 - 09:00

In a fireside chat on October 30, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings spoke with Dallas Bar Association President Rob Crain about race and civility issues. The meeting focused on the legal profession taking leading roles on community issues.

“The DBA was honored to host Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings today for a fireside chat,” Crain said. “In a wide-ranging discussion, the mayor addressed the city’s challenges with his signature style of blunt candor and thoughtfulness.”

The free one-hour discussion was open to the public and hosted by the DBA’s Public Forum Committee at the Pavilion at the Belo Mansion.

Tarrant County Bar hosts swearing-in ceremony

Mon, 10/30/2017 - 14:05

The Tarrant County Bar Association will host a swearing-in ceremony for all new lawyers from 3:30 to 5 p.m. on Nov. 16.

The event is open to all individuals who passed the July Texas bar exam and completed all other necessary requirements. It will feature all justices from the 2nd Court of Appeals and be held in the court’s courtroom on the ninth floor of the Tim Curry Justice Center, 401 West Belknap St., in Fort Worth.

Texas A&M School of Law will host a reception immediately following. To attend, please RSVP with Sherry Jones at sherry@tarrantbar.org.

Open enrollment 2018 begins November 1

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 12:30

The 2018 Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment kicks off on November 1. This year there are only 45 days to enroll, making the concierge level customer service available through the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange more vital than ever.
The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange provides members with an online portal that makes it easy to compare and purchase products from leading insurance providers.

The exchange was designed for members, their staff, and dependents and is available for individuals or employer groups, including solo practitioners.

Benefits of the exchange include:

• Concierge level support and advocacy—benefits counselors are available to help with any situation that might arise while applying for coverage;
• One-stop shopping—it’s easy to compare benefits and pricing when deciding on the best plan for your needs;
• More choices for carriers and plan options;
• Virtual enrollment decision support;
• Complimentary TELADOC subscription, when you purchase any product through the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange;
• Complimentary $10,000 of accident insurance; and
• Competitive prices for individual and employer group plans in Texas.

Additional information from exchange seminars in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio is also available. An online webinar, “A Clear View of 2018 Individual Health Insurance Open Enrollment,” is also available. The webinar covers enrollment terminology, how to access the exchange, important enrollment dates, necessary documents to have ready, and the latest open enrollment news.

The enrollment window for 2018 is shorter than in previous years and ends December 15. For more information, go to texasbar.memberbenefits.com.

Schedule a call with a counselor for creative solutions for individual and group insurance needs. Due to the shortened and mandatory nature of the sign-up period, members are strongly encouraged to make appointments as soon as possible.

Pro Bono Spotlight Day 5: Marilyn D. McGuire

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 22-28). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Marilyn D. McGuire, solo practitioner

Marilyn McGuire

Houston solo Marilyn D. McGuire is a volunteer attorney for Aid to Victims of Domestic Violence, Lone Star Legal Aid, and the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program.

Why is pro bono important to you?
It is critically important that the lack of financial resources do not serve as an impediment to equal access to the justice system for all people.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
People in need of legal services are the same regardless of their resources. It has been a rewarding experience and the clients are most appreciative of your efforts.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
It will be one of your most meaningful experiences as an attorney and worthwhile to give back to a community that needs your assistance, legal talent, and expertise.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
I met a young female client a couple years ago that had been a victim of domestic violence in her marriage. Through a series of unfortunate decisions, the client had lost custody of her five children to her husband who was engaging in illegal drug use. After a divorce and modification case which took many months of litigation, I was successful in having the five children returned to her as primary custodial parent a few days before Christmas.

DVAP to host free legal clinics in November

Fri, 10/27/2017 - 09:30

The Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, a joint initiative of the Dallas Bar Association and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, will hold 10 free legal clinics in November for Dallas County residents who meet financial guidelines. Residents will receive free legal advice and consultation in civil matters.

Applicants are asked to bring proof of income, identification, and legal papers to the clinics. For more information on income eligibility guidelines, go to dallasvolunteerattorneyprogram.org.

Clinics begin at 5 p.m., with the exception of the veterans clinic, which begins at 1:30 p.m.

