Pro Bono Profile: Kara Gehan

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

Kara Gehan has been a faithful volunteer for Catholic Charities Immigration and Legal Services (ILS) since April 2009. “I believe I have a moral obligation to contribute pro bono services to those in our society who are marginalized, but more importantly it is a privilege to be able to serve others in this way,” Ms. Gehan said about her service.

Although Kara’s legal career has been in corporate law, ILS Director Vanna Slaughter says she has been undaunted by even the most novel immigration cases ILS has assigned her. “Kara has literally taken on any and all types of cases that walk in the door.”

Earlier this year, one of those cases that walked in the door was a frantic plea from a mother trying to reconnect with her seven-year-old son after the earthquake in Haiti. After political violence against her in Haiti five years before, the mother had been granted political asylum in the US, and her son had remained in Haiti with his aunt. When the aunt died in the 2010 earthquake, the son was left to live alone on the streets, and his desperate mother sought the help of ILS to bring him to the US. 

As the mother’s pro bono attorney, Ms. Gehan swept into action, contacting officials at the State Department, Homeland Security, and the American Embassy in Port au Prince. Navigating these governmental channels, Ms. Gehan successfully obtained Humanitarian Parole for her client’s son, who joyously reunited with his mother in Dallas.

“The devastation of the earthquake in Haiti was so overwhelming that I felt like any financial contribution I could make would just be a drop in the bucket.,” Ms. Gehan said. “But I knew that my legal skills could dramatically impact this family. Because of the dedication and commitment of the many individuals who support Catholic Charities and its agencies, we were able to effect a magnificent reunification of a family that will forever positively impact the lives of my client and her son.”


Pro Bono Profile: Quanah Parker

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

In 25 years of pro bono service with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (LANWT), Quanah Parker has represented low-income clients in every one of the seventeen counties served by the Abilene LANWT branch office. He knows more than most the challenges faced by low-income families in rural areas of Texas. Pro bono service is a lifeline for these Texans who live a long distance from many services.

“Quanah’s commitment to pro bono services and the clients LANWT serves has opened the doors of justice for individuals and families who otherwise could not afford an attorney. He is truly a role model for attorneys interested in doing pro bono work,” said Lupe Elizondo, Pro Bono Coordinator for the Abilene office.

In addition to accepting pro bono referrals, Mr. Parker serves as a mentor and co-counsel on pro bono cases, volunteers at LANWT legal clinics, and participates in CLE seminars for pro bono and legal aid. Lupe Elizondo said that Mr. Parker’s strong commitment to pro bono has made him a reliable partner for LANWT and its low-income clients. “He routinely accepts pro bono referrals and has accepted every pro bono referral by the Abilene pro bono program since 1991,” Elizondo said. 

Pro Bono Profile: Robert Black

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

In addition to a busy solo practice, Robert Black finds time to donate his pro bono services regularly to Volunteer Legal Services (VLS) in Austin. For the past two decades, Mr. Black has led attendance at the twice weekly evening clinics hosted by VLS, and he has also ranked near the highest among volunteers for acceptance of pro bono cases for representation.

“Everyone has an obligation to serve their community,” Mr. Black said. “Only attorneys have the education and the skills to address the legal needs of their community. When I take cases with Volunteer Legal Services, I have the opportunity to help people in need in a way that few others can.”

Mr. Black has used those legal skills to meet the legal needs of many low-income families in Austin. When VLS had a large number of clients in need of Chapter 7 bankruptcy relief, Mr. Black decided to become a bankruptcy practitioner solely to serve those clients. Through his outstanding pro bono work with VLS, he has brought relief to many of the people in his community who are going through very difficult financial times. “This is community service that only attorneys can provide, and we should be mindful of that obligation,” he said. 

Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans Legal Clinics

What better way to honor the National Pro Bono Celebration than to volunteer for a pro bono legal advice clinic for veterans? These clinics are at the heart of the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans initiative. Local bar associations and legal aid organizations across the state have answered State Bar President Terry Tottenham’s call to assist veterans who otherwise cannot afford or do not have access to the legal services they need.

