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News on the Lawyers and Legal Professionals of Texas
Updated: 2 days 6 hours ago

State Bar of Texas launches new podcast

Tue, 06/26/2018 - 14:45

The State Bar of Texas recently relaunched the State Bar of Texas Podcast—conversations and curated content to improve your law practice. The monthly show features news and discussions relevant to the legal profession, from the latest industry trends and caselaw to practice tips and State Bar programs.

Host Rocky Dhir, attorney and CEO of Dallas-based Atlas Legal Research, invites thought leaders and innovators to share their insight and knowledge on what matters to practitioners. The first three episodes debuted on June 20 and feature Anthony Graves on overcoming a wrongful conviction, Brian Cuban on depression and addiction in the mind of a lawyer, and Bryan Garner on what it was like to write with the late U.S Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

Additional episodes from the 2018 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, which was held in Houston June 21-22, include Joseph Crespino on Harper Lee and documenting the complexity of the history that inspired her character Atticus Finch, Donna Serdula on how to build your LinkedIn profile, Pamela Buchmeyer on cultivating humor in the legal profession, John Browning on social media and ethics, Matt Crockett on writing your own textbook, and Tiffany Haas and Johanna Schroeder on the purpose of paralegals.

The State Bar of Texas Podcast, produced by the State Bar of Texas and the Legal Talk Network, is available now. Listen at iTunes or Google Play. For more information, go to texasbar.com/podcast or legaltalknetwork.com.

TCDLA names award winners, inducts Hall of Fame members

Mon, 06/25/2018 - 11:00

The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, or TCDLA, inducted three members into its hall of fame and named the Percy Foreman Lawyers of the Year and Charlie Butts Pro Bono Award winner at the 31st Annual Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course on June 21-23 in San Antonio.

Daniel Hurley, of Lubbock, Frank Jackson, of Dallas, and Martin Underwood, of Comstock, will be inducted into the TCDLA Hall of Fame. Inductee Hurley is a former president and director of the Texas Criminal Defense Association. He was an assistant district attorney of Lubbock County for two year before entering private practice. Hurley is a fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and was named TCDLA’s Lawyer of the Year in 2015. Jackson served on the TCDLA and National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers boards of directors. He is a fellow of the American Board of Criminal Lawyers. Underwood practiced law from his home in Comstock and gained repute for cases involving the Fourth Amendment and establishing the right of an indigent defendant to expert assistance.

F. Clinton Broden, of Dallas, and Casie L. Gotro, of Houston, were selected as the Percy Foreman Lawyers of the Year based on their representation in the Twin Peaks litigation, which arose from the May 17, 2015, gunfight at the Twin Peaks in Waco that left nine dead and more than 20 injured.

Broden has overturned two gag orders, initiated a court of inquiry, recused two different district judges, and obtained affidavits from former members of law enforcement and assistant district attorneys alleging corruption in McLennan County. Broden successfully recused the district attorney’s office from his client’s case and then obtained a dismissal for his client from special prosecutors based on a lack of probable cause to arrest. His work led the way for a number of recusals, dismissals, and civil suits. Of the 177 people arrested in the aftermath of the Twin Peaks shooting, all but a handful cases have been dismissed and/or declined.

Gotro is the only defense attorney to take a Twin Peaks case to trial thus far. The case resulted in a mistrial after two days of jury deliberation resulted in a deadlock in favor of acquittal. During the case, Gotro discovered repeated instances of the district attorney withholding evidence favorable to her client, including untested ballistic evidence stored under other cause numbers, and an assistant attorney general admitting that the district attorney was withholding evidence. Forbidden to speak during jury selection, under a penalty of contempt, Gotro handwrote a motion to recuse the judge and served him. After successfully recusing the judge, her cross-examination of witnesses revealed more evidence that had been withheld by the district attorney’s office.

Roger M. Nichols, a solo practitioner in Austin, who began a statewide practice representing clients before the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, is the Charlie Butts Pro Bono Award winner. He is the only attorney in the state—now representing parolees—who has worked as counsel to the board in the past. Of note this past year, Nichols provided pro bono work for Edward Ates, an Innocence Project of Texas client, who was paroled after 20 years.

Also during the course, Mark S. Snodgrass, of Lubbock, will be installed as president of TCDLA, and Clay B. Steadman, of Kerrville, will be installed as chairman of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute as well as the Criminal Defense Project.

The Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course is named for the late Judge M.P. “Rusty” Duncan of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Vick: Attorney volunteers needed at the border

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 09:47

Tom Vick

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

I am writing with a quick update on the recent events occurring on our southern border. Although the Trump administration signed an executive order to end family separations, the need for volunteer attorneys remains strong—particularly Spanish-speaking immigration lawyers.

Whenever we have had manmade or natural disasters in this state, Texas lawyers have risen to the occasion to help those who cannot help themselves. I have found the only impediment is not knowing how to help. Below are resources for you to get involved and make a difference.

On Monday, the Austin Bar Association will offer training on how to help families separated at the border. The in-person CLE session titled Responding to Zero-Tolerance: Credible Fear and Immigration Bond Hearing Training is sold out, but the Austin Bar will live-stream the training on Periscope for all who wish to watch and learn more. For more details on how to download Periscope and watch, click here.

The South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR)—a joint project of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, and the American Immigration Lawyers Association—is requesting volunteers who are fluent in Spanish and have some background in immigration law. For more information, go here.

Catholic Charities is seeking attorneys able to provide direct representation for children’s immigration cases and is also accepting donations including books, toys, supplies, and other items, for detained children. To express a desire to provide representation, email probono@catholiccharities.org.

American Gateways has reported that it could use attorneys immediately to help with limited representation for Credible Fear Interviews and Reasonable Fear Interviews, and help preparing for bond hearings. You can sign up to volunteer here.

This news story contains a list of legal and humanitarian organizations that are mobilizing to help immigrant children and families. And the Houston Immigration Legal Services Collaborative has this page on how to help. Many of the organizations listed on both of these pages are seeking volunteers or donations.

Assuring equal access to justice and supporting the administration of the legal system are essential parts of our State Bar’s mission. We will continue to identify and provide resources to lawyers and the public to aid in responding to this situation.


Tom Vick 
President, State Bar of Texas

Vick: State Bar board hires firm for transparency review, elects general counsel

Thu, 06/21/2018 - 09:31

Tom Vick

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

I am writing to update you on yesterday’s State Bar of Texas Board of Directors meeting in Houston that precedes our 2018 Annual Meeting. We have two days of informative CLE sessions starting today. Learn more at texasbar.com/annualmeeting.

Transparency efforts

The Board of Directors voted unanimously to approve hiring an independent advisory firm, Weaver, to complete an examination of the State Bar’s transparency efforts and to make recommendations for improvement.The findings will be reported to the board and shared publicly.

The board voted unanimously in April to request proposals from qualified firms to conduct a thorough, independent review of transparency at the bar. The Audit and Finance Committee recommended Weaver to the board out of four responses to the RFP.

This is the latest in a series of transparency improvements at the State Bar in recent months, including the launch of the Our Finances webpage and the videotaping of board meetings, which can be found here. Video from yesterday’s meeting will be posted by next week. 

President-elect task forces

The board accepted reports and recommendations from President-elect Joe K. Longley’s Transparency Task Force and Financial Responsibility & Fiscal Control Task Force and voted to allow the terms of the task forces to expire on Friday along with the term of the president-elect, as our policy provides. We thank the members of both task forces for their service to the bar. We will fully consider their recommendations.

You can read the task force reports here.

General counsel election

The board voted unanimously to elect Ross Fischer of Austin as general counsel to the board, under the terms laid out here.

The board voted in January to approve the hiring of a general counsel, a statutory position under the State Bar Act. The General Counsel Search Committee interviewed six Texas lawyers out of 12 respondents for the position before recommending Fischer to the board in May.

Fischer is an attorney with the Gober Group who specializes in legislative and campaign law, professional ethics, and government integrity matters. His clients include elected officials, candidates, trade associations, political committees, local governments, municipalities, and corporations. A graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, Fischer is regularly called upon to advise public entities on matters involving legislative law, public integrity, and campaign and election procedures. The board looks forward to working with him.

Leadership changes

Randy Sorrels and Laura Gibson, both of Houston, will be sworn in today as president-elect and board chair, respectively. President-elect Longley will be sworn in as 2018-2019 president of the State Bar on Friday.

It has been my absolute honor to serve you as president over the past year.

Tom Vick 
President, State Bar of Texas

State Bar of Texas board elects Ross Fischer as general counsel

Wed, 06/20/2018 - 18:06


The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors voted unanimously Wednesday to elect Ross Fischer of Austin as general counsel to the board.

