When "It happens" we can help. Free phone consultation. Make the call today: 972-559-4548

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State Bar of Texas

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News on the Lawyers and Legal Professionals of Texas
Updated: 5 hours 21 min ago

Justice Phil Johnson to retire at year’s end

Thu, 11/08/2018 - 16:52

Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson submitted his resignation from the court on October 8 and will leave office on December 31.

“You feel like in this position you can make a difference,” Johnson said in a press release. “The law is the superstructure of society, the framework for doing what we can do. I’ll miss that I was contributing. That’s what I’ll miss about it.”

Johnson has served as a Texas judge for 20 years, 13 years on the Supreme Court and seven as a justice on the 7th Court of Appeals in Amarillo, including time as chief justice of the court. His term on the Supreme Court was set to end in December 2020.

“He made a vast and indelible contribution to Texas law,” said Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht in a press release. “Justice Johnson is greatly beloved and admired by the court and its staff, and we will miss his wise and steady leadership greatly.”

A U.S. Air Force pilot and Vietnam War veteran, Johnson received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975. He practiced at Crenshaw Dupree & Milam in Lubbock, becoming a partner before being elected to the 7th Court of Appeals in Amarillo in 1998. Johnson is certified in personal injury and civil trial law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and is a member of the American Law Institute.

Houston firm collecting donations for Toys for Tots

Tue, 11/06/2018 - 13:00

Houston-based Childs Law Firm is collecting toy donations for Toys for Tots as part of the national collection effort by the National Association of Legal Assistants.

Toys for Tots, founded in 1947, is a program run by the United States Marine Corps that distributes toys to children in need.

“I am honored to do my part for Toys for Tots,” said associate KiEtha “Kay” Hamilton in a press release. “We want to show children in need they are not forgotten at Christmas, or at any time. I encourage anyone to participate by simply donating a toy for this worthy cause.”

The firm will be collecting donations of new unwrapped toys until December 7 at the firm’s office at 3003 S. Loop W., Suite 520, Houston.

For more information about the National Association of Legal Assistants, go to nala.org.

Austin Bar celebrates Austin Adoption Day with 24 new families

Mon, 11/05/2018 - 09:59

Austin Adoption Day brought together 24 new families at the Gardner Betts Juvenile Justice Center on Thursday, November 1. Sponsored by the Austin Bar Foundation, the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services, and several others, the event put 51 foster care children into “forever families.”

The day was one of celebration as the justice center became an enchanted Emerald City, decorated with a balloon rainbow, yellow brick road, costumed characters, and hundreds of stuffed animals on each judge’s dais.

“These families will realize their goal of adoption, while enjoying a day filled with love, hope, some tears, and many smiles. It is a day to celebrate these children and families while also creating an awareness of hundreds of children still waiting to find their forever homes in the Region 7 (Central Texas) area,” Holly Benningfield, the Region 7 post-adoption liaison for the Department of Family and Protective Services, said in a press release.

Austin Adoption Day, along with National Adoption Month in November, is part of a nationwide effort to celebrate families welcoming new members from foster care and to bring attention to the need for foster and adoptive homes. Awaiting adoption in Texas are 3,754 children, including 122 in Travis County.

Sponsored Content: 4 Tips for Streamlining Your Commercial Title Transaction

Sun, 11/04/2018 - 23:01

Navigating a commercial real estate (CRE) title transaction can be challenging. But there are ways you can streamline the process and help keep the deal on track and on deadline. Start with these four simple tips:

  1. Make a plan and stick to it (as much as possible).

First, define your goal. Second, put together the team that will help you get there – title agents, loan officers, developers, etc. Strategize with them to establish a timeline which includes key deadlines (e.g. financing, title search, due diligence and closing). This will help everyone stay on track and avoid being blindsided by unforeseen developments.

  1. Do your due diligence.

In addition to any defects in the chain of title (for example, a clerical or filing error in a public record), there are several property factors that can also impact the status of a title and title insurance. As you execute your due diligence, consider these items:

  • Legal description of the property
  • The most recent ALTA survey
  • Existing title insurance policies
  • Zoning Compliance Certificate
  • Declaration of covenants, conditions, restrictions, reservations and easements
  • Environmental reports
  • Tax and utility bills
  • A list of all permits, service contracts, lease/rental agreements, code violations, special assessments and warranties
  • Any other information concerning the property and its status of title
  1. Be ready to pivot.

You may experience bumps along the way, but forward thinking can minimize the impact. Start by partnering with a title company that works with multiple underwriters and can write titles nationwide. Why? If your requirements aren’t a match for one underwriter’s offerings, the title company can easily connect you with another. Your title agent may be able to advise which underwriter is best for your transaction by providing a specialized client-focused approach to title issues.

  1. Stay in the loop.

While you can’t plan for every twist and turn in a CRE title transaction, keeping organized, remaining in contact and staying flexible can help you streamline the process. A title insurance agent who’s seasoned in CRE, like the professionals at Amrock Commercial, can help you navigate title and underwriter issues with a single-point of contact for each client. Contact us before your next deal, and we’ll work together to develop an effective plan to facilitate processing your commercial property transaction and guiding it to a successful close.

Suzette Switzer Hinds is a Commercial Counsel and Escrow Officer for Amrock, Inc. During her 25-year career in the real estate industry, she has worked as an attorney, underwriting counsel and commercial escrow officer. Suzette earned her bachelor’s degree in political science from Southern Methodist University and her law degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law. She is licensed to practice law in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. She is a member of the State Bar of Texas, the Oklahoma Bar Association and the Junior League of Dallas. She also serves as an alliance board member for Genesis Women’s Shelter and Support.