In November, to commemorate Veterans Day (Nov. 11), legal advice clinics for veterans are taking place all across the state thanks to the efforts of countless volunteer attorneys who want to give back to those who have given so much to this country.

If you would like to get involved, there are several ways you can participate: Volunteer for a morning or afternoon at a clinic, take a veteran’s case pro bono, serve as a substantive law expert for clinics, or become accredited through the VA to help with veterans’ disability benefits claims.

For a schedule of upcoming clinics or to learn more about Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, visit www.texasbar.com/veterans.

Pro Bono Profile: Lyla Malolepszy

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

Public service has always been a major part of Lyla Malolepszy’s career. Even before she obtained her paralegal degree in 2003, she started volunteering with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (LANWT), and every year since then she has continued to contribute enough pro bono service to be a member of the Texas Pro Bono College. Her exemplary service earned Ms. Malolepszy the 2010 Paralegal Division Exceptional Pro Bono Service Award.

Ms. Malolepszy has worked hard to encourage pro bono service from attorneys and paralegals in her community. In addition to assisting on pro bono cases with LANWT, she recruits and trains other volunteers for its pro bono program. While working full time as a paralegal for Donald Johnston in Sherman, she also serves on the Professional Development Committee and Pro Bono Ad Hoc Committee of the Paralegal Division, and she is the Executive Coordinator of the Grayson County Bar Association. As a result of her efforts, many more attorneys and paralegals in Grayson County have volunteered their services after learning how they can help meet the legal needs of low-income families in their community.

“Lyla is the epitome of pro bono service,” wrote Debbie Oaks Guerra. “She inspires everyone around her with her dedication and caring. Her pro bono volunteerism is making a real difference in her community and should serve as an example to others in the profession of what can be achieved when we use our special skills as paralegals for those less fortunate than ourselves.” 

Pro Bono Profile: Michelle Reed

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

At a pro bono opportunities panel in 2006, Michelle Reed was deeply moved by the stories of ProBAR, an organization that provides pro bono legal services to asylum seekers detained in South Texas. That panel inspired her to volunteer with ProBAR, and since then she has served as the primary attorney on four pro bono cases and has won asylum grants for all of her clients. 

“When I met Meredith Linsky, Director of ProBAR, at the Bar Leaders Conference, she impressed me greatly with what everlasting benefit we can provide to asylum seekers. Since then, each person I have helped has helped me appreciate the safety and freedom of the United States, and each has caused me to renew my promise to always help people who are often at the lowest time in their life. In the end, it is really community lawyering that makes a difference—one case at a time,” Ms Reed said.

Counsel at Akin Gump in Dallas, Ms. Reed contributes her pro bono services because she believes that attorneys are obligated to use their skills and license to serve those less fortunate. Meredith Linsky says that Ms. Reed’s passion is evident to everyone she works with. “She is a highly skilled lawyer who puts in the time and effort to prepare her cases with care and precision. Besides her skill as a lawyer, what makes Ms. Reed special is the genuine kindness and compassion she shows her clients. She is visibly moved by their stories and humbled by their gratitude,” Ms. Linsky said.

Ms. Reed has also supported and inspired the pro bono service of others. At ProBAR, she has served as an attorney mentor to associates on several asylum cases. And although her practice and responsibilities as a mother of three small children keep her very busy, she makes sure to take time for pro bono as an example to her children. “When I started practicing seven years ago, I was so busy with my billable work that I didn’t know how to keep up,” Ms. Reed said. “I decided right then that I would simply always commit to carrying at least one active pro bono matter at all times – a promise I kept even through two maternity leaves. That way, I would always know that my hard work was paying off.”

Guest Post: Dell Inc. GC shares pro bono story

Editor's note: Lawrence Tu originally posted this piece on a blog for Dell lawyers. It is re-published here with his permission in recognition of Celebrate Pro Bono Week.

By Lawrence P. Tu, senior vice president and general counsel of Dell Inc.

