Former SBOT president travels to Ireland

Richard Pena, 1998-1999 State Bar of Texas president, is headed home following a seven-day tour in Ireland. Pena, along with a delegation of attorneys from the U.S., has spent the past week exploring the land and meeting with leaders to learn about the area’s current politics and history, including the Northern Ireland peace process.

The trip is part of series of travels that Pena leads through Legal Delegations Abroad with the goal of developing an understanding of the rule of law and attorney issues in other countries. Past destinations have included Vietnam, Turkey, Cuba, Israel, India, Egypt, and China. Pena will lead groups to Hague in October, as well as London and Paris in December.

To read a blog from the Ireland trip, or to learn about future travel opportunities, go to

Member benefits - tickets and travel

Summer’s nearly here – save on entertainment for the whole family with deals on tickets from your State Bar of Texas Member Discount Program website. Check out the great deals on amusement parks, sports and entertainment events, tourist attractions and movie tickets.

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Stories of Recovery: Fearing Discovery

Editor’s note: This is the 11th story in our Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program “Stories of Recovery” series, featuring attorneys in their own words on how they overcame 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 TLAP at 1-800-343-8527, and find more information at

I drank my first full beer at age 9. It was decades ago, but I remember it vividly. My parents were having a party and my childhood best friend and I stealthily looted two Coors Lights from the cooler and retreated to a back room. Fearing discovery at any moment, we drank those beers in about three gulps. Even now, I can feel the warmth and comfort that washed over me. I wasn’t thinking about anything in particular; I just felt good. I had never known such easy access to a euphoric feeling. It is not an overstatement to say I was hooked on that feeling from that day forward.

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HBA recognizes individuals and firms for pro bono service

The Houston Bar Association and Harris County judiciary presented their eighth annual Harris County Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards during a ceremony and luncheon on April 30. A committee of seven judges and six attorneys selected the recipients, who were commended for outstanding pro bono service.

Those recognized included Norton Rose Fulbright, Winston & Strawn, Patel Ervin Dinn, Exxon Mobil Corporation Law Department, and Jack Carnegie of Strasburger & Price. John W. Raley of Raley & Bowick received the Bench Bar President’s Award.

For more information, go to


$2M gift funds endowed chair at SMU Dedman

Ellen K. Solender entered Southern Methodist University School of Law as a student in 1968. Shortly after graduating, she joined the staff and, in 1977, became the second woman in the history of the law school to received tenure. Now, she has gifted $2 million to the school, since renamed SMU Dedman School of Law, to fund the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and the Law.

“My mother worked for the passage of the 19th Amendment and thought she would see equality in her lifetime. I thought I would see it in mine,” Solender said. “Now I worry whether my granddaughter and my great-great-nieces will see equality in their lifetimes. I now realize these were only milestones on a longer journey to equality. These issues are so important to me, it is my hope that this endowed chair could be a catalyst and hopefully speed up the journey to equality for women.”

The chair, which the university is seeking to fill immediately, will support a faculty member to encourage research, teaching, and advocacy in legal education and the legal profession, aimed at advancing equality for all women.

“She has dedicated her career to promoting equity and mentored countless women along the way,” said Jennifer Collins, the school’s first female dean. “This gift will allow the law school to continue Professor Solender’s important work on issues that will advance the rights of women, ensure gender equality, and train lawyers to pursue these goals."

State Bar of Texas Member Discount Program

Graduation is coming. So is Father’s Day. Get your loved ones the gifts they want with discounts from your State Bar of Texas Member Discount Program website.

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Texas Bar Foundation will invest $23,500 in protective order initiative

Last year, the Texas Advocacy Project provided legal services to 9,718 Texans, including hundreds of callers seeking information about protective orders for victims of abuse. According to the group, those who receive protective orders are 80 percent less likely to be re-victimized than those who do not.

But for various reasons, victims don’t always receive them.

In an effort to confront the issue, the Texas Advocacy Project’s Protective Order Call Back Initiative enlists retired attorneys to call back victims who have previously worked with the group but have experience obstacles in obtaining protective orders. In support of the cause, the Texas Bar Foundation has announced plans to invest $23,500 in the Protective Order Call Back Initiative.

“Often times, the legal system can be intimidating and challenging,” said Heather Bellino, executive director of the Texas Advocacy Project. “But the Protective Order Call Back Initiative will give us the opportunity to make sure our clients are able to get safe.”

For more information, to go or If you or someone you know needs help, call (800) 374-HOPE.

