$2M gift funds endowed chair at SMU Dedman

Ellen K. Solender entered Southern Methodist University School of Law as a student in 1968. Shortly after graduating, she joined the staff and, in 1977, became the second woman in the history of the law school to received tenure. Now, she has gifted $2 million to the school, since renamed SMU Dedman School of Law, to fund the Ellen K. Solender Endowed Chair in Women and the Law.

“My mother worked for the passage of the 19th Amendment and thought she would see equality in her lifetime. I thought I would see it in mine,” Solender said. “Now I worry whether my granddaughter and my great-great-nieces will see equality in their lifetimes. I now realize these were only milestones on a longer journey to equality. These issues are so important to me, it is my hope that this endowed chair could be a catalyst and hopefully speed up the journey to equality for women.”

The chair, which the university is seeking to fill immediately, will support a faculty member to encourage research, teaching, and advocacy in legal education and the legal profession, aimed at advancing equality for all women.

“She has dedicated her career to promoting equity and mentored countless women along the way,” said Jennifer Collins, the school’s first female dean. “This gift will allow the law school to continue Professor Solender’s important work on issues that will advance the rights of women, ensure gender equality, and train lawyers to pursue these goals."

Program connects underrepresented undergrads to legal profession

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2015 summer session of the University of Houston Legal Center’s Pre-Law Pipeline Program. The six-week residential program is designed to introduce undergraduates from low-income, first-generation, and underrepresented backgrounds to the legal profession though introductory law courses, internship opportunities in the Houston area, and LSAT prep, which has increased the median score of its participants by 10-12 points. To date, the program has produced more than 100 graduates who are currently attending law school or practicing law.

Attorneys are able to participate in the program by hosting interns and speaking with students, among other opportunities. For more information on the UHLC Pre-Law Pipeline Program, go to law.uh.edu/pipeline or contact Kristen Guiseppi at kguisepp@central.uh.edu.

Baylor Law School places as quarterfinalist at National Trial Competition finals

Although the crime is fictitious and the attorneys, witnesses, jurors, and judges are acting, the courtroom drama at the annual National Trial Competition is very real to the law students navigating what will soon become an integral part of their careers.

The students, who play either the role of prosecuting attorney or defense attorney, have learned trial technique and strategy from their law school classes and have developed their skills through practice and training from professors and attorney coaches. This year’s National Trial Competition had more than 315 participating teams from 160-plus law schools competing in 14 regional tournaments across the country, with the top two teams from each region advancing to the national finals in Texas from March 11-15. Chicago-Kent College of Law took home first prize as the 2015 National Champion Team, while Baylor Law School placed as a quarterfinalist.

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Scholarship luncheon to benefit Hispanic law students

The Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation will meet on Wednesday, Aug. 20, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Houston for its annual scholarship luncheon, which provides financial support to six law students who best exemplify leadership, commitment, justice, and equality. Each Houston-based law school selects two scholarship recipients.

“It is important that we encourage a new generation of lawyers to not only be great lawyers but to also give back to the legal community,” said attorney Benny Agosto Jr., founder of the MABATx Foundation and partner in Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend in Houston.

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What You Really Need To Do Leading Up To The Bar Exam

The following is a guest post by Roberto "R.C." Rondero de Mosier:

Hey, 3Ls! Who’s excited about the Bar Exam?...Anyone?

With finals just around the corner at every Texas law school, and July just a couple of months past that, it’s easy to hit that point in your law-school career when you just want to curl up into a ball. Let’s be honest, it’s a daunting time.

The bar exam is the final hurdle in your law student career, as it represents the big payoff from 3-5 years of continuous effort. It is no wonder that people put enormous amounts of pressure on themselves leading up to those big three days—July 29-31.

When confronted with this pressure, and for the month of April, I notice people deal with the pressure in on one of two ways:

Fight – They get on the ball, pick a review course, and get hardcore about studying for the bar.

Flight – They avoid talking about it, hang out at the bar, and put off choosing a review course.

Let’s be frank, regardless of which category you are in, until your first day of a bar review course, it’s a zero-sum game for everyone. While the bar exam is certainly overwhelming, and not easy, it can be beaten with a steady diet of consistent preparation. Give the bar exam two months of your respect and you are in a great place to succeed.

So let’s talk about what you really have coming at you. What is really worth thinking about before the exam:

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Houston attorney Benny Agosto Jr. to address South Texas College of Law graduates

On Dec. 14, personal injury attorney Benny Agosto Jr. will deliver the keynote address at the commencement ceremony of his alma mater, the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

STCL graduates can learn from Agosto’s personal story, particularly as they prepare to take the Texas bar exam and enter a less-than-prime job market. Although Agosto’s parents had no more than a sixth grade education, they instilled in him the value of hard work and a good education. He was recruited by Houston Baptist University for his soccer skills and went on to graduate from college, obtain his law degree, and have a successful law career.

