Random Profile: Steve Howen, Texarkana

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-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: tomorrow will be different

What's the turning point that made you decide to become an attorney? I was the geek in elementary school who thought Perry Mason was cool. What I always wanted to do.

Who are the people you admire most, and why? My parents, because no one told them to slow down.

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Smart, tough, and tenacious: The story of Texas's first female county attorney

By Lori J. Kaspar

It was 1912. Nellie Gray Robertson was smart, tough, and tenacious. The youngest of six children [1], she wanted to make her mark on the world. She vowed to become independent and support herself with a career.

Robertson was born Feb. 28, 1894, in Granbury, Hood County, Texas [2]. It was a time when women had few legal rights and most depended on their husbands for survival. She knew firsthand the consequences when that support system failed. Her father, William Jarrett Robertson, had left home shortly after her birth, leaving the family destitute. He drifted in and out of the family for years while Nellie’s mother, Arminda Barton Robertson, struggled in poverty [3].

The family was “dirt poor,” according to Nellie’s niece, and they depended on Nellie’s older brothers to provide money and food [4]. William died in Louisiana in 1910, and while Arminda was qualified for a Confederate widow’s pension, she did not begin receiving it until 1937 [5].  

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Random Profile: Deborah Johnson, North Richland Hills

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Education: Texas Tech undergrad – guns up Red Raiders, and Texas Wesleyan School of Law, which is now Texas A&M School of Law. So I guess that makes me an Aggie by proxy? Can you be a Red Raider AND an AGGIE? Uh-oh.

Bet you didn’t know: I used to be in musical theatre and wanted to star on Broadway.

Current Project: Building my brand as an entertainment lawyer and being a new GRANDMA.

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Random Profile: Sarah Vollbrecht, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-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: It is an interesting and challenging job (--except during large document reviews).

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: “This too shall pass” (from my parents). I remember that when I’m up late at night writing a brief - there will come a time when the brief has been filed and life will be better.

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Random Profile: Brian White, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-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: That moment when the jury returns a favorable verdict and your client can barely contain themselves.

Most important career lesson: As long as the case is ongoing, keep pressing whether you’re far ahead or way behind. Never quit. It isn’t over until its over! This applies to personal development as well.

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Attorney and civil rights activist Adelfa Callejo dies

Adelfa Callejo—the first Latina to graduate from Southern Methodist University School of Law—died Saturday morning from brain cancer. She was 90 years old.

One of the first Latinas nationwide to receive a law degree, Callejo represented the disadvantaged as an acclaimed civil rights lawyer. At the law firm of Callejo and Callejo, where she practiced for about 40 years, she advocated for immigrant rights and access to quality education for Dallas children. Callejo’s determination and strength shined as she fought through three previous bouts with cancer. 

Among her numerous accomplishments, Callejo served as regional president of the Hispanic National Bar Association, a director of the State Bar of Texas, and co-founder and past president of the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas. She lived to experience the naming of a school in her honor, the Adelfa Botello Callejo Elementary School in southeastern Dallas, which opened in the fall of 2012.

Memorial arrangements are pending. 

Random Profile: Tom Stephens, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

If I had more time, I would
Never use an alarm clock.

Best thing about being a lawyer
Was being able to practice alongside my dad.

Bet you didn’t know
There are 18 different animal shapes in the Animal Crackers cookie zoo.

Another little known fact
In 1885, Dr Pepper was invented by a pharmacist named Charles Alderton in Waco, Texas – thank you sir!

Bad habit
McDonald’s $1 large Dr Pepper.

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Random Profile: Jason Franklin, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-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: Helping others while constantly being challenged and learning new things.

Hobbies: Travel, snowboarding, wakeboarding, and reading

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Random Profile: Jaimes Sher, Irving

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson: Never let anyone tell you that you can’t achieve your goal. Always treat people the way you would want to be treated. Before acting, a little empathy goes a long way.

Bet you didn’t know: I have a dozen patents in which I am a named inventor. I am particularly proud of the patent on which I am the sole inventor for making wine through chemistry.

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Random Profile: Mary Elizabeth Fuentes Valdez, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 94,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

The part of my job I do best is: Relating to the youths with whom I am privileged to work; some can be challenging but most are really fun and inquisitive and intelligent (and very street savvy), and they keep me on my toes.

Bet you didn’t know: that I’m a Bexar County Master Gardener and that I volunteer regularly with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service.

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Former State Bar president returns from Turkey

Richard Pena has spent a lifetime advocating for the rule of law—in Texas and around the world. Pena, who practices in Austin, just returned to the United States from a trip to Turkey, where he met with lawyers, law professors, law students, and bar association officers to learn about that country’s justice system. The former State Bar president is used to traveling the globe and learning about other cultures while educating others about ours. He was chair of the Leader Advisory Board of the People to People Citizens Ambassador Program, an incarnation of an initiative founded in the fifties based on President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s belief that communicating with other countries can foster peace. He currently is Special Assistant for Legal Program Travel at Academic Travel Abroad. Pena’s first of 16 trips, in 2000, was to China, and since that time, he has lead delegations of legal professionals to places such as Tibet, Vietnam, Cambodia, Egypt, Israel, South Africa, Cuba, Russia, India, Brazil, and Turkey. 

To learn more about Pena's trips, go to his blog at legaldelegationsabroad.com or contact him directly at rpenalaw.com or email him at richard@rpenalaw.com.

Below, he provides his commentary on his recent stay in Turkey.

The president and board members of the Istanbul Bar Association are going on trial Jan. 7, 2014. They are facing two to four years in prison, as well as disbarment. They are being charged for the actions of asking a judge, in open court, to permit a fair trial for defendants in a high profile case. The technical charge is “attempting to influence a member of the judiciary.”

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See a slide show from Pena's trip to Cuba and read about his trip to India


 

 

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Random Profile: Elizabeth Rivers, Houston

Elizabeth RiversFor Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Favorite food: It’s a toss-up between lobster and snow cones.

Hobbies: Gardening, but without a green thumb. What I do might better be described as slowly killing plants.

If I had more time, I would: Flip houses.

Favorite saying/quote: A recent favorite: “Let’s eat grandma. Let’s eat, grandma. Commas save lives.”

Best thing about being a lawyer: The law is constantly evolving, so there is always something new to learn. And if you don’t like what you learn, you have the opportunity to argue different interpretations, new applications, or outright change. That keeps life interesting.

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Random Profile: Heath Novosad, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-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: Helping people navigate the legal system

Most important career lesson: Be an effective communicator.  Whether you are advising your client about the strengths or weaknesses of his/her case, negotiating with opposing counsel, arguing before a court, or presenting your client’s case in the most effective manner to a jury, as a trial lawyer, your job requires effective communication.

Bet you didn’t know: I was the left tackle for the 1994 Sealy Tigers Class AAA Texas State Champion football team.

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Random Profile: Jerry Atherton, Tyler

Jerry AthertonFor Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-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: Being able to help my clients solve legal problems that they cannot solve themselves.

Most important career lesson: Be honest and punctual and always make a positive first impression.

Culinary talent: Just learned to make tamales.

Favorite restaurant: Pat Gee’s Barbeque located between Tyler and Kilgore.

If I had more time, I would: Teach young people math skills.

Bet you didn’t know: When I was younger (much younger), I could dunk a basketball (on a 10’ goal!!!).

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Lawyers support community, honor fallen co-worker

On Sept. 11, attorneys from the Dallas office of Holland & Knight volunteered to complete several service projects at the Texas Fire Museum.

Though they spent the day painting, landscaping, and cleaning, their work was not just a way to give back to the community—it was also a chance to pay tribute to Glenn Winuk, a New York-based partner and volunteer EMT who was killed during the collapse of the World Trade Center.

Through the nonprofit MyGoodDeed, Winuk’s brother co-founded the annual event, which fosters service by improving the lives of others, as a way of honoring both Winuk and all who perished in the attacks. In 2009, Congress officially designated the date as a National Day of Service and Remembrance under bipartisan federal law. 

Pictured above - Front row: Amy Pettis, Eric Kimball, Gladys Smith-McCloud, and Anthony Herrera. Back row: Angelica Beauchamp, Tyson Wanjura, Michael Emerson, and Jim Chadwick (Dallas office executive partner)
 

Random Profile: Jessica Mangrum, Austin

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Personal: I grew up in West, Texas. 

Areas of practice: I have a litigation practice, including construction, personal injury, and professional liability. 

Education: I went to UT Austin for undergrad and law school. I bleed burnt orange. 

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Random Profile: Rich Melendez II, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-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: I get to compete every day. 

Most important career lesson: Learn from others, but always be yourself. 

How do you think the practice will change in the next 15 years? I think juries will need more video and multimedia to process information. Kids don’t learn from reading a book anymore. 

Favorite TV program: Sons of Anarchy.

Bet you didn’t know: I had to go to summer school to graduate high school.

Another little known fact: I was in Saudi Arabia and Iraq in the first Gulf War-U.S. Army. 

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Random Profile: Houston Tower, Austin

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-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: Helping people.

Most important career lesson: Be humble and diligent.

Bet you didn’t know: I can walk on my hands and freestyle rap.

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Random Profile: Martina Meritz, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson: Take everything in stride.

The part of my job I do best is: Negotiations. I like to find creative ways to come up with settlement strategies.

Who is your favorite on-screen or literary attorney, and why? Atticus Finch…He was the essence of a great human being.

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Random Profile: John Schneider, Plano

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-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 thing I like about being a lawyer, especially a patent attorney, is the intellectual challenge in finding ways to help your clients achieve their goals.

The part of my job I do best is: I get satisfaction out of helping solo inventors and small companies obtain value for their inventions.

When you are not practicing law, what do you like to do? In addition to my hobbies, I enjoy helping those with intellectual and developmental disabilities, hence my involvement with the Arc and Special Olympics.

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Random Profile: Thais Amaral Tellawi, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Favorite saying/quote: Make it a great day! So easy, yet so many of us forget we can do it!

When they do the film about you, what actress should portray you? People have told me I look like Sandra Bullock so I’d pick her. I think she’d play a great lawyer, don’t you?!

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Random Profile: Danny Long, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson: Lean into your fears.

Favorite saying/quote: “I find that the harder I work, the more luck I seem to have.”  Thomas Jefferson.

Best thing about being a lawyer: The tremendous satisfaction I have in counseling and assisting clients who often times have nowhere else to turn.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? George H.W. Bush

What has changed the most technologically or practice wise since you have been licensed? The advancement in courtroom technology has changed the most. When I first started practicing law, very few lawyers were using computer technology in presenting their cases in court. Now it is a necessity. 

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Texas House Honors Justice Pope on His 100th Birthday

Retired Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jack Pope, the longest living state chief justice in U.S. history, was honored Thursday by the Texas House of Representatives on his 100th birthday. State Rep. Dan Branch, who was a law clerk for Pope in 1983-84, introduced him at the ceremony and sponsored a resolution celebrating Pope’s life and career.

Other jurists, including current and former members of the Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, also attended the afternoon ceremony. Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson spoke at the event, calling Pope “a remarkable jurist and an even more remarkable man.”

Jefferson and Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht read numerous letters congratulating Pope on his 100th birthday, including from President Barack Obama, former U.S. presidents, and Retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

Pope spoke briefly at the event, thanking those in attendance for honoring him.

Pope began his 38-year career as a Texas jurist in 1946 when he was appointed to a district court bench in Nueces County at the age of 33.  In 1950, voters elected him to serve on the San Antonio Court of Civil Appeals. Pope was elected to the Texas Supreme Court in 1964, where he served as a justice and then chief justice, until he retired in 1985.

During his career, Pope had numerous noteworthy accomplishments, including the establishment of formal judicial education for Texas judges, a judicial ethics code, state water rights, and reforming and simplifying how cases are pleaded and tried. 

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Random Profile: Mary Grace Ruden, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Areas of practice: I joined the Harris County Public Defender’s Office in March 2011. Prior to joining the office, I was in private practice where I represented clients accused of misdemeanors and felonies in state and federal courts. While in private practice, I also orchestrated mock trials and shadow juries for major white collar crime litigation.

Latest pursuit: Currently I am in the Mental Health Division of the Harris County Public Defender’s Office. The Mental Health Division is designed to provide specialized defense services to mentally ill defendants, with attorneys supported by social workers who connect defendants with mental health services in addition to representing them.
 

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Random Profile: Tracy M. Sorensen, Hunstville

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-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: Making an impact in people’s lives hopefully making a difference, and not having to be at my desk all day long.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? Condoleezza Rice.

Culinary talent: I’ve never caught the kitchen on fire.

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? Accounting or human resources.

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Dallas attorney receives Gene Cavin Award

Tex Quesada
George "Tex" Quesada, left, with Charlie Wilson

Dallas attorney George "Tex" Quesada , of the firm of Sommerman & Quesada, L.L.P., was named the recipient of the 2012 Gene Cavin Award for Excellence in Continuing Legal Education. He accepted the award at the Bar's recent Advanced Trial Strategies Course in New Orleans. A frequent and well-regarded CLE speaker, Quesada has served on several State Bar committees, including the local Grievance Committee. He is a past president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and the Dallas Trial Lawyers Association. In addition, Quesada teaches Sunday school and is a long-time supporter of local charities.

Established in 1989, the Gene Cavin Award recognizes long-term participation in State Bar CLE activities, either seminars or publications. It is named for the founder of the Professional Development Program who during his service from 1964 to 1987 brought the program to international prominence.

Random Profile: Barbara Brown, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Mentor/hero: Morris Dees, founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center - an amazing man who has made many contributions to our country

The part of my job I do best is: training new generations of attorneys.

What most people don’t know about me: I was on the archery team in high school.

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University of Houston Law Center dean resigns

University of Houston Law Center Dean Raymond T. Nimmer has resigned after successfully guiding the law school for the past seven years. Nimmer will take a one-year sabbatical during the next academic year and then return to the classroom. Associate Dean Richard M. Alderman will serve as interim dean during the national search for a new dean.

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Random Profile: Jason D. Schall, Dallas

Best thing about being a lawyer: Representing the United States of America.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? If only for a day, I’d have to say my wife. That would be a learning experience.

Favorite TV program: Breaking Bad (currently); The Wire (always).

If I had more time, I would: Spend it in the garage with my father.

How do you think the practice will change in the next 15 years? With so many new lawyers, the legal profession will have to diversify to remain prestigious. I expect to see more part-time lawyers.

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Random Profile: Leon Barish, Austin

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next? 

Most important career lesson: I have tried to keep legal services affordable, which has resulted in longstanding loyal clients who appreciate what I do for them.

Bet you didn’t know: I swam 1.5 miles in San Francisco Bay from Alcatraz Island to Aquatic Park last summer in the 20th annual Sharkfest Alcatraz swim.

What kind of car do you drive? An all-electric, zero emission Nissan Leaf

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Random Profile: Zachary P. Oliva, Houston

Zachary OlivaFor Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next? 

Family: Single. My parents are retired in Phoenix and my brother lives in Manhattan. Can you guess who I visit during the winter?

Most important career lessons: Have the mindset of someone who is self-employed.

Hobbies: My Ohio State Buckeyes, reading, staying fit, trying to get back into fly fishing.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Overcoming negative public perceptions and increased competition due to an oversaturated profession.

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Special engagement featuring Justice Sonia Sotomayor to be held at BookPeople

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor will be speaking & signing copies of her newly released memoir "My Beloved World" at BookPeople on Jan. 23 at 6:30 p.m. The speaking portion of the event is free and open to the public. Tickets for the book signing are available online and in-store. Get the full details.

Sotomayor is the first Hispanic and the third woman to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court. She was appointed by President Obama in 2009. In her new autobiography, Sotomayor chronicles her life from childhood to a seat on the highest court.

Lynne Liberato to receive the 2013 Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Award

The Anti-Defamation League has selected Haynes and Boone, LLP Partner Lynne Liberato as the recipient of the 2013 Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence award honoring an outstanding member of the legal community who exhibits an exceptional commitment to equality, justice, fairness and community service. 

“One of the most respected lawyers in Texas, Lynne is passionate in her commitment to the Houston community,” said Mark Trachtenberg, Houston administrative partner. “Her dedication to both the practice of law and to making Houston a better place makes her a most deserving winner of this award and we are so proud of her.”

Liberato has served as the president of the State Bar of Texas, Houston Bar Association, and the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society. She has also chaired the board of the United Way of Greater Houston, where she currently chairs the THRIVE, which gives hardworking families a better chance of becoming financially stable.

She also serves on the board of the directors of the Greater Houston Partnership and formerly was a member of the board of trustees for South Texas College of Law. 

At Haynes and Boone, Liberato co-heads the firm’s Appellate Practice Group and has handled some of the most significant trials and appeals in Texas, including before the United States and Texas Supreme Courts.

Liberato will receive the 2013 Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence award at a luncheon on March 19 in Houston.

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Random Profile: Amanda Houston, Lubbock

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-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: Learning something new every day! I also like being able to help people know and understand their rights. 

Talents (besides law): I love decorating and doing things to our house.

Bet you didn’t know: In addition to being a full-time attorney, on my off time, I help my husband run his business. We are busy, busy, busy all the time. 

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Westwood High School Choir

Westwood High School Choir students performed for State Bar staff at the Texas Law Center today.

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Random Profile: Chris Peterson, Bryan

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next? 

Chris PetersonBest thing about being a lawyer: It opens doors and it gives you the opportunity to help folks that need it.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? I would love to be a CEO for a major corporation or a leader of a country, but I can’t think of a single person.

Most important career lesson: Build a strong referral network and manage your costs. 

Favorite food: You can’t beat my grandmother’s apple pie or a good Chicago-style hot dog.

Favorite TV program: Sportscenter & anything on Food Network.

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Random Profile: Vivian Gathright, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-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 ability to use my skills to eradicate
injustice - that is, to use my skills as much as possible to keep America as the land of the free and the amazing home for the poor and weary souls.

Bet you didn’t know: I have a strong desire to get more intimately involved with politics. 

Another little known fact: I was the main kicker for my powder puff football team with the FBIHQ. I shoot a mean three-pointer in basketball.  