I recently had the privilege of joining a group of Dell attorneys who volunteered to help staff a legal clinic run by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and Volunteer Legal Services of Central Texas, which provides free legal assistance to low-income Central Texans. This is a long-standing program which Dell Legal has supported for over 5 years. The clinic itself operates twice a week, and on the third Wednesday of every month Vinson & Elkins, Dell Legal, and Austin ACC collaborate to provide legal volunteers. It was a sobering and uplifting experiencing, and it made me proud of Dell Legal’s support of this pro bono effort.

The setting was a cafeteria in a middle school located off the highway just north of downtown Austin, over-flowing with dozens of individuals (in some cases couples or entire families) spanning all ages and races. Many had brought documents, pictures, receipts and other files to plead their case. By the time we arrived at 6 PM, each person or group had already filled out a brief in-take form describing why they were there, and these forms were stacked up at the tables at the front of the room staffed by legal aid professionals. The volunteer lawyers go the tables, each is handed a case-form, briefly reviews it, and then calls out the individual’s name; they meet up and then spend as much time as is needed to move the matter forward to the next stage.  We are instructed to conduct an in-depth interview to identify and clarify the client’s issue, and then either help qualifying attendees get their cases referred to Legal Aid or Volunteer Legal Services for formal legal representation, or provide basic advice about next steps for those who do not qualify. A team of professionals from local legal aid organizations is present throughout the evening to advise and guide the volunteers on substantive and procedural questions. As we wrapped up each matter, we would return to the table for another in-take form and start the process with the next “client.” By around 8:30 PM the volunteers had worked through all the stacks of in-take forms and the room had emptied out.

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Pro Bono Profile: Nancy Hui

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

Nancy Hui has been a very active volunteer with Lone Star Legal Aid (LSLA) in Houston since she was admitted to the bar in 2004. In the Consumer and Home Protection Units, she has assisted twelve low-income clients through trial preparations and court appearances in complex cases, one of which involved eleven defendants, lasted six years, and ended finally in a favorable settlement for her client. These clients could not have afforded an attorney, and Ms. Hui’s pro bono service allowed them to successfully navigate complicated legal procedures and protect their rights.

Although Ms. Hui’s job in medical research requires long work weeks, she takes advantage of whatever time she can manage to help her pro bono clients. She also tries to find other ways that she can assist LSLA – by translating documents for Chinese-speaking clients, for example. “I believe attorneys belong to a privileged group who are in a position to help those in need. Every day we see those who needed legal help but just could not have access to it due to their financial situation. It is only right for us to do what we can to help them out. It is the right thing to do,” she said. 

Besides pro bono, Ms. Hui’s other passion is her two dogs, and just like her, they are long-time volunteers. The dogs serve as therapy dogs and visit nursing home residents every month – like master, like dog!

Pro Bono Profile: Michael Stukenberg

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

For more than 18 years, Michael Stukenberg has served on the pro bono panel of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA) in Corpus Christi. In that time, he has never turned down a request from TRLA to assist a client. He has served many in his community, including non-English speaking clients and a local homeless coalition seeking to obtain articles of incorporation.

It is this continued connection to his community, including individuals and families without much money, that has motivated Mr. Stukenberg in his pro bono service. “I have always felt that it was part of our mission and duty as lawyers to offer our services to the broader community, and I have found the volunteer lawyer program at Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid to be a wonderful way to do that,” he says. “I spend most of my professional time helping people who have much pass their wealth on to their heirs in ways that minimize taxes and complications. Our professional rates have gotten so high that we have effectively priced ourselves out of the market for those with less means. Thus I don’t get much of an opportunity to work with the less fortunate except in a volunteer capacity.”

In addition to his individual pro bono service, Mr. Stukenberg has coordinated his law firm’s participation in TRLA’s pro bono program. In this partnership between law firm and legal aid, he sees value for everyone involved. “The clients are always very appreciative and you feel so wonderful that you have been able to help make their life a little easier in some small way.  I also find that I frequently learn something new that I can apply in my practice - so it’s a win-win. It’s a great program and I’m proud and grateful to be a participant.”