In Memoriam—October

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 13:00

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

William C. Backhaus, 59, of Dallas, died October 20, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1988.
Stephen Barrera, 64, of San Antonio, died September 26, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1983.
Kellie Beyer, 31, of Fort Worth, died September 24, 2018. She received her law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2013.
David L. Boren, 101, of Fort Worth, died September 22, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1958.
Snow E. Bush Jr., 62, of Longview, died September 14, 2018. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1982.
William Callaway Jr., 87, of Fort Worth, died October 5, 2018. He received his law degree from University of California, Berkeley, School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1962.
Ron Howard Dekelbaum, 48, of Plano, died June 14, 2018. He received his law degree from Catholic University of America Columbus School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2001.
Charles C. Dickerson, 76, of Carthage, died September 29, 2018. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
Robert K. Eason Jr., 72, of Rio Frio, died October 13, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
Ben F. Ellis, 89, of Dallas, died October 23, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1954.
David L. Fair, 77, of Plano, died October 11, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1965.
Frank Finn Jr., 90, of Dallas, died October 23, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1956.
Vera E. Gilford, 64, of Miami, Florida, died September 16, 2018. She received her law degree from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1978.
James Hamnett, 70, of Spicewood, died October 15, 2017. He received his law degree from Rutgers Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1982.
Tim Headley, 69, of Montgomery, died September 26, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1985.
Joseph R. Heffington, 77, of Kerrville, died June 26, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1968.
Alvin L. Henry, 81, of Houston, died April 6, 2016. He received his law degree from Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1966.
Judd Holt, 76, of Denton, died August 22, 2017. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
Roy W. Howell Jr., 93, of Dallas, died October 8, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1953.
Samuel F. Hurt Jr., 91, of Abingdon, Virginia, died September 17, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1957.
Grady Wilson James Jr., 71, of Willis, died September 16, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1973.
Charles A. Joplin Jr., 86, of Lubbock, died August 10, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1961.
James T. Jordan, 70, of Odessa, died September 4, 2018. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1976.
Robert S. Koelsch, 58, of Lago Vista, died September 17, 2018. He received his law degree from South Texas College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1987.
George Kolb, 84, of Fredericksburg, died March 18, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1961.
Henry S. Krueger, 68, of Trophy Club, died September 30, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Washington School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.
Kipling F. Layton, 85, of Corpus Christi, died August 10, 2017. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1960.
Jay Anderson Mallard, 75, of Angleton, died September 12, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
Gwendolyn O. Marsh, 79, of Amarillo, died July 25, 2017. She received her law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1967.
Theodore S. McGehee III, 69, of Frisco, died February 5, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1975.
James R. Meyers, 88, of Austin, died February 25, 2017. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1952.
John Dennis Moore, 81, of Mineral Wells, died October 1, 2018. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1961.
John David Munn, 52, of Austin, died September 28, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1991.
J. David Nelson, 67, of Lubbock, died July 18, 2018. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1976.
E. Russell Nunnally Jr., 79, of Wylie, died October 12, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1972.
Albert A. Pena III, 75, of Corpus Christi, died September 30, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
Wayne Patrick Priest, 77, of San Antonio, died October 12, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1968.
Paul Albert Pulliam, 72, of Dallas, died September 21, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1971.
Barbara D. Ruud, 94, of Austin, died April 7, 2016. She received her law degree from William & Mary Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1949.
Mark S. Snell, 62, of Houston, died October 5, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Kentucky College of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1986.
Raymon C. Stoker Jr., 79, of Odessa, died August 31, 2018. He received his law degree from Baylor Law School and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1964.
Bernard S. Stolbun, 95, of Bellaire, died September 18, 2017. He received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1943.
Robert G. Vial, 92, of Dallas, died September 30, 2018. He received his law degree from Southern Methodist University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1950.
David Voeller, 33, of Garden Ridge, died September 25, 2018. He received his law degree from St. Mary’s University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 2011.
Jeffrey C. Voiles, 61, of Amarillo, died July 19, 2018. He received his law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1982.
Marvin A. Wurzer, 69, of Houston, died August 25, 2018. He received his law degree from the University of Houston Law Center and was admitted to the Texas Bar in 1974.

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.

Savings on retail products

Fri, 11/02/2018 - 08:00

Your Member Benefit Program has incredible offers from fun, new brands and long-time favorites. Visit the Electronics, Retail, and Home & Garden pages to start saving.

  • HP Employee Purchase Program — HP is where power meets performance. Save on laptops, desktops, tablets, and more with exclusive pricing and instant rebates.
  • Vitamix — Thanks to the Vitamix Employee Discount Program, you can enjoy exclusive savings on Vitamix blenders. Receive 15% off any Vitamix blender, container, or accessory.
  • Rollick — At Rollick Powersports, you can experience the thrills and excitement of off-road adventures without a shopping struggle. Customers save an average of $1,130.
  • Harry & David — Since 1934, Harry & David has grown to become America’s premier choice for gourmet gifts. State Bar of Texas members receive 15% off fresh fruit and other delicious gifts.
  • Sunski Sunglasses — Sunski shades are always polarized, light-years from ordinary, and backed by a forever warranty. Take 25% off your order.
  • LifeProof — LifeProof cases and accessories let you take your tech along on your adventures. Take 20% off LifeProof protective cases for your phone or tablet.
  • Lenovo Computers — Looking to upgrade your PC or laptop? Thanks to Lenovo’s Corporate Employee Purchase Program, you can save on the entire product line.

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

Women’s law group raises over $25,000 for Komen Foundation

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 14:00

Act III, a women’s law group in Dallas, has raised over $25,000 for the Komen Foundation’s Race for the Cure.

Act III, founded by Ophelia Camina as a way to network, is a group of 14 women lawyers in Dallas who practice in various areas of the law.

One of the group’s members, Liza Farrow-Gillespie, is a breast cancer survivor but unfortunately is once again battling cancer. Act III members decided to honor Farrow-Gillespie by representing her in the Race for the Cure as Act III—Team Liza.