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Random Profile: Camelia Lopez Shoemaker, Plano

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next? 

Most important career lesson: It’s a small, small world. Your reputation and how you treat others will be remembered.

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? I have always wanted to be a restaurant critic.

Favorite TV program: Modern Family

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Spotlight on Veteran John Dennis Thomson

As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, the State Bar of Texaswould like to honor some of those who served our country by spotlighting interviews from The Veterans’ History Project, a joint project between the Texas Court Reporters Association and the State Bar of Texas. The following post is an excerpt from an interview with John Dennis Thomson who served in the United States Air Force from 1958-1978.

MS. LONG: Do you remember arriving in Vietnam?

MR. THOMSON: Oh, yes.

MS. LONG: What was that like?

MR. THOMSON: Well, it was on Da Nang Air Base. And it was a huge base with a Marine establishment across the road from the Air Force establishment, so – but I actually – while I was assigned to 6924th Security Squadron that was down on Main Base Da Nang, I was actually assigned on top of Monkey Mountain at the Tactical Air Control Center North Sector, and provided special intelligence information to the commander and his staff that ran the control of all the aircraft in the north end of Vietnam.

MS. LONG: Wow. What was it like being in Vietnam?

MR. THOMSON: Well, actually, I had probably as soft a duty as anybody had because we were out of rocket range, and so when we could hear combat things going on we'd grab cameras and binoculars to look and see what we could see. But we were basically in a very, very safe location.

We traveled up the side of the mountain, and down at the end of the duty day every day. It seems like we were about 700 feet off the ground there.

MS. LONG: Did you see any combat in Vietnam?

MR. THOMSON: Well, there was -- I was assigned to this base that was down at Main Base Da Nang and there were regular rocket attacks, but fortunately we were out of rocket range where we were, so we grabbed cameras and binoculars and took pictures from up above.

MS. LONG: Tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences while you were in Vietnam.

MR. THOMSON: Well, unequivocally the most memorable was the raid on the Sontay Prison Camp. That's S-O-N-T-A-Y.

I – the commander of Tactical Air Control Center North Sector was a full colonel who had, I can't remember how many years service, and I was there to support him with information that was above top secret information. And, so, my office was a little vault that was next to the tactical air control center. Because a top secret clearance didn't get you into the vault that was my space.

And we basically got the special intelligence information and passed it to the people that were authorized to have that out on the control center floor that was right next to us. And our -- our office space was probably not as big as this apartment, but it took a special intelligence clearance to get into that particular area.

And when the raid on the Sontay Prison Camp was being planned, I got called in to the colonel's office, and there were three colonels in his office, and we talked for maybe 10 minutes. And he had been a Doolittle Raider, so he was not a low-key individual, and they excused him and told him they'd be done with his office – we'd be done with his office in about 45 minutes, and they excused this colonel.

MS. LONG: What is a Doolittle Raider?

MR. THOMSON: Oh, that was a raid in World War II –

MS. LONG: Okay.

MR. THOMSON: – that was a significant thing. And, you know, I wasn't there for World War II.

MS. LONG: Sure.

MR. THOMSON: But he was one of the pilots that had flown in Europe on that particular raid.

And, so, anyway, one of the things that they told me was that they needed me to run a extension cord on the special intelligence telephone, out of our special intelligence area that was about the size of this, out onto the operations floor where the individuals were controlling the aircraft that were flying over northern South Vietnam and North Vietnam. And I was supposed to run an extension cord out there to one of the radar places.

And during the raid I sat next to General Manor that ran the raid, and fed him information that wasn't supposed to be out in that particular area so that he had the latest information on what was going on at the time.

MS. LONG: How long did – did the raid last?

MR. THOMSON: Oh, probably – probably – from the time we set up till it was completely over it was probably somewhere between three and five hours.

MS. LONG: Wow.

MR. THOMSON: And when we got north – the raid was unsuccessful because the POWs had been moved from that site to another location, so we didn't pick up anybody at all in that raid.

The other interesting thing to me about that is that I went to – I don't even remember what school it was – after I was back here in San Antonio. And I went to – a terrorism school. And at the terrorism school – this was two or three years after the Vietnam War situation. And the colonel that was running the terrorism school was introduced as one of the raiders who would have been picked up had Sontay Raid been successful.

MS. LONG: Wow.

MR. THOMSON: So I – when we had our first break – I was a captain at the time – went up and introduced myself and explained to him that – what had – how I had been involved in that. And he said, "Captain, I don't know what your plans were, but we're having dinner tonight so we can talk."

And they had actually been moved – apparently unrelated to the raid, but they were – had been moved to a camp that was close enough that they could hear and figured out what was going on. And he said, "It didn't make any difference that you didn't get us, because we knew you tried." But it still impacts on me. Read the full interview.

Spotlight on Veteran Jerry Davis Minton

As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, the State Bar of Texas would like to honor some of those who served our country by spotlighting interviews from The Veterans’ History Project, a joint project between the Texas Court Reporters Association and the State Bar of Texas. The following post is an excerpt from an interview with Jerry Davis Minton who served in the United States Air Force from 1951-1955. 

MR. KUBES: Tell me about a couple of your most memorable experiences.

MR. MINTON: You mean missions?

MR. KUBES: Yes.

MR. MINTON: Well, one that I remember very clearly was on Christmas Eve of 1952. By that time I was a flight commander. I was made a flight commander, I think, on December the 1st, '52. They assigned our flight, which was A-flight of the 80th, for a night mission on Christmas Eve, and I took it. And as I told you, we didn't really have the equipment for all-weather, and when I went out to the airplane, preflighted it, it was snowing and the ceiling was very low, and – which I didn't like, but, you know, it didn't make any difference what you liked. That was what you were assigned.

And I took off and it was in the overcast almost immediately, popped out on top, and went up north of the assigned section of the MSR, which was just south of Sinanju, North Korea. And it was clear on top and then in the front, but the snow disappeared by the time I got the other side of our front lines. I remember flying about 30 miles west of Pyonyang. It was their capital then and the enemy capital today. And I was surprised to see lights all over Pyonyang; not like Fort Worth or New York or something on Christmas Eve, but a lot of lights, and it kind of surprised me.

But I found a – I found a convoy and dropped on them, and I was really apprehensive about making an approach back to the base in snow and low ceilings. The only approach we would have had would have been the so-called GCI approach, ground-controlled instrument approach, which we didn't practice very often. And I got back to about 15 miles south of our lines and looked up ahead of me at the base, and the thing had cleared out and the stars were out. And I was one happy pilot because I wasn't going to have to make an approach in the snow.

And when I got back to the quarters, people had champagne and other things and all the goodies that they had gotten from home, and they were having a Christmas Eve celebration. And I – I just thought that was absolutely great. I was glad to get that one out of the way and then celebrate Christmas Eve. It was nice. Read the full interview.

Spotlight on Veteran John Dwight Burcham

As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, the State Bar of Texas would like to honor some of those who served our country by spotlighting interviews from The Veterans’ History Project, a joint project between the Texas Court Reporters Association and the State Bar of Texas. The following post is an excerpt from an interview with John Dwight Burcham who served in the United States Army Air Corps from 1942-1945.

MR. TARRANCE: You were running out of gas? 

MR. BURCHAM: Running out of gas and running out  daylight. And so the navigator, he's so distraught, he  said, I'll jump out. I'll jump out. I said you can jump  out if you want to. Everybody else is going to stay. So  you do what you want but whatever you do, do it now  because we're going down. And so I drug the field with  the landing lights on. It was that dark. The field — the beach. And I couldn't see anything. It looked fairly  level. So I said boys, we're going in. 

And so after buzzing it a couple of times, I came in  and touched down. And boy, it was – I thought, oh, boy,  this is nice. I can't believe it's that smooth. And all  of a sudden we hit a ditch. The nose wheel went out and the sparks from the nose gear coming up just filled the  cockpit absolutely. It was just like a ton of fire. And  then when the nose wheel let go, then the left main gear  let go and the left wing went down in the sand and the  engine on the side went down in the sand. So all of a  sudden we were there. We went up – the tail went up  vertical. I swear it was vertical because in that ditch – it went up on the nose of the airplane. And I thought  we're going to burn. All of a sudden it stopped there and  settled back down on the tail. 

And I got out of a window I swear wasn't much bigger  than that (indicating). I knew I couldn't help the guys  in the back so I thought we all need to do the best we  could to get away before it exploded. And it was a pretty  good drop down there to the sand. But, anyway, I got out.  This whole time I was the calmest I think I've ever been.  I never got excited. I never got afraid. And I jumped  out and ran away where I thought I was far enough from the  airplane that I knew it was going to explode and my knees  just gave out. All of a sudden, I just, woe. We had the  right wing was up in the air as a result of the left wing  being in the sand so we got on the radio again, tried to  raise somebody, couldn't raise anybody. 

MR. TARRANCE: Everybody got out all right? 

MR. BURCHAM: Everybody got out. One of the belly– the belly gunner got hit by a gun and just got a small cut  on his forehead, and that's the only person who was  injured at all. 

So we got out and everybody got out and since  the number four engine was up in the air, we got it  started. That's when we tried to call on the radio and  couldn't raise anybody. So I said, well, somebody has got  to go downtown where this town – we didn't even know  where we were. And it was Reggio de Calabria which was an  old town on the Mediterranean there just across the  straits of Messina from Italy. So I selected a guy name  Tex. I've forgotten his name now. He was our top gunner.  He was from Nocona, Texas. He and I – all we had was our  45's. We started in towards town. And what I wanted to  do is call the Air Force. 

So I ran into – we ran into a donkey-drawn cart and  we talked them into taking us into town and to the Mayor's  office. He was very gracious. He called – got Rome on  the phone for me – Air Corps in Rome – headquarters in  Rome. I told them we were down. Nobody was hurt. The  airplane was not flyable out. And so they said, well,  we'll send somebody for you as soon as we can. Well,  three weeks later – we lived under the wing of the  airplane for three weeks. Read the full interview.

Spotlight on Veteran John Mark Blaze

As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, the State Bar of Texas would like to honor some of those who served our country by spotlighting interviews from The Veterans’ History Project, a joint project between the Texas Court Reporters Association and the State Bar of Texas. The following post is an excerpt from an interview with John Mark Blaze who served in the United States Coast Guard from 1942-1945. 

Our ship would go all over the Philippine Islands to Mindanao to Samar to Kurgan to Borneo, wherever American troops were that needed stuff, we would bring it to them. In Mindanao, we had a gun fight. My – my eyes were burned up pretty bad. So then they had to take me from there to back to Manila and put me on a hospital ship, the auxiliary hospital, called the Refuge AH1, Auxiliary Hospital 1, the Refuge.

They left my sea bags and everything on the ship. Now, I had no ship – I had no place to go except be on the ear, eyes, nose, and throat there.

A little story happens while I was a patient on eyes, nose, and throat ward there. My eyes were bandaged. My mail was brought to me from my wife, and they stuck it under the pillow of my bed, and they said that there would be somebody within the next two or three days come by to be able to read my mail to me.

In the meantime, a sailor came up and asked me – said, Hey, Sailor, do you mind if I read your letters to you? I said, Yeah, please. And he looked at the postmark, and he said, You're from Crown Point, Indiana? I said, No, I'm from Gary. He said, I'm from Gary, too. And so the story goes. We met there in a little ward in the Philippines about 12, 13,000 miles away from home.

Now, I never seen the guy, and he had what they called infectious sinus. They could – nothing could cure him, because the only medicines they had at that time was penicillin. So they had to take him back to the United States. Now, I didn't have his name written down or nothing. I woke up the next day, and I asked about the guy who read the letters, and he said he's gone. He left.

About five years later, I was a chef at a restaurant in Gary. A guy came in to sell me meat, and he was a driver for the Wonder Bread Company, and he was kind of black market at that time, and he had a shelf underneath his truck that he had – a dry ice down there, and he had meat he was trying to sell to restaurants and whatnot. And he kept pestering me for about three or four days, and I wouldn't buy any meat from him.

Then he asks me, he said, Were you in service? And I said, Yeah. He said, I was, too. He said, Where were you? I said, South Pacific. He said, Mine was, too. He said, But I got a medical discharge. I had an infectious sinus. I said, Oh my God, were you on the Refuge? He said, Yeah. His name was Frank Jason, and we became lifelong friends after that. Read the full interview.

Spotlight on Veteran Captain Earl Dean Milton

As the nation celebrates Veterans Day, the State Bar of Texas would like to honor some of those who served our country by spotlighting interviews from The Veterans’ History Project, a joint project between the Texas Court Reporters Association and the State Bar of Texas. The following post is an excerpt from an interview with retired Captain Earl Dean Milton who served in the Army Air Corps from 1943 to 1948.

MRS. CLOWER: You did not have radar before? You were just using the star navigation?

MR. MILTON: Yes. Radar wasn't any good over the ocean, and it would help when you had land and water. It shows up real good on a screen.

MRS. CLOWER: That was a challenge.

MR. MILTON: We had to bomb Japan a few times during the war with radar. When you're in clouds and your bombardier can't see, you use radar to drop your bombs, and I was the expert on radar.

MRS. CLOWER: So you would say you would give the command to drop the bomb at the right time?

MR. MILTON: Uh-huh.

MRS. CLOWER: And this was, what'd we say, 15 missions?

MRS. MILTON: Twenty-two --

MRS. CLOWER: Three fire bombs and 22 weather.

MR. MILTON: The weather mission we carried a bomb, a 500-pound bomb, and we would drop it anywhere we wanted to. So I would say I bombed Japan 23 regular times, 2 weather missions, makes 25. So I bombed Japan 25 times.

MRS. CLOWER: I'm sure that they remember you, too. Did you receive any kind of recognitions or medals?

MR. MILTON: Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Metal, and something else. I forget what it is.

MRS. MILTON: Asiatic Pacific Theater Ribbon, Eastern Mandated Island Campaign was Bronze Star. Air Metal with two oak leaf clusters. Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Offense against Japan with Bronze Star, and then the Victory Metal for anyone who fought in the war until it was over. Distinguished Flying Cross they got from flying a low-level fire bomb mission to Tokyo.

MRS. CLOWER: That's very impressive. I'm glad you were decorated.

MR. MILTON: Yeah. My scariest time, I can tell you, 23 was — I told you we discovered the jetstream. Well, there was a big, big plan to bomb, fire bomb Tokyo. We were amongst the last ones, maybe, you know, three or four or five or 600 planes. And we came — we were coming in last. Tokyo was afire. We came in and dropped our bombs, oh, oh, oh, and all of a sudden we hit this flame. All of a sudden we were going up, up, up, up, up, up. So we finally had our radar on, but for some reason they quit working, and our pilot gave me — asked me for direction home, and I gave him what, based on when we flew up, what I had. So I gave that to him. And it was cloudy. This was the daytime, late, midafternoon, I guess you'd say. And when we got out of that smoke we were in the clouds. And I said to him — I gave him direction home. And I said, "Will you try to climb out of these clouds so I can take a fix on the sun and the moon?" My book showed me the moon would be available, visible. So we climbed and climbed, and I got up in the — where I could see my bubble, keep going up, keep going up. Finally we broke out, and I took a fix on the sun and a fix on the moon. Got back down to my desk, figured it out, couldn't believe it. So I told him what I found and new directions to get home. And, oh, my god, we were way over. I said, "Let me go check again." So I got up there and doubled up, came back down and says, "That's correct." He said, "We don't have enough gas to get home." I said, "Well, let me give you direction to Iwo Jima." I came back down and we were in the clouds again. So kept going and kept going, and finally time to be there, we still couldn't see the ground, we were in the clouds.

MRS. CLOWER: Oh, dear.

MR. MILTON: I said, "Circle, and keep going down." So we started circling and going down. Finally we broke out, bingo, there was Iwo Jima. I was sweating that one out.

MRS. CLOWER: How many people were on the plane you would normally have?

MR. MILTON: Eleven men.

MRS. CLOWER: Eleven men. You saved yourself and ten others that day. What a story. That's remarkable.

MR. MILTON: That was my scariest one.

MRS. CLOWER: Well, I would think so.

MR. MILTON: Trouble is, we wouldn't have made it if it hadn't have been for Iwo Jima. We didn't have enough gasoline to get home. Read the full interview.

Random Profile - Christina Peterson, Georgetown

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-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: My favorite part is being able to offer support to someone who’s feeling vulnerable or worried. I like hearing a client say “I’ll sleep better tonight now that I’ve talked with you.”

Most important career lesson: Early in my career, I practiced criminal law which gave me a lot of trial experience. In one trial, the facts were on our side and we were confident of an acquittal on the charge of DWI. An issue came up regarding an objection which would have little, if any, impact on the outcome of the case. The prosecutor and I were arguing our positions at the bench and I got caught up proving my point. My husband acting as co-counsel, approached and slipped me a note. Thinking it must be some intriguing point of law that would seal a ruling in my favor, I opened it with a flourish, ready for my “Perry Mason” moment. Instead it said “You’ve won, don’t blow it. You’ve made your point, now shut up and sit down.” It was then I realized the importance of staying focused on acting in the client’s best interest, even if it means leaving the ego unsatisfied. 

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Random Profile - Celeste Blackburn, The Woodlands

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next? 

Areas of practice: State and Federal Criminal Law.

Education: I graduated from Texas A&M University in May of 2000 with a degree in Animal Science. I then attended South Texas College of Law graduating in December of 2002.

Most important career lesson: You never know who will be elected as a judge, so be professional to everyone!

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Random Profile: Stacey Valdez, Webster

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-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: Making a difference in the lives of my clients.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Staying current on quickly evolving Supreme Court opinions. 

Most important career lesson: Invest in educating yourself. Board certification has changed the landscape of my practice.  

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Random Profile: Debora Alsup, Austin

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-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: I am always learning something new.

Most important career lesson: Success in a law practice is as much about relationships as it is giving excellent service to your clients.

Favorite saying/quote: “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you always got.”  - Mark Twain

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Random Profile: Thomas Johnson, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Areas of Practice: Captain - USAR - Judge Advocate General's Corps - 1st Legal Operations Detachment

Who are the people you admire most and why? I admire those who successfully balance career, family, and personal development and do so to the benefit of each.
 