Pro Bono Profile: Prof. Larry Spain

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

Larry Spain, Professor of Law at Texas Tech University, has taken hundreds of pro bono cases with Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas (LANWT) since he began volunteering with them in 2001. Speaking of his service, Professor Spain says he believes pro bono is both a professional obligation of every attorney and an absolute necessity for low-income families in need. “For those who are aware of the tremendous unmet need for critical legal services for those individuals unable to afford counsel, every lawyer’s contribution is necessary to realize the ideal of equal access to justice,” he says. Limited resources force legal aid offices in Texas to turn away half of the eligible clients who come to their offices seeking help, and pro bono attorneys are the only ones with the training and license to fill that gap.

At Texas Tech School of Law, Professor Spain serves as the faculty sponsor for three student organizations supporting legal services to low-income Texans: the Student Public Interest Initiative, Volunteer Law Student Association, and Family Law Society. In the evenings, Professor Spain contributes hundreds of hours to legal clinics held monthly by LANWT. And when he’s not providing advice to low-income clients, he’s organizing an annual CLE program by law school faculty for legal aid and pro bono attorneys, serving as chair of the Bar’s Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, or serving on the Law School Advisory Committee of the Texas Access to Justice Commission.

Through it all, Professor Spain is motivated by the students he teaches: “The satisfaction of impacting the lives of individual clients in a positive and lasting way on a matter which is of utmost importance to them is a reward in and of itself. More importantly, as a faculty member, I hope to serve as a role model to law students of the importance of pro bono service and the ethical obligation they have to contribute their services on a pro bono basis throughout their professional career.”

Pro Bono Profile: Starlett Carter

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

Starlett Carter is a transactional attorney at Weil, Gotshal & Manges in Dallas, where she represents large institutional clients in mergers and acquisitions. She is also a pro bono attorney with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, where she represents very different clients – low-income families and individuals – in a wide range of legal issues. In pro bono cases and at DVAP legal clinics, she has assisted clients with divorces, adoptions, asylums, wills, contract disputes, and other claims.

Ms. Carter has always been passionate about giving back to those less fortunate and utilizing her law degree to those in her community in legal need. “There is no better feeling than when your pro bono client is on the verge of tears and is hugging you and thanking you for the positive outcome you achieved for him or her,” she says. Two moments in her pro bono service stand out to her: Obtaining asylum for a client that had endured years of abuse in his native country based on his sexual orientation; and successfully completing an adoption for grandparents who desperately needed to get their grandchildren legally adopted for medical reasons.

This year, Ms. Carter has also served as a 2010 Lend-a-Lawyer in the DVAP office. The Lend-a-Lawyer program allows attorneys to practice at DVAP full-time while receiving salary and benefits from their firm. Ms. Carter said her experience as a Lend-a-Lawyer was exceptional. “DVAP is a wonderful place to work and help out those who could not otherwise afford legal assistance. As an attorney in the DVAP office, I got to personally witness how much the DVAP employees can change their clients’ lives for the better. I am truly fortunate that Weil and DVAP afforded me such a wonderful opportunity.”

Pro Bono Profile: Naomi J. Bang

This week is the National Pro Bono Celebration. Each day this week, Texas Bar Blog will feature Texas attorneys who provide pro bono services in their communities. The service of these attorneys, and the hundreds of pro bono attorneys like them in Texas, ensures access to justice for many of the most vulnerable Texans. For a list of Pro Bono Celebration events in your area, click here.

At the Cabrini Center for Immigrant Legal Assistance in Houston, Naomi Bang provides pro bono legal services to some of the most vulnerable clients – unaccompanied immigrant children. These unaccompanied children are victims of abuse, neglect, and abandonment, and without an attorney like Ms. Bang, these children would have to navigate the complicated immigration system alone.

“I believe that every lawyer has a duty to give back to the community with our training and tools,” Ms. Bang says. “For me, I choose to defend the ‘least of these’ – unaccompanied minors, young victims of trafficking, domestic abuse, and gang violence. These children have suffered more than anyone of us will in a lifetime.”

