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Stories of Recovery: A ‘drowning man’ finds hope

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 11:25

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on January 16, 2014, as part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery blog series. TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

Like a drowning man, I was going down for the last time. Suffering from the mental illness known as depression, I had 20 years of ongoing psychiatric care under my belt. I had taken every medication in the book, and, together with psychotherapy, they had kept me afloat, functioning and outwardly successful. But this time was different, and I knew I was beyond help. The pain and misery were too much to endure and I was ready to take my own life, despite my doctor’s oft-repeated counsel that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Two years before this crisis I recognized I was too impaired to practice and took an indefinite leave of absence from employment. I compounded this disconnect from professional life by isolating myself from social contact as well, too embarrassed to tell anyone of my misery because of the stigma that attends mental illness. I was virtually a hermit, declining even the support and companionship offered by the small number of friends and family aware of my condition. I had an exit strategy and I was ready to implement it.

How could things have gotten this bad? With the benefit of hindsight I can give you a clinical answer: Genetic predisposition to depression had coupled with a pileup of accumulated stress to so affect my cognitive functions that I had become a textbook example of this disease. In my case, divorce, successive major illnesses, and multiple surgeries topped the list of precipitating causes, but it was long list, and one that culminated in acute depression. But that clinical answer does nothing to convey the state of hopelessness and anxious misery that brought me to the edge of the abyss.

The turning point—and the beginning of the road back—came when my doctor could do nothing more in terms of treatment than to recommend I admit myself to a psychiatric hospital. That advice, along with my desire to avoid leaving my daughter a legacy of suicide, saved my life and allowed me, over time, to recover. I chose admission to a “professionals in crisis” program at a clinic renowned for treating depression where I underwent two months of inpatient treatment followed by many more months of intensive outpatient care by therapists, psychiatrists, and support groups.

With depression, “recovery” is a long and painful process and one that is ongoing for life. At first, even things as basic as hygiene, nutrition, and exercise seem impossible to achieve and maintain. While mastering those I was also challenged to retrain my brain using the tools learned during hospitalization. I was taking baby steps at every turn and at times I felt like I was no better off than before hospitalization. But gradually the process took hold and I began to feel a little like myself again.

There are milestones aplenty in recovery, and one of the biggest ones is returning to work. I did this very tentatively beginning six months after discharge and working part time on matters usually delegated to new lawyers or even support staff. Then I tackled more challenging tasks, which served to rebuild my confidence and make me take on more difficult work. Successfully preparing a complex document, then meeting a critical deadline built momentum that I was able to sustain. At the same time I found myself re-emerging socially, which was every bit as difficult as returning to the workplace.

To my utter amazement, there came a point in time where I began to feel normal and to enjoy life. I could take on a new case and handle it with increasing ease. I began dating again. I engaged in and enjoyed social activities that I had actively avoided during years of mental illness. I began to help others in the same boat as me through volunteer work. I renewed old friendships and formed new ones. In short, I emerged from the darkness.

Today, three years after my first return visit to my office, I am able to do the best professional work of my career. I’m socially engaged and living a full life rather than enduring a day-by-day existence. I’m in better health mentally and physically than I have been in two decades. I’m alive again and, strange as it may sound, I live a happier and fuller life as a result of my experience.

Stories of Recovery: A ‘drowning man’ finds hope

Tue, 12/11/2018 - 11:25

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on January 16, 2014, as part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery blog series. TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

Like a drowning man, I was going down for the last time. Suffering from the mental illness known as depression, I had 20 years of ongoing psychiatric care under my belt. I had taken every medication in the book, and, together with psychotherapy, they had kept me afloat, functioning and outwardly successful. But this time was different, and I knew I was beyond help. The pain and misery were too much to endure and I was ready to take my own life, despite my doctor’s oft-repeated counsel that suicide was a permanent solution to a temporary problem.

Two years before this crisis I recognized I was too impaired to practice and took an indefinite leave of absence from employment. I compounded this disconnect from professional life by isolating myself from social contact as well, too embarrassed to tell anyone of my misery because of the stigma that attends mental illness. I was virtually a hermit, declining even the support and companionship offered by the small number of friends and family aware of my condition. I had an exit strategy and I was ready to implement it.

How could things have gotten this bad? With the benefit of hindsight I can give you a clinical answer: Genetic predisposition to depression had coupled with a pileup of accumulated stress to so affect my cognitive functions that I had become a textbook example of this disease. In my case, divorce, successive major illnesses, and multiple surgeries topped the list of precipitating causes, but it was long list, and one that culminated in acute depression. But that clinical answer does nothing to convey the state of hopelessness and anxious misery that brought me to the edge of the abyss.

The turning point—and the beginning of the road back—came when my doctor could do nothing more in terms of treatment than to recommend I admit myself to a psychiatric hospital. That advice, along with my desire to avoid leaving my daughter a legacy of suicide, saved my life and allowed me, over time, to recover. I chose admission to a “professionals in crisis” program at a clinic renowned for treating depression where I underwent two months of inpatient treatment followed by many more months of intensive outpatient care by therapists, psychiatrists, and support groups.

With depression, “recovery” is a long and painful process and one that is ongoing for life. At first, even things as basic as hygiene, nutrition, and exercise seem impossible to achieve and maintain. While mastering those I was also challenged to retrain my brain using the tools learned during hospitalization. I was taking baby steps at every turn and at times I felt like I was no better off than before hospitalization. But gradually the process took hold and I began to feel a little like myself again.

There are milestones aplenty in recovery, and one of the biggest ones is returning to work. I did this very tentatively beginning six months after discharge and working part time on matters usually delegated to new lawyers or even support staff. Then I tackled more challenging tasks, which served to rebuild my confidence and make me take on more difficult work. Successfully preparing a complex document, then meeting a critical deadline built momentum that I was able to sustain. At the same time I found myself re-emerging socially, which was every bit as difficult as returning to the workplace.

To my utter amazement, there came a point in time where I began to feel normal and to enjoy life. I could take on a new case and handle it with increasing ease. I began dating again. I engaged in and enjoyed social activities that I had actively avoided during years of mental illness. I began to help others in the same boat as me through volunteer work. I renewed old friendships and formed new ones. In short, I emerged from the darkness.

Today, three years after my first return visit to my office, I am able to do the best professional work of my career. I’m socially engaged and living a full life rather than enduring a day-by-day existence. I’m in better health mentally and physically than I have been in two decades. I’m alive again and, strange as it may sound, I live a happier and fuller life as a result of my experience.

DBA elects first Hispanic president

Mon, 12/10/2018 - 13:00

The Dallas Bar Association, or DBA, recently elected Laura Benitez Geisler, of the Geisler Law Firm, to serve as president in 2019. Upon being sworn in on January 12, Geisler will be the first Hispanic member of the DBA to serve as president.

Laura Benitez Geisler

Geisler currently serves as board adviser to the DBA’s Lawyer Referral Service Committee and to the Alternative Dispute Resolution and Intellectual Property Law Sections. She was elected chair of the board in 2015. Geisler was co-chair of the 2014-2015 Equal Access to Justice Campaign and received a DBA Presidential Citation in 2016. Geisler first served on the board of directors in 2007 in her capacity as Dallas Association of Young Lawyers, or DAYL, president.

In addition to her bar service, Geisler is a fellow of the Dallas Bar Foundation, the Texas Bar Foundation, and the DAYL Foundation. She served as president of the Dallas Women Lawyers Association, or DWLA, in 2003. Geisler is a graduate of Southern Methodist University School of Law.

Other officers serving on the board are: Robert Tobey, of Johnston Tobey Baruch, as president-elect; Aaron Tobin, of Condon Tobin Sladek Thornton, as first vice president; Karen McCloud, of Karen D. McCloud, as second vice president; Ashlei Gradney, of Gradney, as secretary/treasurer; and Immediate Past President Michael K. Hurst of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst.

