Way Up Yonder

H.P. “Mike” Berkley, 65, is a solo practitioner outside Forestburg, a community near the Texas-Oklahoma border with a population of about 250. He went to Southern Methodist University School of Law and practiced in Dallas until moving to the country about 25 years ago. Berkley talks about marrying the town vet, being a content attorney in the middle of nowhere, and shooting turtles and tending cattle.

This is the first installment in a series of blogs on the lives and careers of small-town lawyers. For more, go to texasbar.com/smalltown.

I was born and raised as a Dallas kid. Probably when I was in my mid-30s, I got a wild hair and bought some land in the country—a couple hundred acres—and didn’t know what to do with it. Then I started realizing that there was legal work to do out here.


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New scam targeting attorneys

We have received a report of a scam from an attorney who received a request for assistance. She spoke on the phone to the proposed client, who asked that a buyer send the firm a 15 percent deposit from a purchase price to use as a retainer, that the firm bill their fees against it, and return the remainder to the client. Upon further searching, the attorney uncovered a scam.

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Texans prominent at ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston









The American Bar Association’s 2015 Midyear Meeting came to Houston this month, and it wasn’t hard to find Texans in prominent roles.

Texans were speakers and award recipients during the concurrent meetings of the ABA and several related groups, including the National Association of Bar Executives, the National Conference of Bar Presidents, and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

State Bar of Texas President Trey Apffel helped open the bar presidents’ conference by welcoming the leaders to Houston and explaining the city’s nicknames, including Space City, Bayou City, and H-Town.

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UT Tyler to host Texas Supreme Court on Thursday

The Supreme Court of Texas will hear two cases in Tyler on Feb. 26. Oral arguments for JLG Trucking, LLC v. Lauren R. Garza and The Boeing Company and the Greater Kelly Development Authority N/K/A the Port of San Antonio v. Ken Paxton, Attorney General of Texas are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. in the University Center theater on the University of Texas at Tyler campus.

Middle school, high school, and university students, along with UT Tyler faculty and county bar members, are expected to attend. Following the arguments, Bryan A. Garner, a renowned legal lexicographer and a research professor of law at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, will moderate a panel with the judges.

The court has heard arguments on the road since 1998, when voters approved an amendment to allow it to sit outside of Austin. Thursday’s event will be live streamed at texasbarcle.com/CLE/TSC.asp.

Conference challenges bar associations to R.I.S.E.

The National Association of Bar Executives held its 2015 Midyear Meeting in Houston this month, as did several related groups, including the American Bar Association, the National Conference of Bar Presidents, and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

The NABE conference focused on the bar as a business, a theme that was first presented at the group’s annual meeting in Boston. Attendees were challenged to “R.I.S.E., which stands for Reach, Improve, Serve, and Engage.”

Takeaways from some of the sessions are listed below.

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What's Wrong With the Pursuit of Happiness?

By Michael Winters


Part 1: All emotions are needed to be whole.

Since Thomas Jefferson penned the Declaration of Independence, the words “the pursuit of happiness” have served as a motto for this nation. Essential to our culture is the belief that there is a fundamental urge—indeed, a right—to seek happiness. The field of psychology, however, had been largely silent on how to achieve happiness until about the year 2000. Since the turn of the millennium, there has been an explosion in research on happiness.

This torrent of research was in response to the overwhelming amount of research focused on anxiety, depression, and other forms of mental illness. Coined “The Positive Psychology Movement,” positive psychologists set out to understand and promote happiness rather than focus on ways to identify, manage, or avoid suffering and melancholy.


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Program focuses on civility in law, legislative issues










Members of the Hispanic Issues Section of the State Bar of Texas and the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas met Feb. 24 in Austin for a day of CLE.

In addition to talks on wills and estates, the current business landscape, and civility in the practice of law, attendees heard legislative updates and perspectives from state leaders.

