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State Bar of Texas announces 2018 winners of Law Day contests

Tue, 04/24/2018 - 07:00

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

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

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

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

Balanced Ballads

By Caroline Knauth

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

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

Members appointed to Judicial Commission on Mental Health

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 11:30

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

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

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

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

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

The signed order can be viewed at TexasJCMH.gov.

State Bar of Texas launches Knowledge Center

Mon, 04/23/2018 - 07:04

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

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

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 15:59

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

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

Click here to view the meeting agenda.


2018 TLCL Convention will be held in June

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 13:00

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

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

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

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

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

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 09:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring cleaning discounts

Fri, 04/20/2018 - 08:00

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

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

Current offers provided by Beneplace.

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

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

State Bar of Texas – Benefits & Services

Fifth Circuit adopts rule change

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 16:00

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

The approved amendment is as follows:


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

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

Free legal clinic for veterans in Katy

Thu, 04/19/2018 - 15:30

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

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

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

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

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

23 Best Apps for Lawyers

Tue, 04/17/2018 - 23:01

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

Clio: For Legal Practice Management

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

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

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

Clio for iOS and Android

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

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

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

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

Fastcase: For legal research

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

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

Fastcase for iOS and Android

Zipwhip: For sending professional texts

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

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

Zipwhip for iOS and Android (beta)

RightSignature: For getting documents signed

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

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

RightSignature for iOS and Android (beta)

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




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