Those serving on the board of directors include: Vicki D. Blanton of AT&T; Jonathan Childers of Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst; Chalon Clark of Husch Blackwell; Sakina Rasheed Foster of Haynes and Boone; DAYL President Charles Gearing on Figari + Davenport; Rocio García Espinoza of Hunton Andrews Kurth; Judge Martin Hoffman, of the 68th Civil District Court; Krisi Kastl, of Kastl Law; Bill Mateja of Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton; Judge-elect Audrey Moorehead of Dallas County Criminal Court 3; Kathryne Morris of Clark Hill Strasburger; Cheryl Camin Murray of Katten Munchin Roseman; Judge-elect Erin Nowell of the 5th District Court of Appeals in Dallas and J.L. Turner Legal Association president; Dallas Hispanic Bar Association President Javier Perez of Scott Perez; DWLA President Sarah Rogers of Crain Lewis Brogdon; Mary Scott of Spencer Scott; Dallas Asian American Bar Association President Jason Shyung of Southwest Airlines; and Victor Vital of Barnes & Thornburg.

For more information about the Dallas Bar Association, go to dallasbar.org.

State Bar offices to close Wednesday

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 13:53

State Bar of Texas offices will be closed Wednesday in recognition of a statewide day of mourning in honor of former President George H.W. Bush.

Governor Greg Abbott issued a proclamation Monday encouraging all Texans “to gather, assemble, and pay their respects to the memory of George Herbert Walker Bush through ceremonies in homes, businesses, public buildings, schools, places of worship, or other appropriate places for public expression of grief and remembrance.”

In Memoriam – November

Tue, 12/04/2018 - 13:33

The State Bar of Texas’ Membership Department was informed in November 2018 of the deaths of these members. We join the officers and directors of the State Bar in expressing our deepest sympathy.

Virgil H. Barfield, 82, of Houston, died August 23, 2017. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1970.
Jeanne Babette Barrows, 56, of Waxahachie, died September 13, 2017. She received her law degree from Texas Wesleyan University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1995.
Billie J. Bell, 77, of Royse City, died November 9, 2018. He received his law degree from Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
Thomas H. Burton Jr., 86, of Houston, died November 14, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1957.
Stephen M. Coleman, 64, of Rosharon, died September 13, 2018. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1990.
Gary E. Conrad, 72, of Decatur, died November 17, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
Thomas Anthony Cowen, 66, of San Antonio, died July 4, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1988.
Joseph Edward Eckert, 49, of Dallas, died September 18, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1997.
J. Darlene Ewing, 64, of Sunnyvale, died November 16, 2018. She received her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1978.
Goodwin Hale, 87, of Crosbyton, died November 3, 2018. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975.
Robert B. Harris, 83, of Bryan, died August 1, 2018. He received his law degree from American University Washington College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1977.
Hugh Ely Henson Jr., 82, of Waco, died October 3, 2018. He received his law degree from Yale Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1959.
Howard S. Hoover Jr., 80, of Houston, died November 5, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1963.
Burrell D. Johnston Jr., 84, of Austin, died October 15, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1966.
Robert Davis Jones, 83, of Austin, died October 17, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1960.
Abby Loudermilk, 39, of San Antonio, died November 1, 2018. She received her law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2016.
Christopher J. Merlo, 58, of Dallas, died November 13, 2018. He received his law degree from Western Michigan University Thomas M. Cooley Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
Herman I. Morris, 91, of Plano, died November 17, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1950.
M. Scott Nickson Jr., 84, of Edmond, Oklahoma, died November 13, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1981.
John Walter Overton, 92, of Houston, died October 30, 2018. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1963.
Robert Kelly Pace, 69, of Whitehouse, died November 1, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975.
Susan I. Paquet, 72, of El Paso, died November 1, 2018. She received her law degree from the University of Arizona College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1983.
Quay F. Parker, 75, of McKinney, died October 20, 2018. He received his law degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
Robert Pierce, 40, of Fort Worth, died November 16, 2018. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2008.
Hugh Jones Plummer, 74, of Houston, died November 5, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
Reed A. Rankin, 85, of Seguin, died October 25, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1959.
Philip F. Ricketts, 73, of Austin, died November 2, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
Edwin Rinehart Jr., 75, of San Antonio, died September 1, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1968.
Alice Kay Roska, 68, of Dallas, died November 9, 2018. She received her law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1990.
Robert Lowell Thompson, 48, of Corsicana, died October 24, 2018. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1998.
Thomas Thorpe, 88, of Dallas, died October 27, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1951.
Jack L. Underwood, 89, of McKinney, died November 13, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1956.
Harland Tod Weaver, 94, of Dallas, died November 20, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1953.
Carol J. Westmoreland, 69, of Spring, died October 16, 2018. She received her law degree from the University of Oklahoma College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1977.
Joel R. White, 58, of Dripping Springs, died July 22, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
Julius Whittier, 68, of Plano, died September 24, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1980.
Kerry D. Woodson, 69, of Mount Pleasant, died October 24, 2018. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1978.
Paul William Wright, 74, of Wimberley, died August 20, 2018. He received his law degree from Georgetown Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
Douglas E. Yeager, 71, of Dallas, died October 28, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.

If you would like to have a memorial for a loved one published in the Texas Bar Journal, please go to www.texasbar.com/memorials. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact the Texas Bar Journal at (512) 427-1701 or toll-free at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1701.

Texas Bar Journal Must-Reads for December

Mon, 12/03/2018 - 09:30

Can’t wait to cap off another year with the Texas Bar Journal? Neither can we. Take a look at our editorial staff’s picks for the December issue. This month’s theme: equality in the workplace . And don’t forget to check out Disciplinary Actions, Memorials, and Movers and Shakers.

Attitude Adjustment
Understanding implicit bias and opportunities to minimize its effect.
By Brian Sanford

Workplace Equality
A look at two evolving issues—sex and religious discrimination—impacting employment law.
By Richard Carlson

The #MeToo Movement
What we have learned and where we need to go.
By Allison C. Williams

130 Years in the Making
The 2018 ornament celebrates a milestone for the Texas Capitol.
By Adam Faderewski

Texas’ newest attorneys sworn in

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 09:00

The Texas Supreme Court and State Bar of Texas welcomed newly licensed attorneys at the New Lawyer Induction ceremony November 19 at the Frank Irwin Center in Austin.

Members of the Texas’ highest courts, deans from the state’s law schools, State Bar and Texas Board of Law Examiners officials, and friends and family watched as hundreds of law school graduates took the Lawyer’s Oath Monday morning.

State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley congratulated the freshman lawyers, telling them they are now part of an institution dedicated to providing leadership and pro bono opportunities and advancing the rule of law through equal access to justice. The power granted to them by their law license, he said, is a vast one that should not be abused.

As an example of that power, Longley told a story involving well-known atheist and activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who was arrested and jailed in San Antonio. She relied on help from American Civil Liberties Union attorney and former Texas Representative Maury Maverick Jr.

“Upon Maury Maverick Jr. making his appearance, Madalyn Murray O’Hair quickly exclaimed, ‘Maury, thank God you’re here,’ and as a result, you have a demonstration of what this piece of paper—the power that it gives to you,” he said.

Longley left the new attorneys with two pieces of advice: The oath they took goes beyond business hours and sticks with them for the rest of their lives, and reputations—which can easily be lost because of negligence or recklessness—must be protected.

Sally Pretorius, president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, echoed Longley’s remarks, reminding graduates that their reputations precede them. She also gave them advice on taking advantage of misconceptions about new lawyers:

“I think that being underestimated is one of our biggest strengths as young attorneys,” Pretorius said. “Nobody expects us to show up and know what we’re doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up for a hearing and won against a 30-year board-certified attorney because I was more prepared. I’d taken the time to search Facebook for that one piece of evidence that was going to win a family law case. Or taken the time to get to know my client’s story because I am a young attorney and I have a little bit more time.”