East Dallas (Grace United Methodist Church, 4105 Junius St., Dallas 75246)

  • Thursday—November 2 and November 16

South Dallas (Martin Luther King Jr. Center, 2922 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., Dallas 75215)

  • Tuesday—November 7, November 14, and November 28

West Dallas (2828 Fish Trap Rd., Dallas 75212)

  • Thursday—November 9

Garland (Salvation Army, 451 W. Avenue D, Garland 75040)

  • Thursday—November 16

Friendship-West Baptist Church (2020 W. Wheatland Rd., Dallas 75232)

  • Wednesday—November 15

St. Philip’s School & Community Center (1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Dallas 75215)

  • Tuesday—November 21

Veterans Resource Center (for veterans and their families only, 4900 S. Lancaster Rd., Dallas 75216)—1:30 p.m.

  • Friday—November 3



Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 4: Brit Inman Swanson

Thu, 10/26/2017 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 22-28). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Brit Inman Swanson

Since 2004, Brit Inman Swanson has worked as an attorney for students in the Office of Student Legal Services at Texas Tech University.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I have been involved as a volunteer at Legal Aid of Northwest Texas since my third year of law school in 2002. My first job out of law school was working as an attorney in LANWT’s Plainview office. I worked there for a year, then went on to my current job at Texas Tech University. I have been volunteering at LANWT’s for nearly 14 years.

Why is pro bono important to you?
There is an access to justice issue and there is a lot of misinformation out there, in spite of, or perhaps due to, the ability to Google anything. Ensuring that everyone has access to justice is very important to the function of our society.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
When doing pro bono work you learn firsthand that knowledge is power. Volunteering provides me with the opportunity to impart knowledge to individuals to enable them to regain a semblance of power and take back some control of their lives.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
It is a great way to learn about different areas of the law, develop your skills, and meet people who will be directly impacted by your expertise and gift of time. You will also meet colleagues who share your interests and can develop a network of attorneys that can assist you when tackling difficult legal issues.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
I don’t have a particular client that comes to mind, rather the recurring thought that how educating people about their rights in an effort to prevent injustice is critical. Groups like LANWT and its volunteer attorneys provide an invaluable service to those who otherwise would not have been able to acquire legal assistance.

Statewide Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project launches

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 15:19

Just in time for 2017 National Celebration of Pro Bono Week, October 22-28, Lone Star Legal Aid, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, announce the launch of Texas’ new Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project. The result of more than a year of collaboration between LSLA, TRLA, and LANWT, this new project was designed in coordination with bankruptcy judges, trustees, and several experienced practitioners from all four Texas districts.

A major component of the project is a videotaped CLE. Calling the CLE video “spectacular” and “ground-breaking,” U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Eduardo V. Rodriguez, of the Southern District of Texas McAllen Division, thanked the participants for their contributions to the project by saying, “It is my hope that your combined contribution will touch and change the financial lives of many underprivileged individuals in Texas for years to come.”

In the U.S., many bankruptcies are triggered by life events such as illness, death, divorce, job loss, or disasters. The events are stressful and the resulting financial burden only exacerbates that stress. The physical and mental health of affected individuals and their families are negatively impacted. At the same time, legal aid funding is inadequate to permit legal aid organizations to handle many Chapter 7 bankruptcies. Instead, funds are directed toward situations that—without legal assistance—will lead to homelessness or unemployment due to loss of transportation. Meanwhile, individuals in their 90s who are living in nursing homes and have contacted legal aid for relief from debt collectors may not get the help they need, such as a Chapter 7 bankruptcy, due to a lack of resources.

To address this unmet need, Rodriguez helped secure gifts of $5,000 from the State Bar of Texas Bankruptcy Section for each of the legal aid organizations. Pablo Almaguer, TRLA private attorney involvement coordinator; Bill Marple, LANWT director of pro bono and bar services; and Linda Good, LSLA directing attorney; agreed to pool the gifts to create a program with statewide application. Modeled after the successful Family Law Essentials program, the Bankruptcy Pro Bono Project includes a three-hour videotaped CLE (0.5 ethics) designed to train new practitioners to handle Chapter 7 bankruptcies on a pro bono basis. The program also includes a PowerPoint presentation, a welcome packet of forms, and contact information for experienced mentors. In addition, each of the organizations received grants from the American College of Bankruptcy Foundation that will provide free bankruptcy preparation and filing software to attorneys who attend the CLE. Attorneys may attend the CLE and receive all materials free of charge in exchange for a commitment to accept at least two Chapter 7 bankruptcies on referral from legal aid in the two years following the training.

