State Bar advises on Erwin Center street closures and parking ahead of new lawyer induction on Monday

On the morning of Nov. 17, the State Bar of Texas will congratulate and administer the oath of office to more than 1,000 new attorneys at the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony, held at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin.

If you are a newly licensed attorney or a proud family member or friend attending the event, you’ll notice that the grounds surrounding the Erwin Center are looking very different. With construction of the Dell Medical School Project and the realignment of Red River Street fully underway, some streets and parking lots are currently closed. Please read on for important information regarding these changes.

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State Bar welcomes new board directors

The State Bar of Texas recently welcomed new members to its board of directors at the 2014 Annual Meeting held in Austin on June 26-27, 2014. These included 2014-2015 State Bar President-elect Allan Dubois, Texas Young Lawyers Association President-elect Barrett Thomas, 13 new directors, two liaisons, and two section representatives.

 

Above: Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson swears in new members of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors on June 26 during the 2014 Annual Meeting in Austin.

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75th anniversary timeline highlights State Bar of Texas history

On April 19, 1939, Texas Gov. Wilbert Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel signed the State Bar Act, which created the State Bar of Texas.

To help mark the occasion of our 75th anniversary, we’ve created an interactive timeline at texasbar.com/75.

From the formation of the first bar association in Texas in April 1868 to the State Bar of Texas’s move to a Prime Partner bank in November 2013, the timeline features a variety of facts from State Bar history.

The State Bar Act of 1939 created a unified State Bar, governed its operations and responsibilities, and mandated that all attorneys licensed to practice law in Texas be members. For a quick refresher on the act, you can read this story in the April Texas Bar Journal

State Bar of Texas Minority Director Sought

Nominations are now being accepted for minority director for the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors. Self nominations will not be accepted. Four appointed positions were created on the board in order to increase minority participation as well as to provide representation from varying professional, geographic, and social environments. One position will become vacant in 2014.

Nominees will be selected by an ad hoc committee comprised of members from the State Bar Board, Women in the Profession Committee, and the Racial Diversity in the Profession Committee. Nominees will be responsible for their own expenses related to the interview process. The ad hoc committee will submit two nominations for each vacant position to the president of the State Bar, and the president will appoint one of those nominees. The board of directors will consider the appointee for approval at its meeting on April 25, 2014. Minority directors serve threeyear terms, and the terms begin on June 25, 2014.

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The Texas Lawyer's Creed

The goal of the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, promulgated in November 1989, was to eliminate abusive tactics within the practice of law in Texas and promote respect and confidence in the legal profession. In 2013, then State Bar of Texas President Buck Files worked with both the Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to reaffirm the Creed and what it stands for.

To celebrate the reaffirmation, the State Bar of Texas created a poster-sized (24 x 36) version of the Texas Lawyers’ Creed. Perfect for display in your law office or chambers, contact Blair McBride at bmcbride@texasbar.com or 512-427-1726 to receive your free copy or to request copies of the Texas Lawyer’s Creed brochure.

Share your blog on Texas Bar Today

Texas Bar Today is an online media network featuring curated news and commentary from Texas legal professionals. It is provided as a service of the State Bar of Texas. If you are a Texas legal professional/blogger and are not yet listed on the Texas Law Blogs section of Texas Bar Today, please email webmaster@texasbar.com to request inclusion on the site.

Please also contact us if you do not have a blog but would like to contribute a guest post.

State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral and Information Service

For San Antonio attorney Rafael Baca, the State Bar Lawyer Referral and Information Service (LRIS) provides opportunities for him to help and talk to people from all areas of the state. “Most of the time they are people in the smaller parts of Texas,” said Baca, who practices intellectual property law. “I enjoy helping people. They just need a little guidance that is always greatly appreciated.”

Baca said he receives two to three referrals a month from LRIS, which serves the dual purpose of helping Texans find a lawyer and assisting attorneys in building their practices. The phone- and website-based LRIS generates thousands of public inquiries every month from more than 240 counties across Texas where there is no local lawyer referral program. The program does not include Bexar, Dallas, El Paso, Harris, Jefferson, Nueces, Tarrant, and Travis counties, which all are covered by local referral programs.

Baca is a member of the San Antonio Bar referral service, but he also joined the State Bar program to get referrals from outside Bexar County. “The State Bar referrals, for the most part, include a broader mix of intellectual property issues,” he said. “Even people who are not a match … I still enjoy our visit."

Lawyers who participate in LRIS agree to provide all referral clients an initial consultation of up to 30 minutes for no more than $20, a fee which the attorneys keep.

If the lawyer and client agree to continue with the case, the attorney’s standard fees apply for the services provided. Ten percent of total fees are remitted back to LRIS in cases that generate attorney’s fees of $500 or more.

LRIS made 60,965 referrals during 2011–12, including 3,832 from the online system. Overall, 40 percent went to LRIS panel members, 35 percent to local referral services, and 25 percent to other resources.