She also gave practical advice on taking care of health and temperament, encouraging new lawyers to do simple things like go outside for lunch or go for a walk to Starbucks for coffee. On handling stress and anger at work:

“Type that angry email, then hit delete, and re-type again a couple minutes later, Pretorius said. “That angry email—it’s going to exist for a long time.”

The Bar Exam’s high scorer, Baylor Law School graduate Stephen Burbank, gave a light-hearted and humble speech, acknowledging the only separation between him and the rest of the graduates was “just a couple points on a test.”

He told the new lawyers how he prepared for his speech, looking back at those by previous high scorers. The format, Burbank said, seemed to be a joke on being nervous in front of crowds, thanking people who helped along the way, and words of wisdom. He then told a joke of his own.

“What is the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer? A bad lawyer can let a case drag on for several years. A good lawyer can make it last even longer.”

Burbank then thanked his wife, parents, in-laws, relatives, friends from Baylor, Judge Alan Albright (for whom he clerked), and his co-clerks before congratulating everyone who passed the Bar Exam.

“Let’s go out and show everyone how awesome Texas lawyers can be,” he said.

Before Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht administered the oath, he told the graduates that in raising their hands, they swear to support the U.S. and Texas constitutions, to honestly demean themselves in practice, to discharge their duties to clients to the best of their abilities, and to conduct themselves with integrity and civility.

“From this day forward, you are the voice and the instrument for the rule of law,” he said. “You therefore have a special responsibility not only to whom you represent but to our profession and our great experiment in democracy.”

Texas’ newest attorneys sworn in

Thu, 11/29/2018 - 09:00

The Texas Supreme Court and State Bar of Texas welcomed newly licensed attorneys at the New Lawyer Induction ceremony November 19 at the Frank Irwin Center in Austin.

Members of the Texas’ highest courts, deans from the state’s law schools, State Bar and Texas Board of Law Examiners officials, and friends and family watched as hundreds of law school graduates took the Lawyer’s Oath Monday morning.

State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley congratulated the freshman lawyers, telling them they are now part of an institution dedicated to providing leadership and pro bono opportunities and advancing the rule of law through equal access to justice. The power granted to them by their law license, he said, is a vast one that should not be abused.

As an example of that power, Longley told a story involving well-known atheist and activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who was arrested and jailed in San Antonio. She relied on help from American Civil Liberties Union attorney and former Texas Representative Maury Maverick Jr.

“Upon Maury Maverick Jr. making his appearance, Madalyn Murray O’Hair quickly exclaimed, ‘Maury, thank God you’re here,’ and as a result, you have a demonstration of what this piece of paper—the power that it gives to you,” he said.

Longley left the new attorneys with two pieces of advice: The oath they took goes beyond business hours and sticks with them for the rest of their lives, and reputations—which can easily be lost because of negligence or recklessness—must be protected.

Sally Pretorius, president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, echoed Longley’s remarks, reminding graduates that their reputations precede them. She also gave them advice on taking advantage of misconceptions about new lawyers:

“I think that being underestimated is one of our biggest strengths as young attorneys,” Pretorius said. “Nobody expects us to show up and know what we’re doing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up for a hearing and won against a 30-year board-certified attorney because I was more prepared. I’d taken the time to search Facebook for that one piece of evidence that was going to win a family law case. Or taken the time to get to know my client’s story because I am a young attorney and I have a little bit more time.”

She also gave practical advice on taking care of health and temperament, encouraging new lawyers to do simple things like go outside for lunch or go for a walk to Starbucks for coffee. On handling stress and anger at work:

“Type that angry email, then hit delete, and re-type again a couple minutes later, Pretorius said. “That angry email—it’s going to exist for a long time.”

The Bar Exam’s high scorer, Baylor Law School graduate Stephen Burbank, gave a light-hearted and humble speech, acknowledging the only separation between him and the rest of the graduates was “just a couple points on a test.”

He told the new lawyers how he prepared for his speech, looking back at those by previous high scorers. The format, Burbank said, seemed to be a joke on being nervous in front of crowds, thanking people who helped along the way, and words of wisdom. He then told a joke of his own.

“What is the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer? A bad lawyer can let a case drag on for several years. A good lawyer can make it last even longer.”

Burbank then thanked his wife, parents, in-laws, relatives, friends from Baylor, Judge Alan Albright (for whom he clerked), and his co-clerks before congratulating everyone who passed the Bar Exam.

“Let’s go out and show everyone how awesome Texas lawyers can be,” he said.

Before Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht administered the oath, he told the graduates that in raising their hands, they swear to support the U.S. and Texas constitutions, to honestly demean themselves in practice, to discharge their duties to clients to the best of their abilities, and to conduct themselves with integrity and civility.

“From this day forward, you are the voice and the instrument for the rule of law,” he said. “You therefore have a special responsibility not only to whom you represent but to our profession and our great experiment in democracy.”

Free legal clinic for veterans in Katy

Wed, 11/28/2018 - 10:00

The free clinic, which takes place December 8 at the Katy VA Outpatient 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 clinic, located  750 Westgreen Blvd., 2nd Fl., Katy 77450. No appointment is necessary.
The clinic is a service of the Katy Bar Association, the Austin County Bar Association, and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative.

For more information on the clinic and other veterans services, call the Veterans Legal Initiative at (713) 759-1133 or 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.

Texas Access to Justice Foundation wraps up Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 16:57

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation, or TAJF, wraped up Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week, a statewide effort to provide legal aid to qualified veterans, on Saturday, November 17. The weeklong event brought legal aid programs, local bar associations, law schools, and pro bono attorneys together to offer free legal services in civil legal matters, including:

1. Denial of critical medical care;
2. Problems receiving benefits;
3. Legal issues related to disabilities;
4. Family law matters arising from deployment; and
5. Other issues that may arise due to a veteran’s absence from home during military service.

Texas has the second-highest population of veterans in the U.S., according to TAJF. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says legal issues make up four of the top 10 needs of homeless veterans.

In 2017, TAJF provided $1.87 million in grants to 14 nonprofit organizations that provided free legal services to over 8,800 veterans. The same year, the foundation also announced the Remembering Our Heroes campaign, which benefits the Joe Jamail Endowment for Veteran Legal Services. Individuals can make donations in honor of a specific person, living or deceased, who is a veteran or is active duty in the U.S. military. A donation was recently made by the Lowe family in honor of L. Hamilton Lowe, a Navy veteran and the first vice president of the State Bar of Texas—his granddaughter, Joyce Lowe is an attorney with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas in San Angelo.

For a complete list of event locations and times, after Texas Veterans Legal Aid Week, go to texaslawhelp.org/tvlaw-2018.

Registration Open for State Bar LRE Annual Conference

Mon, 11/19/2018 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Annual Conference will be held on January 25-26, 2019, at the Commons Conference Center in Austin. The theme for 2019 is “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society, and Free Enterprise,” which expands on the 2019 Law Day theme.

Justin Driver, University of Chicago constitutional law scholar and author of The Schoolhouse Gate: Public Education, the Supreme Court, and the Battle for the American Mind, will give the keynote address. LRE is working with the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas, the Center for Legislative Archives in Washington, D.C., the National Archives in Fort Worth, and the Texas General Land Office to develop new programming. One new session will incorporate economics as it relates to history and government and another will show how to use children’s literature to teach economic concepts to elementary and secondary students. A list of this year’s sessions can be found here.

The conference is open to K-12 teachers and administrators with an interest in social studies. The cost of the conference is $150 per person and includes lunch for both days, a copy of Schoolhouse Gate, and all conference materials. To register, go to the Professional Development section of texaslre.org.