The CLE speakers spent the afternoon videotaping the three-session program on September 25, 2017, at the Texas Law Center in Austin.

The first session, “Panel I—Before the Filing,” was led by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Craig Gargotta, of the Western District of Texas San Antonio Division, and included Chapter 7 Trustee Catherine Curtis, Chapter 13 Trustee Stuart C. Cox, and attorney Abelardo Limon. This session trains the new practitioner on how to gather and analyze information to adequately assess clients’ needs, how to properly advise clients about Chapter 7 bankruptcy, and the mechanics of filing the case.

The next session, “Panel II—After the Filing,” was moderated by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Mark X. Mullin, of the Northern District of Texas Fort Worth Division, and included Chapter 7 Trustee Christopher Moser, and attorney Carol Cross Stone. The session discusses the duties of attorneys and clients once the case is filed, addresses special circumstances like language barriers, and includes a timeline for a Chapter 7 case.

The final session, “Panel III—Closing the Case,” was led by Chief U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Bill Parker, of the Eastern District of Texas, and included Chapter 7 Trustee Corky Sherman, Chapter 7 Trustee Jose C. Rodriguez, and attorney John Grieger of LANWT. The final session covers reaffirmation agreements, the effect of discharge, and post-discharge issues.

LSLA will premiere the new CLE, for which MCLE accreditation has already been confirmed, on October 23, at a combined CLE/Client Clinic at Combined Arms in Houston.

This article, which originally appeared in LegalFront, has been edited and reprinted with permission.

From left: Abelardo Limon, Corky Sherman, Judge Craig Gargotta, Catherine Curtis, Judge Bill Parker, Judge Eduardo V. Rodriguez, Carol Cross Stone, Judge Mark X. Mullin, Linda Good, Stuart C. Cox, Christopher Moser, and Jose C. Rodriguez. John Grieger is not pictured.

Photograph by Briana Stone, State Bar of Texas Legal Access Division


Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 3: Natalie Smeltzer Fortenberry

Wed, 10/25/2017 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 22-28). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Natalie Smeltzer Fortenberry, corporate associate in the Dallas office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges

Natalie Smeltzer Fortenberry

As a corporate associate, Fortenberry focuses on complex corporate and transactional matters for private equity firms and public companies in connection with public and private acquisitions, divestitures, and investment transactions. She was selected as Weil’s 2014 Lend-A-Lawyer to the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, where she devoted a three-month period to representing indigent clients in a variety of contested matters.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I have handled a variety of pro bono matters, but primarily, I handle civil family law cases through DVAP. I have been doing pro bono as long as I have been licensed. In fact, after graduation from law school, I deferred my start date as a corporate associate at Weil, Gotshal & Manges for one year to do pro bono work for two nonprofit organizations focused on development in Africa.

Why is pro bono important to you?
As attorneys, I believe we have a duty to those who cannot afford legal representation or do not have a voice of their own. We have a skill that we can easily use to give back. And it is very rewarding.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
It has reminded me how fortunate I am to have been able to attend college and law school and become an attorney. And it has affirmed to me that I have a responsibility to give back to others by using my legal skills.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
You can do it. It may seem overwhelming at first, given all of the challenges and demands of the legal profession, but you do have the time to do it. I am a corporate attorney, and I regularly handle pro bono family law cases. DVAP provides incredible resources as do many of the other pro bono programs statewide. These resources make it very manageable to do pro bono work in an area of law that you may not normally practice.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
In 2011, I took on my first pro bono case with DVAP. It was custody case for a grandmother caring for her granddaughter. Throughout the case, I became close with the child’s aunt as well. After finalizing the case, and parting ways with my clients, I thought I would never see or hear from them again. Then in 2014, right before I was going to start as a Lend-A-Lawyer, the aunt called and asked if I could help with a custody modification. So I was able to represent the family again. After finishing the second case, the family said, “Natalie, you aren’t just our lawyer, you are our friend.” It really doesn’t get any better than that.

