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News on the Lawyers and Legal Professionals of Texas
Updated: 2 days 8 hours ago

State Bar of Texas and TRLA promote disaster legal hotline for people affected by Valley flooding

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 13:28

The State Bar of Texas and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) remind residents that free legal resources are available to low-income individuals struggling to recover from a disaster such as recent flooding that has affected Aransas, Cameron, Hidalgo, Nueces, San Patricio and Willacy counties.

TRLA operates a toll-free disaster legal hotline — (866) 757-1570 — that can help with issues such as replacing lost documents, answering insurance questions, helping with landlord-tenant problems, and addressing scam or consumer protection concerns. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with lawyers who can provide free, limited legal help.

Read the full news release here.

TCDLA hosts Declaration of Independence readings

Fri, 06/29/2018 - 09:00

The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, or TCDLA, will host readings of the Declaration of Independence across the state in recognition of the Fourth of July.

The readings, which will take place in over 100 Texas counties on July 3, have been sponsored by TCDLA for several years. Some of the gatherings will also include a reading of the Bill of the Rights.

“This is an opportunity for every Texas community—large and small—to stand and support the documents that make us what we are: free and brave Americans. I hope people will show up at their local courthouses to witness this very patriotic annual events,” said TCDLA President Mark Snodgrass in a press release.

Most of the readings are scheduled for 9 a.m. July 3. For a full list of readings and more information, go to the TCDLA website.

State Bar President Joe Longley offers update from the border

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 16:24

Joe K. Longley

Editor’s note: State Bar of Texas President Joe K. Longley sent the following message to members on Thursday. 

This week I traveled to the border to learn how we can promote access to justice and the rule of law related to the separation of immigrant families. I met with a number of dedicated attorneys and organizations that are working long hours and pouring all of their energies into ensuring that children and parents are reunited and that legal rights are protected through due process of law.

I’m saddened to report that many children are still separated from their parents.

Attorneys who visited an adult detention facility recounted women sobbing immediately upon being asked whether their children had been taken away. Others described struggling to explain legal rights to detained children whose sole desire was to be back with their parents. These accounts are from pro bono and legal aid attorneys who are accustomed to working with clients in difficult situations; they said the sorrow they witnessed at these facilities was on a wholly different level.

Your State Bar of Texas exists, in part, to aid the courts in carrying on and improving the administration of justice and to advance the quality of legal services to the public. In that spirit, the State Bar is compiling a list of volunteer trainings and opportunities at texasbar.com/volunteer for those who would like to get involved in reuniting children with their parents.

By far, the greatest need is for Spanish-speaking immigration attorneys to volunteer their time at the border. Many organizations are also seeking monetary donations. The State Bar will continually update the volunteer webpage as resources and information develop.

In my presidential inaugural address last Friday in Houston, I said we are uniquely equipped to address the problems vexing our nation—including the current family separation crisis. This is not about politics. It’s about access to justice. The people involved in this crisis may not be citizens, but they are still entitled to due process in a land that values the rule of law.

Sincerely,

Joe K. Longley 
President, State Bar of Texas

A Lawyer’s Story

Thu, 06/28/2018 - 13:19

Death, drugs, and depression have gained gradual attention within the legal profession. Only a decade or two ago, few would even expel a whisper concerning these issues. But news organizations and films increase needed attention by providing a glimpse into a world most do not understand.

In The New York Times last summer (July 15, 2017), Eilene Zimmerman crafted a sensitive account with incisive current research of the hidden rise of drug abuse and depression in the legal profession. She told the compelling story that concluded in the overdose death of her former husband, a lawyer in a big-city practice.

Living in a constant state of stress, “[he] obsessed about the competition, about his compensation, about the clients, their demands and his fear of losing them … [and he] hated the combative nature of the profession,” in which, “you are financially rewarded for being hostile.” Through his career, he often said, “I can’t do this forever.”

After being the one to find his body, she extensively researched the relevant issues, citing reports that “lawyers also have the highest rate of depression of any occupational group in the country” and that law students shift focus to status and competition and that they shed their idealism away from “helping and community-oriented values to extrinsic, rewards-based values.”

Issued just months after her former husband’s overdose, a study by the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation and the American Bar Association Commission on Lawyer Assistance Programs noted that nearly 75 percent of responding attorneys skipped the questions on drug use. The lead researcher opined they were afraid to answer. That study, released in 2016, further found that 28 percent of lawyers suffer depression.

Conducting this research to heal her children’s broken hearts, Zimmerman concluded from her analysis, “I firmly believe that law-firm culture, particularly at big firms, has to become more compassionate and more aware of the signs that one of their own is struggling.” But she also recognized how this is “complicated by an entrenched culture of privacy combined with an allegiance to billable hours.” Cleaning out her former husband’s personal effects, Zimmerman found his list of final New Year’s resolutions, written just months before his death, with the word “quit” printed in red ink.

In a recent New York Law Journal (March 28, 2018), Joseph Milowic III lays bare his own personal bouts of depression as a partner in one of the largest national firms, bravely admitting openly what few only whisper. Milowic sensed his “lack of energy and motivation only seemed to get worse … [and felt] consumed by an endless loop of anxiety and negativity … [L]osing interest in everything. I questioned the purpose of my work and even life. What was the point of it all? Why spend so many hours working at a job that seems so pointless?”

Though lost, he found help … and then “meaning in things again.”

These media reports paint a grim picture from lived experience across the nation. The big screen has also portrayed the legal profession through various characters.

In one such portrayal, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Denzel Washington breathes life into his lawyer character as a socially awkward legal savant. From beginning to end, Israel struggles with his ideals of the nobility of law to achieve a just world and the frustrations of making a decent living. Nearly broken by that confrontation, Israel laments he’s “tired of doing the impossible for the ungrateful.” After about 30 years in this small practice, Israel loses everything: his senior partner dies, his law firm shutters, his job disappears, his tenuous financial security evaporates, and his fight for human rights and justice collapses—worst of all his belief in humanity falters and his whole purpose for living now seems a lie.

Sound familiar? In the film, Israel—under duress—takes a wrong turn to “get mine” for materialistic pursuits. But soon he is overcome with guilt and seeks to make things right, becoming the sacrificial lamb, atoning for his transgressions, even unto death.
These stories—fictional and real—share a kind of commonality wrought by the law profession, exposing the malaise among many lawyers. Great legal minds solve problems for clients every day, and it’s time to turn that immense talent toward the more difficult problem seemingly inherent within the legal profession. These same stories—and studies and statistics easily found during research—confirm a widespread dilemma, thus no one need feel alone. Brain drain, broken dreams, lost love, and shattered lives needn’t be normalized or perpetuated.

When this is recognized, we can turn for help. For ourselves or our colleagues, we may start by reaching out to the Lawyers’ Assistance Programs of the state bars. Click here to see a list of LAP programs across the country. The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, or TLAP, provides confidential assistance 24/7 at (800) 343-8527 (TLAP). For more information, go to tlaphelps.org.

Van VanBebber is an attorney, CPA, and writer on cultural trends, professional ethics, and cross-functional thinkers, with a forthcoming book on related issues.

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.

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