For more information about the Law-Related Education Department, including regional Citizen Bee Competition dates and upcoming professional development opportunities, go to texaslre.org.

Chief Justice Hecht, Texas legal aid leaders honored by National Legal Aid & Defender Association

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 16:40

Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht received the Equal Justice Ambassador Award at the NLADA annual conference at the Westin Galleria in Houston on November 2. Photo by Eric Quitugua

The National Legal Aid & Defender Association, or NLADA, honored and featured several notable Texans at its annual conference at the Westin Galleria in Houston in November. The event celebrates, advocates for, and educates on access to justice, bringing together legal aid and indigent defense lawyers from across the U.S.

“It’s an opportunity for us to celebrate the work that we do but more importantly to learn from each other,” said Texas Access to Justice Foundation Executive Director Betty Balli Torres, who co-chaired the conference. “We are so proud that NLADA chose to have their conference in Houston. It was very intentional. They wanted to come to a city that really exemplified resilience, and we all know that last year, Houston had to deal with Hurricane Harvey and, frankly, continues to have to deal with the aftermath.”

Since its formation in 1911, the NLADA has created public defense systems and has advocated for civil legal aid and public defender services. Its annual conferences bring together legal aid providers from across the country that attend CLE sessions on access to justice and learn from guest speakers how to tackle different roadblocks to helping people in need of legal representation.

This year’s location in Houston was especially poignant, given the yearlong legal aid efforts since Hurricane Harvey hit the city and the Texas Gulf Coast. Saundra Brown, who is Lone Star Legal Aid’s directing attorney of its disaster legal services, received the Reginald Heber Smith Award during the conference’s award ceremony for her disaster relief work in the region post-Harvey.

Saundra Brown, Lone Star Legal Aid’s directing attorney of disaster legal services, received the Reginald Heber Smith Award during the NLADA annual conference at the Westin Galleria in Houston on November 2. Photo by Eric Quitugua

In the wake of Harvey, Brown was something of a spokesperson for Lone Star, being quoted in the Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker on the importance of Texans registering for Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA, aid, as well as relaying the organization’s efforts in training attorneys across Houston, visiting shelters, and helping people with issues regarding FEMA.

“We’ve continued and are doing different kinds of cases now, still all related to disaster,” Brown told the Texas Bar Journal before receiving her award. “The recovery’s longtime legal needs will probably exist for 10 years after any given disaster.”

Each year, the conference has a theme: this year’s was “resilient justice,” which translates to progress toward equal justice in the face of challenges to the country’s bedrock principles of fairness and equality, according to the event guide. Sessions fit the theme with titles like “Another Brick in the Wall: Education Rights of Immigrant and Refugee Students in Times of Uncertainty” and “Jail Is Not the Solution: Innovative Alternatives to the Criminalization of Homelessness.”

Jo-Ann Wallace, president and CEO of the NLADA, pointed to headlines of the day as part of why legal aid and indigent defense are so important.

“…we see a rise in hate crimes—but at the same time there’s amazing work being done in civil and criminal justice reform,” NLADA president and CEO told the Texas Bar Journal. “Advocates and other equal justice leaders are [making sure] every day that our system and our country and justice system are more fair.” Photo by Eric Quitugua

“I think that many people are very concerned about some of the directions our country is headed in right now,” she said. “For example, we see a rise in hate crimes—but at the same time there’s amazing work being done in civil and criminal justice reform. Advocates and other equal justice leaders are [making sure] every day that our system and our country and justice system are more fair.”

Award recipients and guest speakers who do just that reflect the conference theme. Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, who received the Equal Justice Ambassador Award, was touted by Wallace for helping to shape policies addressing pressing issues for low-income defendants, including expanded screening for those with mental illness and limited fines and fees in criminal cases.

Hecht, who later gave credit to the court, mused on his own definition of resilient justice.

“There are lots of challenges we have today in Texas and throughout the country in making legal resources available to everyone,” Hecht told the Texas Bar Journal before accepting his award. “As I’ve said many times before, justice for only those who can afford it is neither justice for all nor justice at all. So resilient justice is that quality of justice we want to see to address the challenges we have today and overcome them.”

During the ceremony, Hecht said it’s the Supreme Court and National Conference of Chief Justices, of which he is first vice president, that works hard to support pro bono programs and legal aid providers, as well as demonstrate to the Legislature and Congress the need for public financial support for expanding access to justice.

Guest speakers at the NLADA conference included keynote Rodney Ellis, former Texas senator and current Harris County commissioner. During his tenure in the Senate, Ellis authored or sponsored legislation centered on indigent defense that dealt with compensation and group health benefits coverage for people who were wrongfully imprisoned; and the Texas Fair Defense Act, which required Texas criminal courts to adopt procedures for providing legal representation for indigent defendants.

Rodney Ellis, former Texas senator and current Harris County commissioner, delivered the keynote address at the NLADA annual conference at the Westin Galleria in Houston on November 1. Photo by Eric Quitugua

During his keynote address, Ellis encouraged attendees to become more active in politics by developing partnerships with prosecutors, sheriffs, county officials, and state officials in order to “move the needle” on reforms they’re interested in. He also urged them to run for some of those same offices, including for state legislator, judge, or commissioner.

“In my years in politics, I found oftentimes that people who really understand the system best have a reluctance to really get involved and try to make a difference on the elected side,” Ellis told the Texas Bar Journal.

Alex Bunin, Harris County’s chief public defender and a member of the conference’s planning committee, coordinated Ellis’ spot as the keynote speaker. Bunin said he enjoyed the keynote address. He also emphasized the importance of defenders and legal aid lawyers talking about their shared issues—in his line of work, he does what he calls ‘holistic defense,’ in which he doesn’t just represent clients in their criminal cases but also works with them on other issues in their lives such as eviction or immigration.

Alex Bunin, Harris County’s chief public defender, emphasized the importance of defenders and legal aid lawyers talking about their shared issues—in his line of work, he does what he calls ‘holistic defense,’ in which he doesn’t just represent clients in their criminal cases but also works with them on other issues in their lives such as eviction or immigration. Photo by Eric Quitugua

“Even though we aren’t personally specialists in those areas, we know we need to work with those lawyers who do that work to help our clients,” Bunin said. “A lot of the times, that’s what brings them into the criminal justice system. We call them ‘collateral consequences.’ But really it’s just about life when you’re poor. Those are the kinds of things that are important that NLADA addresses.”

Judge Lora Livingston, of the 261st Civil District Court in Travis County and a liaison to the ABA Standing Committee on the Delivery of Legal Services, co-chaired the conference. She has spent much of her legal career focused on legal aid. Early on, Livingston was a Reginald Heber Smith Community Lawyer Fellow with the Legal Aid Society of Central Texas, with an emphasis on poverty law, and later family law with Livingston & Parr before becoming a judge in 1995.

Livingston called the event a great way to network with other people interested in access to justice on both the civil and criminal sides. In particular, she was impressed with the NLADA’s focus on public-private partnerships.

“I really believe that what we in the public sector do can be made better—more efficient—and can be greatly improved by our partnership with those in the private sector and by the recognition that their partnership with those of us in the public sector is really an exciting opportunity for both groups,” Livingston said.

Robert Doggett, of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, took over as the executive director after 42-year director David Hall retired in 2017. He called Hall an icon in the legal aid community, saying he is doing his best to continue the former director’s programming. The NLADA conference, Doggett, said is another way to get fresh ideas for innovative litigation in order to bring more justice to impoverished Texans.

“There are so many different people from across the country doing amazing things,” he said. “Sometimes you get lost in your own bubble and your own local activities, and stopping to hear what other people are doing in other parts of the country is a wonderful way to be exposed to some of the great innovative ideas they’ve got.”

For more information about the National Legal Aid & Defender Association, go to nlada.org.