Deadline approaching for State Bar at-large director nominations

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 13:36

Nominations are being accepted for two appointed at-large director positions on the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors. The deadline for nominations is October 27.

Two at‐large directors will be appointed in January 2018. One will serve the remainder of a three‐year term, until June 2020. The second will serve a three‐year term from June 2018 until June 2021.

People interested in being nominated for at‐large director should submit the following:

  • a nomination letter from a third party (self‐nominations will not be accepted),
  • a resume,
  • three to five letters of recommendation, and
  • a brief personal statement of no more than 500 words explaining why they have “knowledge gained from experience in the legal profession and community necessary to ensure the board represents the interests of attorneys from the varied backgrounds that compose the membership of the State Bar.”

Submit the information to:

Ad Hoc Committee to Nominate At‐Large Directors

Or by mail:
At-Large Director
c/o State Bar of Texas
1414 Colorado Street, Ste. 300
Austin, TX 78701‐1627

For more information, visit the Board of Directors website or contact chielsey.barber@texasbar.com with any questions.

Please note that an application for at‐large director does not preclude an applicant from running for a geographic area board position. Petitions for the elected board member positions must be received at the State Bar headquarters by March 1, 2018.

Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 2: Gracie Wood

Tue, 10/24/2017 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 22-28). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Gracie Wood, a third-year law student at Baylor Law School

Gracie Wood

As a busy law student, Austin native Gracie Wood still finds time to enjoy activities and serve as president of the Baylor Law School Student Bar Association, president of the Baylor Public Interest Legal Society, and a member of the Baylor Law Review. She plans to practice family law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
The bulk of my pro bono hours come from my involvement with Court Appointed Special Advocates for Children, or CASA. I was trained as a court appointed special advocate in undergrad, and my first case finished the week before I started law school. I was unsure if I wanted to take a new case as a 1L in law school, but I decided the organization and the kids I represent were just too important to me to let law school stand in the way. I am wrapping up my third case and am about to take my fourth. While at Baylor Law, I also have been involved with Adoption Day, fundraising for legal services for veterans, and supporting a local elementary school through SBA and our Public Interest Legal Society.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Because of the expense of legal representation, there are a lot of people who need services or advocacy that can’t afford it. Policy can also cause the underrepresentation of various groups. Obviously with CASA, I represent the best interest of the children during a case affecting parental rights. The foster care system is a place where it’s easy for children and their interests to be underrepresented. In all of my cases, I have felt like I made a difference in the ultimate outcome.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
Even in my busiest times of law school (like 3L year at Baylor when I am participating in the rigorous practice court program), I believe I can make time for what is important to me. I think this should be a lesson for my career.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
I highly encourage other students to participate in pro bono. If you have the opportunity to be involved with an organization like CASA (or whatever you are passionate about), not only can you make a difference in the lives of others, but you can also gain invaluable experience for your career. During participation in CASA, I have been cross-examined by attorneys, written reports that were filed with the courts, and learned how to interact with judges and various parties to the case. No classroom could have provided me the exposure to the courtroom and lessons I have learned throughout my CASA cases.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
I have had many memorable moments in my various pro bono involvement and with the 10 kiddos I have had the opportunity to represent as their advocate over the last three to three-and-a-half years. I am touched and flattered every time foster parents or attorneys and caseworkers on the case tells me they appreciate what I am doing for the kids, but the most memorable comment came from one of my children this past year. She is a tough cookie and puts out a really tough exterior—not letting many people in. About 10 to 11 months into our case I got a phone call from her foster mom who said the child wanted to talk to me “because I was the only one she trusted.” While this was absolutely heartbreaking to hear because it meant there were so many people she didn’t trust, it reminded me of the importance of what I do. I would rather have a child have one person he or she can trust then have none.

