Strong named general counsel of A&M System

On Friday, March 27, the Texas A&M University Board of Regents selected Andrew Strong as general counsel of the Texas A&M System. As general counsel he'll be responsible for all legal matters affecting the system and provide legal counsel to A&M's board of regents, chancellor, and CEOs.

Strong is a partner in the Houston office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, which he joined in 2005 after serving as the managing partner of Campbell, George & Strong since 1994. At A&M Strong replaces former general counsel Jay Kimbrough, who now works in the governor's office. According to an article in the Bryan College Station Eagle, details of Strong's starting date as general counsel are being worked out.

Strong is a former president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association and currently servces as chair of the State Bar of Texas Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, co-chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission's Civil Gideon Task Force, and chair of the Children at Risk's Public Policy and Law Center.

Random Profile - Marissa C. Hernandez, Edinburg

Marissa HernandezFor Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 80,000-plus attorneys, call them, 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: I get to help a lot of people.

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: My Dad has always told me not to worry about the things you can’t change. I think that advice is so useful in my law practice and life in general.

Most important career lesson: Juries hate when we overcomplicate things. They stop listening when we get hyper-technical about anything.

Favorite saying/quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Favorite sport: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football.

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Dallas lawyer takes top prize at film festival

The Beacon posterThe Beacon, a supernatural thriller produced by Dallas lawyer Sally Helppie, took top honors at the Paranoia Horror Film Festival in California on March 15. The festival's goal is to find "the next great thing in horror each and every year." Helppie, of counsel to Tipton Jones, is co-founder and president of Sabbatical Pictures, a Dallas-based independent film production company. The Beacon, which won the Best Feature Film prize, was shot in Waxahachie and Dallas using Texas crews and several local actors. The second movie produced by Helppie, The Beacon stars Teri Polo (of Meet the Parents fame) as a grieving mother who becomes obsessed with delivering a message to her dead son. Helppie's first film, Exit Speed, an action picture starring Lea Thompson and Fred Ward, also was filmed in Dallas and is now available on DVD. Helppie is currently fielding offers to distribute The Beacon. Go here to view the trailer.

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South Texas College of Law names new dean

The Texas Lawyer blog reported today that Donald J. Guter is the new dean of South Texas College of Law. He comes to South Texas from Duquesne University School of Law in Pittsburgh, where he served as dean from 2003 through 2008.

Guter's tenure begins Aug. 1, following the retirement of South Texas College of Law dean James Alfini, who has served as the school's dean and president since 2003.

Guter served in the U.S. Navy for 32 years, retiring in 2002 as a Rear Admiral, Judge Advocate General’s Corps (JAG). He climbed the ranks of the JAG corps serving as trial counsel, legislative counsel, special counsel to the Chief of Naval Operations, and ultimately became the 37th Judge Advocate General of the Navy from 2000-2002. He has since served as the CEO for the Vinson Hall Corporation and the executive director of the Navy Marine Coast Guard Residence Foundation. He currently serves as the president of the Judge Advocates Association Foundation, is on the board of the St. Thomas More Society, and chairs the American Bar Association’s standing committee on Legal Assistance for Military Personnel.

Houston lawyer dominates on the golf course

Not many people can say they have beat Michael Jordan at an athletic competition. Houston attorney Nakia Davis holds these bragging rights! The Beck, Redden & Secrest attorney has played golf with Michael Jordan 18 times. The total game score:  Davis 17, Jordan 1. 

Before practicing law, Davis played on the Ladies Pro Golf Association FUTURES Golf Tour. Davis met Jordan through a mutual friend and then re-connected with the star at an event sponsored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Knowing of the pro basketball player’s competitive spirit, Davis challenged him to a round of golf, confident she would win. Needless to say, Jordan was hooked, and 18 games later the duo plans to continue the friendly competition. 

Another interesting fact about Davis’ golf career - before Tiger Woods was a household name, they were in the same training circle of young up-and-comers.

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Rutgers Law spring breakers help the poor in Austin

A group of New Jersey students spent their spring break not at the beach, but in Austin helping Texas RioGrande Legal Aid provide legal services to the poor .

The trip was funded by the Association for Public Interest Law at Rutgers-Camden School of Law, which sends students on a legal services spring break trip every year. The bill for this years' trip was about $20,000, raised through a series of fundraisers at the school.

The students left Austin this afternoon after completing 10 projects planned for them by TRLA volunteer coordinator April Kubik on cases involving home foreclosures, child custody, and more. "It was great having them in our office," said TRLA communications director Cynthia Martinez. "They were here today at 8:00 a.m. to be sure they had everything done."

Austin lawyer rocks South by Southwest Interactive

Before Monday, Austin lawyer and computer forensics expert Craig Ball might have seemed the least likely speaker to wow an audience of Gen X and Yers gathered to learn about the latest technology and social media at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival. Today, he stands toe-to-toe with the Internet celebs who dominate the festival from year to year.

Ball was part of a panel, "Presenting Straight to the Brain," about techniques for persuading with PowerPoint beyond the usual bullet points and tired graphics that plague so many presentations.