Texas Supreme Court holds special session to commemorate 100th anniversary of World War I armistice

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 10:00

Justices of the Supreme Court of Texas convened a special session of the court on Wednesday to honor judges and governors who served in the armed forces during the Great War. Descendants of those honored were among those present in the crowd.

The session was held in the historic Texas Supreme Court courtroom in the Texas Capitol in recognition of 100 years since the end of World War I on November 11, 1918. Justice Paul Green presided over the court in the absence of Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht, who was unable to attend the ceremony.

Texas Supreme Court Justice Paul Green applauds World War I veterans for their service during a special session of the Texas Supreme Court on November 14.

Houston District Judge Mark Davidson and Houston lawyer David Furlow, executive editor of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society’s journal, spoke about the eight Texas Supreme Court justices, three governors, and one Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judge who served during World War I.

The eight Supreme Court justices were Few Brewster (1945-1957), Frank P. Culver Jr. (1953-1964), A.J. Folley (1945-1949), Wilmer St. John Garwood (1948-1959), Meade Felix Griffin (1949-1968; he also served on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1969), Robert W. Hamilton (1959-1971), Gordon Simpson (1945-1949), and Charles Stewart Slatton (1945-1947).

Governors recognized for service during WWI were Jimmy Allred (1935-1939), Beauford H. Jester (1947-1949), and Dan Moody (1927-1931).

In addition to Griffin, Texas Criminal Court of Appeals Judge George Eastland Christian (1927-1941) was honored.

Texas Supreme Court Justices
Few Brewster received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1916. He was inducted into the U.S. Army on May 26, 1918, in Temple, and was commissioned as a second lieutenant in charge of Company F of the 2nd Development Battalion of the U.S. Army’s 160th Division. During the war, Brewster was stationed at Camp Pike in Arkansas and later at Camp Custer in Michigan, to train troops. He was county attorney of Bell County from 1919 to 1923, district attorney from 1923 to 1928, district judge of the 27th District from 1929 to 1941, served on the Supreme Court of Texas’ Commission of Appeals from 1941 to 1945, and was a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1945 until his death in 1957. Brewster also served as president of the Bell County Bar Association, head of the Texas Bar Association Judicial Section from 1937 to 1938, Texas Bar Association secretary from 1938 to 1939, State Bar of Texas vice president from 1939 to 1940, and State Bar president from 1940 to 1941.

Frank P. Culver Jr. received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1914. He was in private practice in Fort Worth from 1914 to 1917, when he enlisted in the U.S. Army. He was commissioned as a first lieutenant and fought in the battle of St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne campaigns before serving in the Army of Occupation and being honorably discharged as a captain. Culver returned to Fort Worth were he was in private practice from 1919 to 1927, served as assistant district attorney in Fort Worth from 1927 to 1928, and was a judge of the 17th District Court from 1928 to 1950 (minus two years when Culver re-entered the armed forces during World War II). During World War II, he was commissioned as a lieutenant colonel and was stationed in San Antonio, Dallas, and Texarkana. Culver was honorably discharged as a colonel in September 1944 and served as president of a general court martial before retiring from the U.S. Army at the end of November 1954. He was president of the State Bar of Texas Judicial Section in 1950 and 1951. Culver was a judge on the 2nd Court of Criminal Appeals in Fort Worth from 1951 to 1952 and a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1953 until his retirement in 1964.

A.J. Folley was drafted into service with the U.S. Army in June 1918 and was assigned to the Conservation and Reclamation Branch of Camp Travis’ Quartermaster Corps for the duration of World War I. After the war, he received his law degree from Baylor Law School in 1925 and would go on to private practice in Floydada and Spur. Folley was a district attorney in Dickens County from 1929 to 1934, a judge of the 110th Judicial District from 1934 to 1937 and the 7th Court of Criminal Appeals in Amarillo from 1937 to 1943, served on the Supreme Court of Texas Commission of Appeals from 1943 to 1945 and as a justice of the Supreme Court of Texas from 1945 to 1949. Upon leaving the Supreme Court, he practiced with Adkins, Madden, Folley & Adkins then Folley, Snodgrass & Calhoun until his retirement in 1980. Folley was State Bar of Texas president from 1959 to 1960 and was known for organizing the bar’s advisory council, adoption of a revised Code of Criminal Procedure, and adoption of several amendments to the State Bar Rules. He also served on the American Bar Association’s House of Delegates and on the Texas and National Commissions on Uniform State Laws.

Wilmer St. John Garwood registered for the Army on June 15, 1918, serving in the 1st Texas Cavalry along the Mexican border, and served in the Reserve until 1923. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and his LL.B. from the Harvard Law School in 1922. Garwood clerked for Baker Botts in Houston before joining Texaco in New York from 1922 to 1924, working in the legal department after being licensed in New York in 1923; worked at Baker Botts in Houston from 1924 to 1928; with Standard Oil Company in Buenos Aires, Argentina, from 1929 to 1933; and with Andrews, Kelly, Kurth & Campbell in Houston from 1934 to 1942, when he re-enlisted for service in World War II. Due to his age, he was not placed in active duty but was appointed as a second lieutenant commander in naval intelligence in Chile from 1942 to 1945, where he served as naval liaison officer in Tocopilla, senior assistant naval attaché in Santiago, and received the Orden al Merito Chile from the Chilean government for his service. Garwood returned to practice law in Houston from 1945 to 1948 and served as a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1948 until his retirement in 1959. In retirement, he did work with Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody in Austin and was a visiting professor of law at Southern Methodist University School of Law and the University of Texas School of Law. Garwood was a trustee of the University of Texas Law Foundation and served eight years as Texas Civil Judicial Council president. His son, William Lockhart “Will” Garwood, was appointed to the Supreme Court of Texas in 1979, becoming the first and only father and son to serve on the court.

Meade Felix Griffin received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1917 before joining the Army and being commissioned as a major on September 13, 1918, and stationed in Camp Sheridan in Montgomery, Alabama. At the end of the war, he was offered a regular commission as a captain in the Army, but he declined to practice law in Tulia—Griffin remained in the Reserve as a major. He was promoted to lieutenant colonel in 1929 and entered the inactive Reserve in 1936. Griffin returned to the Army as a lieutenant colonel on July 27, 1942, after the U.S. entered World War II. Post-World War II, he helped to establish the trial section of the U.S. Army’s war crimes department at Wiesbaden, Germany, and was appointed chief prosecutor in the U.S. War Crimes branch of the U.S. Army in Wiesbaden in 1945. Griffin retired as a colonel in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps in 1953. He served as a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1949 to 1968, as a special judge on the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals in 1969, and was assistant attorney general of Texas from 1969 to 1971.

Robert W. Hamilton enlisted at the Smith County Draft Board in Tyler on September 10, 1918, while employed and going to school at the University of Texas. He was made part of the Student Army Training Corps, which later would become the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, or ROTC, being honorably discharged from SATC in November 1918 before being honorably discharged from the Army in December 1918. Hamilton was licensed as an attorney in 1927 and went into private practice in Tyler until 1929. He was Martin County attorney in 1929, district attorney to the 70th Judicial District from 1930 to 1935, and in private practice specializing in oil, gas, and mineral law in Midland from 1935 to 1951. Hamilton was district judge for the 70th Judicial District in Midland from 1951 to 1953, chief justice of the 8th Court of Appeals in El Paso from 1953 to 1958—authoring more than 350 opinions—and a justice on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1959 until his retirement in 1971.