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Random Profile: Wade Barrow, Fort Worth

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 93,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next? 

Areas of practice: Plaintiffs Personal Injury  

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? Steve Nash in his prime. 

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Random Profile: Sheila Garcia Bence, Harlingen

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next? 

Sheila Garcia BenceFamily: Husband, child and two furry children (our dogs).

Areas of practice: Criminal, family and some probate matters; also a part-time Juvenile Referee.

Best thing about being a lawyer: It is a constant challenge, because there is always more to learn.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? My daughter, would love to see the world again from a child's perspective.

Culinary talent: Albondigas Soup or a Homemade Pizza.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Keeping up with the effects of technology and social media in regards to your clients and practice methods.

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George "Tex" Quesada Wins Gene Cavin Award

George "Tex" Quesada, of Dallas firm Sommerman & Quesada, L.L.P., was named the recipient of the 2012 Gene Cavin Award for Excellence in Continuing Education. Named for the State Bar's first full-time CLE director, the award is the highest honor given annually by the State Bar of Texas in the area of continuing legal education.

Quesada is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education seminars. He has served on several State Bar committees, including the local Grievance Committee. He is a past president of the Texas Trial Lawyers Association and the Dallas Trial Lawyers Association. In addition, Quesada teaches Sunday school and is a long-time supporter of local charities.

 

Established in 1989, the Gene Cavin Award recognizes long-term participation in State Bar CLE activities, either seminars or publications.

 

Random Profile: Raul Sandoval, Jr., Austin

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Family: The best parents anyone could ask for; older brother; younger sister; and three amazing nephews.

Areas of practice: Exclusively Family Law.

Education: Washington & Jefferson College (BA, double-major in English and Sociology, minor in Philosophy, cum laude). Texas Tech University School of Law (J.D.).

Culinary talent: Anything on the grill or in a smoker.

Most important career lesson: Exude confidence at all times.

Favorite saying/quote: “To listen well is as powerful a means of communication and influence as to talk well.”  — Chief Justice Marshall.

Pet peeve: Austin traffic.

Favorite TV program: It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

The last movie I saw: Wrath of the Titans

Favorite food: Baby-back ribs or beef fajitas.

Favorite restaurant: Magnolia’s Café (if only considering Austin, TX).

Hobbies: Playing basketball, exercising (running, lifting weights, plyometrics), reading.

If I had more time, I would: Travel much more.

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? A basketball coach (any level: from middle school to college).

What has changed the most technologically or practice wise since you have been licensed? It seems like everyone has an iPAD in Court these days.

Raul works at Cordell & Cordell, P.C. in Austin.

You can also view Raul's TexasBar.com profile.


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Opinions and statements expressed in these profiles are those of their subjects - not the State Bar of Texas.

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Random Profile: Elizabeth Martinez, Laredo

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-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: Helping people in need

The best piece of advice ever given to you: Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together.

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Texas Center for Legal Ethics Announces 2012 Pope Professionalism Awards

The Texas Center for Legal Ethics (TCLE) is proud to announce the 2012 recipients of the Chief Justice Jack Pope Professionalism Awards: former Texas Supreme Court Justice Harriet O’Neill and attorney Kevin Dubose.

Former Justice O’Neill — who served with distinction on the Supreme Court of Texas from 1998 until she retired in 2010 — has long been a champion for pro bono representation of low-income victims of domestic violence in Texas. She founded the Law Office of Harriet O’Neill in Austin, where her practice includes business, personal injury and commercial litigation, and the mediation of complex legal disputes. She frequently writes and lectures for continuing legal education programs.

Dubose, a partner in Alexander, Dubose & Townsend, L.L.P. in Houston, conceptualized, initiated, and executed a project that culminated in the creation of the landmark Standards for Appellate Conduct, which, in 1999, became the first set of ethical standards tailored to appellate practice adopted by any jurisdiction in the United States.

"Harriet O'Neill and Kevin Dubose are highly esteemed by their peers for their immense contributions to the legal profession," says TCLE Executive Director Jonathan Smaby. "The Pope Award highlights the good works that lawyers do, and this year’s Pope Award recipients have careers that are rich in accomplishment."

The Pope Awards will be presented by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson at the Annual Texas Supreme Court Historical Society Dinner on June 1 in Austin.

Each year, TCLE presents the Pope Awards to one judge and one attorney who personify the highest standards of professionalism and integrity in the field of law. The Pope honor is named after one of TCLE’s founders, former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jack Pope, who was the first individual to receive the award in 2009.

Random Profile: Timothy C. Ross, Houston

Best thing about being a lawyer: Being able to help the construction community and frequently dealing with interesting and cutting-edge legal issues that affect the construction industry.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? Jimmy Buffett – I have always wanted to fly fish off the wing of an amphibious plane that I just landed in a remote bay.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Dealing with society’s negative perception of lawyers and the services they provide

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? I would likely be a contractor, building either offshore drilling rigs/vessels or custom homes.

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Random Profile: Thomas Queen, Austin

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Areas of practice: M&A and Corporate Finance

Who is your favorite on-screen or literary attorney, and why? Literary – Mason Hunt, in Martin Clark’s The Legal Limit. We have similar backgrounds!

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Random Profile: Coretta Graham, Corpus Christi

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Coretta GrahamBest thing about being a lawyer: freedom to build your own small business.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? the Queen of England.

Culinary talent: sweet potatoe pie.

Pet peeve: people who waste your time.

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? social worker.

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The Chambers Women in Law Awards unveiled in New York

More than 200 distinguished guests attended Chambers USA's first Women in Law Award ceremony at the Plaza Hotel in New York last night, Thursday February 2nd.

The ceremony highlights the achievements of women lawyers and diversity of law firms. It is the most comprehensive national awards for women lawyers across the U.S. to date, with lawyers nominated from California to New York, Utah to Oklahoma. The event was well supported by America's leading corporate counsel, who are the driving force for diversity in U.S. law firms.

Sidley Austin landed the prize for Most Innovative Gender Diversity Initiative whilst Morgan Stanley won the award for Most Female-Friendly Company.

Managing Editor Catherine McGregor said: “It's really wonderful to have such support from both law firms and the in-house communities for these awards. We're very happy to have been able to showcase the achievements of so many excellent women lawyers, particularly those in the up and coming category. We look forward to honouring more outstanding women in future years."

View the full list of nominations and winners [PDF]

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Random Profile: Steven Goldston, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Steven GoldstonMost important career lesson: stay current in law office technology.

Favorite saying/quote: Serenity Prayer: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

Pet peeve: intrusive TSA screenings at airports.

The last movie I saw: J. Edgar.

Hobbies: collect American civil war rifle muskets and WWII lugers.

What has changed the most technologically or practice wise since you have been licensed? Change from telephone to smart phone.

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Random Profile: Adam Schachter, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-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:  getting paid to help people

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Texas Senator Kirk Watson to receive Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award

Senator Kirk Watson Named “Legislative Hero” for Improving Access to Justice to the More Than Six Million Texans Who Qualify for Legal Aid

AUSTIN, Texas – The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Foundation will honor Senator Kirk Watson with the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas during a special presentation in Austin on Friday, December 16. Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan L. Hecht, the Court’s liaison for access to justice issues, will present the award to Senator Watson.

Senator Watson has a long history of supporting civil legal aid issues, including efforts that led to an historic appropriation of funding in the 81st Legislature for civil legal services to poor Texans. Through his leadership efforts, Watson has helped improve access to justice for poor and low-income Texans.

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ADL to honor Beverly Godbey

Beverly Godbey, Parter, Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, will receive the 2011 Anti-Defamation League (ADL) Larry Schoenbrun Jurisprudence Award at a luncheon in her honor on Friday, December 16, 2011. She will be the 22nd recipient of this important award. Godbey is Chair of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas.

Harriet Miers, former recipient of the Schoenbrun Award and Partner at Locke Lord LLP, is serving as the luncheon Chair. For more information about the event, please call ADL (972-960-0342).

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Random Profile: Jay J. Chase, Dallas

Jim J. ChaseFor Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Areas of practice: Commercial Litigation.

Education:  University of Texas; St. Mary's University.

If I had more time I would: Invent the teleport.

Best thing about being a lawyer: You can always develop work for yourself.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? General stigma of not having a moral conscience.

Most important career lesson: When things are not going right, take a step back and remain calm. Having clarity is crucial and mistakes occur when you lack it. 

Favorite saying/quote: "You can't lose what you don't put in the middle…But you can't win much either."

Bet you didn't know: I cashed in the World Series of Poker Main Event.

Favorite TV program: Dateline NBC, King of Queens.

Hobbies: Sports, poker.

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? Business owner/ business management.

What has changed the most technologically or practice wise since you have been licensed? Growth of electronic discovery and e-filing.

How do you think the practice will change in the next 15 years? Widely accepted practice of web conferencing and centralized e-discovery for all parties.

Jay is an associate at Godwin Ronquillo PC.

You can also view Jay's TexasBar.com profile.


Prizes
It's not every day that you're randomly picked from among 87,000 peers. To commemorate, randomly-profiled attorneys receive a TexasBar.com t-shirt.

Update Your Online Profile
Have you updated your attorney profile lately? Go to MyBarPage on TexasBar.com, log in, and click "Update My Profile." While you’re at it, click “My Directory Options” and add a photo, law firm link, and Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and blog accounts – all for free.

Opinions and statements expressed in these profiles are those of their subjects - not the State Bar of Texas.

If it sounds too good to be true ...

By Lené Alley DeRudder

Have you heard the saying if it sounds too good to be true then it probably is?  My advice to young and especially new attorneys is if it sounds too good to be true then beware.

A few weeks ago a colleague of mine who has built a successful solo practice referred a collection matter to me.  He received the potential client inquiry through his firm website which has been search engine optimized to the tenth degree.  This should be a strength but unfortunately Internet fraudsters turn it into a weakness.

I contacted the potential client, who was out-of-state, had several e-mail conversations, and engaged in a game of phone tag.  He requested my Engagement Letter Agreement, I sent it to him, and did some “Google research” on the potential client and debtor.  Both businesses appeared legitimate.  The potential client signed my Engagement Letter Agreement and agreed to my fee arrangement – there were no red flags at this point.  The first red flag showed up when shortly after my representation was retained my now client informed me that arrangements had been made with the debtor and no legal action was required.  However, the debtor would be sending prompt payments to my firm and I was to subtract my retainer from that amount.

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Random Profile: Mark Briggs, El Paso

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 92,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson: Do the things you are passionate about.

The part of my job I do best is: give clients practical advice without legalese.

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Random Profile: Jennifer Brevelle, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson:  The character and professionalism you exhibit as a lawyer are revealed in the respect you receive. 

Best thing about being a lawyer: The satisfaction that comes from helping someone find a resolution to their question/problem.

Culinary talent: My crockpot is my best friend in the kitchen. I can cook a pretty good roast.

Family: Husband (Kevin) and our Lhasa Apso and Westie (Maggie and Madison).

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Random Profile: Terry Schpok, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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:
Meeting people, as clients, who become long-term friends long after the conclusion of their initial legal matter.

Talents (besides law):
I can play the banjo like Steve Martin.  I played the banjo and mandolin with a bluegrass group and guitar with a jazz group.

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Random Profile: Joe Boyle, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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: Working with my law partners Chad Hagan and David Noll has been the best thing about being a lawyer. David and Chad are dedicated to their families, loyal to our clients, they work hard, and have the highest character. My favorite thing about being a lawyer has been building a law practice with them and sharing the same values that allow us to do the right things for our clients and the law. For me, this is what being a lawyer is all about.

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Random Profile: Carolyn Shellman, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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:  My colleagues are other lawyers who are, generally, the smartest and most witty people in the room. And I’ve been fortunate to work with really smart clients. Surrounding yourself with people like that makes going to work easy.

The part of my job I do best is: Listen

Most important career lesson:  Listening is more important than speaking.

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Snider named one of Texas' top women lawyers

Trial lawyer Rosemary Snider has been named one of the state's top women lawyers in the inaugural list of "Winning Women" which is published by the Texas Lawyer. The list recognizes outstanding trial and appellate lawyers who have had success in high-stakes cases. Snider and the 19 other attorneys who made the list will be honored at a luncheon at the Belo Mansion in Dallas on Sept. 30, 2011. Snider is a Principal in the Dallas office of McKool Smith, PC.

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Random Profile: Chandler Grisham, Ft. Worth

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Family: Daughter, Austin Elizabeth Grisham, 20 years-old and a junior at St. Edward’s University – Austin, Texas.

Areas of practice: Probate, Guardianship, Trust, Estate Planning, Elder Law and litigation in these areas. I have also completed my training, pro bono work and observation sessions to become a licensed attorney mediator. I expect to be licensed within the next few weeks and am eager to build a mediation practice.

Education: Univ. of Texas at Arlington (B.A. 1983); Southern Methodist University (J.D. 1989).

Culinary talent:  I am a whiz at turning on the microwave.

Hobbies: Reading, writing, and I’m learning to play guitar. Unfortunately, I am about as good at playing guitar as I am at cooking.

Most important career lesson:  Learn to say “no.”

Favorite quote: (I am a lover of Mark Twain)  “I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened.”  

Pet peeve: spitting – or not waiting your turn in traffic. It’s probably the same people doing both.

Favorite TV program: Mad Men.

The last movie I saw: The Help.

Favorite food: Mexican food.

Favorite restaurant: Benitos.

If I had more time, I would: Take a nap. Get a massage. Travel.

Best thing about being a lawyer: Helping people and having something to talk about at parties.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? God. If that’s too sacrilegious, then Queen Elizabeth – the original one, on one of the days she bathed.

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in?  I would love to be a writer - a talented writer. I would also love to design wedding gowns (how random is that?).

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Random Profile: Sara Krumholz, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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: I get to solve problems every day. 

Secret for staying young: Laughing as much as possible. 

If I had more time, I would: love to learn the art of photography. 

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Random Profile: Bart Behr, San Marcos

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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: Serving others in need.

Favorite album: When I was a kid, I wore out my Back in Black LP. Now, AC/DC and Country really don't mix. Though Angus is making a comeback.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? A professional athlete - preferably an NFL quarterback on game day (for the winning team) or an extreme snow skier. There is nothing like an adrenaline rush.

Favorite restaurant: La Margarita (San Antonio in Market Square).

Collects: kids!

Favorite composers: Is George Strait a composer?

What has changed the most technologically or practice wise since you have been licensed? Going paperless.

What's the turning point that made you decide to become an attorney? My 10th grade geometry teacher recommended it. This was a bit surprising since my standardized test results likely indicated that I should be a "laborer."

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Random Profile: Lee Cusenbary, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Bet you didn’t know: I was a professional actor for the three years between college and law school, and was represented by Actors’ Clearinghouse, the same agency that represented Renee Zellweger when she won the Oscar for the film Jerry Maguire. I was featured in twelve national commercials during that time period, including Stop N Go, Volkswagon, and Nation’s Bank.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? If it were just one day, Justin Beiber.

What has changed the most technologically or practice wise since you have been licensed? The use of email, flash drives and cell phones has created an expectation in clients to immediately respond to needs. It’s great for people who are natural communicators. It’s very difficult for less extroverted individuals who feel a burden of having to communicate before they have finished all their research or drafting.

What most people don’t know about me: I painted most of the paintings in our home.

Favorite movie: Philadelphia Story.

The last movie: Inception.

Favorite magazine: Popular Science

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Random Profile: James Bailey, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson:  My client’s time is valuable. Don’t waste it. Be Direct. Be Accurate. Be prompt.

Culinary talent: “Yankee” Potato Salad (russet potatoes; mayo; diced celery and white onion; generous salt and pepper. That’s’ all you need.)

Favorite food:  Baked-stuffed lobster (It’s a New England-thing).

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Random Profile - Leigh Logan, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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: jury trials

If I had more time, I would: audit all the undergraduate and graduate classes I wanted to, for free.

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: “Never give unsolicited advice.” - Elaine Taylor, my mother 

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City of Houston proclaims "James B. Sales Day"

Houston Mayor Annise Parker proclaimed May 3, 2011 as James B. Sales Day in honor of the former State Bar of Texas president and Texas Access to Justice Commission chair. During a presentation ceremony in Houston, former State Bar President Wayne Fisher said he had never known anybody with as much integrity as Jim Sales. Shauna Johnson Clark, partner-in-charge of the Houston office of Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P., said Sales innately understands that to whom much is given, much is expected. State Bar President Terry Tottenham praised Sales for his accomplishments, including his efforts to promote professionalism among lawyers, implement Texas' IOLTA program, and bolster services to lawyers suffering from substance abuse and mental health issues. Tottenham noted especially Sales' role as chair of the ATJ Commission, during which he helped secure $20 million to help fund legal services to the poor. The Commission's current chair, Harry Reasoner, said Sales had given selflessly and worked hard not for his glory but to ensure justice for all. Sales thanked the mayor and council, his friends and family, and all the "legendary lawyers who set the standard of giving back your time and talent."

Chief Justice Jack Pope honored on 98th birthday

Retired Chief Justice Jack PopeThe Texas Legislature honored retired Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Jack Pope today on the occasion of his 98th birthday with H.C.R. 9, which detailed Pope's many accomplishments throughout a distinguished judicial career that spanned almost four decades. Pope stood center stage in the House chamber as the resolution was presented. He was flanked by the current justices of the Texas Supreme Court and several former justices. Pope was elected to the Supreme Court in 1964 and was appointed Chief Justice in 1982 before retiring in 1985. Rep. Dan Branch, who clerked for Pope, authored the resolution. Said Branch to Pope: "We have a profound appreciation for your lifelong public service. You have taught so many lawyers and Texans ... We honor you for a life well-lived and hope we're back for a centennial celebration."

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Random Profile: Fernando M. Bustos, Lubbock

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson: As a litigator, credibility is the coin of the realm. It takes a career to earn it, and it can be lost in a moment.

Latest pursuit: Tried snowboarding recently, but that didn't work out too well. I'll stick to skiing.

Best thing about being a lawyer: Helping people in crisis moments of their lives, and helping people resolve disputes — being a peace maker.