Pro Bono Week Spotlight Day 1: Stephen Rispoli

Mon, 10/23/2017 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 22-28). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Stephen Rispoli, assistant dean of Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs at Baylor Law School

Stephen Rispoli

As the assistant dean of Student Affairs and Pro Bono Programs, Rispoli spends a great deal of his time preparing students to become competent, ethical, and successful lawyers. An integral part of the school’s mission is service, and Rispoli has worked tirelessly to enhance the school’s pro bono offerings, enriching students’ experiences and helping veterans and the community at large.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
As the assistant dean of Pro Bono Programs at Baylor Law, I am involved in the pro bono projects that faculty, staff, and students are undertaking at the law school. I get to work with my colleagues and law students to create new opportunities to serve the unserved and improve ongoing projects. Since graduating from Baylor Law, I also try to keep one to two pro bono cases on my to-do list at all times. The cases I’ll take usually involve property (real or personal) disputes, but I’ll sometimes take a case outside of my wheelhouse, like an expunction case or simple estate planning.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Our country is founded upon the rule of law—the principle that any American can turn to the courts to peacefully resolve disputes. Keeping this principle in mind, the access to justice gap—the inability, or perceived inability, of low- and middle-income Americans to afford lawyers—in the United States is particularly troubling to me. The 2016 American Bar Association Report on the Future of Legal Services in the United Statesfound that 100 million low- and middle-income Americans cannot afford legal representation for “basic human needs.” In Texas alone, nearly 5.3 million people qualify for legal aid. (Access to Justice Facts, Tex. Access Just.) Out of all those that qualify, only 178,000 Texas families are assisted by a legal aid organization. (Id.) Without the assistance of a lawyer, pro se litigants must navigate the complex and confusing legal system on their own. Although pro bono alone will not be able to fix the issue, it is a significant step in the right direction.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
In addition to learning new areas of the law, I have learned a great deal about people through pro bono work.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Take a case—I think you’ll find it rewarding. Most clients who need a pro bono lawyer are extremely grateful for the help that they would otherwise not be receiving. It is tremendously rewarding to help that client through a very difficult time in his or her life. The State Bar of Texas is making it easier for attorneys to do pro bono work, and I hope more attorneys will participate in programs like Texas Legal Answers.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
The most rewarding case involved a disabled veteran who was in jeopardy of losing his home to foreclosure. He was elderly and bound to a wheelchair. An unscrupulous contractor came by his house and offered to renovate his bathroom. The deal asked for little money up front but included a high total cost for the renovation and a high-interest rate payment plan. My client, no doubt excited about getting part of his house fixed up, signed the paperwork at his kitchen table. When my client couldn’t afford the high-interest payment plan for the shoddy work (the bathroom was falling apart months later), the contractor began the foreclosure proceeding. We figured out that they had not properly complied with the Texas Constitution, and we were able to stop the suit. As a result, our client was able to keep his house. He was elated. It was the house he had grown up in—and if we had not won that case, he would have had nowhere to go.

HTLA hosts courthouse tour and swearing-in ceremony

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 14:00

The Houston Trial Lawyers Association is hosting a tour of the Harris County Courthouse and a swearing-in ceremony at 3:30 p.m., November 16 at the Harris County Courthouse.

The free event is for attorneys who are new to Houston or HTLA, who just passed the bar exam, and for recent or soon-to-be law school graduates.

“This is an opportunity for newly licensed attorneys, attorneys who are new to the area, law students who will be taking the bar soon, or anyone who would like to learn more about the Harris County Courthouse, meet the local judiciary, and network with other attorneys,” HTLA President Kevin M. Camp said.

Events include the swearing-in ceremony, a tour of the courthouse with practicing trial lawyers, an opportunity to meet the judges, and information about technology in the courtroom.

Information about where to park, how to file, the ancillary docket, and more will also be provided.

If you’re interested in attending the event, contact Rhonda Hill at rhonda@htla.org.

TOJI’s second cohort up and running

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 09:30

From left to right: Chase Gall, Nathan Ossowski, Philip Glasser, Russell Sloan, Kay Covarrubia, Kristina Chung, Jennifer MacGeorge, Tony Sun, Marshall Sales, and Eugene Haller.

The second cohort of the Texas Opportunity & Justice Incubator, or TOJI, kicked off October 2, 2017, in Austin with a group of 10 new attorneys ready to learn the ins and outs of running a successful law practice.

The 18-month program is a State Bar initiative to close the access to justice gap and is the first statewide legal incubator in Texas. The TOJI participants are provided hands-on skills and knowledge they’ll need to establish their own law practices serving low- and modest-income Texans. The cohort follows the inaugural group of attorneys who began with TOJI’s launch in April.

