Judge Eric Shepperd starts term as Austin Bar Association president

Judge Eric M. Shepperd began his term as president of the Austin Bar Association today. During his one-year tenure, he will focus on raising the public’s awareness of legal services and highlighting the ways in which Austin’s legal community works to provide services to those in need.

Before serving in his current position as judge of Travis County Court at Law No. 2, Shepperd was the director of civil litigation for the Travis County Attorney’s Office and assistant attorney general for the Law Enforcement Defense Division.

Shepperd is active in service to the legal profession and the Austin community. He is a lecturer for the University of Texas Law School’s Trial Advocacy Program, a board member of the Texas Center for the Judiciary, and a board member and past chair of Leadership Austin, among other activities. Shepperd holds a B.A. in business from Andrews University and a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law.

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HBA expands veterans clinic

Each Friday, the Houston Bar Association’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers provide free legal advice in all areas of civil law to veterans and spouses of deceased veterans at the Michael DeBakey VA Medical Center. Thanks to a grant from the Texas Bar Foundation, beginning in July, the clinic’s operating hours will expand to 1 to 5 p.m. The funding will also allow an additional staff attorney to join the project.

“We are incredibly proud of our Veterans Legal Initiative,” HBA President Laura Gibson said in a press release. “Now, thanks to the Texas Bar Foundation, the VLI will be able to assist even more of our nation’s heroes and better their experience overall.”

The VLI began in 2008 and now serves more than 2,500 veterans annually. For more information, go to hba.org.

Bar associations and state legislatures across U.S. reach out to rural lawyers

Editor’s Note: This article coincides with the Texas Bar Journal’s feature story on law practices in small towns and rural communities, published in the July 2015 issue.

Statistics on Texas lawyers reveal some interesting trends of the dispersal of the legal workforce. The state has a ratio of one attorney for every 312 citizens, and metropolitan areas have a ratio of 1:288, which is similar to the national attorney-population ratio of 1:252. But in rural areas, the ratio becomes 1:896.

These numbers raise the question of whether Texas attorneys are disproportionately concentrated in the cities. As of 2013—the most recent year for which the state bar has data—83 percent of all active, in-state attorneys were located in the four largest metropolises (the Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio metropolitan statistical areas).

While approximately 11 percent of the state’s population resided in rural areas, only 4 percent of active, in-state attorneys practiced in these places. And some rural counties had exceptionally high attorney-population ratios, such as 1:2,431 in Zavala County, southwest of San Antonio, where the median household income was $25,291 (compared with the state average of $51,714) and 42 percent of the 12,000 residents lived below the poverty line. Eight Texas counties had no attorneys whatsoever, 67 counties had five or fewer, and nearly half of the state’s 254 counties had attorney-population ratios of 1:1,000 or higher.

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Board now accepting online applications and payments to sit for the bar exam

Law students and graduates planning to sit for the Texas Bar Examination can now file their applications and payments online thanks to the Texas Supreme Court’s decision to approve rules changes from the Texas Board of Law Examiners.

The board proposed doing away with the existing mailbox rule that required exam applicants to submit their declarations of intent and check payments through the mail. Since the Supreme Court’s decision, they can now do so online or via mail, although online will eventually be the only option.

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TBLS celebrates 40 years, recognizes criminal law attorneys

2015 marks the 40th year of the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, which certifies attorneys in 21 areas of law and paralegals in six areas.

On June 19, in conjunction with its anniversary, the State Bar’s Annual Meeting, and the Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course in San Antonio, TBLS held a reception to recognize attorneys who have been board certified since its 1974 inception, including 35 lawyers certified in criminal law.

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Declaration of Independence to be recited at 100-plus Texas courthouses

For the fifth consecutive year, members of the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association will celebrate the Fourth of July by gathering at dozens of courthouses across the state to recite the Declaration of Independence. An annual TCDLA tradition that started in 2010 at the Harris County Courthouse, this year’s event on Thursday, July 2, is expected to take place at more than 100 courthouses.

“Inside courthouses across Texas, criminal defense lawyers fight to protect the liberty of our fellow Americans,” event founder Robert Fickman said in a TCDLA press release. “So it is only right that the criminal defense bar stand shoulder to shoulder across Texas and hold readings of the Declaration of Independence. It is a good reminder to each of us of our oath and duty. It is a reminder to all others that the criminal defense bar has never been more united in our fight against any who would rob our countrymen of their liberty.”

A list of all scheduled readings organized by TCDLA defense lawyers will be posted tomorrow, June 30. For more information on the TCDLA, go to tcdla.com.

Legal nonprofit collecting backpacks for domestic violence victims

The Texas Advocacy Project is seeking donations in support of its annual Backpacks for Hope campaign. Through July 17, donors can drop off new book bags and school supplies, which will be distributed along with the project’s legal hotline numbers and safety planning literature to mothers and their children in domestic violence shelters across the state.

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Annual Meeting Round-Up: Tom Melsheimer on representing high-profile clients and winning trials big or small

Dallas Mavericks owner and TV star Mark Cuban is worth billions of dollars, so it made sense when he hired Texas attorney Tom Melsheimer—described by D magazine as “a man Tom Wolfe might have dubbed a Master of the Universe”—to represent him for several legal matters, including his 2013 insider trading case. Last week, Melsheimer, a principal in Fish & Richardson, reflected on this experience during the Antitrust and Business Section’s panel “Inside the Insider Trading Trial of Mark Cuban,” held at the State Bar of Texas 2015 Annual Meeting in San Antonio. Melsheimer dished advice on representing high-profile clients, tips on how to run an effective trial, and several funny Mark Cuban-isms.

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Member benefits - savings on cars and automotive services

Hit the road this summer with savings on cars and automotive services from your State Bar of Texas Member Discount Program. You’ll find exclusive opportunities to save on nearly every make and model, as well as refinancing, service, warranty and roadside assistance options.

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Making it through law school with a disability

By J. Sam Thomas

Editor’s Note: This featured blog post coincides with the upcoming July issue of the Texas Bar Journal, which focuses on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

This is a great time to be blind. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as a hobby, but when I think about the challenges that I would have encountered before the development of modern accessibility technology, the struggles I face are put in perspective. My great-grandfather had the same progressive, untreatable visual disease that I have. He was able to work with the aid of a full-time assistant and read by way of mail-order books-on-record that took weeks to deliver. My assistant is Siri, and I can download almost any book in seconds.

Not all progress has been technological, however. In the 25 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, public life has become more accessible to people with disabilities. Curb cuts have opened many public spaces to wheelchair users, and reasonable accommodations have become more common at work and at school. Arguably just as important, greater inclusion has decreased the stigma and stereotypes associated with many conditions.

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