Favorite album: Travelling Wilburys.

Favorite music/musician: Sting.

Favorite place to find albums: iTunes.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? A negotiator with the State Department.

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Random Profile: Jan Simpson, Houston

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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: I love being a lawyer because I can help solve people’s legal issues.

Most important career lesson: always really listen to the client

What most people don’t know about me: rode a motorcycle and was in a motorcycle club for several years

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TYLA takes part in child abuse prevention rally at Texas Capitol

On April 6, during the "Go Blue Day" rally at the Texas Capitol, Texas Young Lawyers Association President Jennifer Evans Morris (right) discussed TYLA's latest project, "The Little Voice: Recognizing Child Abuse and Your Duty to Report It." Morris joined several lawmakers, including Sen. Carlos Uresti (left), and child advocates who expressed support for child abuse prevention efforts. To watch "The Little Voice" video or public service announcements, click here. To read the accompanying public education brochure, click here. To read a recent Texas Bar Journal article about the project, click here.

Women's History Month Profile: Hortense Sparks Ward

Hortense Sparks Ward
Hortense Sparks Ward
Photo courtesy of the Texas State Library & Archives Commission

Hortense Sparks Ward (1872-1944) was the first woman admitted to the State Bar of Texas, the first woman attorney in Houston, the first Southern woman attorney admitted to practice before the Supreme court, a Special Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, and an influential women's suffrage advocate.

Attorney

Ward's interest in studying law began while working as a stenographer and a court reporter. After passing the bar exam in 1910, she practiced civil law in Houston with her husband — attorney and judge William Henry Ward. Most accounts of her life say that she chose to remain behind the scenes rather than appear in court because she was concerned  that all-male juries might react poorly to a female lawyer.

In 1915, Ward and her husband were admitted to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Ward practiced law until her husband died in 1939. She died five years later in 1944, survived by a daughter and eight grandchildren.

Women's Rights Advocate

As a suffragist and activist, Ward wrote stirring newspaper articles and lobbied Texas elected officials to vote for bills promoting women's legal rights. She played an important role in the passage of the 54-hour workweek for women in industry and in the passage of the 1913 married women's property law, which gave women control of their separate property and wages.

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Random Profile: Judge Antonia (Toni) Arteaga, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

The part of my job I do best is: Care. I take the situation at hand seriously and never lose sight of the lives affected, both positively and negatively, by my decisions.

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: Three things you need to be successful in court … (1) preparation (2) preparation and (3) preparation ... by the Honorable Larry Noll.

Latest pursuit: Completing my first half-marathon.

 

 Talents (beside law):  I can make an amazing princess castle cake.

Current Project: Learning how to create balloon animals.

Favorite food: Any breakfast food, especially chorizo and egg with papitas.

Favorite movie: The Poseidon Adventure (the original).

Favorite sport: basketball or football - as long as one team is UT or the Spurs.

 

Collects: I collect refrigerator magnets.

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Random Profile: Dan Hargrove, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Most important career lesson:
Meet people. 

Bet you didn’t know:
I lived in Sweden for a year and Egypt for 6 months.  I speak neither Swedish nor Arabic.  But my Spanish from growing up on the Texas border came in handy with the Columbian soldiers we served with in the Middle East.  Good soldiers, even though they scorned my border Spanglish. 

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The Red and the Black

State Bar President-elect Bob Black of Beaumont has received the Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Texas Tech University School of Law. Black, a shareholder in Mehaffy Weber, P.C., will become the first graduate of the school to serve as president of the State Bar of Texas when he takes office during the State Bar Annual Meeting in June. Among many professional accomplishments, Black has served as president of the Jefferson County Bar Association, chair of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, and trustee of the Texas Bar Foundation. 

Random Profile: Constance Mims, Fort Worth

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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 ever-taxing test of my cognitive abilities!

Most important career lesson: Read everything before  signing ... seriously ... in its entirety!

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? The shrinking practice of law coupled with the growing list of attorneys. 

Favorite composers: John Williams and Danny Elfman, every movie they score is the better for it!

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In Memoriam: Chief Justice Joe R. Greenhill

Former Chief Justice Joe R. Greenhill — the longest-serving justice in the history of the Supreme Court of Texas — died today at his home in Austin. He was 96. Greenhill was born in Houston in 1914, graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 1939, and served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. Governor Price Daniel appointed Greenhill to the Court in 1957. He succeeded Robert W. Calvert as chief justice in 1972 and served in that capacity until his retirement in 1982. 

For more information about Chief Justice Greenhill and his judicial legacy, click here.

Honoring a Texas Legal Legend

On Jan. 23, Texas lost one of its legal legends, Louise Ballerstedt Raggio. She was 91. Named the "Mother of Family Law in Texas," Raggio was a well-known civil rights activist and champion for the rights of women and children in Texas.

Raggio was instrumental in establishing property rights for women in Texas by advocating for the passage of the Texas Marital Property Act of 1967.

In addition to helping the state's women and children gain legal rights, Raggio garnered a long list of firsts: the only woman in her class at Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law, the first female assistant district attorney in Dallas, the first female State Bar director, just to name a few. On the TexasBarBooks blog, you can find an autobiographical video and tribute to Raggio.

Random Profile: Mike Sims, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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:  Helping others become lawyers

Most important career lesson: Arrive early, stay late, and remain curious.

Bet you didn’t know: I’ve traveled to all 50 states.

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Guy D. Choate and F.R. "Buck" Files Jr. vie for president-elect spot

The State Bar of Texas has announced that attorneys Guy D. Choate of San Angelo and F.R. “Buck” Files Jr. of Tyler will face off in an election of the state’s lawyers this spring to become president-elect of the State Bar of Texas.

Guy Choate is a partner at Webb Stokes & Sparks, L.L.P. in San Angelo. He is board certified in Personal Injury Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

Buck Files is a shareholder and founding member of Bain, Files, Jarrett, Bain & Harrison, PC in Tyler, where he practices criminal defense law. He is board certified in criminal law by TBLS, and in criminal trial advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

Click here to read the news release.

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Random Profile: Chris Schmiedeke, Dallas

Chris SchmiedekeFor Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

The part of my job I do best is: Stay in contact with my clients.

 What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Marketing.

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? School teacher.

My favorite weekend retreats are: Arkansas, to the lake!

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Random Profile: Karissa Hostrup Gonzalez, San Antonio

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 87,000-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:  It’s very rewarding to have the opportunity to not only help my clients navigate the legal issues surrounding business decisions, but in being a part of the team that moves those decisions forward.

Most important career lesson:  I’ve learned that it’s very important to work with my clients to reach a solution that satisfies business goals while also minimizing legal risks. 

Favorite saying/quote:  Work to live, don’t live to work.  While I believe that practicing law is important work, I’ve seen many attorneys completely wrap themselves up in work and ignore the rest of their lives. 

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Random Profile: Rob Ranco, Austin

Rob RancoBest thing about being a lawyer: Helping people who desperately need help.

The part of my job I do best is: Adapt to the situation in front of me. There is no script for what I do.

Bet you didn’t know: I was a music major in college and I came to Austin for a master’s program at UT in ethnomusicology.

Another little known fact: My parents were not excited about my choice of major.

What's the turning point that made you decide to become an attorney? When my wife pointed out there were no listings in the classifieds for ethnomusicologists.

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Random Profile: Alberto Mesta, El Paso

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 86,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?


Alberto is seen here doing outreach with farmworkers who are harvesting green chile.

Culinary talent: Green Chile poppers.

Bet you didn’t know: I tore down the goal posts when UTEP defeated BYU (14-3) in 1997.

Another little known fact: If loving musicals is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

Bad habit: Continuing loving the Oakland Raiders despite their continual losing seasons.

Favorite album: Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.

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Random Profile: Jason Katz, Dallas

For Random Profiles, we randomly pick one of our 86,000-plus attorneys and do a Q&A. We've found that every Texas lawyer has an interesting story. Will yours be next?

Bet you didn’t know: I dislike ice tea even though I grew up in Macon, Georgia.

Culinary talent: Grilled cheese.

Most important career lesson: Never underestimate your opponent. 

What most people don’t know about me: I have a twin brother. 

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: My grandfather required that I hit the golf ball out of the bushes. He wouldn’t let me move the ball – I was eleven. He told me that I needed to follow the rules. I live my life that way. My wife calls me the rules patrol. It has served me well.  

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Talking with the Texas Veterans Commission

We caught up with Tina Carnes, general counsel to the Texas Veterans Commission (TVC), and spoke with her about the Commission’s work with veterans, her own commitment to servicemembers, and what’s next for TVC.

What kind of work does TVC do?

Texas Veterans Commission is an advocacy agency with more than 340 employees in over 75 cities around the state that help Texas veterans receive the benefits they so richly deserve.

The Texas Veterans Commission is nationally recognized for its expertise in helping veterans get the most benefits they are entitled to and the State of Texas leads the nation in monetary recovery of veterans’ compensation. Last year, approximately 2.1 billion was paid in compensation and pension benefits to Texas veterans and eligible surviving family members represented by the Texas Veterans Commission. 

Texas also leads the nation in putting veterans to work. According to recent data provided by the Department of Labor, the Texas Veterans Commission assisted 47,556 veterans enter the workforce in a 12-month period, helping more veterans get jobs than any other state in the country.

The Texas Veterans Commission assists veterans in securing their educational benefits, such as the GI Bill and Hazelwood Exemption, by working with over 1,100 Texas schools and employers.

The Texas Veterans Commission Fund for Veterans’ Assistance awards grants to veteran service organizations, charities, and local government agencies that provide direct assistant to veterans and their families. Since February 2010, the Fund has awarded over $6.7 million in grants.

 

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Random Profile: Aric Garza, San Antonio

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:
Being able to help people when things are looking bleak

Bet you didn’t know:
I’m a master of obscure and useless information.

Another little known fact:
Dave Matthews and I are exactly the same age, and that means I must be cool.

 

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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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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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Random Profile - Douglas Clayton, Southlake

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?

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? Tony Romo, preferably on a Sunday in early February.

Bet you didn’t know:  I’ve been an extra in two Hollywood movies.

Favorite saying/quote: “When a defining moment comes along, you define the moment or the moment defines you.” Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy

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Next Texas Legislative Hero Award will go to Texas Senator Steve Ogden

The next Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award will be awarded to Texas Senator Steve Ogden during a special ceremony on Friday, September 24, at 1 p.m. at the Lone Star Legal Aid office in Bryan, Texas.

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation Legislative Hero Award recognizes legislators who have significantly advanced access to justice in Texas by assisting with the appropriation of funds and/or other substantive activities related to the provision of legal aid in the state.

Steve Ogden is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee and served three terms in the Texas House of Representatives before he was elected Senator for District 5.

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.

Gene Cavin Award Honors Justice Cook

Former Texas Supreme Court Justice Eugene A. Cook III (at left in photo) was honored with the Gene Cavin Award at the annual "Summer School" course sponsored by the College of the State Bar of Texas and TexasBarCLE in Galveston July 22-24 at Moody Gardens. The award was presented by one of the course planning committee members and himself a prior Gene Cavin Award recipient, Charles M. Wilson III. A former chair of the Bar's Continuing Legal Education Committee, Justice Cook was the principal architect of the Texas Lawyer's Creed, adopted by the Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, making Texas the first state to adopt a code of conduct for its lawyers.

Named for the State Bar's first full-time CLE director, the Gene Cavin award is the highest honor given annually by the State Bar of Texas in the area of continuing legal education.

Texas Representative Receives First Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award

The Texas Access to Justice Commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation honored the first recipient of the Texas Access to Justice Legislative Hero Award, Texas House Representative Pete P. Gallego, for his contributions to improving access to justice in Texas. He received the award on July 17 at a special presentation at the Texas RioGrande Legal Aid office in Alpine, Texas.

With more than 5.3 million Texans qualifying for legal aid, the Texas Access to Justice Commission and Texas Access to Justice Foundation launched the Legislative Hero Award program in 2010 to recognize legislators who, through their efforts, have significantly advanced access to justice in Texas by assisting with the appropriation of funds and/or other substantive activities related to the provision of legal aid in the state.

As a leader in the House of Representatives on access to justice issues, including last session’s general appropriation of more than $20 million for civil legal services, Gallego has been an advocate for underserved areas throughout the state including those with vulnerable populations and remote locations. Gallego's efforts helped ensure that basic legal services are available in rural and remote areas of the state, including Alpine, where people would otherwise have to travel great distances to access those services.

Gallego is the first Hispanic to represent District 74. He was elected in 1990 to represent the largest House district and the largest Texas U.S.-Mexico border district covering nearly 39,000 square miles. Gallego has served on the Texas Access to Justice Foundation board of directors since 1996.

Random Profile - Chad Ruback, Dallas

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?

Community involvement: former president, Dallas Association of Young Lawyers

Mentors: Justice Lee Ann Dauphinot of the Fort Worth Court of Appeals. During the year I spent as Justice Dauhpinot’s briefing attorney, she taught me a lot about the law and even more about life.

Memorable vacation: Rio de Janeiro.  I had so much fun that I missed my flight back to Dallas. . . on purpose.  I’m looking forward to taking my wife to Rio in December for our better-late-than-never honeymoon.

 

 

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Trial Tips from Harry Reasoner

The summer edition of News for the Bar, the newsletter of the State Bar Litigation Section, includes trial tips from and an interview with legendary Houston lawyer Harry Reasoner. The longtime Vinson & Elkins partner recently took over as chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission. Among Reasoner's kernels of wisdom:

I think it's very important to learn from the lawyers with whom you work. But never miss an opportunity to learn from your opponents — to think about what you would have done if you were in their place.

For more information about the Litigation Section, click here. For more information about the Access to Justice Commission, click here.

 

Dallas Lawyer Danny Tobey Debuts Thriller

The Faculty Club coverDallas lawyer Danny Tobey always wanted to be a writer, and with the publication of his debut thriller, The Faculty Club, he's more than achieved that goal. In fact, his publisher, Simon & Schuster, already has him lined up for two more books, the next being a medical thriller. The medical angle should be a natural fit for Tobey, a Vinson & Elkins, L.L.P. associate whose practice focuses on commercial litigation, including representing the health care community and pharmaceutical companies (he also attended the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center). Tobey is featured in a Fort Worth Star-Telegram article about his debut novel, The Faculty Club, which he wrote while still in school. The book takes place at a prestigious Ivy League law school (not coincidentally, Tobey graduated from Yale Law School) and draws the reader into an elite and mysterious club that promises its members success and fame but also holds dark and ancient secrets (read an excerpt). 

Random Profile - Viki Martino, Beeville

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?

Family: Son, Travis and daughter, Chelsea.

Areas of practice: criminal, juvenile, misdemeanor, criminal.

Best thing about being a lawyer: The opportunity to help people.

Bet you didn't know: I help my daughter raise goats for show!

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Laughing it up with John Ramsey

I like to think that I'm a pretty funny person, but if you'd ask my family and friends, they'd probably characterize me more as obnoxious. The sad, hard truth is that it's hard to be funny. Sure, you can make some folks laugh, but you've probably also bored or offended the rest.

So, I may not be destined to be a stand-up comic, but I know a good comedian when I see one. John Ramsey is one such comic. The Austin attorney-funnyman always keeps it clean and is always funny. Don’t believe me? He’s been named one of the top comic acts in Austin and he’s performed in Aspen for HBO’s USA Comedy Arts Festival and in New York City for Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham series. Most recently, he came in second place in CMT’s Next Big Comic online contest. I told you he’s the real deal.

Lately, Austin has been noticed nationally for its many high-quality comedians. Ramsey, an attorney with Nunis and Associates, says that being surrounded by so many high-caliber comics keeps him on his feet and helps him to improve his act. “At this point, I’m just really interested in getting better and making more people laugh,” Ramsey says.

Ramsey returns to the stage — this time as a headliner — May 19–22 (that's this Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday) at Cap City Comedy Club. This will be Ramsey’s first time headlining a national A-list club, and it just so happens to coincide with his five-year anniversary of graduating law school and starting stand-up comedy (which happened at the exact same time). “I’m excited because it’s a new step for me,” Ramsey says. “I’m also just curious to see where five years of doing this has taken me.”

So, be sure to catch Ramsey before the rest of the country catches on to him — that way you can tell all your friends that you saw this dude way back when. It won’t make you funny, but, at the very least, it’ll add to your cool cred.

 

Bob Black named president-elect; Natalie Cobb Koehler president-elect of TYLA

State Bar of Texas officials announced April 30 that Bob Black of Beaumont was elected by the state's lawyers to serve as president-elect of the organization. Natalie Cobb Koehler of Meridian was elected president-elect of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA).

Bob Black is the managing shareholder at MehaffyWeber, where his practice is concentrated in mediation, arbitration, and civil litigation.

Natalie Cobb Koehler is the Bosque County attorney and a sole practitioner in Meridian.

Black and Koehler will be sworn in as presidents-elect during the State Bar's Annual Meeting June 10-11, 2010 in Fort Worth, and will serve as president of the State Bar and TYLA respectively from June 2011 until June 2012.

Also elected to the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors are Roy Dayton Brantley of College Station, Greg M. Dykeman of Beaumont, Michael W. McDonald of Hillsboro, Christina Melton Crain of Dallas, Jo Ann Merica of Austin, Victor H. Negron, Jr. of San Antonio, Barrett H. Reasoner of Houston, R.W. "Ricky" Richards of Jacksonville, Stephen J. Schechter of Boerne, and Frank E. Stevenson II of Dallas.

Visit www.texasbar.com for additional election information. Click here to read the news release.

 

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Random Profile - James Schull, Benbrook

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 clients solve problems

Bet you didn’t know: Ran for State Representative

Most important career lesson: Don’t go it alone.

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Designing Woman

 Ever watch those TV design shows where a group of designers transforms bedrooms into calming sanctuaries? Or kids' rooms into the bestest dream world ever? Or kitchens into those kind of places you only see on TV or in store show rooms? Ever think “That's easy. Add an accent rug here, splash some paint on the wall there, and then maybe top it all off with a wacky vase. Big deal.”?