“Solo practice lawyering—especially when you are just getting started—can be a very lonely, insulated experience,” said Austin-based family law and criminal law attorney Eugene Haller. “I wanted to be in a group where we bounced ideas off one another, worked together, and referred each other clients.”

Haller has already begun collaborating with TOJI cohorts, with plans in place to second chair trials with three participants, develop video marketing with one, and co-write an article for a local publication with another.

The cohort started their 18-month journey with a three-week boot camp focused on establishing a business and getting and retaining clients. The lessons included discussions on setting retirements goals and considering expenses that may get in their way.

Russell Sloan, a Florida State University graduate, moved to Austin in early October to work in business and employment law. Sloan pointed to first-day discussions such as alternative billing methods versus flat fees for clients, as an example of how TOJI can guide him as he opens his own firm in the upcoming weeks.

“I want to help someone out who says he or she wants to open a food truck but doesn’t know where to start,” he said, adding that he wants to assist his clients with tax information and defense work.

Participants sent applications online to TOJI Director Anne-Marie Rábago and her staff, who select a new group of attorneys every six months. Each cohort has a maximum of 10 attorneys—at one time, including all cohorts, there is a maximum of 30.

Family law attorney Kristina Chung, who applied to TOJI after receiving an email from Rábago, said the program can steer lawyers away from pitfalls like wasting money and will point them to new resources and services, such as Fastcase and Casemaker, and different CLEs. Even more important, she said, TOJI allows her to see similarities in how other attorneys run their firms, offering them a safety net to make mistakes.

“I think it’s a very diverse group of people,” Chung said. “It allows you to fail without thinking, I’m the only one.”

TOJI will begin accepting applications in November for the third cohort, which will begin in April 2018. For more information about the program and how to apply, go to txoji.com.

Save with member discounts

Fri, 10/20/2017 - 08:00

Treat yourself to great savings with your Beneplace Savings Program! As a State Bar of Texas member, you have access to exclusive deals on thousands of products and services. Your Beneplace Savings Program has discounts on apparel, shoes, wholesale club memberships, and much more.

  • Sam’s Club – Save thousands of dollars a year with Sam’s Club. Join or renew your membership and save $100—plus enjoy additional coupons throughout the year.
  • Rockport – Your feet deserve comfort and style—all day long. Save 25% on your entire order from Rockport, online or in-store.
  • South Moon Under – South Moon Under is a fashion forward company that offers an eclectic mix of men’s and women’s clothing, accessories, jewelry, and gifts. Save 20% on full-price items.
  • Jack Rogers – Jack Rogers was born out of resort style but has evolved into a lifestyle collection of year-round pieces. Save 15% on shoes, accessories and more.
  • Cotopaxi – Cotopaxi gear and apparel is simple, smart, innovative, and unique. They bridge urban and outdoor lifestyles, providing versatile products that combine sleek style and practical durability. Save 20% on full-price items.
  • Skechers – Save 30% year-round on select work, corporate casual, dress and performance shoes from Skechers.

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

Texas to recognize paralegals on October 23

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 17:13

For the past eight years, Texas has celebrated Paralegal Day on October 23 to honor the paralegal community and its contributions.

The State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division, founded in 1981, was created to enhance paralegals’ participation in the administration of justice, professional responsibility, and public service in cooperation with the State Bar and to provide a statewide organization for communication between paralegals in the State of Texas.

“Paralegals are vital resources to their firms performing valuable services for and under the direction of an attorney, and their work requires a thorough knowledge of legal concepts and facts…,” states the Senate resolution No. 1144 recognizing Texas Paralegal Day. “Through their exceptional talents and expertise, paralegals provide valuable services that contribute significantly to the efficient functioning of the judicial system in the Lone Star State and they are indeed worthy of special recognition.”

Some districts are celebrating their own Paralegal Day as follows:

District 1—Birraporetti’s Downtown Houston, 500 Louisiana St.