Additionally, Agosto established the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas Foundation in 2006 and in 2011 served as the president of the Hispanic National Bar Association. Earlier this year he received the Peter Torres Jr. Community Service Award from the State Bar Hispanic Issues Section and the Litigation Counsel of America’s Peter Perlman Service Award.

Number of takers of the Law School Admission Test continues to bottom out

James L. Rosica
The Tampa Tribune

The number of takers of the Law School Admission Test continues to bottom out, with an 11 percent drop as of the October administration of the exam. Takers fell from 37,780 a year ago to 33,673 last month, according to the Law School Admission Council, which develops the test. The latest number is a 45 percent decline from October 2009, when law school fervor started to ebb. As of August, law school applications to American Bar Association-accredited schools nationwide were down nearly 18 percent from 2012, also according to the Law School Admission Council.

You may read the full article on The Tampa Tribune's website.

Fresh off reform vote, Mongolian bar president visits North Texas legal mentors

The president of Mongolia’s top lawyers’ association was in Dallas-Fort Worth on Friday for meetings on how to improve the country’s bar and implement its newly adopted Bar Act.

Batsukh Dorjsuren, president of the Association of Mongolian Advocates, held private meetings with legal mentors including Judge Joe Spurlock II, a Texas Wesleyan University law professor who founded and directs the law school’s Asian Judicial Institute, which focuses on educating former communist nations about the rule of law and judicial independence.

Just weeks ago, Mongolia’s national legislature passed a Bar Act based largely on the 1939 act that created an integrated Texas bar, Spurlock said. The Mongolian bar now must write its bylaws and establish committees to carry out the reforms, and Batsukh came to Texas to see how the institute could help.

“This is a big step,” said Spurlock, who has been working with the country to develop an integrated bar system since the mid-1990s. “Now that they’ve got it, they don’t want to lose their momentum.”

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Veterans Legal Initiative coalition legal clinics

Two legal clinics for veterans in Texas were held last week.

On November 16, the Bell County Bar Association sponsored a legal advice clinic for veterans at American Legion Post 573 in Harker Heights (near Killeen) in Bell County. JoAnn Merica 
(pictured) presented a CLE program for members of the Bell County Bar, then attorneys stayed to volunteer for the clinic. DeLaine Ward of the Austin Bar Association also came down to assist. Ken Valka, president of the Bell County Bar Association, along with Cynthia Champion and Cindi Parker, co-executive directors of the Bell County Bar, facilitated the Bell County Bar’s sponsorship role. 40 veterans received assistance.

On November 17, Prof. Bridget Fusilier held Baylor Law School’s Wills Clinic, where 25 veterans had wills and estate planning documents executed with the help of volunteer attorneys and law students. 11 more are scheduled for execution at Baylor’s December clinic.

These were two successful events as part of the Veterans Legal Initiative coalition and Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans

UTEP's Law School Preparation Institute receives $250K gift

Former Texas State Bar President Bob Black has gifted $250,000 to the University of Texas at El Paso Law School Preparation Institute.

“I made a 10-year commitment to LSPI because I believe in its mission and am proud of its accomplishments,” Black said. “At their graduation ceremony this summer, I got to meet the young people and their families who have sacrificed to go through the challenging program. They are our future and I am optimistic about our future because these young people are exceptional. We need programs like LSPI to help prepare these future leaders for the challenges ahead. No other university in the country has a program as successful at LSPI, and this brings added distinction to UTEP.”

As state bar president, Black presented a resolution honoring the LSPI in conjunction with a September 2011 meeting of the Bar’s Board of Directors in El Paso. The resolution recognized the LSPI’s efforts and accomplishments in providing educational and practical opportunities for UTEP students interested in pursuing a career in the legal profession. Black, who earned his bachelor’s in history from UTEP in 1977, was named a 2011 Distinguished Alumnus.

"Bob Black is one of the most beloved and best-regarded attorneys in Texas, and LSPI is lucky to count him as a friend,” said William Weaver, J.D., Ph.D., co-founder and director of the Law School Preparation Institute. “Bob has been a potent mentor to LSPI students and staff and is a vocal advocate of LSPI in his work with the State Bar and other organizations. His extraordinary gift to LSPI helps ensure that our students will continue to receive the best academic preparation and advice available concerning admission to law school."