Well, it is actually a little more difficult than that. Just ask Marilee Kainer. After 10 years spent as a Houston litigator, Kainer has turned her attention to interior design (she still maintains her law license, though, she attends mostly construction law CLEs now). Kainer is now a registered interior designer. Registered means she not only went back to school for another four years to obtain her interior design degree, Kainer worked for two years under another registered professional before taking a rigorous two-day exam. “It was almost harder becoming an interior designer than it was a lawyer,” she quips. But, she’s kinda, sorta serious too. In the process, Kainer had to familiarize herself with design theory as well as building and fire codes (not to mention the Americans with Disabilities Act). Kainer says interior designing is not the same as simply decorating — it’s about making a space visually stunning and making sure it’s safe, to boot.

With her design company, Libertas Interior Design Solutions, Kainer has focused on “aging in place design,” for baby boomers who want to remain in their homes in their older years — as her business name implies, to give them freedom and independence.

Kainer has helped a few attorney friends redesign their offices in the short year that her company has been up and running. She says her experience as an attorney has helped out because she knows the issues — like privacy issues — that attorneys must consider when redesigning their space. “I think that clients appreciate that,” she says.

Random Profile: Sydney Young, Paris

Sydney YoungFor 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?

Family:  Husband, Gary Young, and two children.

Areas of practice:  Real Estate, Small Estate Planning and Elder care.

Education: Wayland Baptist University, B.A. (English) 1989; Texas Tech School of Law, J.D., 1992.

Pet peeve: People who ask for a To Go Cup and a Refill. My husband and friends do not get my reasoning here.

Culinary talent:  SALADS.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today?  Be ethical. IT MATTERS.

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Random Profile - Charles B. "Brad" Frye, 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 when they need it.

Bet you didn’t know: That I played college basketball fifty pounds ago.

Another little known fact: My mother didn't like my moustache.

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Law Goes to the Dogs

Annvi Utter loves dogs. We mean, loves them. And that’s a funny story because, at first, she wasn’t a big fan. She didn’t grow up with them. She wasn’t comfortable with them. She just didn’t understand the appeal of them. But now, she’s more than a friend to canines — the Houston attorney is a proud dog mom (to Rocky and Zeus) and dog treat baker who’s out to help dogs of all kinds.

For every Barkin’ Doggie Biscuit that's sold, Annvi gives one to a shelter dog (Barkin’ Doggie’s slogan: “You buy one. We give one.”). She wanted to do something similar to TOMS Shoes — they donate a pair of shoes to a needy child for every pair sold — but for dogs. And so, she and her husband tested dog treat recipes and researched ways to keep their product all natural and safe. A couple of burnt batches of dog treats later, she came up with Barkin’ Doggie Biscuits in three different flavors. Best of all, the dog treats have ingredients such as all-natural peanut butter, whole wheat, mint, and flaxseed, which help keep doggie joints jointy, doggie breath not-so-breathy, and dogs oh-so-happy. Sound too healthy for you? That’s cool, but your pup will love them, since, you know, dogs are less concerned with ingredients than with simply getting a tasty treat.

Barkin' Doggie Biscuits are available at three Houston stores (Heights Urban Dog and Cooper Animal Clinic, and One Green Street), as well as Fur-Get-Me-Not in Arlington, Va., and the DC Dog Shop in Washington D.C. Annvi hopes to expand to more cities soon. Barkin' Doggie Biscuits currently partners with nine shelters, from Atlanta, Ga., to Seguin. She says donating the biscuits to the dogs is just one way to help shelter animals who are waiting for homes. After working at the Bureau of Animal Regulation and Care in Houston, Annvi saw how stressful shelter life can be for animals.

And, after working in the corporate world as a tax attorney, Annvi found she longed for a different way to apply her law degree. So, she launched the gourmet dog treat company in January with her husband. “I just fell in love with dogs — I wanted to put my law degree to work for the betterment of (dogs),” she says.

Random Profile - LaDonna B. Key, Dallas

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?

Family: I have one daughter, Amber, who plans to pursue meteorology at OU in the Fall.

Areas of practice: Entertainment Law, Construction Law, Family Law, and Consumer Law.

Education: Texas A&M, Commerce – BA Journalism; Texas Wesleyan University School of Law - JD.

Memorable vacation: My daughter was a contestant on Kids Jeopardy and we spent a fabulous week in Beverly Hills, CA.

Favorite saying/quote: If you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re absolutely right.

Little known fact: I worked full-time and attended law school at night and some weekends I supplemented my income as a wedding photographer.

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: I was told “You can do anything you set your mind to do,” by my mom, my grandma, my coaches, and my teachers…it takes a village!

If you weren't an attorney, what profession do you think you would be in? Perish the thought! Actually, I would probably still have a job dealing with regulations. Perhaps I’d be the Commissioner of the NFL or a compliance officer for an athletic conference.

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Bar Journal artist captures Longhorn baseball

Gilbert Sauceda (pictured, right), a freelance illustrator for the Texas Bar Journal for 20 years, recently presented a large-format painting to University of Texas baseball coach Augie Garrido (pictured). The painting hangs in the media room at Disch-Falk Field. It celebrates the Horns’ 2005 national championship season and the recent renovation of the stadium.

Sauceda, who became friends with Garrido while the two were collaborating on a book project, explained that with Garrido’s input he focused the painting on the essence of the sport of baseball, which is the energy of the players and the competition. “Some people think of baseball as a serene sport,” said Sauceda, “but it’s not. Augie believes there is a major battle in every pitch: either the pitcher or the batter wins with every throw.” Sauceda said prints of the painting should be available soon through the U.T. baseball program.

Sauceda also recently presented a painting to U.T. quarterback Colt McCoy, which depicts McCoy in a running stance with the U.T. Tower in the background. “He really appreciated it,” said Sauceda. “He’s a classy dude.”

Sauceda estimates he has done around 500 illustrations for the Texas Bar Journal and State Bar over the years. Why does he work for us? “I like the challenge of coming up with new ideas to depict legal topics,” he said. “Plus I have a running bet with a cousin who can’t wait for the day I run out of ideas for the magazine." Sauceda says one of his favorite pieces for the State Bar has been the creation of Lone Star, an anthropomorphic Texas flag who stars in the “Lone Star Waves Proudly” children's books published by the State Bar Law-Related Education Department.

See more of Sauceda’s work at www.gilbertsauceda.com and www.colorfactoryllc.com

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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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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Random Profile - Daryl Sinkule, 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: Recovering money on behalf of clients wronged by their employers

Latest pursuit: Attempting to survive the renovation of my historic (1926) Houston Heights home

Bet you didn’t know: I know my way around the kitchen.

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Texas Legal Legends

In an effort to preserve their stories in an entertaining and historically significant way, Harper Estes, Immediate Past President of the State Bar, has interviewed a number of notable and distinguished Texas lawyers. Three new videos in the “Texas Legal Legends” series are now on the State Bar’s website: interviews with former State Bar Chair of the Board Kleber Miller, former President of the State Bar Charles L. Smith, and the late Houston litigator Joe Reynolds.

Random Profile - Alia Derrick, Dallas

Alia DerrickFor 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?

Family: Single, 5 nieces and 2 nephews.

Areas of practice: Civil Litigation & Labor and Employment.

Education: B.A., Rice University (2003); J.D., University of Texas School of Law (2007).

Secret for staying young: Worrying less, laughing often, and walking in faith.

Best thing about being a lawyer: Volunteering your services to those who cannot afford it. To borrow from DVAP’s tagline: “It [truly is] like billable hours for the soul.”

Latest pursuit: Funding a child whose parents have succumbed to Aids/HIV.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Time: An uncertain economic time and its effect on the practice.

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Random Profile - Charley Prine, 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: Finding solutions for real world problems

The last movie I saw was: Ernest Saves Christmas. It's not Christmas without it – “KnowhutImean”

Collects: My clients send me decks of playing cards from around the World. I have cards from all continents except Antarctica, several islands, and many tourist spots in the U.S. Interesting decks in my collection include decks from Air Force 2 and Marine Helicopter 1, a deck made by a missionary group in Africa, and decks from companies and countries that no longer exist.

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Random Profile - Larry Fogel, Dallas

Larry FogelFor 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?

Areas of practice: Litigation

Education: Texas Christian University, B.B.A., University of Texas at Austin, J.D.

Bet you didn’t know: that I’m allergic to shellfish, and I bet you didn’t care either.

Bad habit: rooting for Kansas City sports teams.

Most important career lesson: Be honest, even when it hurts.

Latest pursuit: Raising my daughter Ryan (2) and my son Zane (3 months) with my wife, Jenny.

Pet Peeve: I love virtually everything about football except when players (seemingly everywhere) hold up four fingers at the end of the third quarter. We get it.

Best thing about being a lawyer: People always seem interested in finding out I am an attorney – whether it is because they like lawyers or hate them, cannot wait to tell a lawyer joke (looking at you, Dad) or somehow think I can properly advise them on an obscure probate or criminal issue. 

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Random Profile - Everett Newton, Dallas

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?

Favorite saying/quote: “He who has it not in his head must have it in his feet.”

Bet you didn’t know: I have a rock band whose music is being featured in an upcoming horror film.

Talents (besides law): Talk radio. For four years, I hosted my own legal call-in talk show on a local CBS radio affiliate.

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Random Profile - Steve Collins, Austin

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?

Most important career lesson: Integrity matters. Be the same person at home, at work, and in the world. Be consistent.

Bet you didn’t know: I married my high school sweetheart, who was the homecoming queen. We’ve been dating, going steady, broken-up, engaged, or married since she was a sophomore and I was a junior in high school.

Another little known fact: My daughter was homecoming queen 31 years later.

Current Project: Surviving a kitchen remodel.

Favorite TV program: Daily Show

When you are not practicing law, what do you like to do? Drive my Miata, ride my motorcycle, make sawdust.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Overcoming the image that we will lie and misrepresent in order to serve our clients.

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Pro Bono Profile: Jim Hunter

 The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Jim Hunter knows how fortunate he is. As a volunteer with the Cameron County Community Justice Program, he takes on family law cases. A current client is a terminally ill woman whose husband abandoned her and their three children. “When I look at the problems she has, I know that mine pale in comparison,” says Hunter, a partner in Royston Rayzor in the Rio Grande Valley. “As attorneys, we have been blessed with law degrees and great careers — we have a duty to help people.”

Hunter, who practices maritime, commercial and injury litigation, is serving as the 2009–10 president of the Cameron County Bar Association. He says he is using his presidency as a way to get more attorneys in Cameron and Willacy counties on board to do pro bono work. “My mantra this year is to get lawyers to understand how fortunate we are and that we have an obligation not only to our clients and to the public, but to our profession, to improve the perception of lawyers.”

Hunter plugs pro bono wherever he goes and has been successful in recruiting many attorneys to participate in the Community Justice Program. The beauty in the program, he says, lies in the resources offered to volunteer attorneys not familiar with family law. “The nice things about the program is that we have mentors,” he says. “They make it as easy as possible. We have had lawyers who have never taken a family law case and they end up taking more because they have such a wonderful experience in the program.”

Pro Bono Profile: David Grenardo of Houston

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

“It feels strange to be recognized for doing something that you should already be doing,” says David Grenardo. “Not much prodding needs to be done. We all just want to help people.”

When Grenardo graduated from Duke Law in North Carolina, he wanted to help people. So, when he began practicing in Los Angeles, he started doing pro bono work with the L.A. County Bar Association. He also worked for The Alliance for Children’s Rights, San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program, and Harriett Buhai Center for Family Law.

Grenardo is now a senior associate with King & Spalding LLP in Houston and works from Houston with the Texas Civil Rights Project (TCRP) in Austin. He is on the TCRP board, which works with attorneys in private practice on pro bono cases and is currently targeting law firms to get involved. He has received numerous awards for his pro bono efforts, including Texas Civil Rights Project Pro Bono Champion, the State Bar of California Wiley W. Manuel Award, the San Diego Volunteer Lawyer Program Distinguished Service Award, and Harriet Buhai Center for Family Law Pro Bono Panel Volunteer of the Year.

An ex Rice University football player, Grenardo is also on the board of The “R” Association, which helps mentor student-athletes. He tells athletes thinking about becoming attorneys that they have an obligation to help people who can’t help themselves.

Grenardo believes that “what is most important is to do something you’re passionate about – and if you are passionate about something, you can find a way to make it work.” He is passionate about civil rights and first amendment type cases. “Anytime you’re standing up for people who can’t stand up for themselves, that’s a great opportunity. It’s amazing.”

When Grenardo works on his pro bono cases, he feels he is “changing peoples’ lives.” “It’s in the fight; it’s not if you win or lose,” he says. "You take the good, the bad, and do everything you can to help these clients.”

Pro Bono Profile: Chris Wrampelmeier of Amarillo

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

For Amarillo attorney Chris Wrampelmeier, pro bono work is an imperative. “When you’re given certain blessings, it’s incumbent on you to use them wisely and help other people,” he says.

Wrampelmeier is a family lawyer with Underwood, Wilson, Berry, Stein & Johnson, P.C., where he is a shareholder and responsible for guiding the firm’s associates as they begin their careers. To that end he involves associates in a local legal aid clinic that the firm sponsors, where they gain experience outside their regular practice areas. “I have been pleasantly surprised how, to the man and woman, they thoroughly enjoy working at the clinics and are willing to do it again and again,” he related.

Early in his career, Wrampelmeier became active in the State Bar of Texas Family Law Section, serving as a course director, committee member, and now council member. He combines that service with local pro bono work, including legal clinics where attorneys earn CLE credit by agreeing to take pro bono cases. He says he loves family law, even though he once vowed it was the one area of law he would never practice. “What makes is great is that the people who do family are wonderful, both in Amarillo and around the state,” he says.

Throughout his career Wrampelmeier has handled pro bono cases through Legal Aid of Northwest Texas. The organization named him pro bono attorney of the year in 2001 and 2004.

Wrampelmeier says most of his pro bono clients are very grateful, but receiving thanks is not why he does the work. “Deep in all of our hearts we believe everyone should have the same chance, start at the same line, and pull ahead or fall back due to their own skills or faults - not their economic circumstances,” he says. “Sometimes people just need a level playing field.”

 

Pro Bono Profile: Ken Fuller of Dallas

Ken FullerThe National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Ken Fuller has been called a “godsend” to the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, and it’s easy to see why. He has devoted at least two days of pro bono services per week through DVAP for the past seven years and has won numerous awards for his efforts, including the State Bar’s Frank J. Scurlock Award and DVAP’s Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year.

The honors are more than justified because Fuller’s contributions run deep. A long-time name partner in Koons, Fuller, Vanden Eykel & Robertson, P.C., Fuller has drawn on his years of family law expertise to become a trusted and invaluable mentor to DVAP’s volunteer and staff attorneys. In 2002, he stepped in as a mentor when the program’s mentor staff attorney resigned, then continued to volunteer in various capacities after a full-time mentoring attorney was hired. DVAP staff members have found that attorneys seem more eager to volunteer when they know Fuller will be on hand to help.

Fuller, who has been board certified in family law since 1975, also works with DVAP’s pro se program, which provides classes for low-income persons to learn how to represent themselves in simple family law matters. He has contributed to the written instructions and has helped update the program’s pleadings. In addition, he assists in training volunteer attorneys through various classes offered through DVAP and does not hesitate to refer pro bono cases, especially more difficult ones, to his colleagues. 

 

Random Profile - Stefanie Klein, Dallas

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 paid to argue! Aside from that, the best surprise about the practice of law has been the people. Whether the interaction is with opposing counsel, co-counsel, clients, witnesses, or judges, the opportunity to teach, to learn from, to help and be helped by the people around me makes this profession worthwhile.

Favorite saying/quote:  “We’ll probably find it if we start picking everything up.”

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Pro Bono Profile: Ernesto J. Dominguez

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Ernesto J. Dominguez admits that for a time, he was a lawyer who was too busy to do pro bono work. Then, he read a pro bono article in the Hidalgo County Bar Association newsletter and something clicked. “I used to say, ‘I don’t have time to do pro bono.’ Then I reached a point in my life — professionally and personally — where I felt that I just needed to give back to my profession,” he says. “I also felt (pro bono) was just a good way to assist someone who needs help.”

Dominguez, a partner in the McAllen firm of Orendain & Dominguez, says he learned about the Community Justice Program (CJP), a partnership between Texas RioGrande Legal Aid and the Hidalgo and Cameron county bar associations, through an article in the Hidalgo County Bar Association newsletter. Modeled after the Community Justice Project in San Antonio, the TRLA program focuses on family law cases, helping those in need of divorces. Interested, Dominguez got involved and quickly became immersed in the world of legal aid. (He even served on TRLA’s board of directors from 1998 to 2002.) Dominguez says he was surprised by how easy it was to volunteer. “Volunteering for the Community Justice Program doesn’t take that much time,” he says, adding that TRLA screens cases and prepares divorce petitions before volunteers work on a case. “(TRLA) makes it as easy as possible for the volunteers.”

Last spring, the Texas House of Representatives passed a resolution honoring Dominguez and his pro bono work. In May, the Hidalgo County Bar Association awarded Dominguez its John E. Cook Pro Bono Award. Dominguez says he’s surrounded by fellow lawyers deserving of the honor and is constantly amazed to see attorneys of all ages participate in the CJP. He hopes to see more attorneys step up to serve those in need. “I try to encourage others to participate in pro bono. In one way or another, you should just do something for somebody.” 

Pro Bono Profile - Lan Nguyen of Houston

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Volunteerism is a family tradition, says Lan Nguyen. “Our parents serve, we serve, and our children will continue to serve since for each of us, a skill was endowed with an expressed obligation to serve.” For instance, shares Nguyen, her sons speak, read, and write five languages and can be found volunteering regularly as translators at several legal clinic workshops sponsored by the Houston Volunteers Lawyers Programs (HVLP).

Nguyen is committed to giving back to a community that gave so much to her family when they first arrived in the U.S. in 1975. “We immigrated to Fairhope, Alabama [from Vietnam] and people were generous with their attitudes and welcome,” says Nguyen, “that was enough to smooth our assimilation process and made that difficult period of our lives easier to handle.”