State Bar to welcome hundreds of new lawyers on May 11; Erwin Center street closures remain

On the morning of May 11, the State Bar of Texas will congratulate and administer the oath of office to more than 700 incoming attorneys at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony, held at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin at 10 a.m.

If you are a newly licensed attorney or a proud family member or friend attending the event, you’ll notice that the grounds surrounding the Erwin Center are looking very different. With construction of the Dell Medical School Project fully underway, some streets and parking lots are currently closed. Please read on for important information regarding these changes. If you're unable to attend the ceremony in person, you can watch a live stream of the event here (must have Microsoft Silverlight installed).

Street Changes

  • Red River Street is closed between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and 15th Street.
  • 15th Street lanes are periodically shifted and closed, so traffic can be heavy, particularly during morning rush hour.

Parking Options (a map of parking locations is available on the Erwin Center’s website)

  • Lot 118 directly north of the Erwin Center, accessible via I-35 southbound frontage road ($12).
  • Trinity Garage at the corner of Trinity Street and MLK Boulevard, accessible via MLK Blvd. ($9-$12, time based).
  • Capitol Visitors Garage on San Jacinto Street between Trinity and San Jacinto at 12th and 13th streets (free for first two hours, $1 for each half-hour thereafter with a maximum daily charge of $8).

If you have any additional questions, please contact the State Bar Membership Department at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1383, or (512) 427-1383.


Austin Bar holds Law Day lunch

The Austin Bar Association and the Austin Bar Foundation celebrated Law Day during a luncheon on April 30. More than 200 guests attended and several individuals received recognition during the event, which was held at the W Austin Hotel.

David Escamilla, a Travis County attorney, received the Regina Rogoff Award from the Austin Bar Association. Former State Bar President Martha Dickie, partner in Almanza, Blackburn & Dickie, received the group’s Professionalism Award.

The Austin Young Lawyers Association honored Belinda Powell, Travis County strategic planning manager, with a Liberty Bell Award. Jessica Palvino, a partner in McGinnis Lochridge, received the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award, while Ranelle Meroney, of counsel to Chamberlain McHaney, was presented with a Mentor Award from the group.

Volunteer Legal Services gave its J. Chrys Dougherty Award to Kris Algert, a partner in Ausley, Algert, Robertson & Flores. Hong Shi, an associate of Haynes and Boone, received the Susan P. Burton Award, while the Vinson & Elkins Law Firm took home the Joseph H. Hart Award.

Additionally, the Austin Bar Foundation presented grants to Asian Family Support Services of Austin, Texas State Law Library, and Texas Accountants and Lawyers for the Arts.

For more information, go to



Texas Bar Journal Announces its 2015 Short Story Contest Winners

Thank you to the 44 authors who submitted entries to the Texas Bar Journal Short Story Contest this year. To keep the contest fair and impartial, author names were removed from each entry and replaced with numbers. Two panels of judges faced the challenging task of selecting the winners, and for each round, the same evaluation form was used for consistency. Ten entries advanced to the final round, which was judged by Mike Farris of Dallas, Stephanie Tillman of Houston, and Lane D. Thibodeaux of Bryan.

The winner, “The Corner Man,” by Amanda Moore, earned the highest number of points.

Please congratulate these attorney-authors for making it through the competitive first round of judging to the finals.


“The Corner Man,” by Amanda Moore (First Place)

“High Stakes Litigation,” by Russell W. Fusco (Second Place)

“The Color of Gravity,” by Blair Dancy (Third Place)

“A Formal Interview,” by Carolyn (Lyn) Fitz-Gerald Levin

“The Blues,” by Jason P. Steed

“Spider Bit,” by Ron Uselton

“Pennsylvania,” by David Portz

“A Coin for Charon,” by Frank J. Gonynor

“Clients,” by Scott Petty

“A Cold Dish,” by Terri B. Moore

Here’s an excerpt from “The Corner Man”:

At the beginning of every case, he was always civil and the true embodiment of what they talk about in the Lawyer’s Creed. If a case went to trial, however, the Ice Man had absolutely no mercy. My wife says that I exaggerate these things, and maybe I do. Over the years, I have become a bit cynical about things. No matter what anyone says, though, I still remember the trembling lips and flushed face of a notorious gang leader who wept in his chair after the Ice Man’s closing statement. It might be a courtroom legend, but I heard that the gang leader’s lawyer begged him to take a plea deal instead of taking a chance against the Ice Man.

The entire story, along with the second and third place winning entries, will be published in the June issue of the Texas Bar Journal.