The amount raised placed the Act III team in third place overall for fundraising for the Race for the Cure held October 27 in Dallas.

To learn more about the Komen Foundation, go to komen.org.

2019 health insurance open enrollment is under way. Here’s what you need to know.

Thu, 11/01/2018 - 06:00

The 2019 individual health insurance open enrollment period kicked off today. Like last year, this year there is just 45 days to enroll, making the concierge-level customer service available through the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange more vital than ever.

The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is designed to help you purchase and compare products offered from leading health insurance providers. Administered by Member Benefits Inc., the exchange is open to members of the State Bar of Texas, their employees, local bar staff, and Texas law students; including spouses, domestic partners, and dependents. It is available for individuals as well as employer groups.

The 2019 open enrollment period runs from November 1 to December 15, 2018, with a coverage effective date of January 1, 2019.

START SHOPPING

Benefits of using the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange include:

  • Concierge-level support and advocacy. Licensed benefits counselors are available to help with any situation that might arise while applying for coverage.
  • One-stop shopping makes it easy to compare benefits and pricing when deciding on the best plan for your needs.
  • More choices for carriers and plan options
  • Complimentary TELADOC subscription with purchase of any product through the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange
  • Complimentary $10,000 of Accident Insurance (AD&D)
  • Complimentary Supplemental Health Insurance
  • Virtual enrollment decision support
  • Competitive pricing for individual health insurance and employer group plans in Texas

Whether you’re searching for a better policy or just want to research your options, now is the perfect time. Visit the State Bar of Texas Member Benefits site today to shop for health care plans designed to meet your needs.

Schedule a call with a counselor for creative solutions for individual and group insurance needs.

2019 open enrollment seminars were held in Austin, Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio. Click on the city name to download the slide presentation from each seminar.

Click here to watch an open enrollment webinar titled “Four Creative Strategies—Saving Money on Your Health Insurance.”

 

Pro Bono Spotlight Day 5: Hailee Yip

Fri, 10/26/2018 - 14:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Hailee Yip is a 3L at Baylor Law School and will graduate on November 10. She is technical editor of the Baylor Law Review, president of the Baylor Public Interest Legal Society, and is a part of the Mock Trial team, Baylor Veterans Clinic, and Baylor Pro Bono Litigation and Transactional teams. Yip wants to be a prosecutor for crimes against children.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I have done pro bono work for the Veterans Clinic, Baylor Pro Bono Litigation and Transactional teams, the People’s Law School, and as a court-appointed special advocate, or CASA, for McLennan County. I started working with the Veterans Clinic the earliest—in my first quarter of law school (summer 2016). That summer, I also trained to become a CASA volunteer. I finished with my CASA case this past February. I hope to be able to take on one more case. I started with the Pro Bono Litigation and Transactional team this past winter when I got my third-year bar card. First, I did juvenile detention hearings for juveniles who were not yet represented by counsel and then in August we prepped for a trial on a Class C misdemeanor.

Why is pro bono important to you?
I believe that the skills we are learning in law school and throughout our careers are useless if we are not using them to help others. It is really our duty in this profession to take a look around and give some help to people who need it.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
My pro bono work has helped build my skills in client counseling, trial preparation, and courtroom skills.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Do it. It is one of the most mutually beneficial things that you can do in law school.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
We were prepping for trial on the Class C misdemeanor and I think the prosecutor wasn’t expecting the defendant to fight it. She insisted on fighting and so we were ready to go. The evening before we were supposed to go, the prosecutor called and dropped all the charges. We got a success for our client, even though we didn’t go to trial.

Pro Bono Spotlight Day 5: Jacqueline B. Williams

Fri, 10/26/2018 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Jacqueline B. Williams is the owner and lead attorney at J.B. Williams in Allen. She practices in the areas of family law, juvenile justice, personal injury, and contract law.

What kind of pro bono work do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been taking pro bono cases through Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas since 2000. Prior to that, I volunteered only at clinics in Dallas. I’ve tried to continue attending clinics to help out since that time and to try to attend one clinic each month. I’ve generally handled family law matters, everything from divorces and custody modifications to child support and wills. Over the years I have felt more confident in handling matters involving family violence.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
There are always people who need assistance but cannot afford an attorney to assist them. Sometimes their matters are fairly simple (at least for attorneys) and other times they are extremely complicated. But I feel that every matter I have handled has allowed the client to be fairly represented and has provided him or her with the security that someone was on his or her side. I’ve met people at their worst time, and for those through Legal Aid, at their worst financial time as well. Nearly every client I’ve spoken with at the clinics has been extremely happy and courteous. And I’ve sometimes heard back from some of the them as they have moved forward in life and things have improved for them—little cards or emails telling me that they are so happy to be past that point and to thank me for my time. It’s a wonderful feeling giving back to individuals and their families.

What is your favorite pro bono story?
My favorite was a case where the client went to a clinic for assistance only after her mother insisted. I could tell at the initial meeting when I agreed to handle the matter that she was considering returning to the marriage situation. I was able to express my concern after listening to a lot of details, spending more time than with most clients for the initial interview. When the client left, she was willing to move forward and file for the divorce. While the case was pending there were several incidents, and the client would call me panicked and ready to back down but always ended the calls feeling better and wanting to move forward. The family had tried for years to get her to walk away but the lack of finances and fears had held her hostage. She sent me a beautiful card after and thanked me for providing her the support and strength she needed. I had that card tacked on my board for years to remind me that sometimes they just need to know that someone they’ve never met believes in them and is willing to help them get free.

Pro Bono Spotlight Day 5: Jacqueline B. Williams

Fri, 10/26/2018 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Jacqueline B. Williams is the owner and lead attorney at J.B. Williams in Allen. She practices in the areas of family law, juvenile justice, personal injury, and contract law.