In addition to her pro bono service, Ms. Bang is an adjunct professor at South Texas College of Law and a senior attorney at the FosterQuan law firm. At the Immigration Clinic, she supervises law students taking juvenile immigrant cases in family and immigration court.  “These cases are not only rewarding, they are excellent opportunities to use and improve practical litigation skills and become great advocates for the people in our community who need us,” Ms. Bang says. “I am very proud of FosterQuan and South Texas College of Law for their dedication to and support of this worthy cause.”

The enormous impact of Ms. Bang’s pro bono service is perhaps best summarized by one of her child clients who said, “She gave me hope to live a better life in this country. She believed in me.”

October 23 is Texas Paralegal Day

Last year, the Texas State Senate adopted Proclamation No. 1144, recognizing October 23 as Texas Paralegal Day, to honor the paralegal community and the contributions it has made. The State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division encourages everyone to honor paralegals by celebrating Texas Paralegal Day. 

District 8 of the Paralegal Division will be sponsoring a celebration on October 22 from 5:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Cassidy’s Irish Pub, 601 N. Water St., Corpus Christi, 78401. 

South Texas Organization of Paralegals, Inc. will be sponsoring "A Salute to Service - 7th Annual San Antonio Paralegal Day Celebration" on October 22 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Bright Shawl, 819 Augusta, San Antonio, 78215. 

And District 3 of the Paralegal Division will be sponsoring the Texas Paralegal/Career Day Celebration on October 26 from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Family Law Center, 200 E Weatherford Street, 2nd Floor Auditorium, Fort Worth, 76196.

The State Bar of Texas created The Paralegal Division of The State Bar of Texas on October 23, 1981, becoming the first U.S. bar association to create a separate division for paralegals. For more information about the Paralegal Division and for more details on the above listed celebrations, please visit the Paralegal Division website at www.txpd.org.

Conflicts rules discussed at Dallas meeting

On Wednesday, October 20, the State Bar of Texas Board Disciplinary Client Attorney Assistance Program (DCAAP) Committee held a public meeting at the Belo Mansion in Dallas to hear input on proposed amendments to four disciplinary rules concerning conflicts of interest (proposed Rules 1.06, 1.07, 1.08, and 1.09). Between 35 and 40 people attended. The full board will meet November 5 in Austin to finalize recommendations to the Supreme Court of Texas regarding these rules.

Click here for an MP3 audio recording of the meeting

Several members of the DCAAP Committee and State Bar Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee were present. State Bar immediate past president Roland Johnson moderated the meeting, and current president Terry Tottenham and president-elect Bob Black also attended. Supreme Court of Texas rules attorney Kennon Peterson represented the Supreme Court of Texas.

Tom Watkins, who chaired the committee that oversaw drafting of the rules, gave a presentation on the conflicts rules and how they compare to the ABA Model Rules and rules adopted by other states. “A lot of people put a lot of thought into [the proposed rules] and there are a lot of compromises,” Watkins said. “If you want to change something you have to decide whether you are trying to protect the public or protect the lawyer, and then you have to balance the ABA Model Rules. I personally think these changes are worthwhile.”

The committee then heard input from general counsel of several large Texas firms, each of whom indicated they were speaking on their own behalf and not their firms. Below is a sample of their remarks: 

  • Stacey Brainin of Haynes and Boone, LLP, in Dallas said she and a working group of attorneys from several large firms recommend eliminating proposed Rule 1.07 and incorporate it into the comments of Rule 1.06. She said the rule will generate confusion because it creates a “radical departure” from existing Texas rules and ABA Model Rules and will create confusion and uncertainty. If 1.07 is removed, Brainin suggested adding a rule on imputed conflicts of interest in its place, consistent with ABA Model Rule 1.10. She also expressed concern with the “reasonable belief” standard in 1.07 because she feels it would be difficult to apply and could invite lawsuits later regarding whether something was reasonable.
  • Gary Gurwitz of Atlas & Hall, L.L.P. in McAllen said he believes proposed Rule 1.07 is a “critical rule.” He supports a previous version of Rule 1.07 proposed by the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee that he said takes the existing rule, which he considers ambiguous, and spells out the exact disclosures an attorney must make to receive informed consent. “You cannot over-disclose,” he said. “These disclosures must be made.”
  • Robert G. Newman of Fulbright & Jaworksi L.L.P. in San Antonio said he disagrees with the removal of the “substantially related matter” standard in proposed Rule 1.06. He said this is not needed because there are few instances of lawyers suing their clients, and there is 20 years of jurisprudence on the existing rule and exceptions to it. “We will now go through 20 years of litigation to come up with exceptions and modify this prohibition,” he said. Newman also commended the process for considering proposed amendments, calling it “a very civil discourse.”
  • Patrick R. Cowlishaw of Jackson Walker L.L.P. in Dallas also expressed concern about the “substantially related matter” standard in Rule 1.06. He said that firms have long understood that they can undertake a case for a second client if the matter is not substantially related, without losing the ability to represent one client if it is sued by the other. The removal of the test, he says, would cause lawyers to be much more restrictive about what matters they take on.
  • Lewis T. LeClair of McKool Smith, P.C. in Dallas provided input on proposed comments 4 and 5 to Rule 1.07. He believed language in those comments make the operation of the Rule unclear.

