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Updated: 2 days 4 hours ago

Join the Statewide Day of Civility on April 20!

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 14:45

On April 20, a number of local bar associations across the state will be hosting events in celebration of the Texas Day of Civility in the Law.

The day was created to reaffirm the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, which calls for attorneys to conduct themselves with courtesy and professionalism toward judges, adversaries, peers, colleagues, and clients.

The Dallas Bar Association, along with the Dallas Bar Foundation, American Board of Trial Advocates, AlixPartners, Inns of Court, and the State Bar of Texas Professionalism Committee will be hosting the Day of Civility at the Belo Mansion in downtown Dallas and offering 4.5 hours of CLE in ethics.

A live stream of the seminar will be available for those who are unable to attend. State Bar President Tom Vick will give the opening remarks. For more information, contact Kathryn Zack at (214) 220-7450 or kzack@dallasbar.org.

Other local bar association and CLE events taking place on April 20 include:

Houston Bar Association-Historic 1910 Harris County Courthouse, 301 Fannin St., at 11:30 a.m. Please RSVP here.

Texas Center for Legal Ethics is offering free online ethics CLEs.

Trans-Pecos Bar Association-Jeff Davis County Courthouse, 14 Jeff Davis St., at noon.

Denton County Bar Association– 442nd District Courtroom, 1450 E. McKinney, at 8 a.m.

Rockwall County Bar Association-Luigi’s Italian Café, 2002 S Goliad St., at 11:45 a.m.

Don’t forget to share your Day of Civility events on social media and tag us in your photos using #dayofcivility.

Attorney Well-Being: HNBA as a Catalyst for Change

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 14:01

By Raul Ayala, Esq.

You may vividly remember the time when you decided to pursue a legal career, a moment filled with passion and a desire to be of service to others and your community; however you may have defined it. Many of us wanted to directly tackle issues most affecting our Latino population-poverty; education, voting and civil rights, criminal law and procedure, immigration, housing, employment; the list is long. Others wanted to engage from within the “mainstream,” including leadership positions in business, politics and public institutions, law enforcement, civic organizations, law schools and the judiciary; just to name a few. No doubt, we all wanted to “make a difference” and were willing to endure the necessary sacrifices, first as students and later as working professionals.

Nonetheless, and like my mother has always said, “todo tiene su precio, hasta lo bueno“- loosely translated, “everything, including success, has a price.” We take our work seriously; we work long, hard hours, and we’ve had to struggle against significant odds and challenges to achieve our current positions and accomplishments. For many; that includes taking precious time away from our family and loved ones, the communities that we intended to serve in the first place, and our own self-care. Ironically; this may often leave us with an unhealthy life-work imbalance, leading toward depression, anxiety; substance abuse, and other serious health problems.

Thus, it should come as no surprise that the legal profession, including judges, lawyers, and law students, is facing a threatening crisis. A recent study 1 conducted by the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs (ABA CoLAP) and the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation (HBFF) laid bare a troubling picture of the high percentage of lawyers who suffer from substance use disorders and mental health issues. In fact, our rates are about twice as high as the general population and are afflicting a much younger generation of lawyers than in the past. Another study outlines similar concerns amongst our law student population. 2 The contributing factors behind this state of affairs may be obvious, given the nature and  extent of our responsibilities in fast­ paced, pressure-packed, and increasingly stressful living and work environments. The antidotes to these conditions, however, are more complex and challenging.

In response to these studies, the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being was convened by CoLAP, the National Organization of Bar Counsel (NOBC), and the Association of Professional Responsibility Lawyers (APRL). The task force recently published a trail-blazing report. 3 We should pay close attention to its comprehensive research and thorough recommendations for all professional stakeholders – judges, regulators, legal employers, law schools, bar associations, lawyers’ professional liability carriers, and lawyer assistance programs. In their cover letter to the report, task force co­ chairs Bree Buchanan, Director of the Texas Lawyer Assistance Program and CoLAP Chair, and James C. Coyle, Attorney Regulation Counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court, candidly reflect upon this growing concern:

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 ABA House of Delegates has also taken up the issue of attorney well-being. At the 2018 Mid-Year  meeting held in Vancouver, BC, Canada, Resolution 105 (2018 MY) was formally adopted as ABA policy Proposed by the ABA Working Group to Advance Well-Being in the Legal Profession, CoLAP, the Standing Committee on Professionalism, and the NOBC, it states as follows:

Resolved, That the American Bar Association supports the goal of reducing mental health and substance use disorders and improving the well-being of lawyers, judges and law students; and

Further Resolved, That the American Bar Association urges all federal, state, local, territorial, and tribal courts, bar associations, lawyer regulatory entities, institutions of legal education, lawyer assistance programs, professional responsibility carriers, law firms, and other entities employing lawyers to consider the recommendations set out in the report, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Change, by the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being. 4

Clearly, there are serious issues facing the legal profession and legal professionals when the largest, most prestigious bar association in the country expressly urges remedial action as a matter of policy.

How do Latin@ Professionals Fare within the Legal Community?

