Houston firm's social media contest encourages teens to not text and drive

The Houston law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend is bringing attention to Distracted Driving Awareness Month by sponsoring its third annual Text Free Texas Scholarship Contest. The team of personal injury attorneys said it aims to encourage teens to not text while driving because they “have seen all too often the consequences of distracted driving,” referring to serious and fatal accidents frequently caused by using cellphones in the car.

Sophomore, junior, and senior students at Westside High School, Carnegie Vanguard High School, and Hope Academy Charter in the Houston area are eligible to enter the contest by submitting a 250-word (or less) pledge to resist texting while behind the wheel. Students can submit these by posting them on the law firm’s Facebook page or Google+ page and including their name, high school, grade, and #TxtFreeTX. In May, Abraham Watkins will select the three top entries (one from each school), and the winners will each receive $350.

For more information, go to abrahamwatkins.com.

Firm's new office showcases a modernized Texas Lawyer's Creed

When the firm of Shipley Snell Montgomery recently moved its office to a historic downtown Houston building, it hired local architects at Mayfield and Ragni Studio to give the new space an affordable yet meaningful design. While many law offices across Texas take on a traditional décor, with chunky wooden bookshelves, oversized leather chairs, and framed artwork, Shipley Snell and the designers went a different direction—by implementing some tools of the lawyer’s trade and doing so in a modern way. This included hundreds of old law books used for a custom reception desk, several law journals stacked and tied with a belt and buckle to form an end table, and life-size words taken from the Texas Lawyer’s Creed—“A lawyer owes to a client allegiance, learning, skill, and industry”—painted on the walls throughout the lobby and meeting rooms.

Photographs courtesy of Mayfield and Ragni Studio and photographer Eric Laignel

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Law firm-sponsored CrossFit event raises funds for Texas Children's Hospital

Last Saturday in Houston, in the name of charity, 600 people filled an empty parking lot to face several minutes of increasingly intense pain while pumping out a series of box jumps, push presses, situps, lunges, pushups, kettlebell swings, squats, and burpees—repeated a total of 57 times.

Sponsored by the Houston law firm of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, the Battle Buddy 57 CrossFit event raised more than $12,000 for research, education, and training as part of the Olivia Grace Stevens Endowed Fund in Neonatology at Texas Children’s Hospital.

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Scams Continue to Target Texas Attorneys

Update 2/26/15. We have received a report of a scam from an attorney who received a request for assistance. She spoke on the phone to the proposed client, who asked that a buyer send the firm a 15 percent deposit from a purchase price to use as a retainer, that the firm bill their fees against it, and return the remainder to the client. Upon further searching, the attorney uncovered a scam.

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New IOLTA Scam Targeting Attorneys

Texas attorneys should be extra-vigilant regarding potential scams involving IOLTA accounts. We recently received reports of numerous email messages addressed to employees of National Bankruptcy Services bearing forged service@citibank.com return addresses and from Gil_Norris@NBSDefaultServices.com, claiming to represent the National Bankruptcy Services, LLC. Messages allege that the recipient’s IOLTA account has insufficient funds to pay an outstanding check and includes a .zip file attachment purportedly containing additional information and presumed to contain malware. 

There is a strong possibility that these messages are part of a broader phishing attack targeted to legal professionals. Email headers indicate that these messages were sent from several different email servers scattered across the globe.

The representative messages are as follows:

"Please see the attached Iolta report for 7448-1996.
We received a check request in the amount of $19,521.42 for the above referenced
file. However, the attached report reflects a $0 balance. At your earliest
convenience, please advise how this request is to be funded.

"Please see the attached Iolta report for 2794-3646. We received a check request in the amount of $19,480.81 for the above referenced file. However, the attached report reflects a $0 balance. At your earliest convenience, please advise how this request is to be funded."

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2013 Certification Application Filing Deadline Extended

The Texas Board of Legal Specialization is accepting certification applications for 2013 filing period. This year’s filing deadline is April 19, 2013.

Visit www.tbls.org for specific requirements for each of 21 specialty areas, and begin the application process at the “Get Certified” section of the website. The Attorney Online Application allows applicants to securely store, retrieve, and edit their application information at any time.

For more information, email tbls@tbls.org or call 1-855-277-TBLS.

Attorneys: Be extra-vigilant for scams targeting lawyers

Update (4/25/2012): Today we received a report from a firm in Houston regarding a scam that has apparently targeted at least six law firms. Please see the comment from Ted Tredennick, below, for more information.

Update (11/15/2011): We have received reports of persons impersonating law firms in the Houston and Dallas areas. These persons are purporting to be from the law firms and are aggressively demanding payment on debts. If you encounter this situation or tactic please contact the White Collar Crime and Public Integrity Section of the Texas Attorney General's Office.