Many of Nguyen’s cases are handled with the HVLP, however she also handles cases for various local churches, temples and other non-profit groups.

Nguyen is also involved with the Vietnamese LegalLine which she founded in 2001 to help the public get simple legal advice and referrals to helpful resources. The program was established, says Nguyen, because although “Vietnamese immigrants have successfully assimilated into the general community, there are individuals who continue to struggle along the edges of the mainstream community because of the language or cultural barriers.”

Nguyen adds, “To this group of individuals the Vietnamese LegalLine was designed to assist, but to our pleasant delight we have reached more and more individuals even though they were not the ‘intended’ audience.”

Of her pro bono work, Nguyen says, “There are a lot of resources and help available when you are undertaking a pro bono case. Yes, it takes a little time, but the friendships that you make, the goodwill that you create, and the synergy that you contribute will last a lifetime. The returns are priceless.”

Pro Bono Profile: Jeffrey Stocks of Houston

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Jeffrey Stocks was reading an article about the South Texas Pro Bono Asylum Representation Project (ProBAR) in the October 2006 Texas Bar Journal and saw a list of upcoming training sessions. One was in Houston at the South Texas College of Law that December. He decided to attend. The next year, he took his first case for ProBAR, an asylum case involving a boy from Guatemala named Darwin (pictured with Stocks). Stocks won the case, earning the boy the opportunity to start anew in the United States.

Since then, Stocks has represented eight unaccompanied children in their asylum and Special Immigrant Juvenile status cases (he’s working on cases seven and eight now). In doing so, he’s had to learn about the intricacies of immigration law and working with clients who have come from situations of domestic violence, abuse, neglect, and abandonment.

“These are all unaccompanied minors,” said Stocks, who is a graduate of South Texas College of Law and CEO and owner of Gen-Tech Construction in Houston. “Many do not have family here or any family at all. It takes a lot of gumption for these kids to leave their country at age 15 and come here.”

To handle ProBAR cases, he commutes to the Rio Grande Valley, where children who have made their way from Central and South America are detained at the border. “There is such a need for volunteer attorneys down there. It’s a more remote location, so they don’t have as many resources,” Stocks said.

The cases can take anywhere from six months to a year to complete, but the benefits more than make up for the long hours or commute time. “It’s very rewarding. I stay in touch with every one of [the children] and encourage them to pursue an education. Three from more recent cases were placed in long-term foster care here in Houston, so I get to see them more often.

“The older I get, the more this kind of work is so important to me. This is very compelling to me. This makes a difference. I’m happy to do it.”

Pro Bono Profile: Harold Graham of Pinehurst

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Harold Graham began his career as an engineer. He got a PhD in Chemical Engineering from Iowa State University, taught chemical engineering at Vanderbilt University, and did international work all over the world. Then many years later, Graham says, his daughter who is also an attorney, persuaded him to get a law degree. Graham began law school when he was 68 years old and graduated when he was 71 as the oldest person to ever graduate from South Texas College of Law in Houston.

In his first year of law school, he started working with Lone Star Legal Aid (LSLA) . He enjoyed the work so much that he stayed. “The people at LSLA are outstanding people,” Graham says. Graham helps LSLA with mediation, working on cases for Harris, Brazoria, and Montgomery counties. The matters range from civil and family law to child protective services mediation and foreclosures. He does about three or four pro bono cases a month for LSLA and about four or five pro bono cases a month for the Dispute Resolution Center of Harris County. Graham recently put together a website for LSLA and wrote the script for its upcoming interactive web application for online bankruptcy and foreclosure filings.

Graham does pro bono work because he has always been a “service-oriented person” and is always for “the underdog.” He has formed a non-profit called Resolution without Litigation which focuses on mediation, working with individuals, churches, and clubs. A couple of months ago, Graham says, he “got a call from a church that had fallen apart and was without a pastor.” They asked him to come up one weekend to Indiana to mediate for them. “Other churches have now used that church’s program as a model.”
 
Graham is a Korean War veteran. He has been married for 57 years and has three children, seven grandchildren, and three great grandchildren. At this point in his life at age 79, Graham says, “I can do whatever I want, and I’m enjoying doing it.”

Pro Bono Profile: Mandy Childs

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, the Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

When Mandy Childs was interviewing for an associate position at Jones Day, she wanted to get one thing straight. “I was looking for law firms that honored pro bono work,” Childs says. “One of the first questions I asked was, ‘What kind of pro bono initiatives do you have?’ ” Childs found her dream firm in Jones Day, which she says supports and encourages pro bono work. Jones Day, she says, treats all pro bono cases just as paid cases.

In fact, last year Childs was the firm’s first attorney to participate in the Lend-A-Lawyer program with the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, an experience she calls amazing. For three months, the firm “loaned” her to DVAP full-time while she still received her Jones Day salary and benefits. Her time in the program brought her the most rewarding case of her career: helping a mother reunite with her kidnapped son. She was so moved by the experience that she was compelled to help found her firm’s Associate Pro Bono Committee, which pairs associates with partners, to help DVAP staff emergency pro bono cases. “(Jones Day) was immediately on board to take these on,” she says.

Childs, who received her J.D. from Southern Methodist University, co-chairs the 2009–10 Ask-A-Lawyer Committee of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. Childs also volunteers as a crisis counselor at the Suicide and Crisis Center of Dallas. “I kind of feel I’m at my best when I’m helping someone who is in crisis,” Child says. “I feel like that is where I shine the most.”

Pro Bono Profile: Herb Everitt of Amarillo

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Herb Everitt strives to handle at least two to three legal aid cases a year. He says he learned in law school that there is a great need for pro bono lawyers. Everitt considers himself a service-oriented person and feels that pro bono is “what lawyers should do.”

Over the years, Everitt has handled numerous pro bono cases and served at many legal aid clinics. He also helps out through his own law practice, working pro bono for clients for whom he sees a need. Everitt served for three years on the board of Legal Aid of Northwest Texas (LANWT) in Amarillo, soliciting volunteer lawyers and raising funds for the clinics. He also volunteered at a legal aid office in Houston for about five years.

Over the past year, Everitt has been working with the LANWT teaching the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) Legal Aid Divorce Clinic, which is held every three months and averages about 10-15 cases each. Volunteer attorneys walk clients through all of the court documents they will need for an uncontested divorce with no children. The goal of the clinic is to ensure clients they have appropriate paperwork when they go to court.

Everitt says he appreciates the State Bar’s Legal Services Fee (LSF) fund that helps raise money for legal services to the poor. Yet his belief is that “if every lawyer would do pro bono, there wouldn’t be a need for the fund.” Everitt also handles a lot of court-appointed criminal and family law cases. He feels that counties should require lawyers to do two pro bono cases in order to be eligible for court-appointed ones.
 

Pro Bono Profile: Sharon Steckler of Rosenberg

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

For family lawyers, “attorney and counselor” requires an emphasis on “counselor,” a role that Sharon Steckler relishes. In her pro bono work this often means giving clients the sense that they deserve better than an abusive relationship.

“Some of them are so beaten down by the abuse that they have no self esteem, so you try to raise them up,” said Steckler.

Steckler recently closed her private practice but is far from retired in any sense. She is an active volunteer with Fort Bend Lawyers Care (FBLC), where she serves as treasurer, answers calls on its LegalLine, and works at the Women’s Legal Forum to counsel battered women on their legal issues and rights.

Steckler also handles complex pro bono cases for FBLC. One of the most rewarding, she recalls, involved a young Nigerian woman whose abusive husband withheld support for her immigration to the United States as a way of controlling her. With Steckler’s help the woman was able to live on her own. The woman’s mother was so appreciative that she made Steckler a Nigerian tribal dress. “I truly treasure that,” said Steckler.

The return she receives from pro bono work is more often not material, but just as gratifying. “The best feeling, particularly with cases that involve spousal or child abuse, is having truly helped someone who without your efforts would be facing a very unfortunate situation,” she said.

Steckler’s outlet from the difficult issues of family law is serving as a judge in dog shows around the country and the world – she was recently invited to judge a show in Australia in 2011. She judges boxers and Doberman pinschers in junior showmanship and serves as treasurer of the American Boxer Club and legal counsel to the American Boxer Charitable Foundation, a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to researching health issues affecting boxers. “It’s fun,” says Steckler. “A real change of pace.”

Pro Bono Profile: David E. Grove of Beaumont

David E. GroveThe National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

For Beaumont sole practitioner David E. Grove, pro bono work makes up an important part of his practice. He’s volunteered with the Jefferson County Bar Association Foundation’s Pro Bono Program for more than nine years, and this year, the foundation recognized his efforts by presenting him with the Mickey Mehaffy Pro Bono Attorney of the Year award.

His practice focuses mainly on criminal defense along with some family law and mediation work. He usually maintains four to five pro bono cases at a time and sees the work as an opportunity to expand his legal knowledge into new areas as the need arises, just as he did when he first started taking family law pro bono cases.

“Before I was doing more family law [in his practice], pro bono cases gave me a way to do things I hadn’t done before,” Grove said.

Balancing his regular caseload with the pro bono work can be a challenge but Grove seems to take it in stride. “It’s definitely something you have to try to work around,” he said, adding that pro bono cases are like everything else. “Some cases take longer to get through. You just have to balance it.”

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Rita and Ike, Grove and other Jefferson County-area attorneys focused on helping people affected by the natural disasters. The hurricanes provided particular challenges to completing cases, though, due to people being dislocated because of the storms. “It can make it difficult to finalize a case if you can’t find the person.” But the storms also provided opportunities to help in unexpected ways. “We found out that many disaster first responders in our area didn’t have wills, so we had several lawyers doing wills for them.”

It’s this chance to give back to the community that means so much to Grove. “A lot of times the only things people hear about lawyers are the bad things, but there are many things lawyers do to give back to the community. With pro bono work, we just have to keep doing it. The more people you can get involved, the better it’s going to be.”

 

 

Pro Bono Profile: Geoffrey N. Courtney

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, the Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

When a Roman Catholic bishop tells you to do something and you’re a young Irish Catholic, you do it. So when Bishop John McCarthy told a young University of Texas law student by the name of Geoffrey Courtney to do pro bono work, Courtney did it. All joking aside, Courtney, an attorney in Clemens & Spencer, P.C. in San Antonio, says McCarthy played a pivotal role in his legal career. McCarthy, he says, led by example. “Bishop McCarthy is totally committed to issues that make a difference in the lives of real people. He understands how a little bit of help can make such a dramatic difference in a person’s life.”

Taking the lead from McCarthy, Courtney takes on five to six pro bono cases at any given time. Most of Courtney’s pro bono cases focus on civil rights and disabilities issues. Courtney approaches pro bono work not as an obligation, but as a challenge and says he has fun working on the cases. “It’s an opportunity to get into an area of the law that you might not otherwise practice in and help make a situation right, or at least better than it was.”

Courtney sits on the board of several public interest organizations, but he’s never strayed far from where his pro bono work started. He has served for more than 10 years as director of legal services for the Diocesan Law Project, founded by Bishop McCarthy in 1990.

The modest Courtney credits his pro bono work not only to McCarthy’s influence, but to the support he receives from his firm. “It’s important to have a firm that believes in the issue, and I am lucky to have partners that appreciate that work.”

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Pro Bono Profile: Raquel West of Beaumont

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Raquel West is chair of the Jefferson County Bar Association (JCBA) Family Law Section and a solo practitioner. She does pro bono work through the JCBA and Lone Star Legal Aid, the agencies through which pro bono in her area are coordinated. West has never turned down a pro bono case.

West tries to always have one complex pro bono case or several non-complex pro bono cases, so she usually has at least two or three active pro bono cases at a time. Cases include divorces, custody, and protective orders. West is currently working on a national adoption day case, in which a grandmother wants to adopt her grandchildren in coordination with the National Adoption Day ceremonies.

West says she does pro bono because, throughout her years as an attorney, when she goes to court she sees how difficult it is for someone without an attorney to represent themselves. She sees an unfairness and imbalance in that. “Everyone needs representation,” West says. Many times these people are not involved in criminal cases, so they do not qualify for a court-appointed attorney.

West gets great satisfaction in helping pro bono clients because she sees how much they truly appreciate being helped. “It is very rewarding,” says West. Currently, West is working with a ”repeat customer” who still qualifies for legal aid and needed additional help so she came back to request West’s help. West said she finds it extremely rewarding that the client wanted to keep her as her pro bono attorney.

Pro Bono Profile - Ryan Solis of McAllen

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Once a week, Ryan Solis travels from McAllen to Raymondville to a small office he set up to do pro bono work and meets with as many people as he can in one evening. The cases typically deal with civil litigation, personal injury, commercial disputes and more recently divorce. Solis offers services in Spanish and says that about a third of his cases are with Spanish speaking clients.

Originally from Raymondville, Solis chooses to do pro bono work for residents of Willacy County because growing up there he knew families and friends who lacked the means by which to obtain legal aid. “I saw first hand the urgency and also the lack of resources for legal assistance,” said Solis.

Solis finds it rewarding to help people who are not familiar with the legal system and help put things in perspective for them. There are times when Solis sees a client on more than one occasion. “The people I help may need assistance with a will and then return because they need help with a real estate matter,” said Solis.

When asked what motivates him to do pro bono work Solis said, “It may sound cliché but it’s rewarding in and of itself. I enjoy helping people.” People, he says, who would otherwise not have access to legal aid.

Solis makes his home in McAllen but has a private law practice, Law Office of Ryan C. Solis, in Edinburg. He established his law practice almost a year after graduating from St. Mary’s University School of Law in 2005.

Outside of his practice and pro bono work, Solis is involved with Friends for Hope which is an organization in the upper Rio Grande Valley that raises funds for the Vannie E. Cook Cancer Clinic. He also enjoys spending time in the outdoors with his wife, Rebecca, also an attorney, his sons Tyler, 10 and Asa, 4 and daughter Helena, 20 months. One of his outdoor activities is coaching Asa’s soccer team. “I’m enjoying that very much,” says Solis of his coaching duties, “even though there are times when the boys are interested in everything but what’s going on in the game.”

Pro Bono Profile: Judge Migdalia Lopez of Brownsville

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Judge Migdalia Lopez of the 197th District Court of  Cameron County has done pro bono work since she began practicing law. Lopez, who has a masters in social work, says the need is always there so it is part of her everyday routine. She was appointed to the Texas Access to Justice Commission (TATJC) from 2004-2007 because of her pro bono work.

Helping children is Judge Lopez’s passion. She is a past chair of the Juvenile Dept. in Cameron County and a former member of the school board. The Governor’s Office recently appointed her to a term on the Juvenile Probation Commission. Lopez believes that more resources should go toward helping juveniles, and that to prevent crime, the starting point is in helping them. Lopez related that she once took three juveniles with her to Corpus Christi to participate in a triathlon, so that they could see that they could accomplish something and be proud of the work they did – and they were.
 
Judge Lopez related that the local legal community is committed to those in need. She often asks local bar associations and individual attorneys for help with pro bono cases, and always gets a great response. She also hears a lot of foreclosure cases, and asks attorneys to help out in cases where she sees a real need.

Lopez is one of the judges for the Cameron County pro bono divorce clinic. They just started their first clinic in Willacy County recently, and she is the only judge for that clinic. The clinics in Willacy are held every third month, and they have 10 to 15 cases every clinic. She says there is a “great need” for pro bono there, and the clinic makes the handling of the cases more efficient.

Pro Bono Profile: Phil Phillips of Arlington

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Phil Phillips got his start in pro bono work before he was even an attorney. Thirty years ago, as a third-year law student, Phillips went to his local bar association and got his first taste of the real world through pro bono cases. Now, Phil takes about six pro bono family law cases a year, in addition to preparing qualified domestic relation orders (QDROs) for clients of the Law Clinic at Texas Wesleyan School of Law.

Phillips, who’s considered an expert on QDROs in Tarrant County, says he appreciates the pro bono cases that he handles, because unlike some of the cases he handles in his regular practice at the Law Office of Cochran & Phillips in Arlington, his pro bono cases are simple and mostly uncontested.

Phillips, who served on the board of West Texas Legal Services Corp. from 1986 to 1990, says pro bono cases help keep him grounded. “I did get kind of tired of knocked-out, dragged-out custody cases,” he says. “Pro bono work and doing QDROs helped me cope.”

Just as Phillips got a jumpstart on his legal career through pro bono work, he says more law students should take advantage of the opportunities pro bono can provide them. “Too many people are getting out of law school and don’t have the skills and experience that it takes to practice law. But there are a lot of things that law students can do to help licensed attorneys who want to provide legal aid to the poor.” 

Pro Bono Profile: Lisa L. Taylor of Harlingen

The National Pro Bono Celebration is Oct. 25 to 31, 2009. Each weekday in October, Texas Bar Blog will feature a Texas attorney who provides pro bono services in the community. Without lawyers like these, too many of our most vulnerable citizens would go without legal representation. For more on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org.

Pro bono work is “life-changing” for clients, says Lisa L. Taylor, a director on the Texas Rio Grande Legal Aid (TRLA) board and past president of the Cameron County Bar Association (CCBA). Lisa became interested in doing pro bono work after finding that the need for decent pro bono service in the Rio Grande Valley was “unfathomable,” especially with the Valley’s proximity to the border of Mexico. She participated in a Community Justice Program (CJP) in Bexar County and liked it. So she helped the Cameron County Bar Association with the founding of their CJP in 2005. The CJP is a night court where attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals come together to help indigent persons with pro bono divorces. The program has handled hundreds of uncontested divorces since its creation.

Before the CJP, according to Taylor, the pro bono program in Cameron County was ineffective. One person was in charge, and there was no screening process. “We were lucky if we got 10 to 15 pro bono cases in a year,” she said. Without a screening process, there were numerous problems and more refusals to clients seeking pro bono. The Cameron County CJP fills the need for help with divorce cases, which TRLA is unable to cover, because it handles mostly emergency and violence-related cases.