Unfortunately, your guess is as good as mine. There is simply little current research or readily available data to accurately determinate our status as Latina and Latino legal professionals across the United States, 5 much less to assess how we are holding up to the increasing challenges of substance use disorders and mental health issues brought on by the inherent and incessant levels of work-related stress. What we do know, however, is that we remain very few in numbers despite a fast growing population across the United States, that we are still relatively “new comers” to the historically white male legal profession and judiciary, and that we often face an additional layer of stress and pressure as members of a minority or diverse community.

The report of the National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being makes the following generic recommendations for all stakeholders:

  1. Acknowledge the Problems and Take Responsibility.
  2. Use the Report as a Launch Pad for a Profession-Wide Action Plan.
  3. Leaders Should Demonstrate a Personal Commitment to Well-Being.
  4. Facilitate, Destigmatize, and Encourage Help-Seeking Behaviors.
  5. Build Relationships with Lawyer Well-Being Experts.
  6. Foster Collegiality and Respectful Engagement Throughout the Profession.
  7. Enhance Lawyers’ Sense of Control.
  8. Provide High-Quality Educational Programs About Lawyer Distress and Well-Being.
  9. Guide and Support the Transition of Older Lawyers.
  10. De-Emphasize Alcohol at Social Events.
  11. Utilize Monitoring to Support Recovery from Substance Use Disorders.
  12. Begin a Dialogue About Suicide Prevention.
  13. Support a Lawyer Well-Being Index to Measure the Profession’s Progress.

HNBA as a Catalyst for Change

The task force report also has a number of recommendations for bar associations. A central tenet of the HNBA has always been to foster the professional development and progress of its membership. In fact, a number of years back, our National Leadership and Board of  Governors created a Lawyers’ Assistance Committee (HNBA-LAC) to help meet this critical goal by addressing the issue of well-being in the legal profession. While less active in more recent years, the HNBA-LAC promises to again bring this discussion to the forefront of our local, regional, and national agendas. In fact, the committee is hopeful of organizing panel presentations and workshops during our Annual Convention, the Corporate Counsel Conference, and other HNBA-sponsored events throughout the year.

You are all encouraged to read the entire report, and the HNBA-LAC will request that HNBA leadership, board, and staff make a commitment to its stated goals and objectives. As a national minority and diverse bar association, we can also take the initiative to collaborate with other organizations such as the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the National LGBT Bar Association, the National Native American Bar Association, and the South Asian Bar Association of North America, just to name a few.

“The task force report also has a number of recommendations for bar associations.”

A central tenet of the HNBA has always been to foster the professional development and progress of its membership.”

Through cooperation and mutual assistance, we will be better equipped to address these issues as they may affect all legal professionals of color.

In addition, the HNBA can help lead the way toward change, through these collaborative efforts along with support from the ABA and individual state Lawyer Assistance Programs (LAP), 6 by conducting research on the nature and quality of our well-being and the related challenges to a healthy work-life balance. No legal professional, regardless of their heritage, personal preferences, or station in life, should have to suffer in silence. There are a number of confidential resources that we can turn to for help, and there is much that we can do.

For more information, please contact HNBA Lawyers’ Assistance Committee Co-Chairs Raúl Ayala at raul_ayala@fd.org and Debra Norwood at dnorwood1@yahoo.com.

Raul Ayala has been a Deputy Federal Public Defender in the Central District of California for a total of 14  years, and a private criminal defense practitioner for over 22  years. He currently serves as co-chair for the HNBA Lawyers’ Assistance Committee, was a former member of the ABA Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs, and sat on the board of The Other Bar, Inc. He remains active in the ABA Criminal Justice Section, and has been a recovering alcoholic since 2004.

1 See, The Prevalence of Substance Use and Other Mental Health Concerns Among American Attorney , Krill, Patrick R., JD, LLM, Johnson, Ryan, MA, Albert, Linda, MSSW, J Addict Med, Volume 10, Number 1:46–52 (January/February 2016); also available at: https:// journals.lww.com/journaladdictionmedicine/Fulltext/2016/02000/ The_Prevalence_of_Substance_Use_and_Other_Mental.8.aspx.

2 See, Suffering in Silence: The Survey of Law Student Well-Being and the Reluctance of Law Students to Seek Help for Substance Use and Mental Health Concern , Jerome M. Organ, David B. Jaffe, Katherine M. Bender, Ph.D., J Legal Education, Volume 66 Number 1:116-156 (Autumn 2016); also available at https://jle.aals.org/cgi/viewcontent. cgi?article=1370&context=home.

3 See, The Path to Lawyer Well-Being: Practical Recommendations for Positive Chang , National Task Force on Lawyer Well-Being (August 2017), available at http://lawyerwellbeing.net/.

4 You may find the adopted resolution and full report to the House of Delegates on the ABA website, at https://www.americanbar.org/ content/dam/aba/images/abanews/mym2018res/105.pdf.

5 One notable exception is the article written by the Hon. Cruz  Reynoso, retired justice of the California Supreme Court, entitled A Survey of Latino Lawyers in Los Angeles County-Their Professional Lives and Opinion , 38 U.C. Davis L.Rev. 1563 (2004-2005); also available at: https://lawreview.law.ucdavis.edu/issues/38/5/article/ DavisVol38No5_Reynoso.pdf.