Gordon Simpson reported to Camp Leon Springs, First Officers’ Training Camp, in May 1917. He was appointed as a second lieutenant in August 1917 and was stationed with the Quartermaster Corps and promoted to first lieutenant in August 1918. Simpson also served at Camp Joseph E. Johnston near Jacksonville, Florida, and Camp A.A. Humphreys in Fairfax County, Virginia, before being honorably discharged on April 8, 1919. Simpson received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1919 and practiced in Pecos and Tyler. He served in the Texas House of Representatives from 1923 to 1927. Simpson was appointed district judge of the 7th Judicial District in 1930. He served on the Texas Bar Association Board of Directors from 1927 to 1939, including time as the chairman; was appointed vice chairman of the Supreme Court of Texas Advisory Committee on the State Bar Act and interim director of the State Bar in 1940; and served as State Bar president from 1941 to 1943. Simpson re-enlisted in the Army during World War II and served as a major in the JAG Corps, attaining the rank of lieutenant colonel. He was elected to the Supreme Court of Texas in 1945, while serving in Italy. Simpson was called back to active duty by the Army in 1948 to serve on the JAG Corps’ commission in Dachau, Germany, where he was charged with reviewing the convictions and sentences of Germans found guilty of war crimes. He resigned from the Supreme Court of Texas in 1949 and became vice president and general counsel to General American Oil Company, eventually becoming president. Simpson later joined Thompson & Knight, where he worked until 1985 at the age of 90.

Charles Stewart Sutton was a corporal with Company E in the Headquarters and Supply Detachment of the U.S. Army Signal Corps’ 51st Telegraph Battalion (later re-designated the 55th Telegraph Battalion). Sutton was assigned to the American Expeditionary Force’s 4th Corps and trained at Camp Upton in Suffolk County, New York, before going to Europe. During combat in Europe, he was twice the victim of poison gas attacks and served in the occupation army in Germany after the war. Sutton received his law degree from Cumberland University School of Law in Tennessee in 1923 and returned to Texas to practice law in Jourdanton. He was county attorney for Atscosa County for two years; served three terms as district attorney of the 81st Judicial District; was appointed justice of the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio in 1937; was appointed to the Supreme Court of Texas Court Commission of Appeals in 1940; and served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Texas from 1945 to 1947, when he resigned to become general counsel to Southwestern Bell Telephone Company in Dallas. Sutton was president of the District and Appellate Judges Section of the State Bar of Texas from 1942 to 1943. He died in 1951 from a heart attack that was most likely in part caused by the two poison gas attacks from his time in Europe.

Texas Governors
Jimmy Allred
enlisted as a seaman in the U.S. Navy in June 1918, despite being draft exempt, and was most likely stationed at Camp Farragut in San Francisco, California, before being honorably discharged in February 1919. He received his law degree from Cumberland University School of Law in Tennessee and would serve as a district attorney and then Texas Attorney General before becoming governor in 1935. Allred was governor of Texas until 1939.

Beauford H. Jester was only about a month from graduating from Harvard Law School when he returned to Texas to enlist in the U.S. Army and was assigned to the first class of Officers’ Training Camp in Leon Springs. He entered the 179th Infantry Brigade as a private but was promoted to captain six weeks later. Jester arrived in Europe in July 1918, having likely survived a U-boat attack during the Atlantic crossing. Upon arrival, he received a letter addressed to the U.S. soldiers from King George V of Great Britain. Jester took part in the battles of St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne campaign, where he suffered a heavy dose of mustard gas but refused to abandon his men on the frontlines. He served in the army of occupation in Lissendorf, Germany, until May 1919 when he was sent home on a hospital ship, still suffering the effects of the poison gas. Jester received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1920. He was appointed to the University of Texas Board of Regents in 1929 and served two years as chairman. Jester was appointed and elected to the Texas Railroad Commission in 1943 and served as governor of Texas from 1947 until his death in 1949, from a heart attack likely in part as a result of the mustard gas attack.

Dan Moody tried to enlist in the U.S. Army Air Service in 1917 but he was deferred from service because his mother was an invalid. He later joined the Texas National Guard, being commissioned as a second lieutenant. Moody gave up his Texas National Guard commission and enlisted in the Army as a private in 1918, being stationed in Camp Pike, Arkansas, where he was in training at the time of the war’s end. He was district attorney for Williamson and Travis counties and won a series of trials against the Ku Klux Klan. Moody was elected governor of Texas in 1927, the youngest governor in Texas history, and served until 1931.

Texas Court of Criminal Appeals
George Eastland Christian received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1912 and had a private practice in Burnet until he enlisted in the U.S. Army in April 1917, being assigned to the 90th Infantry Division at Camp Travis. He was commissioned as second lieutenant at Leon Springs before arriving in Europe in late June 1918. Christian took part in the battle of St. Mihiel and the Meuse-Argonne Campaign. He received a battlefield promotion to first lieutenant and was honorably discharged in 1919. Christian returned to private practice in Burnet from 1919 to 1925; served as district attorney for the 33rd Judicial District; was an assistant attorney general in the Texas Attorney General’s Office in 1925; served on the State Board of Prison Advisers in 1927; and was on the Commission of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals from 1927 until the time of his death in 1941.

For more detailed information about each honoree, see the fall 2018 issue of the Journal of the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society, available at http://ow.ly/esPv30mDrRu.

Discounts for outdoor items

Fri, 11/16/2018 - 08:00

Whether you want to hike and bike through parks and trails or explore new lands and immerse yourself in new cultures, your Member Benefit Program can help. For more info, check out the Sports & Outdoors and Travel pages.

  • Eartheasy — Eartheasy provides solutions for sustainable outdoor living. Get 15% off, plus free shipping, on LifeStraw, Scrubba, and EcoZoom products at Eartheasy.com.
  • Full Speed Ahead Full Speed Ahead develops world-class wheels, cockpit, and drivetrain components for road, tri, track, gravel, cyclocross, and mountain bikes.
  • Collette Travel Collette Travel offers over 160 guided tours spanning all continents, so you to explore all the corners of the world. Save up to $600 per person.

Get a head start on holiday shopping or try something new with the fresh new brands your Member Benefit Program has to offer. For more details, visit the Family, Education, and Flowers & Gifts pages.

  • Brookdale Senior Living — Are you looking for help with an aging loved one’s care or daily needs? You and your family are eligible for benefits and savings on Brookdale Senior Living’s comprehensive senior-care services.
  • Bisk — The State Bar of Texas and Bisk have partnered to offer a wide selection of online degrees and certificates from leading universities and designed for busy professionals.
  • Appliances Connection — A home-goods retailer with two decades of experience, Appliances Connection offers a wide range of name brands. Save 5% site-wide.
  • Texwa Jewelry Works — With lower overhead than the typical jeweler, Texwa can offer customers beautiful jewelry at low prices. Save 20% site-wide.

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

Stories of Recovery: Life’s terms

Thu, 11/15/2018 - 13:40

Editor’s note: This post was originally published on July 3, 2014, as part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery blog series. TLAP offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527 (TLAP) and find more information at tlaphelps.org.

The first time I got intentionally drunk was on May 26, 1972. I was 12 years old and woke up that morning to find that my father had died during the night.

By that afternoon I had dipped into Dad’s liquor cabinet and I was drunk. For some reason I instinctively knew that alcohol was the balm for the pain that I thought was going to kill me. Please understand that I am not an alcoholic because my father died. Rather, what this illustrates is that alcohol was not my problem, it was my solution—to everything—and THAT was the problem. I took my last drink on Sept. 15, 1995. I did not intend my last drink to be a warm, leftover beer in a cheap motel in a distant city. Frankly, I did not intend to ever have a last drink, unless it immediately preceded my last breath. Rather, other people—my spouse, primarily—had enough of my drinking and drug abuse and determined to put a stop to it without asking my permission.

Between May 1972 and September 1995 I spent a lot of time under the influence of mind-altering substances, be it alcohol or drugs and typically both. I was, as the term goes, a garden-variety addict (and that includes alcohol), or, to quote a friend, I was about as unique as a 7-Eleven store. The only difference between my escapades and those of others are the adjectives and adverbs.