Ball showed the crowd of more than 500 an animation he uses to explain the inner workings of a hard drive to a non-technical audience. This and other parts of his presentation drew applause, shouts of approval, and scores of positive "tweets" from audience members who were documenting the panel on Twitter.com

"I figured the crowd was nice to me because it was like being nice to your granddad," joked the 51-year-old Ball, who began his SXSW remarks by telling attendees, "For those of you who are wondering, the red thing I'm wearing around my neck is called a tie."

"Really, I was leery of speaking to a younger group which was not at all like my typical audience of attorneys and judges," related Ball. "I was blown away by how receptive they were. I was happy to have the feeling of holding my own with the other panelists."

Ball's seemingly complex animations are done solely with PowerPoint. For tips and articles about how he does it, see www.craigball.com.

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Cornyn and Hutchison seek U.S. attorney candidates

Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison are seeking candidates to serve as a U.S. attorney in Texas. Applications are due Friday, March 27, 2009.

The open positions are for the Northern District of Texas, based in Dallas, and Southern District, based in Houston.

For details, see this press release on Hutchison's website.

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Free online legal research now spans 50 states

We've quietly launched a major update to our free online legal research tool.

Texas lawyers now have access to free caselaw from all 50 states, an improved search interface, and expanded federal libraries. The new service is dubbed Casemaker 2.1 and is available on My Bar Page (TexasBar.com) and on TexasBarCLE.com

You'll find lots of cool new features, including options to email a case or save it as a PDF or Word document with "live link citations" to other cited cases.

Please let us know what you think about Casemaker 2.1. Leave a comment below, or email webmaster@texasbar.com.

Archive of the Covenant

Among the treasures in Google's ambitious digital book repository are the 1882 Proceedings of the Texas Bar Association. That year, hundreds of Texas lawyers convened in Galveston to establish the volunteer organization that would serve as the precursor to the State Bar of Texas.

Also available through Google Book Search are the 1919 Proceedings of the Texas Bar Association and a 1907 Monograph on Legal Ethics by Houston lawyer John Charles Harris.

The Texas Legislature created the unified State Bar of Texas in 1939, one year after the Texas Bar Journal started publication. Now, thanks to a partnership with William S. Hein & Co., a complete, searchable archive of the magazine is available here

Random Profile - Jimmy Verner, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 80,000-plus attorneys, call them, and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson: Don't be afraid to say “I don't know” when you don't know.

Current project: A free, online searchable database of Texas family law cases, with commentary by (and credit given to) volunteer attorneys who identify and submit cases. If you're interested in participating, drop me a line at jverner@vernerbrumley.com.

Favorite saying/quote: “Take credit when available, not when it's due!” This is my sole contribution to Western Civilization.

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Judges and witnesses sought for National Trial Competition

The finals of the 34th Annual National Trial Competition are set for March 26 - 28 in San Antonio. Its cohosts are the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) and the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL). A whopping 152 law schools and 300 teams competed in 14 regionals around the country, and 28 finalists are headed to San Antonio.

The TYLA and ACTL are seeking 56 judges for each of the first three preliminary rounds, and 56 witnesses for each of the first four preliminary rounds.

If you can serve as a judge in one or more of the championship rounds, please click the following links (judges must be licensed attorneys):

Round 1: 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon on Thursday, March 26
Round 2: 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 26
Round 3: 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon on Friday, March 27

If you can serve as a witness in one or more of the championship rounds, please click the following links.  (Note the earlier starting time for witness preparation):

Round 1: 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Thursday, March 26
Round 2: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 26
Round 3: 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Friday, March 27
Round 4: 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, March 27

This is a big request, but also a great chance to nurture the careers of aspiring lawyers and help the legal community. If you need more information about being a judge, please email Ashley Street  or Israel Garcia. For more information about being a witness, please email Alyssa Long or Alfonso Cabanas.

National Trial Competition website
 

New digs for TRLA

On March 5, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) will mark the completion of renovations to its Edinburg office with a special grand-reopening and dedication ceremony.

Originally built in 1980, the office was in serious need of an update. Over the last year the project doubled the work area for TRLA staff (pictured here in the new building), replaced the plumbing, and created a new waiting area for clients.

"To say that this has boosted morale among staff would be a big understatement," related TRLA communications director Cynthia Martinez.

The office, which serves more than 1,800 low-income residents of the Rio Grande Valley each year, will be dedicated to the memory of John E. Cook, a former TRLA employee and long-time champion of legal rights for the poor.

Read TRLA's press release

Joe Jamail: Don't call him a litigator.

Houston's Joe Jamail would strongly prefer you call him a trial lawyer. Why is that? I'll forgo expletives on the State Bar blog and instead refer you to a new profile of Jamail in the ABA Journal by Mark Curriden, communications director for Vinson & Elkins LLP in Dallas. 

Curriden recaps the 83-year-old Jamail's journey from the UT School of Law, where he "just showed up" and never officially enrolled, to today's busy schedule and his plans to try cases for another 10 years.

The Jamail story is part of Curriden's feature section on "Lions of the Trial Bar," where he profiles seven legends, including another Texas treasure: Richard "Racehorse" Haynes.

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