6 See, for example, the ABA CoLAP website containing, inter ali, a statewide directory of all Lawyer Assistance Programs along with other valuable resources, available at: https://www.americanbar.org/ groups/lawyer_assistance.html.

Stories of Recovery: Becoming an Alcoholic

Mon, 04/16/2018 - 12:17

Editor’s note: This post is part of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program’s Stories of Recovery 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.

Sometimes I am insecure explaining how I became an alcoholic. I felt like I should have had all these reasons to drink heavily, for so long. It reminds me of when Steve Buscemi in“Con Air” refers to how a person ends up a convicted felon: “Name your cliché. Mother held him too much, or not enough. Last picked at kickball, late-night sneaky uncle. Whatever.”

Well, I think back to this quote because I used to wonder when I got sober what was so wrong with me or my childhood. What led me to this place that I considered to be my personal hell? Fortunately, I didn’t grow up in an abusive home or have anything near traumatic happen in my younger years. I felt very loved and cared for. I even grew up in the church and attended church schools all of my life.

So, what went wrong? 

I don’t think much of anything went wrong, and I can’t blame anyone. Alcoholism doesn’t discriminate. And while I do think I have a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, I strongly believe I would have developed this progressive illness anyway with my frequent use and abuse. I just didn’t recognize it, or want to anyway.

Alcohol was my drug of choice from an early age. I experimented with my first few beers at age 14, sneaking it at an adult function, and I knew exactly at that moment why adults drank. I couldn’t wait for another opportunity to have fun in this way.

In high school and college, all of my friends liked to overdrink, too, so I didn’t think of myself as abnormal. I guess I thought it was something I would eventually outgrow. And as long as I made good grades, kept up a good appearance, had good relationships, and was doing what I was supposed to do to look great on the outside, then I didn’t have to worry.

Looking back on that time, though, I wasn’t keeping up super-great appearances. I had the most horrible hangovers, some minor legal trouble, and often couldn’t show up for people or class. My biggest problem was that I never blamed alcohol, though. I always just thought I was in the wrong place at the wrong time, and I made resolutions to try harder the next time I drank.

My senior year in college was when I started to really see more red flags. The “brownouts” began and anxiety and insecurity started to haunt me after my binges. I destroyed a four-year relationship with the man I thought I was going to marry because of alcohol, and I was crushed. So then, I didn’t only drink to have fun. I drank because I was depressed and was depressed because I drank.

One day, I decided to take one of those “How do you know if you’re an alcoholic?” tests. Sadly enough, I thought if I had some boxes still unchecked that I did not need to worry about my drinking. So, I didn’t worry and went on my way. I graduated college, moved to Houston, and focused on starting my adult life.

I’m sure it was unsettling for most people during this transition period to adulthood, but I was especially lost. I decided to go to law school as a suggestion from my father. I didn’t believe in myself and didn’t know how to deal with the pressure. I had goals and dreams that I wanted to achieve, but instead of cutting back on my drinking needs to meet my goals, I started cutting back on my goals to meet my drinking needs. So, I had quit law school after a month.

My next grand idea was to work as a legal recruiter. I remember trying to drink responsibly during the events and get my work done, but the moment it was over I would lose my governor and drink like I did in college. On one occasion a summer associate had to drive my car home for me from the event because I was drunk. Not only that, but I almost lost that job due to my inability to show up on time after those night events as well as excessive sick days.

I became more depressed. A psychiatrist suggested I quit drinking for 30 days and see if my life improved. Those 28 days (not 30, mind you) I made it brought back some sunshine again. I decided to quit that job and re-enrolled in law school. I made a decision that in order to succeed in law school I would start part-time, get serious during the week, and return to being a weekend-only partier.

That seemed to work for a while. Then, in the fall, my life trajectory changed. I became pregnant. My new plan was to get married, have a healthy baby, study hard, finish school, pass the Bar, and go from there. Did I mention I had another baby during spring break before I graduated? I would still over-drink at social events when I could get away with it, but I was so busy that it was a majorly difficult undertaking now. However naively though, I didn’t know my illness was progressing, nor did I ever think I would earn myself a seat in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous.

After I passed the Bar, I decided to put a career on hold and be a stay-at-home mom. I didn’t have a job to go to every day, so I was less accountable to people. The kids eventually started school, so then my idle time became a devil’s workshop. It was the beginning of the end.

I drank because I craved it, physically and emotionally. When I continued to drink, I would add more things to my remorse/shame list, which made me want to drink more to bury those feelings. It became a vicious cycle. I began hiding my drinking and the behavior that comes with that, but alcohol makes you so careless, neglectful, anxious, sick, and depressed that people closest to me started dropping hints that they were worried about me.

I tried every trick in the book to not be an alcoholic. The biggest hint for me was that I could never keep promises to myself. However, I still hadn’t convinced myself I needed to quit drinking because I never drank in the morning or every day. My car was still in the driveway, I had money in my bank account, my family still loved me, and I managed to be a decent mom. I still had a lot to be grateful for.

