Texas Access to Justice Foundation's 25th Anniversary Gala

Jim Sales Presenting Emily Jones with the Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award

Jim Sales Presenting Emily Jones with the Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award


What cause can gather some of the most successful lawyers in the state, all of the members of the Supreme Court of Texas, and dozens of judges, elected officials, and past presidents of the State Bar of Texas in the same room at the same time? Legal services to the poor!

Last night, I attended the Texas Access to Justice Foundation’s 25th Anniversary Gala. The evening was magical, not because of the fancy dinner, keynote speaker Jeffrey Toobin, or the preparation that enabled a flawless event. The evening was magical because of the presence of the true champions of Texas’ legal community - those who tirelessly give their energy, time, and resources to provide access to justice for low-income Texans. Most important, the event raised more than $300,000 for civil legal services to the poor.

When you work at the State Bar of Texas, you quickly learn that one of the most respected volunteers is James B. Sales of Houston. Everyone refers to Jim Sales as Mr. Sales, because his military background coupled with his strong presence, command ultimate respect. He is widely admired for his tireless service to the Access to Justice Commission, which he served as chair from 2004 to 2009. Mr. Sales received the 2009 Harold F. Kleinman Award, an award named after the first Access to Justice Foundation chairman and established to confer prestige and honor upon leaders who advocate for access to justice. A well-deserved recipient indeed! Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson shared an anecdote from the Court. When the Court approached Mr. Sales to be Chair of the Access to Justice Commission, he looked every justice in the eye and asked for their commitment before he would agree to take the position. Every justice looked Mr. Sales back in the eye and said, “Yes, sir.” Since 2004, Mr. Sales has encouraged Texas lawyers to “put their boots on the ground” to fight for access to justice. He has increased funding, recruited numerous volunteers, and put into place a solid infrastructure that will continue to grow in years to come.

Emily Jones, the first executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, is known for her strong spirit, feisty personality, and her ability to be a strong advocate for access to justice initiatives. No one is a better advocate than Emily, for she knows the facts, the cause is instilled in her heart, she is smart, and her actions speak louder than her words. As Mr. Sales honored Emily with the inaugural Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award, he shared examples of Emily taking on pro bono cases despite personal health obstacles that would have prohibited most from doing so. There were few dry eyes in the room as Emily accepted her namesake award, which will be used to recognize lawyers like her who have an extraordinary spirit, have demonstrated a strong commitment to legal services in Texas, and have inspired others. (Side note: Even after working with Jim Sales every day for years, Emily still refers to her friend as Mr. Sales.) 

Three Texas attorneys were recognized for their significant contribution to the Cy Pres Awards Campaign. The cy pres awards are residual funds from class action settlements that were not claimed by class members, so responsible attorneys donate the funds to bolster legal services to the poor. Jeff Rasansky of Dallas, Michael E. Smith of Marshall, and Jeremi K. Young of Amarillo donated $230,160 of residual funds from a federal case to the Access to Justice Foundation. This was the first major donation to the fund. 

The heroes mentioned in this post have truly made a difference in the lives of low-income Texans, but much remains to be done. Consider the following statistics: 

  • Today, 5.1 million Texans qualify for legal aid.
  • There is one legal aid lawyer for every 11,512 Texans who qualify for legal aid.
  • Legal aid turns away half of all qualified clients due to lack of resources.

Hopefully these facts will encourage you to put your boots on the ground!

Gaming Law, anyone?

If you've never heard of machinima, you are not alone. The filmmaking technique, however, is quickly making its way into mainstream media. In fact, Texas is the unofficial machinima capital of the world. So says Mark Methenitis, an attorney with the Vernon Law Group, PL.L.C. in Dallas, who recently spoke on the legal aspects related to machinima at the Play-Machinima-Law Conference at Stanford. Methenitis also is the author of Law of the Game, a blog that discusses video game law, so, we, you know, trust him.

Utilizing strategies such as voice-overs, a machinima creator — or better yet, a machinimator — uses footage from video games to create a movie, which is machinima. Methenitis says the form goes back to a film based on the video game "Quake."

Since its creation, machinima has been used in various forms to create movies, commercials, and everything in between. And, like all things, there are legal issues that arise from machinima. For the most part, machinimators have relied on the trusty "fair use" doctrine to stay out of trouble. But Methenitis says that may not always protect creators, and relying on fair use puts one on thin ice.

