Houston Bar to celebrate Law Day with extended LegalLine hours, community service programs

The Houston Bar Association announced Wednesday it will offer extended hours for its free legal advice program, LegalLine, and sponsor public education programs in honor of Law Day, a national holiday recognizing the rule of law. 

The extended LegalLine program will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 7. The public can call the Houston Bar Association at 713-759-1133, where volunteer attorneys will answer simple legal questions, give brief legal advice, or refer the caller to the appropriate social service or legal aid agency for further assistance.

This year’s Law Day theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. The association’s other Law Day-related programs are listed below.

  • From late April through early May, attorneys and judges will read the book Amelia Bedelia’s First Vote to elementary students in 100 classrooms throughout school districts and private schools in Harris County. For participating schools, contact Tara Shockley at 713-759-1133 or taras@hba.org.
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Sixth Annual Atticus Finch Day scheduled for May 2 in Bryan

What is so special about Atticus Finch? He’s a fictional man who existed as little more than a figment of author Harper Lee’s imagination (unless you count actor Gregory Peck, who played Finch in the 1962 film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird). Yet, Finch has a strong hold on numerous attorneys around Texas and the United States. His compassion, composure, and honor are forever present in the minds of readers, especially those lawyers who share Finch’s profession and have been deeply inspired by his character in and out of the courtroom.

With many having such noble aspirations, and such a perfect role model in Finch, it is at times surprising that lawyers have a bad reputation among some of the public. According to Shane Phelps, a criminal defense attorney in Bryan, Brazos County’s legal community was once “fractured and divided” and the subject of “considerable public contempt and ridicule.” “Scandals, personal animosities, and political rivalries made the courthouse a pretty unpleasant place to be,” said Phelps. “Lost in all of this was the important work that attorneys should be concentrating on.”

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Dallas Bar to honor local judiciary at Law Day Luncheon

Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will speak to nearly 250 Dallas-area judges and lawyers as the Dallas Bar Association celebrates Law Day, the association announced Tuesday. 

The keynote address will be part of the association’s annual Law Day Luncheon at noon May 2 at the Pavilion at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave., in downtown Dallas. Also during the luncheon, students from the Dallas Independent School District who won Law Day essay and art contests will receive their awards.

The luncheon is open to the public, but RSVPs and advance payment are required. Tickets are $40 per person, or $400 per table, and can be purchased online at www.dallasbar.org or by contacting Mary Ellen Johnson at mjohnson@dallasbar.org or 214-220-7474.

 

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Texarkana YLA to distribute legal handbooks to students on Law Day

The Texarkana Young Lawyers Association will celebrate Law Day on May 1 by going into schools and providing copies of “The Legal Handbook for Young Texans” to high school senior classes.

The association developed the free, comprehensive guide to address legal issues commonly faced by young adults. You can download the guide by following this link

President Dwight D. Eisenhower established Law Day in 1958 to challenge Americans to understand how the rule of law impacts their lives and to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to participate in a democracy.

Click here to learn about 2014 Law Day contests in Texas.

Stories of Recovery: How I made it

Editor’s note: This is the fourth story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program "Stories of Recovery" series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they have overcome mental health or substance abuse problems. The State Bar's TLAP program offers confidential assistance for lawyers, law students, and judges with substance abuse or mental health issues. Call us at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at texasbar.com/TLAP.

Even as a kid I identified with that cartoon character who walked around with a little black cloud over his head. I was depressed and life was depressing. So much so that I clearly needed help—and was lucky enough to be sent for counseling early in my life.

I learned that it was not my life circumstances, but my ability to cope with life. And that I had to take responsibility for dealing with the depression. So, I have for most of my life since I was in college had a counselor, a paid counselor. You can’t talk about this stuff just to friends. They’re not equipped. Every counselor has been wise—a reality check—and loving.

 

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Random Profile - Houston, Fred Shuchart

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Best thing about being a lawyer: No two days are ever alike.

Most important career lesson: An attorney is only as good as his or her support staff.

If I had more time, I would: spend it with my family.

A little known fact: I asked my wife to marry me on our second date.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? My wife, so I would know what it is really like to have to live with me.

Favorite saying/quote: “it is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than speak and remove all doubt.”

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Commentary: Battling substance abuse for everyone

By Kristy Blanchard

Editor's note: This column originally appeared in The McAllen Monitor. Read the original version here

As a family law attorney, my work too often involves cases in which people’s lives are disrupted and even destroyed by substance abuse. As the president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, an arm of the State Bar of Texas, I want to do all I can to avert young people from this preventable fate. 

This month, TYLA launched a new multimedia project that we believe will make a difference by educating young people about the dangers and real-life consequences of substance abuse. Through BSAFE: Battling Substance Abuse For Everyone, we hope to provide resources to people struggling with addiction while educating the public about substance abuse and the benefits of drug courts that rehabilitate offenders.

Sadly, statistics show the need for this project. Four out of five juvenile arrestees are either under the influence of drugs or alcohol while committing their crimes, test positive for drugs, are arrested for committing an alcohol or drug offense, admit to having substance abuse problems, or share some combination of these characteristics, according to the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.
 

 

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Dallas lawyer, TBJ board member wins legal writing award

Dallas attorney John G. Browning has received a 2014 Burton Award for Distinguished Achievement in Legal Writing, his law firm announced. 

Browning, a partner in Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, received the award for “Keep Your ‘Friends’ Close and Your Enemies Closer: Walking the Ethical Tightrope in the Use of Social Media,” published in the St. Mary’s Journal of Legal Malpractice & Ethics in 2013. The article was one of five law review pieces Browning published last year.

This is the fourth Burton Award for Browning, who is a member of the Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors.

“I’m pleased that the judging panel chose to recognize a cutting-edge topic like the ethical concerns lawyers must be mindful of when using newer technologies like social media,” he said. “And I’m just amazed and humbled at the thought of receiving this wonderful accolade for the fourth time.”

 

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Care Campaign update: Attorneys can earn Care Commitment badge for pro bono work

The State Bar of Texas has launched the “Care Campaign” to help lawyers make pro bono an integral part of their legal practice. Lawyers who perform a certain amount of pro bono can now earn the Care Commitment badge, which will appear by their name on the popular Find a Lawyer page of the State Bar website.

The Campaign is intended to encourage lawyers to perform a base level of pro bono and inspire them to strive toward the State Bar’s aspirational goal of performing at least 50 hours of legal services to the poor each year.

Join your colleagues and make your Care Commitment today by visiting the My Pro Bono tab on your My Bar Page. You’ll be glad you did!

 

Deadline extended for attorney income, hourly rates survey

The deadline to take the 2013 Texas Attorney Survey has been extended to 5 p.m. Friday, April 18.

By participating, Texas attorneys can help ensure they have the most current economic information available. Also, participants will be entered in a drawing to win one of two new iPad Airs.

Reports generated from the survey provide statewide and regional information on current economic trends. The reports feature detailed breakdowns of income and hourly rates by firm size, years of experience, practice area, occupation, race/ethnicity, sex, and metropolitan area.

The survey also includes questions regarding pro bono. This data will be used to highlight how Texas attorneys are doing their part to help low-income residents.

The survey is anonymous, and the process is secure. Email addresses will be used for the iPad Air drawing and will then be deleted and not associated with attorneys’ responses.

 

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