My consequences became worse as the months went on, though. I started compromising my values. I started ending up in strange places. I started doing things I never would do sober. On a good night, I still would have black or brownouts followed by a day or two of sickness, depression, anxiety, and alcohol on my breath or coming out my pores the next day. I developed so much fear and a little paranoia. It was horrible.

But it wasn’t my ending up in the hospital on Christmas Day, a failed marriage to a wonderful man, or stints at rehab that led to my recovery. It was not because I looked into my sweet children’s eyes and wanted a healthy, present mother for them, and not after tarnishing my reputation in social circles. It was because one day I looked into the mirror and I hated myself. I couldn’t live with alcohol anymore and I couldn’t live without it. I wanted to stop all this madness, but I didn’t know how. My shame, guilt, and depressive feelings made me feel like life wasn’t worth living anymore.

Finally, a lightbulb went off that I should go to an AA meeting. It was intimidating but I made myself go. The people embraced me with love when they found out I was a newcomer. The moment I heard people share, I just knew I had this diagnosis. I identified so much with the feelings of desperation and wanted the laughter and happiness that these sober people had. They seemed to have made this difficult decision to become sober, deal with life as it came, and rely on God and each other to help one another stay sober and get through good and bad times.I was fascinated by the stories of restoration, and I so wanted sobriety. It seemed like such a better life.

That first meeting, I heard the people share about things I did and feelings I had had, too. Someone told me that I never had to drink again. I loved the sound of that. I finally didn’t feel so alone.

I decided that I wouldn’t drink, but what I didn’t clue in on is it is just not about not drinking if I wanted to be happy, joyous, and free. You replace your isolative, lonely drinking with a fellowship and spiritual program that keeps you from needing or wanting to drink. You work spiritual steps to free yourself from the past but also to help you become a better person in sobriety. You continue to go to meetings. There are phone calls to be made and a sponsor to be had. You help other alcoholics. The changes take time and it hurts sometimes to live life on life’s terms.

I wish I had listened to my own advice because I drank again about 20 more times after I intellectually knew all of this. I knew I wanted sobriety, but there was a selfish side of me that could not say no to alcohol when my feelings felt intolerable. I had so much fear and shame about the things I was doing, but I was terrified of the stigma of being an alcoholic.

It says in the book that alcohol is a cunning, baffling, and powerful disease. Even after gaining a year of sobriety I was called back to it, but I didn’t give up. I picked myself up after a bad relapse and got back on that horse. I threw myself into more meetings, more step-work, more prayer, more service, and more literature. I got to know people and tried to relate to them and see what helped them. I started praying more. I started taking it one day at a time.

Quitting drinking has been the most challenging thing I have ever done and thing I am most proud of. Alcoholism is a progressive, fatal disease, and only God and AA give me the strength to not pick up a drink.

During the time I was trying to stay sober and enjoying my sober life, I lost my best friend to alcoholism. It was the most scary, heart-wrenching thing to watch someone lose their battle to addiction, slowly. I now realize that drinking isn’t an option for me. I will have to work this my entire life and not let my guard down, but it is the only solution if I want to be the kind of person I want to be. It is the kind of life that God wants me to live, and I am better in every way for it.

I so enjoy this life, being present, what I hear in meetings, the new and old friendships. Happiness has truly become a byproduct of right living. I married a sober man, and we blended our family in sobriety. Life and relationships don’t come without challenges, but I can say now that I believe I’m a loving, present, and committed wife and mother, reliable friend and loved one, confident female, capable lawyer, grateful servant to others and, best of all, a forgiven child of God who got a second chance.

Alcohol managed to destroy my life from the inside out and then the outside in, but it also led me to a greater purpose. I love who I am today, and I get to go share my story and give other alcoholics hope. I can’t imagine living the way I used to live. I’m so grateful I quit drinking and started living.

CLEO to recognize Texas law professors, law schools, and legal organization

Fri, 04/13/2018 - 09:30

The Council on Legal Education Opportunity, or CLEO, will recognize more than 200 nominees for the CLEO EDGE Award for Education during the Education Reception on April 26, 2018, at the Downtown Club at Houston Center.

Founded in 1968, CLEO is a national organization devoted to expanding opportunities for minority and low-income students to attend law school. The EDGE Award for Education recognizes individuals, law schools, and legal organizations that have made a significant impact on diversity and equality in legal education, the profession, and society.

Individual nominees from Texas include James M. Douglas, distinguished professor of law and vice president for governmental affairs and community relations at Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law; Dannye R. Holley, former professor of law (now retired) at Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law; Ana Otero, associate professor of law at Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law; and Frederic White, professor of law at Texas A&M University School of Law.

Texas law schools to be recognized include St. Mary’s University School of Law, SMU Dedman School of Law, South Texas College of Law Houston, the University of Houston Law Center, and the University of Texas School of Law.

The Patricia and Paul Yetter Law School Preparation Institute at the University of El Paso Texas will be recognized as a legal organization nominee.

For more information, go to cleoinc.org.