Fischer is an attorney with the Gober Group who specializes in legislative and campaign law, professional ethics, and government integrity matters. His clients include elected officials, candidates, trade associations, political committees, local governments, municipalities, and corporations.

Click here to read the full news release.

Austin Bar Association offers training on how to help families separated at the border

Tue, 06/19/2018 - 14:52

The Austin Bar Association is hosting a training for attorneys who want to help families separated upon entering the United States.

The training, titled Responding to Zero-Tolerance: Credible Fear and Immigration Bond Hearing Training, will be held from 1:30-3:30 p.m. Monday, June 25 at the Austin Bar office. The in-person training is sold out, has more than 100 attorneys already signed up and a growing waitlist, said Nancy Gray, director of communications for the Austin Bar.

Due to the enormous demand, the course will be live streamed on Periscope. If you would like to watch remotely, prepare by downloading Periscope to your mobile device, creating a Periscope account, and following the Austin Bar at @austinbarassociation.

Click here for instructions on how to sign up for Periscope. The training will also be videotaped and available at austinbar.org after the training has been completed.

The training will be taught by University of Texas School of Law immigration clinic professors Barbara Hines, Denise Gilman, and Elissa Steglich.

TCLE previews new subscription-based CLE program at Annual Meeting

Mon, 06/18/2018 - 10:29

Texas Center for Legal Ethics announced its plans for State Bar of Texas 2018 Annual Meeting where attendees can earn CLE and preview the center’s newest ethics CLE subscription-based program launching later this Fall.

The subscription program aims to provide new and current TCLE members with an intuitive online resource to access continuing education courses on-demand, as well as TCLE’s vast library of ethics and professionalism resources. The center will preview the program during Annual Meeting exhibition hours at Booth 107.

To read the full news release, go here.

Annual Meeting attendees also can earn one hour of ethics CLE credit during TCLE’s popular morning break-out session on Thursday titled, “Your Brain on Ethics: How That Thing Between Your Ears Can Lead You Astray.” To learn more about Annual meeting and registering, go here.


State Bar board to meet June 20-21 in Houston

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 10:53

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors will meet June 20-21 in Houston.

The meetings will take place at the Marriott Marquis, 1777 Walker St. Members of the public are welcome to attend.

Click here to view the agendas and other meeting materials.

State Bar of Texas’ Jury Service Committee seeks juror feedback

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 08:52

The State Bar of Texas’ Jury Service Committee is seeking feedback from people summoned to jury duty about their experiences.

The committee has created an online survey designed to elicit a more thorough understanding of the juror experience regardless of court or county or whether or not the individual ended up serving on a jury. The committee hopes the information collected will result in recommendations to improve the jury service system where possible.

The survey can be found at texasbar.com/jurysurvey.

The State Bar of Texas Jury Service Committee concerns itself with improving the manner in which jurors are treated within the judicial process and developing and implementing programs to ensure broad citizen participation and support for the jury service system.

Automotive savings

Fri, 06/15/2018 - 08:00

Your Member Benefit Program has savings on all things automotive: tires, loans, car sales and more. You’ll find offers on nearly any car brand, model or style. Check out the Automotive and Sports & Outdoors pages for more info.

  • Toyota H-Plan — The Toyota Employee Purchase Program, administered by Fred Haas Toyota Country (FHTC), gives you a good value when you purchase or lease a new Toyota. The Employee Purchase Program provides the extra incentive to get in that car, truck, van or SUV you’ve always wanted.
  • myAutoloan.com myAutoloan.com is your premier online auto finance and refinance marketplace. You’ll receive up to four loan offers within two minutes.
  • Avis Car Sales When you purchase a well-maintained, late-model pre-owned car, you’ll save $750. Shop thousands of cars, trucks, SUVs and vans.
  • TrueCar — Summer sales are here. Buyers save an average of $3,221 on MSRP with the TrueCar Employee Purchase Program.
  • Volvo A-Plan — The Volvo A-Plan program provides you with the same attractive pricing Volvo employees enjoy. Purchase prices are 6% below MSRP and equate to the vehicle’s invoice price.
  • TireBuyer.comTireBuyer.com provides the fastest, easiest way to buy tires. State Bar of Texas members save 10% on any set of four tires or rims.
  • StioOffering everything from technical ski outerwear, responsibly sourced down jackets and synthetic insulators to merino wool sweaters, jeans and custom-design tees, Stio has something for everyone. You can save 15% on all Stio apparel.