What I used, where I used, when I used, how I used, and with whom I used are inconsequential. What is important is how I felt inside, and that was utterly miserable. My recollection is that every day from the time I came to until the time I passed out, the mantra running through my brain was “I hate my life.” I had (and by some miracle still have) a loving spouse, three incredible children, a law license, and a growing practice, and I was on the way to achieving the externals that define a successful person of my generation. But I was dying on the inside, and continued to take poison in order to get “well.”

I hinted above that it was the efforts of others that halted the downward spiral. The short story is that when I returned from a “business trip” on the specified day, the priest from our church met me at the airport. His cover story was that my spouse was tied up at the office and with one of the kids, so he volunteered to give me a ride. The priest asked if I minded making a quick stop at the hospital and I assented. What I did not know was that the “quick stop” was so that he could drop me off at the detoxification facility where they were waiting for me. And as for it being quick, that was a relative term, since I did not actually make it home for four months. A week of detox was followed by a stay at a long-term residential treatment facility.

My first contact with Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, or LCL, came during my stay in detox when a friend of mine thankfully took me to a meeting at his office the evening before I went to the treatment facility. And it was in treatment that the Bar’s investigator (who was investigating me, of course) blessedly suggested that I call 800-343-8527 and speak to the nice people at the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, or TLAP.

I made the call in spite of my fears. I don’t actually know what I was afraid of, but at the time I was basically afraid of everything. I cannot remember specifically what the person who took the call told me, but the gist of the conversation was that my personal and professional life was far from over, and in fact was just beginning.

While in treatment I was introduced to the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. Since that time, I have worked the program of recovery and continue to do so. Others, many of them brother and sister lawyers, have helped me and I have helped others. Where I used to be an egomaniac with an inferiority complex—a worthless individual about whom the world revolved—I have been transformed into someone who knows that God is firmly in charge of the universe, including my corner of it, and that there are only two things I really need to know about God: there is one, and it is not me.

We are taught that by practicing the 12 Steps, “our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change” and that is so very, very true. I no longer hate my life, but rather relish every day as an opportunity to be of assistance. Life is now something to be enjoyed.

And one of the greatest joys of this life is to be a volunteer for the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program and work with others in Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers. I have had the pleasure of being that person on the phone when someone calls for help. I have been able to visit with lawyers, law students, and sometimes family members of same and offer the same outreaching hand of help that was freely extended to me. I have mourned colleagues who would not or could not embrace recovery, being ever reminded that left untreated addiction is a fatal disease.

I have been given a new life. One that is far better than the one I tried to make for myself. And I have been taught that the only way to enjoy this new life is to live it on life’s terms. Thanks to TLAP and LCL, I can comply with those terms.

New TYLA podcast offers tips for young attorneys

Wed, 11/14/2018 - 10:00

Young Gunners, a new podcast from the Texas Young Lawyers Association, or TYLA, discusses practical tips and challenges that face new attorneys.

The podcast, first released on October 23, 2018, has eight episodes, with new episodes dropping every Tuesday. Episodes feature TYLA directors talking with experienced attorneys about topics including demand letters, going to court, the basics of oil and gas law, social media, mergers and acquisitions, and work/life balance.

Topics currently featured on the podcast include drafting effective (and ethical) demand letters, effective use of objections in court, social media, cross-border transactions, going to court, and getting evidence admitted before a jury.

Young Gunners episodes are available for download on iTunes.

Sponsored Content: 3 Communication Tips for Client-Centered Law Firms

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 23:01

In today’s modern era, there’s more than one way to access legal services. Clients have come to expect the excellent levels of service they get from Amazon, Netflix, and the like in every consumer interaction.

Law firms that take a client-centered approach—an approach in which they’re thoughtful, responsive, and engaged with their clients—generate better reviews and referrals that help their business grow.

For client-centered law firms, communication means more than just providing updates on a client case: It’s about being proactive so that clients feel informed, and taking the time to ensure clients truly understand everything that is going on.

Here are three tips for taking a more client-centered approach to your client communications:

1. Answer questions preemptively

After client calls or meetings, send a secure message that summarizes what was discussed and provides supplemental info for next steps. Stay in regular communication with clients to deliver both good and bad news.

2. Set clear expectations to avoid disappointment

Specify in your engagement letters how often communications can be expected, what they will entail, and how clients can best reach you (phone, email, text, or carrier pigeon) when they have questions.

For example, Palace Law sends out a ‘Welcome to Palace Law’ letter to all new clients giving them everything they need to know about their engagement with the firm, including information on how to access training for the firm’s client portal.

3. Empower clients to access case information themselves

Consider using a secure client portal to give clients access to key documents, information, and updates on the progress of their case on their own terms.

For example, Nicholas Hite of The Hite Law Group gives clients the option to use Clio Connect, a secure communication portal, so that they can access information related to their case at any time. This helps clients feel empowered and also cuts down on time-intensive back-and-forth communications. This means Nicholas has been able to keep operating costs low while offering affordable legal services and helping him access an untapped market.

Good communication is just one piece of running a client-centered law firm—a critical approach for operating a profitable, modern law firm. Learn more about what it means to run a client-centered law firm.

Boost Your Revenues in 2019: Get Business Development Into High Gear Before Year’s End

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 12:00

Martha McIntire Newman suggests the time is now to get business rolling for next year.

Texas Courts of Appeals issues nearly 10,000 opinions in FY 2018

Tue, 11/13/2018 - 08:00

The 14 Texas Courts of Appeals issued almost 10,000 opinions in the FY 2018, an increase of 1.3 percent from the previous year. The number of opinions issued by each justice increased by 4.5 percent.

The majority of the appellate cases before the court are now civil cases—making up a record percentage of the docket with 54.3 percent of all cases.

“The courts of appeals continue to have challenging dockets comprised of sensitive issues like child protection cases and complex business litigation,” said Sandee Marion, chief justice of the 4th Court of Appeals in San Antonio and chair of the Council of Justices, in a press release. “The justices and court staff work diligently to deliver timely, well-reasoned, and consistent opinions. Texans can count on the 14 courts of appeals to continue this strong performance.”

A slight dip in filings from FY 2017 helped the court to achieve over 100 percent on the Legislature’s case-clearance measure. This resulted in the court reducing the number of cases that have been pending for over two years by 45 percent and by 63 percent for cases over one year.

Each year between 10,000 and 12,000 civil and criminal cases are appealed to the courts of appeals.

For more information about the Texas Courts of Appeals, go to txcourts.gov.

Attorney’s nonprofit helps veterans regain Independence

Fri, 11/09/2018 - 10:00

Dallas-based attorney Gary Lawson is one of the co-founders of the Independence Corps, a nonprofit that helps veterans who are wounded or disabled and seeks to reduce the number of veteran suicides by promoting feelings of well-being—including helping vets regain independence through mobility devices. He is a longtime advocate and participant in nonprofits such as Capt. Hope’s Kids (now Hope Supply Co.), Medisend International, Snowball Express, and FIRST in Texas and has traveled to schools across Texas in a Vietnam War Huey, a military utility helicopter, to teach children about our nation’s independence.

The Independence Corps provides iBOTs and Track-Chair mobility devices to veterans. These devices look like a normal wheelchair, but can be quickly converted to allow users to move in a standing position. Johnson & Johnson had stopped producing iBOTs in 2009 due to the cost—Medicare only paid the company about $5,000 each for units that retailed for $25,000. But, through efforts by Lawson and the Independence Corps, iBOT production began again in 2018.

What is the mission of the Independence Corps?
To help restore wounded disabled veterans to the highest possible measure of mobility independence. To give them back what the war took from them. Even if a veteran has a 100 percent adapted home with lights and HVAC switches that can be reached from a wheelchair, that is not the case in any friend or relative’s home. Most wheelchair users can’t prepare their own or their family’s meals, because there are things on shelves and in their refrigerators that are out of reach—the stove, refrigerator, and sink may be impossible to use. Importantly, when interacting with other adults, the other adult is looking down, the veteran is looking up from a seated position. There is an “inequality.”