Texas Social Media Research Institute honors State Bar for Twitter account

Thu, 04/12/2018 - 11:30

The Texas Social Media Research Institute at Tarleton State University will present a social media award to the State Bar of Texas for its Twitter account (@statebaroftexas) on April 17, 2018, at the 6th annual Social Media Conference in Fort Worth.

The award recognizes top Texas state agencies included on the Texas State Library and Archives Commission state agency list. Award recipients were judged by the agency’s Klout influencer score and number of Twitter followers. More than 17,000 Twitter users currently follow the State Bar account.

The State Bar uses its Twitter account to keep members up to date on issues such as Texas Supreme Court orders, State Bar of Texas Board of Director meetings, news about the profession, State Bar events, articles of note from the Texas Bar Journal, information about local bars, and more. Through the account, the bar also provides information on legal services available to the public, such as veterans and free legal advice clinics.

The 4 Hour Per Day Rule

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 23:01

Practicing law for the first time comes with its fair share of stressors and unknowns. One of the first things you’ll need to determine is how much you can expect to charge for your services. Will you be able to set an hourly rate that’s reasonable for an attorney in your area, and provides enough income to meet your needs?

Determining this doesn’t have to be stressful, thanks to a budgeting strategy we call “The 4-Hour Per Day Rule.” The idea is this: an attorney should be able to get by from billing and collecting four hours per day, five days per week, twenty days per month.

We’ll walk through all the steps of this strategy to help you determine if your office can survive and thrive under this rule.

Step #1—Determine your expenses

Take time to calculate a monthly personal budget. How much do you need per month to pay your share of rent or a mortgage? What are the average costs of your monthly bills? How about groceries and other expenses? Do you share the expenses?

With all these things in mind, you should be able to come up with a dollar amount that represents how much you need for your share of your household’s bills. Make sure your expected taxes are calculated into this amount as well.

Be sure to factor in your share of the costs of running your office. How much do you need to pay for your office space, marketing materials, and office supplies? Take inventory of how much your practice costs on a monthly basis and produce an estimated dollar amount.

Step #2—Calculate your rate

With the total of your average monthly personal and business expenses in hand, it’s time to apply The 4-Hour Per Day formula.

Your goal is to divide your total monthly expenses by the number of billable hours you expect to work each month. We already know we want to aim for four billable hours a day. If we assume you’re working for five days a week, this totals to 20 days a month. Thus, 20 x 4 = 80 billable hours per month. For the sake of example, let’s say your personal expenses equal $8,500 per month, and your office expenses equal $4,000 per month. Adding these up, we end up with $12,500.

So, if we take your total amount of expenses ($12,500) and divide it by the average billable hours you’ll work each month (80), your hourly rate comes out to $156.

Step #3—Ensure your effective rate is fair

Once you have that effective rate calculated, it’s a good idea to compare it against the rates of similar attorneys in your area to make sure you aren’t overcharging.

Two ways of determining this are by talking to attorneys in your community and by asking judges at your local courthouse. Judges award attorney fees every day, and will be a great source of insight. Plus, if the local rate is higher than your needs, you may choose to charge less, knowing that you need a bit less to make your monthly budget.

Your main goal is to see if your rate (in our example, $156) is at or lower than the expected hourly fees an attorney of your experience can charge. If it is, your practice has a greater statistical chance of success and provides you a daily idea of this chance based on your work output.

If, however, the hourly rate is woefully inadequate to support your needs, take a hard look at your costs and overhead to manage them more efficiently and realistically.

Once you’ve determined your effective rate, you’ll be ready to take your first client, which means you’ll need an attorney-fee agreement. You can download this sample agreement that you can customize and start using immediately in your practice.


Updates from the State Bar President-elect Candidates

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 17:05

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

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

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

Lisa Blue

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

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

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

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

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

AWAF honors four attorneys, awards six scholarships at annual Premier Women in Law Luncheon

Tue, 04/10/2018 - 15:00

Female attorneys honored at the 7th annual Premier Women in Law Luncheon are, from left, Phyllis Randolph Frye, Cristina E. Rodriguez, Debra Tsuchiyama Baker, and Linda Broocks.

The Association of Women Attorneys Foundation honored four female attorneys and awarded six scholarships to law students at the 7th annual Premier Women in Law Luncheon held March 28 at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston.

Attorneys honored at the luncheon were Debra Tsuchiyama Baker, managing partner of Baker Wotring; Linda Broocks, a partner in Kean Miller; Phyllis Randolph Frye, a partner in Frye, Benavidez and O’Neil; and Cristina E. Rodriguez, a partner in Hogan Lovells US.

Six scholarships were awarded to 2L and 3L female law students from each law school in Houston. Scholarship recipients were Jayelle Aubrey Lozoya, 3L, and Adilia Miranda, 2L, of South Texas College of Law Houston; Joy Nnama, 3L, and Sintia Solis, 2L, of Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law; and Ruth Rivera-Arriaga, 3L, and Rachael Thompson, 2L, of the University of Houston Law Center.