  • 5:30-7:30 p.m. October 23

District 2—Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave., Dallas

  • Noon October 23

District 4—Sterling Events Center, 6134 U.S. 290 Frontage Rd., Austin

  • 6-8 p.m. October 26

District 5—Norris Conference Center, 618 NW Loop 410 #207, San Antonio

  • Noon- 1 p.m. October 27

District 7—Imperial Taproom, 410 15th St. #100, Canyon

  • 6 p.m. October 24

District 15 – Arturo’s Mexican Restaurant, 2303 W. Expy 83,Weslaco

  • 6-8 p.m. October 26

Justice Ted Z. Robertson, 1921-2017

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 11:00

Photo courtesy of Texas Supreme Court

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Ted Z. Robertson died Friday, the Supreme Court announced. He was 96.

Robertson served as an associate justice on the Texas Supreme Court from 1982 to 1989. He was known for helping to lead to the Supreme Court’s modern system of discretionary review.

The Supreme Court’s news release can be viewed here.

Houston firms and corporations join Project TRAIN Network

Thu, 10/19/2017 - 10:11

Nineteen Houston law firms and companies will join the Houston Bar Association’s Project TRAIN (Training, Readiness, and Inclusion Network) in recognition of National Disability Employment Awareness Month, pledging their support to employ people with special needs.

Project TRAIN, created by HBA President Alistair Dawson, assists firms and companies in hiring and retaining employees with special needs or cognitive disorders. Its members—attorneys and representatives of disability rights groups—will develop training programs and materials (available in early spring 2018) that address legal issues regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act and employment law, and advise employers on unique situations of hiring special needs individuals.

“Hopefully, these employers will be better prepared to welcome an increased number of differently-abled individuals in their work force,” Dawson said in a press release.

Project TRAIN will work with charitable organizations to help recruited employers interview potential hires. Those organizations include The Center, Social Motion Skills, H.E.A.R.T., Jewish Family Service, and Disability Rights Texas.

The network’s newest employers:

  • Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld
  • Andrews Kurth Kenyon
  • Apache Corp.
  • Baker Botts
  • Bracewell
  • Beck Redden
  • Constable Alan Rosen
  • Gardere Wynne Sewell
  • Haynes & Boone
  • Hogan Lovells
  • Jackson Walker
  • Littler Mendelson
  • Locke Lord
  • Morgan Lewis & Bockius
  • Norton Rose Fulbright
  • Porter Hedges
  • Reed Smith
  • Thompson Knight
  • Vinson Elkins

Additionally, Project TRAIN will provide pro bono legal services to ensure children and teens receive the services they are entitled to in high school and help them and their parents with decision-making arrangements or guardianships once they turn 18.

For more information, contact Alistair Dawson at adawson@beckredden.com or at (713) 951-6225.

Free legal clinic for veterans in Richmond

Wed, 10/18/2017 - 16:30

Veterans in need of legal advice or assistance can visit a free clinic on Saturday, October 21, from 9 a.m. to noon.

Volunteer attorneys will give any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran one-on-one advice in any area of law, including family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate law, tax law, and disability and veterans benefits. Veterans in need of ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney.

No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will be held at the Richmond VA Outpatient Clinic, 22001 Southwest Fwy., Ste. 200, Richmond 77469, and is a public service of the Fort Bend Lawyers Care, the Fort Bend County Bar Association, and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative.

For more information, call the Veterans Legal Initiative at (713) 759-1133 or go to hba.org.

The Law: A Profession in Trouble?

Tue, 10/17/2017 - 17:10

I started law school at Stanford in September 1978. Dressed in blue jeans, a flannel shirt, and hiking boots, I stood out like a sore thumb among my classmates, a sea of Ivy Leaguers in khaki pants, Izod shirts, and Top-Siders (sans socks). One of the fast friends I made was Warren Malone, a kid from Long Island who was enrolled in the joint JD/MBA degree program. Warren was easy to be around—funny, engaging, unpretentious, and scary bright. I introduced him to the Dirt Band, cowboy boots, and jackalopes. He introduced me to Bruce Springsteen, the Talking Heads, and the Yankees.

After graduation, we went different directions: Warren went to a Wall Street firm and I went back to Wyoming. We kept in touch, visiting each other often over the years. Warren’s career path took him from Cravath, Swaine & Moore to Bear Stearns. After spending a few years as a senior financial executive with Progressive Corporation, Warren teamed up with two other Bear Stearns alums to form the Daystar Special Situations Fund, an investment fund that catered to the endowments of Ivy League schools, among others. Warren achieved spectacular financial success—a home on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, a wife and two beautiful children, involvement in his children’s exclusive private schools, and all the other trappings. He maintained his passion for running and could often be found putting in 10 miles around Central Park Reservoir.