The UTEP Law School Preparation Institute was established in 1998 to help students prepare for law school through an intensive summer academic program and reap the benefits of direct access to the legal community through instructors, clerkships and internships. The program strives to educate and guide students, as well as the community, about the responsibility and integrity required of law students and lawyers.

The program’s students have partnered with the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program of El Paso to volunteer as legal advocates for children in the local foster care system. Students also reach out to local high school students by providing activities and programs to encourage them to pursue a career in the legal profession.

The UTEP Law School Preparation Institute has also partnered with the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) since 2009 to hold a pre-law symposium to emphasize to El Paso high school students the importance of diversity in the legal profession and to encourage them to pursue a legal education and help prepare them for that path.

About 60 percent of UTEP Law School Preparation Institute graduates go on to first-tier law schools, and more than 40 percent attend top 25 law schools.

“LSPI has received terrific support from lawyers in El Paso,” Black continued. “When I was president of the State Bar, I used the opportunity to make the case to all lawyers across the state who had benefitted from an education at UTEP to help LSPI. This is an ongoing effort and I hope to continue advocating on behalf of statewide support from alumni for LSPI. It deserves it.”

More information about the LSPI can be found at www.academics.utep.edu/law.

Media Contact:
Veronique Masterson
Public Information Officer

TBJ Board of Editors talk social media, blogging with SMU law students

Students in the Intellectual Property Association at SMU's Dedman School of Law had the opportunity to listen to members of the Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors talk about the quickly evolving area of social media, blogging and the law on Tuesday. The board of editors met that morning on the law school campus as guests of Prof. Xuan-Thao Nguyen, who arranged the panel discussion. Board of Editors Chair Michael Smith (second from left) of Marshall blogged about the experience at EDTexweblog.com. He was joined on the panel by (from left) Mitch Smith of Beaumont, John Browning of Dallas (who teaches on the topic at SMU), and Steve Fischer of Rockport. Discussion touched on the recent Troll Tracker litigation, the dos and don'ts of lawyers as bloggers, and ethical considerations of monitoring jurors' social media presence.

2011 TYLA Minority Scholarship Program application deadline is October 14

The deadline to receive 2011 TYLA Minority Scholarship Program applications is tomorrow, Friday, October 14.

The TYLA Minority Scholarship Program is an annual scholarship awarded to one minority student at each Texas law school. The scholarship promotes diversity in the legal profession by assisting members of minority populations within the bar to enter the legal profession and to participate more fully in the programs and activities of TYLA and the State Bar of Texas. Scholarship awards are distributed prior to the Spring semester.

For more information and to download the application, you may visit http://www.tyla.org/tyla/index.cfm/resources/law-students/scholarships/.

Timely filing deadline for the February 2012 Texas Bar Exam is August 30

The timely filing deadline to apply to take the February 2012 Texas Bar Exam is August 30. The late filing deadline is October 30. For more information on rules and requirements, application fees and late fees, and to download an application to take the Texas Bar Exam, you may visit the Texas Board of Law Examiners website at http://www.ble.state.tx.us/applications/apps_index.html.

Deans Debate Future of Law Schools

Four distinguished law school deans held a lively discussion about the future of law school education before a capacity crowd Thursday at the State Bar Annual Meeting. Roger Cossack - who is participating in his eighth consecutive Annual Meeting! - moderated the debate, which was part of the Future of the Profession CLE. The panel included Ken Starr (pictured, left) of Pepperdine Law School, Larry Sager of the University of Texas Law School, John Attanasio (pictured, right) of Southern Methodist University, and Brad Toben of Baylor Law School. The hot topic was the rising cost of law school education. All agreed that tuition is too high but that there are no easy solutions. Increasing scholarship budgets and providing loan forgiveness programs help, but "most law schools are vitally tuition dependent," said Starr, adding that alumni associations need to get "radically interested" in this issue. Toben raised the issue of law schools' dependence on the U.S. News & World Report rankings, perceived as all important by many prospective students and law firm recruiters. "Too much money is being spent to get better rankings," he said. Sager added that the system makes it difficult for schools to view students holistically rather than as a number because the ranking focuses on how much schools spend per student. "That's a huge variable," said Sager.

Scumbag Billionaire: Dallas legal pros entertain, for a cause

"Scumbag Billionaire" is the title of the 24th Bar None variety show, where Dallas-area attorneys, judges, paralegals, and other legal professionals prove each year that the legal profession has plenty of humor and creative talent.

This year's show runs June 17-20 at the Greer Garson Theatre on the SMU campus. All proceeds benefit Sarah T. Hughes Diversity Scholarships at the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, for which Bar None has raised more than $1.1 million over the years.

For tickets, visit BarNoneShow.com

Check out these videos of past Bar None performances: 


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.


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.

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