An update was also presented on the 2017-2018 AWAF Pro Bono Fellowship, which partnered with the Legal Division of the Tahirih Justice Center and Houston Volunteer Lawyers. The fellowship program provides three applicants a paid fellowship with one of the partnering organizations for their first year of practice. In 2018-2019, AWAF added a third pro bono fellowship program with Kids in Need of Defense, or KIND.

Next year, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office will offer a third-year AWAF applicant an internship position in its Sex Crimes Division.

Recipients of six AWAF scholarships are, from left, Ruth Rivera-Arriaga of the University of Houston Law Center, Jayelle Aubrey Lozoya of South Texas College of Law Houston, Rachael Thompson of the University of Houston Law Center, Adilia Miranda of South Texas College of Law Houston, and Joy Nnama of Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law. Not pictured is Sintia Solis of Texas Southern University’s Thurgood Marshall School of Law.

State Bar of Texas International Law Section to embark on Argentina trip

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 09:00

The State Bar of Texas International Law Section will head to Argentina April 16-22 for its spring trip and CLE (9.75 hours total). Participants will learn about the country’s legal system and business opportunities and soak up the food, culture, and history of Buenos Aires and Mendoza.

Touring and Tasting Events:

  • Downtown Buenos Aires sight-seeing
  • Tango show and dinner at Madero Tango in the Puerto Madero
  • A tour of Teatro Colon
  • Shopping at Alto Palermo
  • An additional Mendoza trip with dinner in Argentina wine country
  • Visiting Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (Malba)
  • Dinner and dancing on the river

CLE Highlights:

  • Industry and Commerce in Argentina: Exports, Economics, Politics and Legal Considerations
  • Supreme Court Visit and Case Law Update
  • Buenos Aires Efforts to Attract Foreign Investments by the Chief of Government
  • Visit and Presentations at Buenos Aires Law School
  • Oil and Gas Roundtable
  • Recent Anti-Corruption Decisions presented by the Federal Court of Appeals
  • Meeting with the American Chamber of Commerce
  • How Texas and Argentina work Together

Registration is $250 per person and is limited to about 20 reservations. The fee covers the section’s costs for bilingual chaperones and guides and does not cover any other food, touring, transportation, or other expenses.

Participants are responsible for their own hotel reservations, securing airfare, and covering their own expenses once in Argentina. The section has chosen a hotel block at the Hotel Panamericano—room rates are $165 per night.

The trip is estimated to cost between $3,000 (without the Mendoza trip) and $3,500 (with the Mendoza trip) per person. Events and meals will be paid for individually.

For more information, contact Gabriela Smith at gsmith@gnslawpllc.com or view the full agenda online.

President’s Update: State Bar Budget and Other News

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 08:51

Tom Vick

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

On Tuesday, President-elect Joe K. Longley and State Bar staff conducted the public hearing in Austin on the proposed 2018-2019 State Bar budget, which was published in the March issue of the Texas Bar Journal. The State Bar continues to welcome your questions and feedback on the proposed budget.

If you would like a copy of the budget summary or to submit comments or questions, please contact the State Bar finance division director at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1481, or tjarratt@texasbar.com. You can also read more on the proposed budget, and how it supports the State Bar’s strategic plan and mission, in Executive Director Trey Apffel’s informative column in the March Bar Journal.

The State Bar Board of Directors plans to vote on April 27 to submit the proposed budget to the Texas Supreme Court for approval in May.

As I reported in December, the proposed 2018-2019 State Bar general fund budget reduces overall spending by 5 percent compared with the current budget while adding additional money in reserves—all without reducing member services. I again want to commend Executive Director Apffel, his staff, and the State Bar board’s Budget Committee, led by President-elect Longley, for developing a fiscally responsible budget that I am proud to support.

General Counsel Search Update
The State Bar of Texas General Counsel Search Committee met Tuesday and Wednesday in Austin and interviewed six candidates for the general counsel position. After considerable discussion Wednesday, the committee decided to gather more information on the candidates and continue deliberations at a future meeting before making this important decision.

As I previously reported, the State Bar board voted unanimously in January to approve the hiring of a general counsel, a statutory position under the State Bar Act. The General Counsel Search Committee reviewed responses to an RFP and selected six Texas lawyers to interview out of 12 respondents. The committee will make a recommendation to the board of directors, which elects the general counsel by a majority vote.

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

Remember to vote in State Bar, TYLA races
Also, remember to cast your ballot in the 2018 election for State Bar and Texas Young Lawyers Association presidents-elect and district directors. Voting started Monday and continues through 5 p.m. CT on May 1.

You can vote by paper ballot, electronic ballot, or online at texasbar.com/election. That webpage is also your source for election information, including brochures produced by the State Bar and TYLA president-elect candidates and biographies of candidates in all races.

Typically, voter turnout is less than 30 percent in State Bar races, which means most Texas lawyers are passing up the chance to influence who represents them on the State Bar board as officers and directors. Your right to vote is important. I encourage you to exercise it this year.


Tom Vick, President
State Bar of Texas

Savings with Beneplace

Fri, 04/06/2018 - 08:00

Prosperity is in the perks at the Beneplace Savings Program. You’ll find everything you need from ski tickets to contact lens discounts and much more. Just visit the Travel and Health & Wellness pages on the website to start saving today.