What kind of pro bono work do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve been taking pro bono cases through Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas since 2000. Prior to that, I volunteered only at clinics in Dallas. I’ve tried to continue attending clinics to help out since that time and to try to attend one clinic each month. I’ve generally handled family law matters, everything from divorces and custody modifications to child support and wills. Over the years I have felt more confident in handling matters involving family violence.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
There are always people who need assistance but cannot afford an attorney to assist them. Sometimes their matters are fairly simple (at least for attorneys) and other times they are extremely complicated. But I feel that every matter I have handled has allowed the client to be fairly represented and has provided him or her with the security that someone was on his or her side. I’ve met people at their worst time, and for those through Legal Aid, at their worst financial time as well. Nearly every client I’ve spoken with at the clinics has been extremely happy and courteous. And I’ve sometimes heard back from some of the them as they have moved forward in life and things have improved for them—little cards or emails telling me that they are so happy to be past that point and to thank me for my time. It’s a wonderful feeling giving back to individuals and their families.

What is your favorite pro bono story?
My favorite was a case where the client went to a clinic for assistance only after her mother insisted. I could tell at the initial meeting when I agreed to handle the matter that she was considering returning to the marriage situation. I was able to express my concern after listening to a lot of details, spending more time than with most clients for the initial interview. When the client left, she was willing to move forward and file for the divorce. While the case was pending there were several incidents, and the client would call me panicked and ready to back down but always ended the calls feeling better and wanting to move forward. The family had tried for years to get her to walk away but the lack of finances and fears had held her hostage. She sent me a beautiful card after and thanked me for providing her the support and strength she needed. I had that card tacked on my board for years to remind me that sometimes they just need to know that someone they’ve never met believes in them and is willing to help them get free.

Pro Bono Spotlight Day 4: Pilar Martinez

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 14:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Pilar Martinez is from Seattle and is a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law. She is active in St. Mary’s pro bono program, acting as the student site coordinator for the monthly veterans legal advice clinic and the Community Justice Program. Martinez is also president of the Immigration Law Association and the vice president of the Public Interest Law Foundation. She serves on the editorial board of The Scholar. Martinez plans to practice immigration law at a nonprofit after graduation.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I got my first glimpse of pro bono in undergrad. I helped organize citizenship workshops for low-income immigrants. That work sparked my interest in law and specifically immigration law. I love doing pro bono work with immigrants and veterans. Recently, I think both groups have come under attack and are in need of assistance. Money should not inhibit these individuals from seeking counsel. I have been doing this work since 1L and hope to make a career of it upon graduation.

Why is pro bono important to you?
Growing up in a family of six, my parents worked hard to provide my brothers and me with life’s necessities. My passion for helping underrepresented indigent individuals stems from my upbringing and the legal struggles my family went through. When my family should have sought legal advice, we struggled in silence as we could not afford an attorney. I want to educate people on the resources available to them. Also, pro bono is important because the legal system is confusing. A lot of people who cannot afford an attorney attempt to take on the system by themselves, which may have damaging consequences for their cases. So in addition to being confusing, legal matters are expensive. I feel everyone deserves justice and not just those who can afford representation.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I have learned the need for pro bono is far greater than I thought. Legal aid resources are limited, and many requests for legal assistance go unanswered. There is a justice gap in our society and we, as law students and attorneys, need to help bridge that gap. I have also learned that the human spirit is strong. I have heard some horrible stories from clients struggling with their legal issues. These stories and the strength of these clients motivate me to keep fighting!

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Pro bono is rewarding! You will learn so much, meet some amazing clients, and help these clients work through a stressful time in their lives. If you do not help these individuals, they may not get help anyplace else. As a human, if you have the ability to help someone, why would you not? And as an attorney, you are privileged and have a unique set of skills. You have a responsibility to use those skills to ensure everyone has access to justice.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
My first client fled his home country in West Africa after being targeted, jailed, and tortured on account of his race, nationality, and political opinion. I represented him in immigration court and he was awarded asylum. He thanked us profusely while tears streamed down his face. My own eyes teared up, and I struggled to maintain composure. After one year as an asylee, he can apply for adjustment of status. I hope to help him through that process as well.

Pro Bono Spotlight Day 4: John C. VanBuskirk

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

John C. VanBuskirk is a solo practitioner and a retired U.S. Army major. He is a graduate of UNT Dallas College of Law.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
Ten days after I entered the inaugural class of UNT Dallas College of Law in August 2014, I assisted at my first Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, or DVAP, clinic, and I was hooked. I did 31 DVAP clinics in my 1L year and a total of 800 pro bono hours during law school. Since becoming a licensed attorney in May 2018, I have helped at 23 DVAP legal clinics and performed 158 pro bono hours. My cases, so far, have been estate planning (wills, POAs, etc.), petitions for non-disclosure, affidavits of heirship, and deed work.

Why is pro bono important to you?
It’s just the right thing to do. A person with limited income should not have to spend a relatively large portion of his or her scant money to have basic legal help. Not having legal representation solely due to poverty is a form of societal bullying, and I hate bullies.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
While I was in law school, it helped me understand the application of the law. As an attorney, it provides me a platform to learn and hone new skills with guidance and mentoring.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
Show what a great person you are—extend a helping hand, learn a new skill, get acknowledged for your community engagements. With registered 75 hours of pro bono you earn free membership in the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono College and a logo on your personal “find a lawyer” page setting you apart from others. The host organization you work through usually provides the professional liability insurance for your pro bono work and provides checklists, forms, and mentoring. You can choose your hours, even work from home in your pink bunny slippers through programs like the State Bar of Texas’ Texas Legal Answers at https://texas.freelegalanswers.org.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
A lady came into the Wills Clinic because her husband had recently died intestate, and she saw what not having a will does to a family. She cried through the entire clinic and was not able to make any decisions, from naming the executor or agents to distribution of assets. Two months later she signed her will and associated estate plan documents, and she was very much at ease because she knew how much turmoil and chaos she had saved her family.