State Bar President Terry Tottenham closed the hearing by thanking attendees for participating in the “self-regulation of the profession.” “I appreciate everyone’s comments,” he said. “We are all in this together. We’re trying to come up with the best set of rules that apply to as many situations as possible. I appreciate you being here.”

Read the proposed conflicts rules here and a comparison chart with the existing, proposed, and ABA Model Rules, here.

Time remains to comment on proposed conflicts rules

Guest post by Terry O. Tottenham, State Bar of Texas President

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors will meet on Friday, Nov. 5, at 10:30 a.m. at the Law Center in Austin, to finalize recommendations to the Supreme Court of Texas regarding proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. On Oct. 1, the Board made a recommendation to the Court, but qualified it with regard to four Rules concerning conflicts of interest (proposed Rules 1.06, 1.07, 1.08, and 1.09), asking for more time to understand potential issues regarding those Rules. Click here for a comparison of current TDRPC Rules 1.06-1.09, the applicable ABA Model Rules, and the proposed rules with the DCAAP Committee recommendations in red.

The Court agreed to give the State Bar until Nov. 5 to consider these issues further and until Nov. 8 to report back to the Court.

The State Bar of Texas needs to hear from you of any concerns or issues you might have regarding Rules 1.06-1.09 preferably with potential solutions also provided. Asking for an extension of the Court’s deadline was a serious decision that was not taken lightly by Directors. The State Bar will continue to accept information from Texas lawyers and the public about what changes, if any, might be recommended to the Court regarding the Conflicts of Interest proposed rules. To ensure that this input receive full consideration, I would ask you to provide feedback by Oct. 20. In addition to mail (State Bar of Texas, c/o Ray Cantu, P.O. Box 12487, Austin 78711) and email (rcantu@texasbar.com), the State Bar of Texas Board Disciplinary Client Attorney Assistance Program Committee has invited representatives of those who have expressed concerns with the conflicts rules to meet and discuss concerns on Wednesday, Oct. 20, 10:30 a.m. – noon at the Belo Mansion, 2101 Ross Ave., Dallas. If you have concerns or want to be part of that discussion, I encourage you to attend the meeting.

Those who want to recommend change are encouraged to provide alternate language to replace verbiage in the current proposed Rules. Many qualified lawyers have spent years reviewing these proposals, sifting through public comment and multiple committee ideas, to reach the compromises that have created the proposals that are now before us. In fact, proposed changes have been recommended following the State Bar public education hearings and comment period and are included in this draft of the proposed Rules with comments. Those recommended changes were achieved through thoughtful proposals brought to the table with clear “fixes” proposed, discussed, and accepted. We hope that this additional time will bring more understanding of these proposed Rules and if needed make them better for Texas lawyers and their clients.

Texas Supreme Court Amends Law-Practice Rule for Military Attorneys

In an order posted Thursday, the Supreme Court of Texas amended law-practice rules to allow military attorneys stationed in Texas but licensed elsewhere to represent military service members or their dependents in certain civil matters in state courts or tribunals. 