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

Vick: Supreme Court approves changes to State Bar election process

Thu, 06/14/2018 - 16:02

Tom Vick

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

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court of Texas amended Article IV of the State Bar Rules to implement changes to the bar’s election process designed to ensure fairness and a level playing field among all candidates.

The rules changes, which were approved by the State Bar Board of Directors in January, update election procedures for president-elect and district directors and define a six-month period when candidates who are seeking election by petition may collect signatures. The amended rules also require the State Bar board to nominate president-elect candidates in September, instead of the following January as traditionally has been done. Taken together, these changes ensure the campaign periods are equivalent for president-elect candidates whether they are nominated by the board or certified through petition.

As a result of these changes, petition candidates may begin collecting signatures September 1 of each year. The Nominations and Elections Subcommittee will interview candidates who wish to seek election through the board’s nomination process in August of each year, and the full board will vote on the nominees at its September meeting.

In January, the board also approved sweeping changes to its policy manual that relaxed or removed many campaign guidelines to ensure that director and president-elect candidates are able to freely present their views of and visions for the bar.

Click here to read the full Supreme Court order and new text of Article IV.

If you are interested in more information on how to run for president-elect or district director, please click here.


Tom Vick 
President, State Bar of Texas

Sponsored Content: 8 Legal Tech Tips for Law Office Administrators

Tue, 06/12/2018 - 23:01

It’s no secret that office administrators at law firms wear many different hats. One responsibility that often does not receive the attention it deserves (at least not until there’s an emergency) is managing technology effectively at one’s law office.

Below are eight technology tips for law office administrators, shared by an ex-office administrator who has since joined our team at GlobalMac IT. These tips came from a discussion centered around this question: “If you were speaking to a new office administrator, and giving them tips about technology, what are the things you knew when you left that you wished you had known when you started?”

1. Clarify asks for new technology

It’s common for someone at a firm to get excited about how the latest whiz-bang app or gadget is going fix everything. They’ll likely ask to get it moving forward ASAP, but these quick-fire solutions can lead to multiple issues: The technology may not be properly tested ahead of time, or features of the new tech may already exist within solutions the firm currently uses, which can cause confusion. A shiny new solution may seem great, but it may not be the best option for your firm.

I recommend having a set of questions for every idea that comes in to clarify what’s being asked for and ensure the solution chosen will be a good fit:

  • Purpose: What do you want to accomplish?
  • Importance: What’s the biggest difference this new solution will make?
  • Ideal Outcome: What does the completed project look like?
  • Success Criteria: What has to be true when this project is finished?

Taking the time to define these will go a long way in capturing what is expected and why.

2. Be intentional with trial periods

These days, trial periods for new technology are rarely leveraged properly. It is not uncommon for some law firm IT managers to skip the trial period for new software and jump right in, figuring things out along the way.

However, this approach often reduces the chances that new technology will succeed at your law firm.

If you’ve asked the right questions to clarify what’s being asked of a new tech solution, you’ve already determined what you are looking to get out of a new solution, i.e., your success criteria.

Before you even sign up for a trial, you need to create a list of success criteria so you can quickly and intentionally look for what you need. If you sign up for a trial and aimlessly poke around the software, you may see things you like, but you may also forget to check for some of the most important items needed.

Another tip when it comes to trials is to ask for extensions when necessary. As a law firm office administrator, your schedule can change quickly, and you may not have as much time for a software trial as you originally thought.

If you signed up for a 14 day trial only to have the next two weeks dedicated to another, more critical project, don’t hesitate to email the vendor you’re considering, explain your situation, and request an extension. While not all vendors will accommodate you, many will, especially with an explanation.

Tip: Some vendors offer personalized demonstrations, making it even easier to evaluate new tech solutions despite your busy schedule. For example, you can schedule a free demo of Clio, and get your questions answered quickly and efficiently.

See the full list of tips here.



Enjoy lunch, earn 3 CLE hours at Paralegal Division Annual Meeting

Fri, 06/08/2018 - 11:18

Come out to the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division Annual Meeting on Friday, June 22 from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Austin Marriott South.

Participants can earn three hours of CLE credit. Register for $65. On-site registration is not available. Lunch is included.

The keynote speaker is Thomas Palladino, executive director of the Texas Veterans Commission. Other speakers include Robert Sumners and Sara Wagner from the Texas Secretary of State’s Office, Susan Haney from The Haney Law Firm, and Sgt. Major Stephen A. Pickerin II from the JAG Office at Fort Hood.