  • Wyndham Hotel Group – With Wyndham Hotel Group, you can save 20% on the best available rate at over 8,000 properties worldwide. Book today!
  • Discount Ski Offers – Hit the slopes this winter and save up to 50% at some of the finest ski resorts the United States and Canada has to offer!
  • Cruise & Vacation Perks – Double your vacation reward when you book a select cruise or tour vacation for six nights or longer.
  • TripBeat – TripBeat makes it easy and affordable to book the perfect resort vacation! Save up to 40% at more than 2,400 properties around the world.
  • AC Lens – For trendy eyewear at low prices go with AC Lens! Save 15% on contacts and 25% on glasses. AC Lens has the lowest prices—guaranteed!
  • Nutrisystem – Start losing weight and living healthier today with Nutrisystem! Lose up to 10 pounds your first month with an easy-to-follow 4-week plan.
  • SLEEFS – Save 25 percent on custom compression gear. Plus receive free shipping on orders over $40.

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

Free legal clinic for veterans in Lake Jackson

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 12:00

Veterans in need of legal advice can visit a free clinic put on by the Brazoria County Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative on Saturday, April 7, in Lake Jackson.

Volunteer attorneys will be available to offer any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran advice and counsel in any area of law, including family law, wills and probate, consumer law, real estate law, and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits. Those who qualify for legal aid and are in need of legal representation may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case.

The clinic takes place at the Lake Jackson VA Outpatient Clinic, 208 Oak Drive South, 77566 from 9 a.m. to noon.

For more information, contact 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 website at texasbar.com/veterans.

Live chat

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 10:18

Emma Hanes suggests attorneys check their website’s live chat settings to prevent Google search penalties.

14th annual People’s Law School to be held April 7

Thu, 04/05/2018 - 09:45

The People’s Law School, a product of the Tarrant County Bar Association and Tarrant County Bar Foundation, returns April 7 for a day of free legal education for the public.

Area attorneys and judges will volunteer their time to teach 50-minute classes on wills and estates, what to expect in a justice court, the basics of family law, adult guardianship and alternatives, landlord and tenant rights, grandparents’ rights, probate and alternatives, buying and selling a home, and immigration.

Participants in the People’s Law School will have the choice of attending three classes.

The event, planned by the TCBA People’s Law School Committee and underwritten by the Tarrant County Bar Foundation, is held each spring and attended by more than 300 area residents.

The People’s Law School takes place at Texas A&M University School of Law, 1515 Commerce St., Fort Worth, 76102, and runs from 12:30 p.m.to 4 p.m. Check-in is from 12 p.m. to 12:30 p.m.

For more information, go to tarrantbar.org/community/peoples-law-school.

Texas Bar Journal Must-Reads for April

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 11:15

Check out our editorial staff’s must-reads for the April issue: interviews with the State Bar of Texas president-elect candidates, Harvey’s impact on the Gulf Coast’s petroleum industry, and new changes attorneys should know about live chat. Don’t forget to catch up on Movers and Shakers, Memorials, and Disciplinary Actions.

The Issues: State Bar of Texas Election 2018
A Q&A with president-elect candidates Lisa Blue and Randy Sorrels.

The Issues: Texas Young Lawyers Association Election 2018
TYLA president-elect candidates Raymond Baeza and Victor Flores discuss issues they see facing young attorneys in Texas.

Lesson Learned?
A look at the Gulf Coast’s petroleum infrastructure after Hurricane Harvey.
By Derrick Carson and Gerry Pels

Live Chat
Changes you need to know to avoid being penalized in organic searches.
By Emma Hanes

UNT Dallas College of Law names dean

Wed, 04/04/2018 - 09:00

The University of North Texas at Dallas recently announced that Angela Felecia Epps will serve as dean for the UNT Dallas College of Law. Epps, the former dean of Florida A&M University College of Law, will start at UNT Dallas this summer.

Epps, who was offered the position after a national search, will replace Judge Royal Furgeson, the college’s founding dean. Ferguson will remain with UNT in a development role.


“Dean Epps embodies our students—from the Marines to her legal career to her academic work, she has shown how hard work and achievement go hand-in hand,” said UNT Dallas President Bob Mong in a press release. “We are excited to build on the sturdy foundation that Dean Furgeson has built in downtown Dallas, and I am deeply grateful to Royal for his commitment to the UNT Dallas College of Law—especially his leadership and passion for our students that has shaped this young law school profoundly.”

Epps, who served in the United States Marine Corps, brings more than 30 years of experience in the law profession to UNT Dallas. In addition to serving as a professor and dean at Florida A&M University College of Law, Epps was a professor and associate dean at the University of Arkansas Little Rock Bowen School of Law and a visiting professor at the New England School of Law and the University of Florida Levin College of Law. She also served six years with the Georgia Legal Services Program, which provides free legal services to low-income individuals.

The UNT Dallas College of Law was founded in 2013 and is based in downtown Dallas.