The new rule, limited to lower-grade military personnel or their immediate family members, takes effect Friday. It allows military attorneys licensed and in good standing in other states, the District of Columbia, or U.S. territories to register with the Texas Board of Legal Examiners. Military attorneys cannot be paid for these cases and must obtain approval from a supervising military attorney before taking a case under the rule. 

 

"This effort is another step by the Court to help people without financial resources find legal help when they might otherwise go without," said Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson. "The common legal problems these military personnel and their families face are beyond the reach of legal aid organizations, which are facing their own financial struggles."

 

State Bar President Terry Tottenham said the Supreme Court's military limited-practice rule "will complement the State Bar's initiative, Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, and better enable our service members to receive the necessary legal assistance they deserve and have earned through their sacrifices in defense of our country." 

For more information about the order, click here. Or read the entire order here.

 

State Bar offers new member discounts

This month, the Insurance and Member Benefits Committee of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors announced new member discounts available to Texas lawyers.

The discounts include special prices on legal-specific programs such as law firm merchant accounts and data recovery, and also a range of consumer products including automotive services, electronics, and travel and entertainment.

State Bar members may access the discounts page at texasbar.beneplace.com

Networking webcast serves a critical need

To provide guidance and advice to attorneys in this challenging economic environment, State Bar President Terry Tottenham initiated a series of career development webcasts collectively called Practice Tips in Good Times and Bad. A new webcast premieres the last Thursday of each month on TexasBarCLE.com, free of charge to registered users of the site. (Site registration is also free.)

This month's webcast, Effective and Enjoyable Networking….Really, will confront a reality that most lawyers know all too well:  networking is critical to business success, yet for many, it is unsavory at best and torture at worst — but it need not be so. The program will explore enjoyable, practical tools and strategies that play off the strengths of the user. Discover what will work best for you. Join your colleagues online to hone your knowledge and skill in this essential area. The webcast is October 28 from 12:30 to 1:30pm CT. (It is not MCLE-accredited.) 

To learn of upcoming Practice Tips programs, visit TexasBarCLE.com each month and click the Webcasts tab.

Proposed disciplinary rules changes: Why these rules? Why now?

Guest post by Terry O. Tottenham, State Bar of Texas President

As you know, the State Bar of Texas has been reviewing proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The Supreme Court of Texas asked the State Bar Board of Directors to make a final recommendation to the Court by October 6, 2010. On October 1, the Board made a recommendation, but qualified it with regard to four Rules concerning conflicts of interest (proposed Rules 1.06, 1.07, 1.08, and 1.09). The Board asked for more time to consider those Rules because members of the State Bar expressed concern that those particular Rules had not been fully considered. We are seeking additional input on those Rules only. The Board will meet in Austin on November 5 to make its final recommendation to the Court.

The Board wants to ensure that Texas lawyers understand what the proposed Rules say and what they don’t say. The Board is committed to sending to the Court for referendum the best work product possible with the greatest potential for acceptance into the daily practice of law. None of us is likely to agree with 100 percent of the proposed Rules, but it is important that we agree that the proposed Rules have been carefully reviewed and considered with the ultimate goal of producing the best set of Rules possible for State Bar members, the public, and the legal profession as a whole. As this process has evolved, I have heard from many of you.

I have frequently been asked, Why these Rules? Why now?

  • It has been 20 years since the Rules governing Texas lawyer ethics were updated on a comprehensive scale. Self-governance demands that we remain vigilant in ensuring that the Rules protect the public and promote professionalism.
  • The proposed Rules bring Texas into closer conformity with other states and with the American Bar Association (ABA) Model Rules of Professional Conduct. I say "closer," not "full," because: 1) Texas is never going to fall in lockstep with the ABA; 2) only one jurisdiction has adopted the Model Rules outright while all other jurisdictions that have adopted the Model Rules have made their own modifications; and 3) the ABA Model Rules were drafted with the luxury of not having to actually prosecute someone who has broken the Rules.
  • The proposed Rules add intent standards to help keep lawyers from getting into trouble for unintended violations of the Rules.
  • Technology has changed the practice of law in ways the existing Texas Rules did not anticipate. Texas lawyers, for example, did not use email when the 1990 Rules were adopted.
  • The proposed Rules also make it more difficult to use the Rules tactically to conflict another lawyer out of a representation while still protecting the interest of the client.