The Cameron County CJP is volunteer-only with no funding. The Cameron County Bar Association coordinates groups of volunteers for the clinics. Taylor and her CJP colleagues also ask law firms to participate in certain clinics and provide initial training and mentoring needed for attorney volunteers. The CJP clinics are run by TRLA and the CCBA in the UT-Brownsville building, and they meet every other month, with rotating judges overseeing the clinics. The CJP holds 5 sessions a year and an average of 10-15 cases per session. It recently expanded to Hidalgo and Willacy counties.

Taylor is a former member of the State Bar of Texas Family Law Section council and was on the State Bar of Texas Family Law Section’s Practice Manual and Legislative committees. She received an award for distinguished service, the Cameron County Bar Association Paula Waddle Distinguished Service Award for 2008-2009.

Taylor appreciates being in a position to help and do pro bono work and says the best thing about it is helping clients and encouraging other lawyers to do more pro bono, whether it is volunteering more through the CJP, doing pro bono through their own practices, or spreading the word to other attorneys to do more pro bono.

Random Profile - Stephen Daniel

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 involved in the community and making a difference in my client’s lives.

Favorite saying/quote: The minute you settle for less than you deserve, you get even less than you settled for.

Bet you didn’t know: I was a finalist in the Nintendo World Championships when I was much younger. 

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In Memoriam: Judge Jerry Buchmeyer

Judge Jerry BuchmeyerRetired U.S. District Judge Jerry Buchmeyer, who for nearly 30 years compiled the popular humor column et cetera for the Texas Bar Journal, died Monday, Sept. 21, of natural causes. He was 76. He served as chief judge of the Northern District of Texas from 1995 to 2001 and took senior status in 2003 before retiring in 2008.

Judge Buchmeyer received his law degree from the University of Texas School of Law in 1957. He was a partner in the Dallas office of Thompson & Knight, where he worked from 1958 until his appointment to the federal bench by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. That same year, while Judge Buchmeyer was serving as president of the Dallas Bar Association, he began writing the et cetera column for DBA publications. In October 1980, the column first appeared in the Texas Bar Journal, where it quickly became a mainstay. The December 2008 issue paid tribute to Judge Buchmeyer’s many years of service, and readers can still enjoy his columns on the Say What? blog.

Judge Buchmeyer is survived by his sons, Jon Paul Buchmeyer of New York and James Buchmeyer of Dallas; daughters Paige Buchmeyer Brady of Driftwood and Pam Buchmeyer of Dallas; and three grandchildren. Services are pending.

Random Profile - Cami Boyd, Dallas

Education: Southern Methodist University, B. S. Economics, 1990; Syracuse University College of Law, J.D., 1993

Areas of practice: Intellectual property law. My practice focuses on all aspects of business and intellectual. I routinely advise clients on all aspects of the development of a business.

Family: Husband, Randy. Spoiled pets – Scamp and Marilyn.

Favorite music/musician: Steve Vai.

Favorite place to find albums: Vintage music stores or those few places left that actually sell albums and CDs.

Memorable vacation: A week in Cabo San Lucas with the only decision of each day – which pool do I lounge in?

Mentors/heroes: Louise Raggio, whose tireless efforts have paved the way for women’s property rights and the rights of women lawyers in Texas. My grandmother, Grace Dawson, who literally has wrestled more than one alligator to the mat in her day.

Most important career lesson: An attorney must stand on her own two feet. Be diligent in honing your legal careers and stay singularly focused on providing clients with high quality legal services in furtherance of the clients’ goals and desired results. An attorney who delivers quality and results to clients will build long lasting clients relationships that will enable you to pursue your career goals and dreams, whatever those may be.

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Random Profile - Victoria Broussard

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: Walking in the courtroom when I know I am prepared and ready to rock and roll.

Bet you didn’t know: My son, Jean-Luc, is a fourth generation only child and was named after Jean-Luc Pickard, the Captain of the Starship Enterprise, Star Trek, The Next Generation.

Another little known fact: My mother told me when I was a young girl that I would be a good attorney.

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Taking on a Texas-sized Job

Taking the lead of the largest law library in the world, Roberta I. Shaffer will have plenty to keep her busy. Roberta, who is Texas-licensed, was appointed Law Librarian of Congress by Librarian of Congress James H. Billington. Roberta currently is executive director of the Federal Library and Information Center Committee/Federal Library Network, but will begin her new position on Aug. 30.

Shaffer’s excited to start what she calls “a lifelong dream.” She says this is the best time in history to have this particular position. “The collections of the Library of Congress give meaning to the concept of democracy. Join these incomparable collections across all disciplines together with the power of technology, and opportunities have no limits.”

Billington said in a news release that Shaffer brings to the position “both extraordinary vision and demonstrated leadership skills” that will surely serve Congress and the public well. Roberta has an impressive academic background, to boot. She received her J.D. from Tulane University School of Law (graduating cum laude), graduated with highest honors from Emory University with a master’s degree in law librarianship, and graduated cum laude from Vassar College with an A.B. degree in political science/demography.

Roberta taught at several school libraries, including serving as dean and a professor at the Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Texas at Austin from 1999 to 2002. She was director of the University of Houston Law Center’s Legal Communications Program and associate director of the center’s Law and Technology Program.

Though Roberta calls her new position "a big job — Texas-sized, if you will,” she’s looking forward to tackling the challenges that lie ahead, including properly identifying, organizing, and digitizing the Library’s collections, as well as utilizing new sources of information — think blogs, Tweets, and wikis.

Roberta says the Law Library of Congress can serve Texas attorneys well as they deal more and more with foreign businesses. The Law Library of Congress has laws from more than 200 non-U.S. jurisdictions and a legal staff of lawyers from those countries who can assist with language barriers and in finding the correct sources. Further more, Roberta says by studying and comparing our laws with the laws of many other nations, Texas attorneys can find innovative ways to use law to solve the complex issues of our time. 

Random Profile - Thomas W. George, Austin

Thomas GeorgeFor 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?

Family: Single, two children, six grandchildren.

Areas of practice: civil trial law/health care law and policy/university teaching.

Education: M.S., J.D. - American University; LL.M. Health Law & Policy Institute - Univ. of Houston Law Center; Ph.D. - UTMB

Bet you didn’t know: I have an interest in end-of-life legal and medical issues; a doctorate with emphasis on bioethics.

Another little known fact: I have a ranch in Wyoming; although I never go, I just love knowing it’s there.

Mentors/heroes: There are so many! Two favorite Lawyers: Mahatma Gandhi & Clarence Darrow & my high school English teacher, Dorothy Waisner, our own “Good Morning Miss Dove.”

Best thing about being a lawyer: So many wonderful things: i.e., meaningful involvement and opportunity to make a difference in peoples lives.

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Texas Legal Community Loses Legend, Emily C. Jones

Emily C. Jones, former director of Texas Lawyers Care, the State Bar’s legal services/pro bono support, and former director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, passed away early this morning after a five-year battle with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer. Known as a feisty and strong-spirited advocate for access to justice initiatives in Texas, Emily committed her entire career to helping low-income Texans gain access to legal assistance. More than that, Emily led by example — even while facing personal health obstacles — inspiring other Texas attorneys to do pro bono work.

Emily began her career as a legal aid attorney, working with East Texas Legal Services right out of law school. She later went into private practice as a civil rights attorney. Emily left law for a while, teaching at the University of Texas at Austin. She joined the State Bar in 1996 as a program attorney with Texas Lawyers Care and became the second executive director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission, which was created by the Supreme Court of Texas in 2001. In addition to her duties as director of the Commission and Texas Lawyers Care, Emily continued taking pro bono cases. She retired as director of Texas Lawyers Care in May 2008 and as director of the Texas Access to Justice Commission in December 2008 due to health reasons. In May, the Texas Access to Justice Commission honored Emily with the inaugural Emily C. Jones Lifetime Achievement Award for her work. The award recognizes an outstanding individual whose extraodinary spirit — like Emily's — and demonstrated commitment to legal services has improved society and inspired others. 

Plans for Emily’s memorial service are pending.

UPDATE: A memorial gathering for Emily will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 22 at the Texas AFL-CIO building (1106 Lavaca St. in Austin, near the corner of Lavaca and 11th streets). For more information, visit Emily's Caring Bridge website at www.caringbridge.org/visit/emilyjones/journal.

In Memoriam: Pete Serrano

Pete Serrano of Amarillo, a member of the inaugural class of LeadershipSBOT, was killed Sunday in a car accident. He had been at the Local Bar Leaders Conference last week, as a member of the Local Bar Services Committee. Pete was a dedicated attorney committed to professionalism and public service with a bright future ahead. He will be missed.

Amarillo Globe-News memorial

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Texas Attorney Rocked with MJ

While thousands of fans around the world are remembering the time they first fell in love with Michael Jackson’s music, Texas attorney Eliot D. Shavin will remember the month he spent on stage with the King of Pop.

In the late 1970s, Shavin had just finished grad school and was biding his time before he entered law school when he received a call from his musician brother about a month-long gig with The Jacksons.

Shavin, a classically trained cellist, didn’t know much about the band he would be touring with, but it paid about $100 a day, so he agreed. “I remember that I had no interest or knowledge of pop music at that time,” says Shavin, a Dallas private practitioner and a lecturer in the Civil Clinic of the Southern Methodist University Dedman School of Law’s Clinical Program. “I think that I looked down my nose at pop music at the time, but I really enjoyed playing the music. The music was more challenging than I expected it to be.” The one song that Shavin remembers playing? “Ben,” a song about Michael’s beloved pet rat.

Though Shavin had little interaction with the Jacksons — the family traveled in a separate bus than the backup band — he remembers once tossing a ball around with his brother and Tito. Shavin's closest brush with fame came after a concert in Birmingham. A teenage girl asked Shavin for his autograph after realizing that Shavin would be the closest she’d get to MJ and his siblings. “I remember thinking, “This is pretty cool,’ ” Shavin says with a laugh.

Even though Shavin didn’t appreciate The Jacksons’ music at the time, he now says he realizes the error of his ways. “[The Jacksons] were a talented group of performers — they really did create a sensation. I never really appreciated Michael Jackson until Thriller, but he was really very talented.” 

Random Profile - Stacey Holley Valdez, 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?

Areas of Practice: Criminal and Family Law.

Most Important Career Lesson: Don't bury your head in the sand.

When you are not practicing law, what do you like to do? Ride on the back of my husband's Harley.

What's the turning point that made you decide to become an attorney? When I saw the movie And Justice For All. It inspired me.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today? Keeping current of changes in the law.

Favorite TV Program: Reality television.

Pet Peeve: Stupid people.

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Author Popular at Annual Meeting

Professor Richard Beeman, author of Plain, Honest Men: The Making of the American Constitution, spoke on his book before a packed audience Thursday afternoon at the State Bar Annual Meeting that included several current and former State Bar leaders, such as 2007-08 President Gib Walton, as well as Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson and Justice Harriet O'Neill. After a lively Q&A session, Beeman signed copies of his book, which was very well received, judging by the long line.

Roger Cossack on Being a Legal Analyst

During his presentation this morning at the State Bar Annual Meeting in Dallas, Roger Cossack, the legal analyst for ESPN and an Annual Meeting regular, said he learned how to be quick with a quip while working for CNN and ESPN. That skill came in handy this morning when a DVD -- the A/V portion of the presentation -- was a little late in arriving. Joking that he would lock everyone in the room until they had seen the video, Roger then proceeded to entertain a SRO audience with the story of his transition from criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles to fledgling legal analyst for CNN. The O.J. Simpson trial proved the catalyst as he found himself giving quotes about the trial to the media. He then ended up in an interview with Ted Koppel. "I didn't know anything about the case!" Roger admitted. "But all they wanted to know about was California defense law. That I did know!"

At that point, with the missing DVD in place, Roger used it to show images of how lawyers are portrayed in the movies and on television: "Lawyers are viewed as entertainers." A lawyer doing legal analysis is no different, said Roger. "When I became a legal analyst for CNN during the O.J. Simpson trial, I was unclear on what they wanted me to do because no one had ever done it before." Because he was comfortable talking to juries, he knew he could do the same for a broader audience and convey the legal terminology and concepts in a way viewers would understand. But at first he was admittedly a little "bland" and tried to stay strictly neutral. "I have been on network TV for 15 years now and I've learned legal analysis has to be entertaining -- and I'm not as neutral as I used to be. I will take a stand, get outraged about cases." In his work for ESPN, Roger said the Duke lacrosse team case stands out for the important lesson it taught him. "I came down hard on the team. I believed these students were outta control, but within a week, it was clear there were problems with the case. ... I should have gotten wary at that point. I should have started asking questions earlier. That's at the heart of what a legal analyst does. People believe what I say as an analyst. That's a heady responsibility."

Random Profile - Mark Williamson, Dallas

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: Winning custody for pro bono clients.

Who is your favorite on-screen or literary attorney, and why? Paul Newman as Frank Galvin in The Verdict - a great film about personal redemption and winning the right way.

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: “You can always make new friends, but you can’t make old friends.” – my father

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In the Winner's Circle!

The Tarrant County Bar Association hosted its fundraising event, “The Tarrant County Derby,” at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie in May and came up with a big winner! Getting into the Kentucky Derby spirit, some of the 150 attendees — both ladies and gents — participated in a Parade of Hats contest in between enjoying, and hopefully winning on, the races and dancing to music from Johnny D and the Doo Wopps. The ladies’ hat contest winner was Jessica Graham and the men’s winner was Cary Schroeder. “We had a great time,” said Planning Committee Chair Lori Spearman (pictured fourth from left), who credited committee members Lindsay DeVos, Shannon Sears, Tracy Wilkinson, Lydia Dews, Karmen Johnson, Nancy Gordon, and Casey Dyer for putting together such a successful and fun event. Koons, Fuller, Vanden Eykel & Robertson co-sponsored the event.

Federal judge's book comforts kids with jailed parents

U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. GilmoreIn 2008, U.S. District Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore (pictured) asked a classroom of 50 girls in Houston whether any of them had a parent in prison. Every one raised her hand.

“70 percent of children who have incarcerated parents are later incarcerated themselves, says Gilmore. “They see that as their path.” As a judge, she had seen first-hand how incarceration and its collateral damage tears families apart.

Judge Gilmore and her friend, psychiatrist Dr. Janice M. Beal, realized there was not a tool to help these children through their feelings of isolation, anger, fear, sadness, and guilt. These children are often under the burden of keeping a family secret, when in fact they should be talking about their feelings. So Gilmore and Beal self-published a coloring book, “A Boy Named Rocky,” as a therapeutic resource for schools and counselors to help realize they’re not alone or to blame for their situation.

The book tells the story of Rocky, whose mother is in jail, how this affects him, and how he finds help. The last page of the book is a form letter than kids can fill out and send to parents in jail to express their feelings. Parents are asked to write back and accept responsibility for their actions.

Gilmore and Beal have distributed more than 7,500 copies of the book, which are used by every Big Brothers Big Sisters program in Texas and many schools, churches, and prisons.

For children, just talking about their situation is a huge relief. “When they hear the story, a lot of kids say, ‘This is my story! This is my story! Nobody’s ever told my story before,’” says Gilmore. “They’re happy to know they’re not the only ones dealing with an issue like this.”

Judge Gilmore related the story of a respected deacon at her church who came up to her, crying, after a reading of the coloring book. “He told me the book dredged up feelings he hadn’t had in 50 years,” she said. “His father was in prison when he was a child and it was only his mother’s grit and determination that kept him out of trouble himself."

In addition to a sequel to “A Boy Named Rocky,” Judge Gilmore is working on three books about adoption, inspired by her own adoption of a son.

For more on the book, visit www.4theloveofkids.com

Editor’s note: We learned about this story in Texas Bar Circle, our exclusive network of Texas lawyers. Join today and share your story at www.TexasBarCircle.com

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.

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.

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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. 

"Texas Trailblazer" series features two Texas lawyers

As part of its "Texas Trailblazer" series, North Texas public television station KERA-TV will feature two veteran Texas attorneys, Harold Barefoot Sanders and Louise Raggio, and journalist Vivian Castleberry. All three Texans were chosen for their active role in and impact on civil rights and women's rights not only in Texas, but also the country.

Harold Barefoot Sanders (pictured) was a force behind desegregating the public schools in Dallas. He was Assistant Deputy Attorney General in the Justice Department under President Lyndon Johnson, and he helped pass the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that ended discriminatory voting practices. Sanders went on to influence public policy and became a federal judge, serving for 27 years.

Louise Raggio was a role model for the women of Texas in the mid century. After World War II, she went to law school to help support her family. She helped to secure women's rights in Texas, leading the effort to pass the Marital Property Act of 1967. She continued to help pave the way for more rights for women, including equal property rights and individual rights for both married and unmarried women.

Vivian Castleberry helped change the face of journalism by changing the subject matter covered by the Dallas Times-Herald, focusing more on humanitarian issues than on entertainment. She was the first female editor of the Times-Herald in 1957, and she founded Peacemakers Incorporated and co-founded the Women’s Center of Dallas and The Dallas Women’s Foundation. She was also inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame in 1984.

The "Texas Trailblazer" series is in three-parts and airs on Sundays, May 3, 10, and 18, at 8:00 p.m. and rebroadcasts the following Sundays at 12:30 p.m. All three parts will be rebroadcast beginning at 4:30 p.m., Sunday, May 24 on KERA-TV. The series will also be available online after the broadcasts at kera.org/trailblazer.

Texas A&M honors transgendered lawyer Phyllis Frye

As Houston lawyer Phyllis R. Frye (pictured) describes it, she’s “had more than [her] 15 minutes of fame, enjoyed it, and handled it well.” Still, she says she is honored and surprised that Texas A&M University has named  the Phyllis Frye Advocacy Award after her. Its first recipient is Dr. James Rosenheim, who will be recognized April 29 during a ceremony presented by A&M’s Department of Multicultural Services. A promo for the awards ceremony says Rosenheim exemplifies "Phyllis Frye's philosophy of not just walking through doors of intolerance, but tearing them down," and that Rosenheim is being recognized for nurturing relationships among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) staff, students, and community members over two decades.

Frye, a partner in Frye and Cantu, PLLC, is nationally known for her activism and advocacy on LGBT issues.