Curb cuts don’t exist everywhere. Stairs are barriers. Outdoor locations often aren’t wheelchair friendly. Almost nothing stops an iBOT—and nothing stops a Track-Chair.

We fix all these problems by giving the wounded veteran a mobility device that can seat them at eye level with a six-foot tall adult. It allows them to reach objects as if they were a standing adult and allows them to climb any set of stairs on their own.

What led to the creation of Independence Corps? What was the inspiration from those early flights in the Huey to teach children about independence that eventually led to its creation?
The sound of the blades of a Huey helicopter are distinctive and unlike any other helicopter. Most people are familiar with that sound from war movies. So, the sight and sound of the Huey is exciting to kids. It helps get their attention. You rarely find a child not interested in getting up close to an airplane or helicopter, so again, you can capture a young person’s attention, especially when you land a helicopter in their schoolyard.

America’s freedom from Great Britain took a war. The first steps to eliminating slavery in America took a war. America reluctantly became the force for victory in both World War I and World War II. We were reluctantly drawn into wars in Korea and Vietnam, and we went to war after our nation was attacked on September 11, 2001. But schools don’t really put a human face on war. We decided to inform and educate students on the human side of war. The role our military played since 1776 to today in establishing our freedoms and the obligations our politically elected leaders undertake for us as a nation in treaties with other countries, etc., that result in men and women going to war. Some of the greatest advances in medicine have evolved from combat triage and battlefield care. We want all children to have a deeper sense of understanding and a true appreciation for the good fortune to have been born here in America.

What led to the initial decision of providing iBOTs to veterans?
The government, the Veterans Administration, or VA, wasn’t willing to spend the money to give these expensive devices to many veterans. Despite the tremendous cost of training and equipping a soldier, sailor, airman, or marine to fight, the government was reluctant to spend the necessary funds to do more than repair the wounds inflicted by war. In a course of about two years, the VA provided 63 iBOTs to veterans and the Independence Corps provided 26. We had no paid employees, only volunteers asking folks for donations. We saw what a gigantic difference an iBOT and other mobility devices, like a LEVO, or an X-8 Mobility Device made. One marine double-leg amputee was in a hotel fire and had to slide down four flights of stairs on his butt and stumps. Had the marine had an iBOT, he could have taken himself safely downstairs with dignity and no damage to his injured parts.

What were some of the thoughts you had when you heard about iBOTs being discontinued? What actions did you put into place upon hearing this news?
We had worked for almost a year for a Hollywood fundraiser we were planning with a Young Presidents’ Organization, or YPO, chapter to give 11 injured veteran iBOTs. When we were told by the then-manufacturer that it was no longer going to build and sell iBOTs, I was beside myself. I couldn’t see disappointing these 11 veterans. I thought that the inventor might care about losing his royalties. I reached out to the inventor, Dean Kamen of DEKA Research, and asked him for his help. I was upset with the manufacturer. I quickly learned from Dean Kamen that the medical device manufacturer that had sold the iBOTs had lost a fortune due to the unwillingness of the Center for Medicare & Medicaid to fully reimburse the cost of these devices. Dean introduced me to the women in charge of manufacturing the old iBOT and she agreed to manufacture 11 more iBOTs. However, we were only able to give 10 veterans these very last iBOTs.

The 11th was a young Hispanic soldier—a double-leg amputee—still recovering at Walter Reed Hospital, who was invited by Oprah to attend President Barack Obama’s inauguration with his black, double amputee, Army Walter Reed Hospital roommate. We couldn’t get him out of D.C. to an assessment center in time. We would, however, about a year later be able to give him a rebuilt iBOT that was donated to him by a family whose father had recently passed away, leaving a perfectly good iBOT without an owner.

We then put together a video message promoting that DEKA made a next generation iBOT. It only took another 10 years to see the dream come to fruition. With the help of four veterans, who owned iBOTs we provided; with the help of my late son, Seth, who helped to script and direct a Bring Back the iBOT video; with the help of Hollywood superstar Gary Sinise, volunteering his time and talent to do the voiceover work for the video; we created a message that resonated with Dean Kamen, his team of brilliant engineers at DEKA Research, and ultimately with the Food and Drug Administration. Only a few months ago, a next generation iBOT, using the latest battery and other technological advances, became an FDA-approved Class 2 Medical Advice. The original iBOT was a Class 3 Device, a status that greatly impeded making upgrades and advances possible.

How did you feel when you heard about the iBOT being relaunched?
Relieved that I was able to help make this happen while I am still actively involved in helping our wounded veteran community and able to present new iBOTs to paralyzed and amputee veterans whose bravery didn’t just put them in harm’s way, but resulted in their losing so much of their independence.

What efforts did you put into place to help achieve this?
I lobbied members of Congress—unsuccessfully—to get their support. I pleaded with Dean Kamen, that despite the earlier business failure of the first iBOT device, that there was nothing like the iBOT when it came to replacing lost or paralyzed legs for not only veterans but also for all people with mobility disabilities like MS, cerebral palsy, etc. I begged some very rich people for funds to allow us to buy these and other high-tech mobility devices. I gave speeches, here in Texas, and in Washington, D.C., pleading with people to help me help our injured and disabled veterans. I even rode iBOTs to meetings with businessmen who were interested in national defense issues, imploring them to care about the men and women who returned from wars with mobility limitations.

How many iBOTs have been donated by the Independence Corps to veterans?
Twenty-six iBOTs at $25,000 a piece and recently a $170,000 “Luke Arm” to a female Army veteran.

Are there plans in place to donate more iBOTs?
Yes. As soon as the new iBOTs roll off the assembly line we have funds and recipients lined up for four more iBOTs. Once that happens we will do our best to raise additional funds to provide as many iBOTs as we can afford.

Are other types of medical devices acquired for donation to veterans?
Track-Chairs are for those veterans who want to get outside into the country. They can go “walk” in the woods, tow their kids in their snow sleds, go hunting—do just about anything except drive the chair on the carpet at home.

The “Luke Arm” is the most advanced arm/hand prosthetic ever made. A user can command it to do the same things his or her lost arm/hand could do. A user can pick up a glass and drink without crushing the glass or pick up a power drill and do woodworking or other chores without dropping it.

What are some of the other focuses of the Independence Corps?
Suicide intervention. Regardless of what’s the precise statistic to quote, suicides and attempted suicides among our veteran population must be addressed. Independence Corps has seen that helping veterans regain independence can help with feelings of well-being, and by hosting what we call “Spartan Weekends,” we are also working to be part of the solution to reduce veteran suicides.

In the fall of 2015, we decided to host an event in Washington, D.C., to bring awareness and raise funds to combat this epidemic that has a ripple effect that extends far beyond the immediate victim. In honor of the warrior culture, we decided to name the event the Spartan Weekend. We have since repeated this event, most recently at, and with the great support of, the Scarlet Pearl Casino and Resort in Biloxi, Mississippi.

At Spartan Weekends, we invite our veterans to take a short pledge, administered by a sponsor and taken by a warfighter or veteran to promise that no matter how dark the day may seem, suicide is not an option. The veteran is then obligated to call his or her sponsor or battle buddy if he or she ever considers suicide as an option. This “layer” has been 100 percent successful and not a single veteran who has taken the pledge has died by their own hand. In addition to the pledge, the Spartan Weekend allows these heroes to bond in fellowship with their wounded comrades—wonderful therapy and participation in athletic events (golf and bike riding as they are physically able).

Our severely wounded warriors deserve no less than the continuing support of our grateful nation.

For more information on Independence Corps, go to independencecorps.org.

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