DBA hosts annual Education Symposium

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 09:00

The Dallas Bar Association will host its annual Education Symposium from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. October 29 at the Belo Mansion. The symposium aims to bring together community leaders in the hopes of improving public education in the Metroplex.

“Improving the Lives of Children Through Advocacy,” is the theme of this year’s symposium. Educators and members of the public are invited to attend. Marquis Fomby, judicial secretary for the U.S. Marshal Service, will be giving the keynote address. During the luncheon, the Jack Lowe Sr. Award for Community Leadership will be presented to Reading Partners North Texas. SMU Dedman School of Law’s W.W. Caruth Jr. Institute for Children’s Rights is co-sponsoring the event.

Registration for DBA members and judges is $75 and $110 for non-members. A special rate of $35 per ticket is available for nonprofits. Fee waives are available if unable to afford the program. To register, go to dallasbar.org/event/dba-education-symposium-2. Attendees can receive 5 hours of MCLE credit.

Claiming privilege for proprietary information: properly applying Tex. R. Evid. 507

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 08:00

If a lawyer litigates long enough he or she will inevitably face written or oral objections to requests for production or interrogatories. While objections may be straightforward and easy to navigate, they become more complex and potentially fatal to a litigator’s case when opposing counsel raises an objection based on proprietary information privilege. While it is often, albeit incorrectly, believed that proprietary information is relegated strictly to commercial litigation, the truth is that proprietary information reaches much further into other areas of litigation than many may suspect. But, what exactly is proprietary information? How does a claimed privilege affect discovery? And how much depth is there to Tex. R. Evid. 507?

In short, proprietary information, which is more commonly known and referred to by lawyers as trade secrets, generally relates to information maintained as confidential by individuals or entities. In Texas, trade secrets are defined by the Texas Uniform Trade Secrets Act, or TUTSA, which is codified within Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code, Title 6, Ch. 134A. Though TUTSA was adopted in 2013, some interesting and important changes have been made to the statute by recent Texas Legislatures, especially the 85th Legislature Regular Session in 2017. The events which prompted these new amendments to TUTSA were twofold in nature: (1) Congress passed the Defend Trade Secrets Act in May 2016; and (2) the Supreme Court of Texas introduced a seven-factor balancing test for overcoming certain presumptions under TUTSA. (See In re M-I L.L.C., 505 S.W.3d 569 (Tex. 2016)). In a clear reaction to these two preceding points—one legislative, one judicial—the Texas Legislature amended TUTSA to reflect these newly manifested punctilios of trade secret theory.

First, in regard to the recently amended updates to TUTSA, the definition of “trade secret” has now been expanded to include “all forms and types of information including business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information, and any formula, design, prototype, pattern, plan, compilation, program device, program, code, device, method, technique, process, procedure, financial data, or list of actual or potential customers or suppliers, whether tangible or intangible and whether or how stored, compiled, or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing . . .” (Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code, Title 6, Ch. 134A, § 134A.002(6)). This could, theoretically, also be argued and understood to encompass proprietary information that is stored within one’s own mind via memory. (See FTC v. Exxon Corp., 636 F.2d 1336, 1350, 205 U.S. App. D.C. 208 (D.C. Cir. 1980) (finding that “[i]t is very difficult for the human mind to compartmentalize and selectively suppress information once learned, no matter how well-intentioned the intent may be to do so.”)). However, while many are quick to attempt a privilege under 134A.002(6), subsections (A)-(B) are the true qualifiers for such protection. These subsections hold that the aforementioned are only qualified as trade secrets if “(A) the owner of the trade secret has taken reasonable measures under the circumstances to keep the information secret; and (B) the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by, another person who can obtain economic value from the disclosure or use of the information.” It becomes clear that the two main qualifying elements that must be present, regardless of whether or not the alleged proprietary information makes the laundry list above, are (1) reasonable measures to ensure secrecy, and (2) derivation of independent economic value. Another punctilio that practitioners should note is the conjunction separating subsections (A) and (B). The conjunction the Texas Legislature chose to use is the word “and” not “or.” (See TUTSA § 134A.002(6)(A)-(B)). Hence, for example, even if financial information is claimed as proprietary information and reasonable measures were taken to ensure its secrecy, if it does not simultaneously derive an independent economic value then it is not qualified for protection under Tex. R. Evid. 507.

Second, the amendments in 2017 further clarify the definition of “willful and malicious” by expanding the original definition to now include the “intentional misappropriation resulting from the conscious disregard of the rights of the owner of the trade secret.” (Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code, Title 6, Ch. 134A, § 134A.002(7). See also Learning Curve Toys v. PlayWood Toys, 342 F.3d 714, 730 (7th Cir. 2003)).

When it comes to discovery and asserted privileges for proprietary information, the truth is that a proper application of Tex. R. Evid. 507 is not as simple as it appears within the limited text of the rule itself. In fact, understanding its proper application is the best counterattack when opposing counsel adds this privilege, either expressly or ambiguously, to the typical “harassing, burdensome, and outside the scope of discovery” language to which many of us have grown accustomed.