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

Register today!

Texas Bar Journal must-reads for June

Thu, 06/07/2018 - 08:00

Can’t wait for the June issue of the Texas Bar Journal to arrive? The TBJ editorial staff has you covered. Check out our top picks: Q&As with the State Bar’s and TYLA’s new presidents, information on digital privacy matters, and winners from the bar’s short story contest. Don’t forget to catch up on Movers and Shakers, Memorials, and Disciplinary Actions.

The Good Fight
State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley on eradicating injustice.
Interview by Patricia Busa McConnico

Life Lessons
How a court battle between parents sprung the Texas Young Lawyers Association president into family law practice.
Interview by Eric Quitugua

The Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest 2018
A look at the winning stories penned by attorney-authors.

Privacy Matters
Is accessing a spouse’s cellphone without consent against the law?
By Pierre Grosdidier

L. Wayne Scott named 2018 Gene Cavin Award winner

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 12:00

Professor L. Wayne Scott, of San Antonio, is the winner of the 2018 Gene Cavin Award for Excellence in CLE. Scott will be presented the award at the Advanced Civil Appellate Practice Course in September in Austin.

L. Wayne Scott

Scott is a professor of law and director of alternate dispute resolution studies at St. Mary’s University School of Law.

Nominations for the award are solicited from the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, CLE Committee members, and past award recipients. The award was established by the CLE Committee in 1989 and recognizes long-term participation in State Bar CLE activities.

The award is named for Gene Cavin, the founder of the Professional Development Program, who during his service from 1964 to 1987, brought the program to international prominence.

Privacy Matters

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 12:00

Pierre Grosdidier on whether accessing a spouse’s cellphone without consent is against the law.

Legal Mapmaker™ seminar gives young lawyers a step-by-step guide to establish a law firm

Wed, 06/06/2018 - 10:00

Legal Mapmaker, which is sponsored by Baylor Law School in collaboration with other law schools and the State Bar of Texas, aims to equip new lawyers with the tools to start practices that provide legal services to the public efficiently and affordably.

This year’s seminar, a two-part program that gives young lawyers a step-by-step guide on how to design an efficient and profitable law firm, will be held on August 15-17 at South University Law Center of Baylor Law School.

The first part of the seminar is a curated library of materials to help walk young lawyers through the steps of starting a new law firm. The second part, in August, will feature over 25 experts, 19 sessions, workshops, and individual coaching on building business, marketing, technology, and website plans. Some of the programming includes sessions on:

• Building a powerful network
• Alternative fee arrangements
• Marketing
• Bar & Community involvement
• How to find meaningful coaching

One-on-one coaching sessions with experts will be held on topics including business planning, legal technology, marketing, and website developments. Spots are limited to in-person attendees.

In addition to guiding young lawyers on starting a new law firm, the seminar can also help young lawyers find ways to distinguish themselves professionally at small firms by learning skills like business planning, marketing, technology, and cybersecurity.

An estimated 15-17 hours of CLE credit, including three hours of ethics credit, is anticipated for the seminar. An application for accreditation of this activity has ben submitted to the MCLE committee of the State Bar of Texas and is pending.

This year the Legal Mapmaker will also be offered by live stream. Those wishing to attend in person or by live stream can RSVP at legalmapmaker.com. RSVP before July 15 to take advantage of the $230 Entrepreneur & Community Leadership Scholarship (bringing the cost of attendance down to $20).

Austin Bar Association names new president

Tue, 06/05/2018 - 16:00

Adam T. Schramek, a litigation partner in the Austin office of Norton Rose Fulbright, is the new president of the Austin Bar Association. He took office on June 1.

Adam Schramek

Since 2013, Schramek served as a member of the Austin Bar Association Board of Directors. He also previously served as president of the Austin Young Lawyers Association and is a fellow of the Austin Bar Foundation.

As president, Schramek will work to increase participation by Austin lawyers in pro bono projects, such as Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, or TLTV, which provides pro bono civil legal assistance to veterans and their families who otherwise could not afford legal services.

“Attorneys are the only people who can go to the courthouse to represent the legal needs of the poor and disadvantaged,” Schramek said in a press release. “Austin lawyers can do more, and we should each strive to meet the State Bar’s goal of at least 50 hours of pro bono service each yet.”

For more information about the Austin Bar Association, go to austinbar.org.