AfterTheBarExam.com offers resources for soon-to-be lawyers

AfterTheBarExam.com logoToday was the final day of the February Texas Bar Exam, and participants are hopefully seeing the light at the end of a long tunnel that began on the first day of law school. After a well-deserved break, these future lawyers will begin the next phase in pursuing their legal careers. That’s where AfterTheBarExam.com comes in. This online resource from the State Bar is geared toward assisting bar examinees who are awaiting their results — and trying to figure out what to do next. During this three-month waiting period, bar examinees can register for free access to TexasBarCLE’s Online Classroom, as well as view TYLA’s Ten Minute Mentor videos. The courses and videos focus on finding one’s place in the profession, law practice management, ethics and professionalism, and networking. Many of the courses can be claimed for MCLE credit once the participant is licensed. The goal is to help these soon-to-be lawyers make a successful transition from student to practitioner. So, if you know anyone who took the February Bar exam, encourage him or her to visit AfterTheBarExam.com and help a new colleague prepare for a life in the law.

Reminder -- Short Story Contest deadline is March 1st!

Attention, aspiring authors! The deadline to enter the Texas Bar Journal 2010 Short Story Fiction Writing Contest is this Monday, March 1st. The entries will be judged by an independent panel, with the top three stories appearing in the June 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal. Stories must be 2,000 words or less, previously unpublished, and written by a lawyer in good standing who is licensed to practice law in Texas. For more details, download the entry form.

Random Profile - Billy Skinner, 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: Being able to help people when they REALLY need it.

Most important career lesson: Never give up. Struggle makes success sweeter.

Bet you didn’t know:  I participate in the Livestrong Challenge.

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State Bar seeks outstanding pro bono attorneys

You've probably come across plenty of attorneys in your legal career who are great at what they do. But what about those that stand out from the crowd a bit? You know, the ones who handle a full load, and still have the time, energy, and resources to help those in need. 

And we're sure you've wanted to say "good job" without sounding trite. What better way to honor those who help low-income Texans who cannot afford access to the legal system than to nominate them for a 2010 Pro Bono Excellence Award? Now's your chance to tell us about that attorney who goes above and beyond in the name of justice.

The State Bar Committee on Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters is seeking nominations for the following awards: Pro Bono Coordinator Award, the Frank J. Scurlock Award, the Pro Bono Award, the J. Chrys Dougherty Legal Services Award, and the W. Frank Newton Award.

Nominations must be submitted on award nomination forms. Each attorney nominee must be a member in good standing with the State Bar of Texas. Award nomination forms and supporting materials should be sent to the Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, c/o Texas Lawyers Care, State Bar of Texas, 1414 Colorado, 4th Fl., Austin 78701-1627 or to tlcmail@texasbar.com.

All nominations must be received by 5 p.m. on Thursday, March 11. A postmark of March 11 will be insufficient. For more information about these awards or for an award nomination form, contact Texas Lawyers Care at tlcmail@texasbar.com or (800)204-2222, ext. 1855 or (512)427-1855.

The 2010 Pro Bono Excellence Awards will be presented at the State Bar Annual Meeting in Fort Worth in June. Award announcements will be made in May, and honorees will be profiled in the July issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

 

MCLE Rules Embrace Digital Delivery Methods

Under new MCLE rules to go into effect June 1st, the term "participatory credit" will no longer be applicable. Continuing legal education will only be categorized as either "accredited" or "self-study."

In recognition of the proliferation of CLE delivery methods in recent years, the definition of accredited CLE will be expanded to include podcasts (mp3s and mp4s), DVDs, and CDs that originate from live accredited activities. Furthermore, the number of allowable self-study hours will be decreased from 5 to 3 per year, effective one year later (June 1, 2011).

This change recognizes that many materials in formats currently approved only for self-study credit will soon be available as accredited CLE and there will be less need to rely on self-study options. For more information on the new rules, click here (pdf).

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Task Force meets to preserve court records

The Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force had its first meeting yesterday at the Supreme Court of Texas. The 20 member task force was formed to discuss the issues surrounding preservation of local court records in counties across the state. The task force is chaired by Bill Kroger of Baker Botts L.L.P. and was created partly from the awareness of Kroger’s work on preserving Harris County court records. The Supreme Court wrote a court order establishing the task force and has asked them to develop a report that discusses statewide county preservation needs, the importance of protecting the records, and providing assistance to counties to do that.