Ultimately, the spirit and purpose of discovery is to uncover the truth and allow a case to justly be decided upon all the facts, and not by hiding the facts. (Axelson v. McIlhany, 798 S.W.2d 550, 555 (Tex. 1990)). A party may obtain discovery regarding any matter that is not privileged and is relevant to the subject matter of the pending action, and it is not a ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at trial if such information appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. (See Tex. R. Civ. P. 192.3(a)). The party whom discovery has been served upon then has 30 days to respond. (Tex. R. Civ. P. 196.2(a), 197.2(a)). It is permissible and proper to respond to discovery requests by either providing the requested information, making a proper objection, or asserting a privilege. (See Tex. R. Civ. P. 193.1-193.3). The party seeking to provide an objection or assert a privilege for discovery protection has an affirmative duty to do so, and failure to do so risks waiver of any objection or privilege. (In re Union Pac. Res. Co., 22 S.W.3d 338, 340, 43 Tex. Sup. Ct. J. 145 (Tex. 1999)). In addition, courts have largely held that “[r]equests for discovery must be tailored to include only matters relevant to the case.” (In re Univar USA Inc., 311 S.W.3d 183, 186 (Tex. App.—Beaumont 2010) (citing Mallinckrodt, 262 S.W.3d at 473.)). Courts have also opined as to the scope of relevance in that “[a] specific request for discovery reasonably tailored to include only matters relevant to the case is not overbroad merely because the request may call for some information of doubtful relevance.” (In re Nat’l Lloyds Ins. Co., Nos. 13-14-00713-CV, 13-14-00714-CV, 2015 Tex. App. LEXIS 5509, at *17 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi May 29, 2015) (citing Texaco v. Sanderson, 898 S.W.2d 813, 815 (Tex. 1995)). And, most importantly in this regard, Texas courts have further held that “[t]he phrase ‘relevant to the subject matter’ is to be liberally construed to allow the litigants to obtain the fullest knowledge of the facts and issues prior to trial.” (Id. at 17 (citing Ford Motor Co. v. Castillo, 279 S.W.3d 656, 664 (Tex. 2009); See also, In re HEB Grocery Co., 375 S.W.3d 497, 500 (Tex. App.—Corpus Christi 2012, orig. proceeding)). Finally, courts have further illumined practitioners by continuing to hold to the longstanding principle that “[i]nformation is relevant if it tends to make the existence of a fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more or less probable than it would be without the information.” (Id. at 16). That said, if a party wishes to object to discovery, “[a] party may object to [discovery] only if a good faith legal and factual basis for the objection exists at the time the objection is made” and “[b]y rule, the party resisting discovery must make a timely objection to the discovery request or else the objection is waived.” (Id. (emphasis added)). That said, a common mistake I routinely observe litigators making throughout Texas is attempting to assert privileges via objections, which is wholly improper, though this does not initially waive a privilege. (See Tex. R. Civ. P. 193.2(f) and 193.3).

Understanding these basic fundamentals of discovery practice, a 507 claim of privilege for proprietary nature must be upheld only upon the claimant proving that the information is warranted such protection under TUTSA. The plain language found within Tex. R. Evid. 507(b) further augments the validity of this logical truism. The pertinent language states that “[t]he privilege may be claimed by the person who owns the trade secret . . .” (Id. (emphasis added)). Yet, even if the alleged information is shown under TUTSA to warrant protection by Tex. R. Evid. 507, such rule still states in part that a court may compel discovery if “nondisclosure will tend to conceal fraud or otherwise work injustice.” (Id. See also, Garcia v. Peeples, 734 S.W.2d 343 (Tex. 1987) (“Out of an abundance of caution, the trial court, after determining which documents are true trade secrets, can require those wishing to share the discovered material to certify that they will not release it to competitors or others who would exploit it for their own economic gain. Such an order would guard [claimant party’s] proprietary information, while promoting efficiency in the trial process.”)). In addition, while Tex. R. Evid. 507 effectively presumes the validity of a trade secret having already been established, TUTSA § 134A.007(c) further states that “[t]o the extent that this chapter conflicts with the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure, this chapter controls.” Yet, if we look back to the Tex. R. Civ. P. through this lens we arrive at a discoverable result virtually equal to the applications of the rules as to any general discovery requested to which opposing counsel likely did not object. However, understanding the clear intent as prescribed by the Texas Legislature that TUTSA controls in such cases, opposing counsel, arguably, must generally move for an injunction under § 134A.003 and successfully meet the burden of proving that the information sought is protectable proprietary information. Assuming arguendo that opposing counsel does successfully carry such burden, and further moves for a proper injunction under TUTSA, the fact remains that “it is not a ground for objection that the information sought will be inadmissible at trial if the information sought appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” (Tex. R. Civ. P. 192.3(a)).

Even if an opposing party successfully convinces a court that the information sought is in fact a trade secret, and an injunction is properly granted, this in no way automatically grants nor supports a total bar on discovery of the requested information. This theory is further legitimized by § 134A.006(a) of TUTSA because it specifically provides for the preservation of secrecy of such information without barring discovery during litigation. In fact, given the plain context of § 134A.006(a), it appears that the Texas Legislature clearly understood, thanks in no small part to Garcia, the importance of forthcoming and candid cooperation during the discovery phase of litigation. This acknowledgment was made manifest when the Legislature granted courts wide discretion regarding various methods of allowing sealed discovery of proprietary information. (See Civ. Prac. & Rem Code, Title 6, Ch. 134A, § 134A.006). Steps that courts can take to preserve trade secrecy without barring discovery of such information include “[p]rotective orders . . . limiting access to confidential information to only the attorneys and their experts, holding in camera hearings, sealing the records of the action, and ordering any person involved in the litigation not to disclose an alleged trade secret without prior court approval.” (Civ. Prac. & Rem. Code, Tit. 6, Ch. 134A, § 134A.006(a)).

If we look to the processes of sealing court records as prescribed under Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a, there are two options available to a party to limit disclosure of proprietary information in addition to TUTSA: (I) 76a(1)-(4) outlines a complete and final seal of court records; and (II) 76a(5) outlines the standards and process for obtaining a Temporary Sealing Order. Thus, neither TUTSA, the Tex. R. Evid., nor the Tex. R. Civ. P. suggest that it is proper to completely bar discovery of alleged proprietary information during a litigation setting. In fact, by the plain language and context of the foregoing authorities it would appear quite the opposite was intended by the courts and Texas Legislature.