Most video game publishers will allow the use of their games in machinima, as long as there is no profit made from the movie, he says. There are a couple of series that have made a profit off of their movies, but those production companies have licenses to do so. Methenitis encourages machinimators to read a game company's policy on machinima before making it — companies such as Microsoft and Blizzard have policies specifically targeted to machinima.

Texas Access to Justice Foundation 25th Anniversary

The Texas Access to Justice Commission will host a 25th Anniversary Gala benefiting the Texas Access to Justice Foundation on Wednesday, May 27, at the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center in Austin. The gala celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, which funds legal aid programs throughout the state.

The evening will include CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin as the keynote speaker and Austin's own Marcia Ball as featured entertainment. Guests will enjoy a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by dinner at 7:15 p.m. Click here to read more details.

Tips for Transitioning into the Practice of Law

Arturo Errisuriz, Assistant Dean for Career Services at Texas Wesleyan University School of Law, shares tips for students transitioning in to the practice of law.

1.    Find a mentor, either within your firm or in the legal community;

 your mentor should be someone with professional experience who is     

 willing to share it.

2.    Join your local bar association and sister bars or affinity bar groups.

3.    Attend professional development CLEs and courses in the practice areas that interest you.

4.    Schedule informational lunches with attorneys to gain insight into    

     the profession and your practice area.

5.     Be considerate of your mentor’s time.

6.     Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

7.     Network and create visibility for yourself.

8.     Go to the courthouse and sit-in on hearings and trials.

9.     Always project a professional demeanor in and out of the legal   


10. Establish a reputation for being competent and ethical.

11.Be patient

New lawyers tell us their plans

On May 11, 2009, we greeted a new group of lawyers with an induction ceremony at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin. We pulled several of them aside to find out what their plans are now that they're licensed attorneys. Check out their responses below. Stay tuned to this blog for more from our new lawyer interviews.

New lawyers: Welcome to profession. Please see our page of resources for new lawyers.


Random Profile - Brian Johnson, Houston

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?

Best thing about being a lawyer: Helping people.

Mentors/heroes: Family, the people who have the same drawbacks/obstacles that I face and find a way to perservere. The connection is close enough to see that I can make it as well.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? Why would I want to be anyone other than me? It has taken me 28 years to learn how to be good at being me; I think I may have it down by the time I’m 75. Until then, I need the practice being myself.

Continue Reading...

Former chief justice spry at 96 years old

Jim Swift of KXAN-TV in Austin filed the inspiring story of former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jack Pope, who at 96 is training for a 9.6-mile walk to match his age.

Below is Swift's report, and below that, Chief Justice Pope's demonstration of his exercise routine.



Joe Shannon Appointed Tarrant Co. DA

Joe Shannon, Jr., chair of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, has been appointed by Gov. Rick Perry as Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney for a term to expire at the next general election. The appointment is subject to Senate confirmation. Shannon is the chief of the economic crimes and computer crime unit in the Tarrant County Criminal District Attorney's Office and an adjunct professor of law at Texas Wesleyan University. He replaces Tim Curry, the longtime Tarrant County district attorney who passed away April 24 at age 70 after a battle with lung cancer.



Advice for new lawyers, from experience

From the State Bar vaults, here's a gem from our 2004 Annual Meeting. As part of a video "time capsule," we asked lawyers what piece of advice they had for new lawyers just starting out.

This timeless advice is also timely, as we welcome a new group of lawyers to the profession with an induction ceremony May 11.

Law Day at the Texas Law Center

Harper Estes and Law Day essay winnerThe State Bar of Texas celebrated Law Day today at the Texas Law Center in Austin with a ceremony to recognize Texas students and their award-winning projects on this year's Law Day theme, "A Legacy of Liberty: Celebrating Lincoln's Bicentennial." Students from across the state showed their creativity and thoughtfulness on the Law Day theme through poster, photography, and essay contests. State Bar of President Harper Estes and President-elect Roland Johnson were on hand to present awards to the statewide winners. Prizes ranged from $50 to $1,000 with each winner also receiving a medal and a framed certificate. The essay contest winner, Veronika Johannsen (pictured with President Estes), of Memorial High School in Victoria, read her winning paper on "A Legacy of Liberty." (Go here for a complete list of winners.) The event concluded with a tour of the Court of Criminal Appeals and the 3rd Court of Appeals for the students and their families, and several students seemed very intrigued by the idea of sitting on the bench.