As a man, Frye received engineering degrees from Texas A&M in 1970 and 1971. She transitioned her gender in 1976, and says that over the years her involvement as an A&M alumnus went from being shunned by members of a Houston alumni group early on, to gradual acceptance at reunions of the Singing Cadets and her graduating class. Frye has received numerous awards for her work in  the legal community and the LGBT movement, but seems bowled over by this A&M recognition. “It’s very humbling,” she said. “To have a university name an award after you is a neat thing. I'm thrilled.”

Random Profile - Albert John 'Al' Charanza, Jr.

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?

Family: Married to Michelle Charanza for 18 years who is my law partner. She attended the University of Houston Law School and I went to South Texas College of Law; two daughters ages 16 and 14.

Best thing about being a lawyer: Helping others who cannot help themselves.

What do you think is the biggest challenge facing attorneys today?  Burn out from being overworked.

Bet you didn’t know: Last Judge Advocate in the U.S. Armed Forces to complete jungle training at the Jungle Operations Training Center, Fort Sherman, Panama before the U.S. closed the base.

Another little known fact: That I was a Texas Cheerleader.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would it be? The President of the United States. I would not be politically correct and speak what the American people want to hear from a leader.

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On India trip, lawyers find it's a small world

Richard and Carolyn Pena, left, and Indian tour guide

A delegation of U.S. lawyers returned from India last month with a simple but important lesson: lawyers everywhere share a common bond, and that's a passion to protect and defend the Rule of Law, sometimes during very difficult circumstances.

The US-India Law Forum was led by former State Bar of Texas president Richard Pena on behalf of People to People Citizen Ambassador Programs, a group originally spun off from the State Department to promote international understanding and friendship through cultural exchange. Pena, a workers compensation lawyer who is also president of the American Bar Foundation, had led 11 previous legal delegations for People to People, to places like Vietnam, Cambodia, and Tibet. The first trip was a delegation of Texas lawyers to China in 2000.

In the wake of the Mumbai attacks, India is struggling with issues regarding terrorism and how it will respond as a country and a legal community. The group of 26 delegates met personally with the chief justice of the Indian Supreme Court, justices of the New Delhi Supreme Court, and the equivalent of the attorney general of India. They also met a group of lawyers who personally knew Gandhi and are working to promote the principles of peace and peaceful resistance as India works to determine its future. The delegation focused on learning about India's legal system, but also on making personal connections. “A lot of what we’re doing is relationship building,” says Pena. “It’s not unlike what President Obama did on his recent South America trip. You interact and build a foundation for future relationships and support.”

Gandhi's living quarters                          

The group saw some tourist sites, but Pena explains that these trips are about much more. “The Taj Mahal was great and unique and everyone should see it, but it’s a thing. The people of India and of other countries that we visit are the real story -- the struggles that they face and how lawyers are helping them, sometimes in the face of great odds.”

Another goal of the People to People trips is to expand the world views of participants. “They learn that there are really no borders anymore. We’re all part of a global community,” Pena says. In India and Egypt this may take the form of a legal summit addressing issues of terrorism law.

Pena stresses that the legal delegations never pick “easy” destinations like Paris or London. Instead they go places where they feel they can make a difference.

The next trip is planned for Israel this November. If you’re interested in participating, contact Pena at (512)327-6884.

Update: Richard J. Stone of Ball Janik, P.C., in Portland, Oregon kept a journal while on the trip. Read it here (pdf format).

Telling An Untold Story

In 2004, a little-known, yet landmark, legal case was celebrated. Fifty years before, Pete Hernandez v. State of Texas set legal precedent when it was ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court that Mexican Americans and all other racial groups were protected under the 14th Amendment. Before the case, Mexican Americans were considered white, and therefore, were not protected by the 14th Amendment.

Released today on DVD, A Class Apart, A Mexican American Civil Rights Story, brings to light the story of a small-town murder case that led to the landmark ruling. Pete Hernandez was convicted in the 1951 killing of Joe Espinosa in Edna. His lawyers — Gustavo C. Garcia, Carlos Cadena, John Herrera, and James DeAnda — appealed the decision, arguing that the all-white jury that convicted Hernandez did not constitute a jury of his peers since Mexican Americans were not allowed to serve on juries. The Texas Supreme Court upheld the ruling, saying that Mexican Americans were legally considered white. Not wavering in their struggle, Hernandez’s attorneys appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, reasoning that despite being legally considered white, Mexican Americans faced Jim Crow-style discrimination. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed and ruled in Hernandez’s favor. The ruling was a step for the Mexican American civil rights struggle, leading to challenges to employment, education, and housing discrimination.

Directed and produced by Carlos Sandoval, A Class Apart not only focuses on the civil rights movement, but also on the attorneys who argued the case, from the reserved and dependable Cadena to the charismatic, yet sometimes reckless Garcia. In one particularly tense moment of the film, Herrera’s son, Mike Herrera, describes how Garcia had an all-night drinking binge on the evening before he was to make his oral argument to the U.S. Supreme Court justices. Despite his antics, Garcia delivered a passionate argument, captivating the justices so much that they allowed him 16 extra minutes to make his case.

A Class Apart, an AMERICAN EXPERIENCE documentary and PBS Home Video, features bonus scenes, a slideshow of photographs, and printable teacher and discussion guides.

Random Profile - Laura Upchurch, Brenham

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 use intelligence, creativity, and compassion to help people solve problems.

Latest pursuit: Attempting to train the puppy my family got from a shelter last fall. He likes to chew everything from garden hoses to pencils and constantly manages to find new ways to escape from our backyard. 

Bet you didn’t know:  In sixth grade, I taught myself to write backwards in cursive, which served to entertain my friends and teachers. Sad to say, this skill has little practical application as a lawyer. 

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Linda Addison a 2009 Margaret Brent winner

Linda Addison, a partner in the Houston and New York offices of Fulbright & Jaworksi L.L.P., is one of five recipients of the 2009 Margaret Brent Women Lawyers of Achievement Award. This ABA award was established in 1991 to honor outstanding women lawyers who have achieved professional excellence and paved the way to success for others. Addison's honors and professional achievements are too numerous to list here, but she's a longtime contributor to the State Bar of Texas, in many roles. Other Margaret Brent honorees this year include Helaine M. Barnett, Judge Arnette R. Hubbard, Judge Vanessa Ruiz, and Loretta A. Tuell. Read more in the ABA's press release.

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Throwing the book at them: Harper Estes recommends his favorite books

We asked State Bar President (and resident bibliophile) Harper Estes to name some of his favorite books. His selections, as of the time of writing:

Novel: Angle of Repose by Wallace Stegner. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1972 and should be read by anyone who loves either the American West or great writing.

Biography: Peter the Great: His Life and World by Robert K. Massie. This book won a Pulitzer in 1981. It is very readable and covers a lot of history, both of Peter the Great but also that era of Russian and European history. Perhaps the best recommendation I can give – you won’t mind that it’s a very long book.

General History: Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954–1963 by Taylor Branch. This book won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for history and is the first in a three-volume history of the Civil Rights movement. It is thought provoking and poignant. It is one of my favorite books and would have to be to have me list it before Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson and the recent masterpiece Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin.

Historical Fiction: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara. My hands-down favorite work of historical fiction, this book won the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for fiction. The book is about the Battle of Gettysburg and sparked my interest in Civil War history. Shaara’s son, Jeff, has made a career of writing prequels and sequels; although some are good, they are no match for his dad’s great novel.

Books About Lawyers: Is there really any choice? To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and became an instant classic. Richard “Racehorse” Haynes says every lawyer should make a habit of reading this book once a year. He is right.

Attorney, author, morning DJ - Roxanne Wilson has it going on!

Meet Roxanne Wilson - attorney, morning show deejay, Jazzercise instructor, author, and community volunteer. The 30-year old Austin hot-shot has a story and message to share with young professionals everywhere.

Upon graduating from the University of Michigan Law School, Wilson moved to Austin to practice at Winstead PC. One of Wilson’s many volunteer activities was involvement in the Baylor Alumni Association. Through the association, Wilson found an unusual opportunity to try-out for the hit reality television show, "The Apprentice."

Putting her law practice on hold, Roxanne had a three-month experience like no other! As America watched, Wilson waited a long time for “The Donald” to tell her, “You’re fired.”   Quite successful on the show, she was a final four contestant.

Taking a leap of faith, so to speak, Wilson authored the book, Footprints in the Boardroom.  A strong Christian, Wilson believes that maintaining Christian values while pursuing a successful business career is obtainable. Wilson is committed to spreading this message to young professionals through her book and toolkits.

Wilson is now the host of “Family Friendly Mornings” on Austin radio station 102.3, The River. While her career demands most of her time, Wilson remains committed to giving back. She serves on the Public Relations Committee for the Junior League of Austin – A Christmas Affair; volunteers for the Make-A-Wish, is active in the Susan G. Komen  for the Cure Foundation, and devoted to her church.

For a glimpse of Roxanne and to view her blog, visit www.theriver1023.com.

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Walton honored by Anti-Defamation League

State Bar Immediate Past President Gib Walton was awarded the 2009 Karen H. Susman Jurisprudence Award by the Anti-Defamation League on March 31. Founded in 1913, the ADL is the country’s premier human relations and civil rights organization. Walton’s leadership is indicative of this mission, ensuring that minorities have a voice and hold leadership positions that really matter and placing a strong emphasis on protecting the rule of law in society.

Upon accepting the award, Walton thanked his mentors, family, and close friends. He attributes his efforts to his father, Dan Walton who helped to increase diversity on juries when he served as Harris County District Attorney and district judge.

More than $200,000 was raised for the ADL by sponsorships and ticket sales purchased by those honoring Walton at the awards luncheon.

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No joke about it -- Austin attorney is funny

Last time the State Bar caught up with Austin attorney John Ramsey, he was fresh out of law school and had just started practicing with Nunis & Associates. He was also just named Funniest Person in Austin. That was back in 2005. Since then, he’s performed throughout the country, most notably in Aspen for HBO’s USA Comedy Arts Festival and in New York City for Comedy Central’s Live at Gotham series.

Seems Ramsey is taking his brush with fame in stride. “The best thing about having comedy as a hobby has been the free trips with my wife,” Ramsey says. He’s still performing in Austin, but manages to do a couple of shows out of state when his job allows.

Ramsey has no plans to leave his position at Nunis & Associates for his hobby, saying “it is far more likely that I will leave the comedy world to become a full-time lawyer.” Considering how supportive his firm is of his comedy career, it's no wonder Ramsey would choose law first. Boss Bob Nunis allows Ramsey to shift his schedule if need be, and Nunis and the other attorneys at the firm have even gone out to see a few shows.

Catch the funnyman this weekend, when he performs Friday and Saturday at Austin’s comedy club, The Velveeta Room.

Live at Gotham  
John Ramsey – Russian Poop Joke
comedycentral.com
Joke of the Day Stand-Up Comedy Free Online Games

 

Strong named general counsel of A&M System

On Friday, March 27, the Texas A&M University Board of Regents selected Andrew Strong as general counsel of the Texas A&M System. As general counsel he'll be responsible for all legal matters affecting the system and provide legal counsel to A&M's board of regents, chancellor, and CEOs.

Strong is a partner in the Houston office of Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, which he joined in 2005 after serving as the managing partner of Campbell, George & Strong since 1994. At A&M Strong replaces former general counsel Jay Kimbrough, who now works in the governor's office. According to an article in the Bryan College Station Eagle, details of Strong's starting date as general counsel are being worked out.

Strong is a former president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association and currently servces as chair of the State Bar of Texas Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Committee, co-chair of the Texas Access to Justice Commission's Civil Gideon Task Force, and chair of the Children at Risk's Public Policy and Law Center.

Random Profile - Marissa C. Hernandez, Edinburg

Marissa HernandezFor 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: I get to help a lot of people.

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: My Dad has always told me not to worry about the things you can’t change. I think that advice is so useful in my law practice and life in general.

Most important career lesson: Juries hate when we overcomplicate things. They stop listening when we get hyper-technical about anything.

Favorite saying/quote: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” – John Lennon

Favorite sport: Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football.

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Dallas lawyer takes top prize at film festival

The Beacon posterThe Beacon, a supernatural thriller produced by Dallas lawyer Sally Helppie, took top honors at the Paranoia Horror Film Festival in California on March 15. The festival's goal is to find "the next great thing in horror each and every year." Helppie, of counsel to Tipton Jones, is co-founder and president of Sabbatical Pictures, a Dallas-based independent film production company. The Beacon, which won the Best Feature Film prize, was shot in Waxahachie and Dallas using Texas crews and several local actors. The second movie produced by Helppie, The Beacon stars Teri Polo (of Meet the Parents fame) as a grieving mother who becomes obsessed with delivering a message to her dead son. Helppie's first film, Exit Speed, an action picture starring Lea Thompson and Fred Ward, also was filmed in Dallas and is now available on DVD. Helppie is currently fielding offers to distribute The Beacon. Go here to view the trailer.

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Houston lawyer dominates on the golf course

Not many people can say they have beat Michael Jordan at an athletic competition. Houston attorney Nakia Davis holds these bragging rights! The Beck, Redden & Secrest attorney has played golf with Michael Jordan 18 times. The total game score:  Davis 17, Jordan 1. 

Before practicing law, Davis played on the Ladies Pro Golf Association FUTURES Golf Tour. Davis met Jordan through a mutual friend and then re-connected with the star at an event sponsored by the Jackie Robinson Foundation. Knowing of the pro basketball player’s competitive spirit, Davis challenged him to a round of golf, confident she would win. Needless to say, Jordan was hooked, and 18 games later the duo plans to continue the friendly competition. 

Another interesting fact about Davis’ golf career - before Tiger Woods was a household name, they were in the same training circle of young up-and-comers.

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Austin lawyer rocks South by Southwest Interactive

Before Monday, Austin lawyer and computer forensics expert Craig Ball might have seemed the least likely speaker to wow an audience of Gen X and Yers gathered to learn about the latest technology and social media at the South By Southwest Interactive Festival. Today, he stands toe-to-toe with the Internet celebs who dominate the festival from year to year.

Ball was part of a panel, "Presenting Straight to the Brain," about techniques for persuading with PowerPoint beyond the usual bullet points and tired graphics that plague so many presentations.

Ball showed the crowd of more than 500 an animation he uses to explain the inner workings of a hard drive to a non-technical audience. This and other parts of his presentation drew applause, shouts of approval, and scores of positive "tweets" from audience members who were documenting the panel on Twitter.com

"I figured the crowd was nice to me because it was like being nice to your granddad," joked the 51-year-old Ball, who began his SXSW remarks by telling attendees, "For those of you who are wondering, the red thing I'm wearing around my neck is called a tie."

"Really, I was leery of speaking to a younger group which was not at all like my typical audience of attorneys and judges," related Ball. "I was blown away by how receptive they were. I was happy to have the feeling of holding my own with the other panelists."

Ball's seemingly complex animations are done solely with PowerPoint. For tips and articles about how he does it, see www.craigball.com.

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Cornyn and Hutchison seek U.S. attorney candidates

Senators John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison are seeking candidates to serve as a U.S. attorney in Texas. Applications are due Friday, March 27, 2009.

The open positions are for the Northern District of Texas, based in Dallas, and Southern District, based in Houston.

For details, see this press release on Hutchison's website.

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Random Profile - Jimmy Verner, Dallas

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?

Most important career lesson: Don't be afraid to say “I don't know” when you don't know.

Current project: A free, online searchable database of Texas family law cases, with commentary by (and credit given to) volunteer attorneys who identify and submit cases. If you're interested in participating, drop me a line at jverner@vernerbrumley.com.

Favorite saying/quote: “Take credit when available, not when it's due!” This is my sole contribution to Western Civilization.

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Joe Jamail: Don't call him a litigator.

Houston's Joe Jamail would strongly prefer you call him a trial lawyer. Why is that? I'll forgo expletives on the State Bar blog and instead refer you to a new profile of Jamail in the ABA Journal by Mark Curriden, communications director for Vinson & Elkins LLP in Dallas. 

Curriden recaps the 83-year-old Jamail's journey from the UT School of Law, where he "just showed up" and never officially enrolled, to today's busy schedule and his plans to try cases for another 10 years.

The Jamail story is part of Curriden's feature section on "Lions of the Trial Bar," where he profiles seven legends, including another Texas treasure: Richard "Racehorse" Haynes.

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Austin lawyer an elite Yelper

Michelle Cheng is one of Austin's most prolific Yelpers.

Yelp.com describes its free service as "real reviews by real people." Michelle has written 501 reviews of restaurants and other businesses, leading her cohorts on Yelp to call her "legendary" and earning her an elusive "Yelp Elite" status for three years running.

"Yelp.com gives me an easy, no-pressure outlet to do some writing on one of my favorite topics – food," says Cheng. "I’ve discovered many great restaurants and other businesses through Yelp, and have met lots of terrific people, too (there are frequent social gatherings for Yelpers)."

There's no telling where she finds the time, considering she's a busy plaintiff's lawyer (recently promoted to name partner in Whitehurst, Harkness, Brees, Cheng & Imhoff, PC) and serves on the State Bar Board of Directors and Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors, among other community activities.

And it's not all fun and games. "I’ve even had some potential clients who discovered me through my Yelp activity," Cheng related.

Random Profile: Nelson Clare, San Antonio



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?

Areas of practice: Environmental, municipal and energy law. In 2004, after 30 years of public and private practice, I retired as head of a small in-house shop to develop and run a tree farm (landscape trees). We cut, cleared, fenced, sunk wells, installed 2 irrigation systems and planted 5 species of native oak in containers. I’ve got sheep that help with the grass and chickens that help with the pests in and around the containers. It’s a one-man shop, and the learning curve has been steep, but the people in the business are open with advice, suggestions and support of all kinds, at the drop of a hat.

Favorite movie: Giant

The best piece of advice ever given to you and by whom: “Make yourself indispensible in whatever job you have,” given to me as a youngster by an older solo practitioner, James L.M. Miller, who, as a teenager during the Great Depression, was the sole support of his mother and 4 siblings.

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