These are not all of the reasons the Board is recommending approval of the proposed amendments to the Court, but they are a good start. The proposed changes have been in the works for nearly eight years. Many outstanding lawyers have devoted countless hours to drafting and deliberating over these proposed Rules.

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Random Profile - Phillip Herr, Flower Mound

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 80,000-plus attorneys 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: The opportunity to represent an individual’s rights.

What most people don’t know about me: I speak, listen, and read the Spanish language.

Most important career lesson: “The first to present his case seems right, until another comes forward and questions him.” Proverbs 18:17.

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Chairman of LSC Board of Directors urges lawyers to observe National Domestic Violence Awareness Month

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. John G. Levi, Chairman of the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) Board of Directors, made a statement urging lawyers to join the LSC in observing this month, asking lawyers for their continuing support of local legal aid programs.

His statement explains that domestic violence occurs more often in households facing economic distress. This is especially prominent during our current economic downturn. Levi explains that a third of all cases handled by LSC-funded programs throughout the country involve family law issues, including domestic violence. He says that "at the local level, legal aid programs are partners in efforts to provide comprehensive, coordinated services to assist victims in attaining long-term self-sufficiency and independence from abuse."

Levi states that legal aid lawyers who work throughout the country in the non-profit programs funded by the LSC are "on the front lines in our nation's effort to protect victims of domestic violence and restore them to lives of safety and security." He explains, "Our partners at the national level include the United States Department of Justice, which provides funding to many of our programs through the Violence Against Women Act. Still, the nonprofit programs funded by LSC need far greater resources to adequately address this serious national problem. Access to civil legal aid is vital to our continuing progress to reduce and prevent domestic abuse."

For more information on the Legal Services Corporation and how you can help, please visit the LSC website at http://www.lsc.gov/index.php.

State Bar Board to hold special meeting on rules recommendations

The State Bar of Texas will hold a special meeting of its board of directors on Friday, Nov. 5, at 10:30am at the Law Center in Austin, to finalize recommendations to the Supreme Court of Texas regarding proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. On Oct. 1, the Board voted to recommend to the Court that the conflicts of interest rules, 1.06-1.09, be delayed for further consideration based on new concerns brought up the week of the meeting. In the attached letter from Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, the Court agreed to give the State Bar until Nov. 5 to consider the issues further and until Nov. 8 to report back to the Court on those recommendations. Prior to November 5, the State Bar will seek out information regarding concerns and then consider any changes or additions to the proposed amendments to those rules. Both State Bar President Terry Tottenham and Chief Justice Jefferson point to the time and expertise that numerous lawyers have already put into the process. More information will be posted to the website as the process develops. If you have questions or concerns, email rcantu@texasbar.com.

October Texas Bar Journal focuses on child welfare

Every child deserves a loving, permanent family. Yet many foster children drift for years among a variety of living arrangements.

This issue of the Texas Bar Journal explores how the Texas legal community is working to improve Texas' child welfare system and how attorneys can help the state's most vulnerable children.

TYLA presented their Vote America! video at Judson High School in San Antonio

Yesterday, the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) presented their Vote America! video to over 700 high school senior students at Judson High School in San Antonio.

To remind us of our civic duty, Vote America! educates students about the heroic efforts made for equality and democracy; the struggles of the civil rights era, passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the 15th, 19th, and 26th amendments to the U.S. Constitution are all chronicled in this historical video.

The event was a tremendous success as not only did TYLA present to a large number of students, but they also helped register 106 new voters! The event was a day-long presentation divided into class periods which allowed the senior class students to attend and register to vote.

The presentation began with a step-by-step overview of the voter registration card and a question-and-answer session on "voting myths." TYLA committee members presented the Vote America! video followed by a question-and-answer session.

You can find out more about the Vote America! project on TYLA's website at http://www.tyla.org/tyla/index.cfm/projects/vote-america/ .