Texas Sen. José Rodríguez, D-El Paso, and Reps. Roberto Alonzo, D-Dallas, R.D. “Bobby” Guerra, D-Mission, Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, Armando “Mando” Martinez, D-Weslaco, Alfonso “Poncho” Nevárez, D-Eagle Pass, and Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston, all spoke as part of the MABA-TX Legislative Day program.

Pictured: Texas Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, speaks as part of the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Legislative Day in Austin.



Mindfulness matters in law school

By Katerina P. Lewinbuk

Just as I finished answering a student’s question, another hand went up. When I gave that person the floor, he asked the exact same question I just answered. Some of his classmates giggled while others rolled their eyes. The student, however, gave me a surprised look, observed the class’s reaction, and then whispered, “What?” I tried to suppress my frustration, but part of me really resented his presence “in body only” and his lack of desire to pay attention.

Or was it a lack of ability to stay focused?

I went on with my day and never thought about the student again until I was in my car driving home. In my head, I engaged in a conversation with him, venting about how I take my teaching seriously and the least he could do was to follow along and pay attention. My internal dialog, which felt so real, escalated as the topic changed to faculty meetings and how our law school should approach new American Bar Association directives. The next thing I knew, I was standing in front of my house trying to open the door with my office key. What route did I take home?


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Texas Board of Legal Specialization welcomes 209 attorneys

Applause was in the air this afternoon as the Texas Board of Legal Specialization recognized 209 attorneys and 34 paralegals as certified in their respective specialty areas during an induction ceremony at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. To earn the distinction, applicants passed a comprehensive exam and met additional requirements including CLE courses and reference checks.

“It’s really a recognition by peers of someone’s capability in an area of law,” said Gary McNeil, TBLS executive director.

During the event, Buck Files, a past president of the State Bar of Texas who has been certified in criminal law since 1975, addressed the inductees and shared insight from his years of legal practice. TBLS also recognized David Schulman, certified in criminal law since 1991 and criminal appellate law since 2011, with the Tom Garner Distinguished Service Award. Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson administered an oath to the inductees.

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization was established by the State Bar of Texas and operates under the continuing jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Texas.

McNeil noted that the growth of the organization—which started in 1974 as a pilot program with three areas of expertise—reflects the increase of specialized law over time. “It used to be [people] could do a general practice; now most people really concentrate a practice in one or two specialty areas.”

TBLS offers certification in 21 areas for lawyers and seven areas for paralegals. Attorneys interested in becoming certified by the Texas Board of Legal Certification should go to tbls.org. Applications for the 2015 exam, which will take place in October, are available through March 31.



Hackathon will focus on legal access

Can an app help the vulnerable and powerless gain access to justice? During this weekend’s Tech for Justice Hackathon+, attorneys, law students, programmers, and concerned stakeholders will gather in Austin to develop technology that could serve those in need of legal services.

On Feb. 21-22, Hackathon+ participants will focus on two problem sets—one addressing co-parenting conflicts and one focusing on the needs of courts as they monitor the estates of people under guardianships—and work together to produce proof of concepts and prototypes that tackle the issues at hand. At the end of the event, a winning team will take home $1,000. All will be encouraged to continue to develop their ideas through mentoring, data sharing, and partnerships.

According to event coordinator Hannah Hubbard, the idea of Hackathon+ started from a Texas Legal Services Center conversation about developing apps that would assist parents who are going through divorce and child custody. Shared parenting and guardianship issues were selected as a focus because the two areas create some of the most case backlogs. The hackathon has partners from several legal and judicial institutions, including the Texas Judicial Council, Legal Services Corporation, and the Supreme Court of Texas. Chief Justice Nathan L. Hecht will deliver the event’s opening remarks.

“If we can develop ways to help these processes run more smoothly, it will be of benefit to both the court system and those dealing with these issues,” Hubbard said.

There is no cost to participate in Tech for Justice Hackathon+, which will be held at Captial Factory, 701 Brazos St., Austin 78701. To sign up and learn more, go to techforjustice.org.