The meeting included presentations about larger counties' preservation efforts, resources available to counties regarding historical records preservation, and prior efforts made across the state. The task force circulated a draft survey that they intend to distribute to district court clerks statewide to gather information about their efforts. The survey will go out within the next 30 days, and they hope to complete the survey 60 days after that. At the meeting, they also formed four different committees for different aspects of the issue: preservation, security and enforcement, fundraising, and public and education.

Issues that courts often run into are old and crumbling documents, fire hazards, water damage, lack of security, and determining rules for public access, such as whether the public should be allowed to touch historical court documents with their hands. There have also been many thefts of court records. "One of the most egregious was with a court minute book in Lufkin. Someone was taking pages being ripped out of the minute book and selling them on eBay," says Kroger. "Some people are tearing apart court records and auctioning them off. There’s a market for slavery records and Republic of Texas records. We are trying to stop people from stealing and selling them. There needs to be greater recognition that it is a crime and greater enforcement of those laws."

The main records the task force are looking at date from 1838 to 1950. Those are the records that are of interest to collectors, historians, and genealogists. The task force wants to protect the historical records for future generations.

The Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force is co-chaired by Mark Lambert, Deputy Commissioner of the Archives and Records Division of the Texas General Land Office, and is comprised of a diverse and mutli-disciplined group of people including attorneys, judges, historians, document preservationists, and county and statewide officials. They plan to meet about six times a year and to continue their initial efforts for about a year and a half. However, the preservation of all statewide historical court records will be an ongoing effort. For more information about the task force and its efforts, you can contact Bill Kroger at (713) 229-1736 or email him at bill.kroger@bakerbotts.com.
 

State Bar Announces Twitter Novel Contest

What Ernest Hemingway reportedly considered to be his best work was also his briefest. To settle a bar bet, the story goes, Hemingway was challenged to write a complete novel in only six words. The result? "For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Texas Bar Journal, and the 2010 State Bar Annual Meeting Legal Innovation Track: The Adaptable Lawyer will challenge you to write your own brief work of fiction — but with a modern twist: 140-character, Twitter-ready novels. The grand-prize winner will receive an Apple iPad, as well as special recognition at the 2010 State Bar Annual Meeting, during a breakfast featuring LexBlog, Inc. CEO and Twitter guru Kevin O'Keefe. Look for details in the March issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

 

 

Random Profile - Patricia B. Cole, Ft. Worth

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?

Practice areas: Probate & Business Litigation, Estate Planning.

Education: Louisiana State University, (B.A., 1996);
Texas Wesleyan Univ. School of Law, (J.D., 2000).

Best thing about being a lawyer: Being able to help people.

Most important career lesson: Attorneys are in customer service business.

Favorite retreats: Kemah, Texas.

The last movie I saw: Avatar.

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Relief is Just a Click Away

Texas lawyers have never been stingy when it comes to helping in times of need. When Hurricane Ike devastated the Texas Coast in 2008, Texas lawyers came out in droves to help their fellow Texans. Last month's earthquake in Haiti is no exception. Thousands of Texas attorneys have made monetary donations, as well as donated much-needed necessities, to relief efforts in Haiti. Still, access to safe drinking water in Haiti is a problem.

Annette Raguette, an Austin public member of the State Bar Board, and her 8-year-old daughter, Isabella, are doing what they can to ensure children in Haiti, and around the world, have safe drinking water. Four months ago, Isabella founded Children's Water for Life, a nonprofit organization that raises money for PUR packets. The eight members of the CWFL board range in age from 8 to 14 years old. (Raggette is the only adult on the board, but somebody's got to take care of the paperwork.) CWFL hopes to donate at least 25,000 of the packets, which cost 10 cents each, to Haiti relief efforts. Adding one PUR packet to approximately 2.5 gallons of water helps make it potable for infants, children, and adults. A $1 donation can help provide one child safe drinking water for 50 days.

Aside from donations, Raguette said CWFL could use the services of a CPA or tax lawyer and help with printing services. CWFL has Haiti fundraisers set up for the next two weeks. For more information on the fundraisers and CWFL, visit www.childrenswaterforlife.com.

Texas Gavel Awards call for entries

Do you know of a journalist deserving of recognition for excellence in legal reporting?

The State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee is now accepting entries for the 2010 Texas Gavel Awards to recognize journalistic excellence that helps foster public understanding of the legal system, including investigative reporting that leads to improvements in the justice system.

The entry deadline is April 1. Awards will be presented August 13 at the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas annual conference in Austin.

Click here for rules and an entry form. Questions? Contact Kim Davey at 512.427.1713 or kdavey@texasbar.com.