In sum, when viewed in its totality under binding statutory authorities, common law principles of stare decisis, and professional rules of legal procedure and evidence, a typical Rule 507 objection or claimed privilege—and subsequent refusal to produce the requested discovery under the argument that such information is non-discoverable—becomes moot, improper, legally myopic, and rendered effectively without merit or authority. However, even in the rare case where trade secret status is actually warranted it is still likely that the astute practitioner can persuade a court to compel discovery via a Tex. R. Civ. P. 76a sealing order.

Blaze Taylor is an attorney in the Lubbock office of the Moster Law Firm, where he practices in the firm’s Civil Litigation Section. After serving 29 months in combat with the U.S. Army, 13 months of which he spent as one of 16 bodyguards to H.R. McMaster, Taylor moved home to pursue a legal and academic career. While working for Congressman Jeb Hensarling and studying at the Washington Center, he finished a B.B.A. with an emphasis in economics from Lubbock Christian University in 2012. Taylor later earned his J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law in 2016.

Stories of Recovery: After alcohol abuse, TLAP gave me my life back

Thu, 10/25/2018 - 06:00

Editor’s note: This post is 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.

I started drinking alcohol at about age 6.

Surrounded by military fighter pilots, alcohol was simply a part of my life. It was 1967, and the Vietnam War was at its height. Our friends and neighbors were all getting deployed to Vietnam, along with my father and my uncle. This was a scary time for everyone, as our pilots were getting shot down and captured and tortured with some regularity. Automatic, ghastly, immediate torture awaited any shoot-down.

At that time, small children were required to attend both church and Sunday school, both of which I hated. In the pews, pamphlets depicted our guys roped into excruciating stress positions and left for hours and days, beaten and tortured, to demonstrate to the parishioners the great faith that the POWs displayed (the better to show us howweshould be faithful too). I don’t know if I have a photographic memory or not, but I sure as hell remember those pamphlets and their drawings! Very traumatizing at that age.

At age 8, I was bigger than my mother. With Dad overseas, I had to follow no rules. It was always, “Just wait till your father gets home.” That was her way to try to keep me in line, but whenever Dad came home we were so relieved and happy, nothing ever came of all my shenanigans. We were all pretty good kids, military brats, and proud of it.

I started smoking marijuana at age 8. I don’t remember ever paying for it; the big kids just had it all the time and would let us smoke with them. We constantly found ways to obtain both alcohol and marijuana. I had good grades in school, so we were never suspected. Anyway, it was the Summer of Love, Woodstock, and hippies, so we didn’t stick out much.

Preparing for our transfer to South America at age 15, we were living the alcohol- and drug-soaked ritzy high school privileged lifestyle (of Northern Virginia). Upon learning we were going to South America, our local drug dealer said, “Oh, man, lucky you, there’s tons of good coke down there.”

With cocaine, it is imperative that one drink alcohol, at least when using the quantities we started using. We would trade coveted blue jeans, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, and J&B whiskey for coke. Anything we could trade from the States was better than cash, as the country was under a socialist government that refused to deal with the USA.

The thing is, though, when under the influence of pure cocaine, the human body hardly registers the presence of alcohol. We drank copiously, just to counteract the coke. Cigarettes by the thousands, also.

This went on all through university, living the good life in California. So, at age 26, I had 20 years of alcohol abuse, 18 years of pot, and 10 years of solid cocaine use behind me. I quit the coke, pot, and cigarettes, but kept drinking, and drinking and drinking. This, of course, builds formidable mental tolerance.

Finally, my body couldn’t take it anymore. I was always nauseated—poisoned really, from a clinical standpoint. Covering up for work—shower, deodorant, Binaca, Visine, Listerine—but still unable to show for work a lot because I was throwing up, I almost lost my job.

Anyway, I called TLAP from a flyer I came across at the firm, called Penni Wood, who gave me the Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers information in my area. I now have a sponsor. I am now clean and sober and loving it. I attend two meetings per week and really look forward to them.

Thanks Penni, LCL, and TLAP for giving me my life back.

Chicago Bar Association offers technology, practice management videos

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 16:00

The Chicago Bar Association is adding to its collection of Law Practice Management and Technology How To videos and making them accessible to everyone.

Currently more than 100 on-demand videos can be watched and or accessed through the CBA’s video library. Each video is one hour or less in length and hosted on Vimeo, which is mobile friendly and offers rewind and fast forward capabilities. Topics include cloud computing, communication, eFiling, firm management, and more.

For more information and to be added to the email list to be notified about the release of new videos, contact Catherine Sanders Reach.

Pro Bono Spotlight Day 3: Hannah Cramer

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 14:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Hannah Cramer is a Plano native and is currently a 3L at St. Mary’s University School of Law. She is the student coordinator for the pro bono program, site coordinator for the ID Recovery program, vice chair of the board of advocates, president of the Public Interest Law Foundation, and a staff writer for the Scholar: St. Mary’s Law Review for Race and Social Justice.

What kind of pro bono do you do and how long have you been doing it?
I participate in most of the law school’s pro bono workshops and am frequently at the ID Recovery program. I have been volunteering with ID Recovery since the fall of my 1L year. Law students, under the supervision of our pro bono director, go to Haven for Hope every Friday and conduct intakes with clients who are experiencing homelessness.

Why is pro bono important to you?
It’s important for me to use my knowledge and resources to help individuals who do not have the same resources and pro bono work allows me to do this. Also, selfishly, I feel really good when I’ve helped someone who wouldn’t otherwise receive services.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
By doing pro bono, I have learned a lot about interacting with clients and how to be a professional advocate. Many of the clients at ID Recovery are going through a very tough part of their life, and serving them has taught me how to be a compassionate advocate while maintaining professionalism.