TBLS accepting certification applications for 2018

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:25

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is accepting certification applications for 2018. You can find the specific requirements for each of the 24 specialty areas at the “Get Certified” section of tbls.org.

The Texas Supreme Court approved Child Welfare Law and Property Owners Association Real Estate Law as the newest specialty areas for board certification this year. Go to “Standards for Attorney Certification” for the specific requirements.

Certification applications are only available until April 30, 2018, and the exam is October 15, 2018, in Austin. If you have questions about the TBLS Board Certification program, please contact TBLS at (855) 277-TBLS (8257) or send an e-mail to tbls@tbls.org.

Texas Access to Justice Foundation announces David Hall Fellowship program

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 11:00

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation recently announced the creation of the David Hall Fellowship program for legal aid attorneys.

TAJF will fund and administer the four-year fellowship for an attorney to provide civil legal services to the 68 counties covered by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.

The fellowship honors David Hall, who led TRLA for 42 years before his retirement in 2017. TRLA is the nation’s third-largest legal aid provider, serving 25,000 people annually.

“David Hall’s work in civil legal aid is legendary, and has improved access to justice for thousands of Texans in poverty,” said Richard L. Tate, chair of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation Board of Directors. “This fellowship will be a lasting reminder of David’s past and future impact on the lives of disadvantaged Texans along our border.”

Fellowship details and eligibility guidelines are currently under development. For updates and more information, go to teajf.org.

Apffel: The State Bar of Texas is Practicing Best Practices

Tue, 04/03/2018 - 06:00

Trey Apffel

Editor’s note: The following column also appears in the April 2018 issue of the Texas Bar Journal

As I write this column, we’ve just received the final reports from the State Bar of Texas’ 2017 fiscal year internal audit. The auditors found no areas of noncompliance. In fact, the findings are quite positive.

The CPA firm of McConnell & Jones conducted the audit, which focused on the State Bar’s compliance with the Public Funds Investment Act and the statutes, rules, and policy provisions related to the following State Bar departments: Membership, Advertising Review, Budget and Finance, Purchasing and Facilities, and Information Technology.

The audit reports are available on the State Bar website at texasbar.com/finances. Some highlights appear below. 

  • The Information Technology Department has implemented some of the industry’s best practices with regard to website usability and security. The report describes the My Bar Page member portal as “robust and easy to use.”
  • The State Bar procures a majority of its materials and services under the Comptroller of Public Accounts procurement contracts for goods and services provided by the comptroller. “This saves [State Bar] resources, ensures compliance with state procurement requirements, and increases efficiencies in the procurement process.”
  • The Membership Department’s efforts to promote e-billing and online payments are saving money and making our billing processes more efficient. E-billing statements increased from 4,200 in fiscal year 2016 to more than 34,000 in fiscal year 2018. Online payments now make up 57 percent of the department’s transactions, up from 50 percent two years ago. (Thank you to everyone who pays dues online.)
  • The Advertising Review Department is described as “very customer service oriented,” based on the auditors’ interviews and document reviews. Instead of just rejecting an advertisement for not complying with the rules, the staff tries to work with lawyers to help them gain compliance within the rules—a fact that impressed the auditors. (The Advertising Review Committee is currently working to make our ad review process even more user-friendly. Stay tuned.)

Two words stand out as I read the audit reports: best practices. The reports highlight areas where the State Bar of Texas has adopted best practices to better serve our members and the public. The audit period ended just before I started as executive director in December, but I am committed to continuing the State Bar’s pursuit of best practices in everything we do.

CLE Scholarships Available
Another way the State Bar of Texas serves its members is by making sure cost isn’t a barrier to receiving high-quality CLE. TexasBarCLE offers scholarships for live courses, video replays, and online classes and webcasts by filling out the form at texasbarcle.com/scholarship. The scholarship is open to any attorney who hasn’t already accumulated 15 or more hours of accredited CLE during his or her MCLE reporting year. TexasBarCLE approved more than 500 scholarship applications last year that provided more than $200,000 worth of high-quality CLE to Texas lawyers. If you’re interested, please don’t hesitate to apply


Trey Apffel
Executive Director, State Bar of Texas
Editor-in-Chief, Texas Bar Journal
(512) 427-1500
@ApffelT on Twitter

Have a question for Trey? Email it to trey.apffel@texasbar.com and he may answer it in a future column.

Earn CLE credit at the 16th Annual Texas Minority Attorney Program

Mon, 04/02/2018 - 08:58

The State Bar Office of Minority Affairs and the State Bar of Texas Diversity in the Profession Committee will host the 16th Annual Texas Minority Attorney Program on Friday, April 20 at South Texas College of Law Houston.

The Texas Minority Attorney Program is a one-day live CLE seminar and networking event geared toward minority and women solo and small firm practitioners.

Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about a variety of topics, including immigration and ethically compliant business development, and hear “Views from the Bench” from a panel of judges.

Participants can earn 6.5 hours of MCLE credit (including 1 hour of ethics credit). Register here for $90 by April 6. Breakfast and lunch are included.

TMAP was created to serve minority and women attorneys and legal organizations in Texas.

Go here for more information.