Update (9/6/2011): We received a report from a non-lawyer in Illinois who received a call from Michael Jones at (512)651-3635 who purported to be an investigator with the State Bar of Texas. He had the person's social security number and told her she had defaulted on an online loan, had to be in court the next day, and would be arrested if she did not pay $250.

Update (7/27/2011): At least two local bar associations report that scam artists are calling members and asking for dues payments. We have received reports from the Tarrant and Lubbock County bars.

The callers say they are "from the bar association" and that the attorney's bar card is expiring or that membership dues must be paid immediately. According to one report, the caller promised a free section membership with dues renewal.

These are not legitimate calls from any bar association. Do not provide credit card information if you are called and asked for a dues payment.


Texas attorneys should be extra-vigilant regarding potential scams involving fraudulent checks or wire transfers. These scams are increasing in sophistication, sometimes involving innocent third parties who seek legal services at the request of a scam artist.

The bottom line is this: Never issue a check from a trust account until deposited funds have been collected.

Recent scam scenarios include:

  • unsolicited email requests for legal help collecting money or judgments, sometimes apparently coming from actual professionals whose identities have been stolen
  • a real estate transaction for an overseas client (whose identity was stolen by a scam artist) involving an innocent third-party realtor
  • impersonation of law firms by scam artists who issue bogus checks and attempt to charge a fee for the checks to clear
  • a bogus check received by a law firm, purportedly for payment regarding representation of an inmate
  • impersonation of a lawyer and law firm by a scammer "collecting debts" under the attorney's name

Again, be vigilant and do not disburse funds from your accounts until underlying funds have cleared your bank (and not simply been made “available”).

Cases involving bank fraud are investigated by the Secret Service. If you are targeted, contact an office in your area. Internet fraud should be reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

If a scam has targeted you or your firm, please leave a comment below describing the scenario or tactics the scammer used.

Preventing and Resolving Law Firm Disputes

A new State Bar of Texas CLE course premieres this week to focus on an area of growing concern to the legal profession. "Lawyer and Law Firm Disputes: Problems and Prevention" will be held Friday, September 17, in Dallas at the Belo Mansion. The brainchild of Interim Dean Susan Saab Fortney of the Texas Tech University School of Law, the course brings together top experts to discuss intra-firm litigation, loss prevention, risk management, lawyer mobility, de-equitization, and more. The keynote speaker is Professor Robert W. Hillman, author of Hilman on Lawyer Mobility: The Law and Ethics of Partner Withdrawals and Law Firm Breakups. The luncheon speaker will be W. Mark Lanier, recognized by the National Law Journal as one of the nation's Top Ten Trial Lawyers and one of the Most Influential Lawyers in America.

Accredited for 7.25 MCLE hours, including 3.25 hours ethics, the course will be recorded and archived for future viewings at TexasBarCLE.com.

Texas Minority Attorney Program Comes to Austin and Houston

It’s not often that you get the opportunity to have fun, learn, network, and gain CLE credit. Well, guess what? That opportunity has come and you can be a part of it during the Texas Minority Attorney Program 2010. The one-day seminar and networking event is aimed at minority and women solo and small firm practitioners.

TMAP offers an opportunity to converse with other solo and small firm practitioners about the unique issues you face (law practice management, any one?) while allowing participants a chance to discuss various client development strategies and to network with local judges and other legal professionals. Doesn’t sound too bad, right? We didn’t think so, either. So sign up already.

Still not convinced? Okay, well, we know solos and small firms are always looking for advertising and marketing tips. TMAP’s got it. Solo and small firm practitioners also like to stay out of hot water. TMAP’s got information on that too. Other topics include criminal law issues and a judges’ panel of courtroom dos and don’ts. Did we mention that breakfast and lunch are included? No? Well, they are. If that doesn’t seal the deal, we’re not sure what will.

Two TMAP events are being offered this year:

TMAP has consistently been praised for its practical and relevant information. One past attendee said, “This course consistently offers the best value and biggest bang for the buck of all CLEs in Texas. The speakers were all insightful, informative and inspiring.”

We told you it’s gonna be good. What are you waiting for?

For more information, contact the State Bar Office of Minority Affairs at (800) 204-2222, ext. 1538 or minorityaffairs@texasbar.com.

Gary F. Kennedy named TMCP Corporate Counsel of the Year

Congratulations to Gary Kennedy, American Airlines Senior Vice President and General Counsel (pictured, left, with State Bar of Texas President Roland Johnson). The Texas Minority Counsel Program named Kennedy the Corporate Counsel of the Year for his commitment to promoting diversity in the legal profession and at American Airlines. 

Kennedy is a founding member of the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity. Last year, he helped organize a Call to Action Summit that enabled a forum for discussion about improving diversity between the general counsels of large corporations and managing partners of top law firms. Because of Kennedy’s leadership, American Airlines’ legal department has successfully implemented diversity initiatives, improving diversity within the department and promoting it through outside counsel.