What would you say to a fellow student who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
If a fellow law student asked me about doing pro bono for the first time, I would tell them it is the best choice I made at law school. You will receive real-world experience, network with local attorneys, and learn more than you could ever learn by sitting in the classroom. Pro bono is the perfect way to see what you’ve read about in casebooks in real life.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
My favorite pro bono success story is about one of my clients at ID Recovery. This client had an intellectual disability and I was nervous that he wouldn’t be able to follow-up the following week to receive his documents. I conducted his intake and then worried about him all week and whether he would remember to come back. He came back next week and was able to get his ID! For most people this doesn’t mean much, but for this client that meant he could access his food stamps, and hopefully find permanent housing.

Pro Bono Spotlight Day 3: Brooke Hendricks-Green

Wed, 10/24/2018 - 10:00

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support National Pro Bono Celebration Week (October 21-27). Pro Bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community does to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more individuals to get involved in pro bono support of the legal system. During the week we will feature stories of pro bono volunteers.

Brooke Hendricks-Green is from Odessa and works in the Ector County Attorney’s Office. She is a member of the Pro Bono Advisory Board for Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas.

How long have you been doing pro bono work?
I worked at Legal Aid Society in Lubbock from 2004 to 2006 while attending law school. I also did pro bono criminal cases as a defense attorney for two years while in private practice. I currently volunteer as a member of the Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas’ Pro Bono Advisory Board. I originally started volunteering on the board back when the Equal Justice Volunteer Program first created the advisory board in the Midland office in 2017. On the current board, I am excited to help run the driver’s license clinic. As a prosecutor, I see people daily who cannot navigate the complicated system that is the Texas Department of Public Safety and figure out not only why his or her license is suspended but also how to resolve it. I think it will be a beneficial clinic in our area.

Why is pro bono important to you?
It is so important for everyone to have equal access to justice, regardless of his or her situation. Our country is based upon the principles of equal rights for all, and we must ensure that is taking place on every level of legal needs. We must help those who cannot help themselves. I am looking forward to helping Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas as I transition to the bench in January as well as in any way I can.

What have you learned from doing pro bono?
I have learned that there are many wonderful people who have unfortunate events happen in their lives that can truly be helped by pro bono work. A little of your time is priceless to the person you are assisting.

What would you say to an attorney who is thinking about doing pro bono for the first time?
You will not regret it. You will not believe how rewarding and heartwarming it is to see the difference you can make in people’s lives. Please share your talents.

Share one of your favorite pro bono success stories.
I helped a woman falsely charged with aggravated assault who was in her 70s. The state was adamant about pursuing these charges against her and she was even set for a jury trial. I worked zealously to advocate for her and to show the truth. She lived off Social Security and had rented out a room to her new “alleged victim” to try to make ends’ meet but who then told a fabricated story that she had pointed a weapon at him. She was traumatized by being taken into jail and by the whole criminal process. I eventually got the case dismissed and her life restored to normal. That was one of the best hugs I have ever received.

Sponsored Content: Smokeball’s “Season of Giving”: Practice Management Software Company Continues Dedicated Efforts for Charity

Tue, 10/23/2018 - 23:01

On Wednesday, October 17, 2018, Smokeball kicked off a new charity initiative for Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for Children.  Smokeball is a practice management software company based in Chicago and Sydney dedicated to building software solutions for small law firms that result in less stress and more success.  Smokeball is also dedicated to working in the community and raising money for great legal causes.  In fact, one of the company’s core values states, “Caring is Not Optional.”

It’s latest initiative, aptly named the “Season of Giving”, is well in line with its past efforts and its core values.  For each new demo completed with a Smokeball small firm specialist between now and Thanksgiving, Smokeball is donating $100 to CASA.  CASA ensures abused or neglected children receive the competent legal representation they desperately need and rightfully deserve.  CASA “envision[s] a time when every child in state care has an influential voice in the court and in the community.”  To achieve this, CASA trains volunteer advocates to speak for children throughout various legal processes.  Smokeball has partnered with CASA for past fundraising efforts, including running Chicago’s Race Judicata 5K for its benefit.

Smokeball, through its socially-conscious employees, continually pursues ways to help in their community and effect changes nationwide.  Smokeball employees regularly volunteer with the Greater Chicago Food Depository, the Anti-Cruelty Society, and the Ronald McDonald House.  Smokeball’s culture dictates that entrepreneurship and helping small law firms do not occur in a vacuum; giving back to the community goes hand-in-hand with the company’s growth goals.  Thanks to leadership from its President, Jane Oxley, the company has quickly become one of Inc. magazine’s Best Workplaces and is a sought-after landing place for tech and legal folks across the country after being named one of 11 tech companies where employees can shine.

Besides creating intuitive easy-to-use yet powerful legal software, Smokeball continually promotes several core values, all of which shine through with its latest initiative, the Season of Giving.  The core values are easy to remember and should be common sense for most companies: (1) caring is not optional; (2) innovate for the client, not the press release; (3) keep listening, keep learning; (4) check your ego at the door; (5) be frank; and (6) if you see it, you own it.  Armed with these core values, Jane Oxley came to the U.S. from Australia to build a company that mattered to both its employees and its clients.  Earlier this summer, Inc.com profiled this journey and Smokeball’s dedication to its values.

In all, Smokeball’s efforts through the “Season of Giving” are meant to achieve dual goals: put Smokeball in front of more small firms that could greatly benefit from it, and give a pile of money to a tremendously important cause.  “We’re so confident that anyone who sees Smokeball will love it that it’s a no-brainer for us to give back to the community to get more people taking a look,” says Jane Oxley about the reason for the campaign.  “Getting Smokeball in front of more small law firms that need it and helping those firms’ communities at the same time, that’s what our Season of Giving is all about.”

Smokeball looks forward to scheduling demos for Texas attorneys before Thanksgiving to help support the Season of Giving!

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