As the years passed, Warren and I kept in touch but with less frequency as we started families and our lives got busier. We still managed to get together every few years. Whenever I made it to New York, we would take in a Yankees game. That had been our tradition going back to the early 1980s.

Several weeks ago, I called Warren and told him I was coming to New York for a conference in early August. The Red Sox were going to be in town; I told him I would get tickets. He was upbeat—recently divorced, his children graduated from Ivy League schools—and was looking forward to seeing me. I went on StubHub and purchased tickets for the August 12 afternoon game.


Saturday, August 12. I attended the final session of my conference, a panel devoted to a groundbreaking report that would be released by the American Bar Association the following Monday. “The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change” offers a sobering glimpse of a profession in trouble:

To be a good lawyer, one has to be a healthy lawyer. Sadly, our profession is falling short when it comes to well-being. [Two recent studies] reveal that too many lawyers and law students experience chronic stress and high rates of depression and substance use. These findings are incompatible with a sustainable legal profession, and they raise troubling implications for many lawyers’ basic competence. This research suggests that the current state of lawyers’ health cannot support a profession dedicated to client service and dependent on the public trust.

The Saturday morning session moderator—one of the members of the task force that created the new report—asked for a show of hands from those in the room who had lost close colleagues to suicide. A couple dozen hands went up. Thankfully, mine was not one of them.

My conference adjourned at noon. I walked several blocks to the hotel of a friend who would be attending the game with Warren and me. I had texted Warren two days before: “Hey buddy. Looking forward to seeing you. Give me a call when you can.” I had left a voicemail for him the previous day but had not heard from him. With the first pitch just hours away, I was concerned. “This isn’t like Warren,” I told my friend. “I hope he’s OK.”

At a loss, I Googled, “Warren J. Malone obituary.” Up popped a two-sentence death notice in the New York Times: “Warren J. Malone, 62, tragically died August 2, 2017. Service at All Souls Church, August 10, 2017, 10:30 a.m.” I immediately called a mutual friend from law school who told me Warren had killed himself. His funeral service had been held two days earlier at a church just two blocks from the hotel where my conference was taking place. I didn’t even get to say goodbye.


“The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change” is a must read for all lawyers. Quoting from the introductory letter by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being:

The legal profession is already struggling. Our profession confronts a dwindling market share as the public turns to more accessible, affordable alternative legal service providers. We are at a crossroads. To maintain public confidence in the profession, to meet the need for innovation in how we deliver legal services, to increase access to justice, and to reduce the level of toxicity that has allowed mental health and substance use disorders to fester among our colleagues, we have to act now. Change will require a wide-eyed and candid assessment of our members’ state of being, accompanied by courageous commitment to re-envisioning what it means to live the life of a lawyer.

The report offers concrete suggestions to each “stakeholder” with a vested interest in lawyer well-being, including specific recommendations to judges, lawyer regulators, law firms, law schools, state bar associations, professional liability carriers, and lawyer assistance programs. The recommendations for regulators include modifying Rule 1.1 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct to endorse lawyer well-being as part of a lawyer’s duty of competence.

The report’s introduction contains recommendations to all stakeholders. I am happy to note that the Wyoming State Bar has already embraced several of them, including launching the Wyoming Lawyer Assistance Program in 2014, an emphasis on providing high-quality CLE programs and materials about lawyer well-being, publishing the Planning Ahead handbook (a helpful guide for succession planning for older lawyers) as a free download on the bar’s website, and de-emphasizing the use of alcohol at social events. But much remains to be done.

The new report opens with an audacious challenge to the legal profession:

Every sector of the legal profession must support lawyer well-being. Each of us can take a leadership role within our own spheres to change the profession’s mindset from passive denial of problems to proactive support for change. We have the capacity to make a difference.

Let’s all get to work.

This article, which was originally published in the October 2017 issue of the Wyoming Lawyer, has been edited and reprinted with permission.

Mark W. Gifford is bar counsel to the Wyoming State Bar.