State Bar of Texas president-elect race headed for run-off; Brooker named president-elect of TYLA

There will be a run-off election for State Bar of Texas President-elect between Trey Apffel and Steve Fischer. Because a majority of votes was not received by any of the three candidates for president-elect, a run-off election will be held from May 9 through May 23. Rebekah Steely Brooker of Dallas is 2013-2014 president-elect of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA). Read more about the election results.

State Bar of Texas, ABA, Lone Star Legal Aid and Local Bar Associations Stand Ready to Assist Texans Impacted by the Disaster in West, Texas

The State Bar of Texas has established a disaster legal hotline – 800.504.7030 – to assist people with basic legal questions following the devastating plant explosion in West, Texas.

The hotline – answered in English and Spanish by Lone Star Legal Aid – is intended to help low-income persons affected by the disaster with such issues as replacing lost documents, insurance questions, landlord-tenant issues, and consumer protection issues such as price-gouging and avoiding contractor scams in the rebuilding process. Residents can call and leave a message any time. People who qualify for assistance will be matched with Texas lawyers who have volunteered to provide free, limited legal help. 

A partnership between the State Bar of Texas, Texas Young Lawyers Association, American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, Lone Star Legal Aid, local bar associations, and other legal services providers throughout Texas is making a range of assistance available.

Additional resources are available at www.texasbar.com/disasterresponse and www.texaslawhelp.org.

The State Bar of Texas reminds the public that solicitation of a potential legal case is a crime unless the lawyer has a family relationship with you or you have been a client of the lawyer in the past or are currently a client. Solicitation of you is also a crime if perpetrated by a non-lawyer employee or representative of the lawyer, unless the previous conditions exist. Please report any prohibited contacts by lawyers or their representatives, whether in person, telephone or otherwise, to your local law enforcement authority or the State Bar of Texas at 877.953.5535.

Attorneys who want to volunteer to help may visit our Disaster Relief and Attorney Resources page.

Cindy Tisdale of Granbury elected State Bar of Texas board chair

Attorney Cindy Tisdale of Granbury was elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas. She will take office during the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting to be held June 20-21 in Dallas, and will serve as chair until June 2014. Read the official press release.

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2013 State Bar Election: Candidates Forum live webcast on March 28

Register now for a free live webcast, We the Candidates Forum, scheduled for Thursday, March 28, from 3:30 p.m. to 4:45 p.m. This year's candidates: Trey Apffel of League City, Steve Fischer of Rockport, and Larry W. Hicks of El Paso, will discuss issues facing the Texas legal profession, their visions for the future of the State Bar of Texas, and their experience and leadership styles.

If you register for the webcast but cannot view it on the scheduled date, it will be archived and available within approximately 3 business days from the broadcast date. When ready, it will be under the "Your Purchases" section located on the homepage of TexasBarCLE.com and available for viewing until April 30. 

The program will also be available in the "Free Online Class" section located on the homepage of TexasBarCLE.com within 3 business days of the broadcast for viewing until April 30. There is no MCLE credit for this webcast.

Election ballots will be distributed electronically and via mail on April 1, and State Bar of Texas members have until April 30 at 5:00 p.m. CST to cast ballots. View more information about the candidates and the election

In Memoriam: Gib Walton of Houston

Gib Walton, past president of the State Bar of Texas and co-leader of Hogan Lovells' global Projects, Engineering, and Construction practice, died suddenly on Feb. 7, 2013.  
 
Walton served as State Bar of Texas president during 2007-2008. His initiatives as president included public education, building diversity in the profession, emphasizing the importance of helping lawyers with depression and mental health issues, and increasing support for legal services to the poor. Walton was an ardent supporter of access to justice issues, having served on the board of directors of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation from 2000 to 2006. He was also a past chair of the Texas Bar Foundation.

State Bar President Buck Files, the State Bar staff, and its volunteer leadership extend their thoughts and condolences to Gib’s wife, Martha, his family, and his many friends. 

Obituary: Houston Chronicle

Read Walton's June 2007 Texas Bar Journal profile [PDF].

TYLA President-elect candidates announced

The Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) has named Alfonso Cabañas of San Antonio and Rebekah Steely Brooker of Dallas president-elect candidates. The individual receiving the most votes in an election this spring will serve as TYLA president from June 2014 until June 2015. Election results will be announced May 1. Read the full press release

State Bar of Texas President, F.R. "Buck" Files, Jr., says fatal shooting of district attorney is beyond his comprehension

F.R. "Buck" Files, Jr., spoke with KLTV News of Tyler about the fatal shooting of Mark Hasse near a Kaufman County Courthouse on Thursday. He told KLTV, "On behalf of the lawyers of Texas, we extend our sympathies to his family and join with them in hoping that his killer is apprehended quickly and brought to justice." The full story is available on KLTV.com

State Bar of Texas President-elect candidates announced

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors has approved the nomination of attorneys E.A. “Trey” Apffel, III of League City and Larry W. Hicks of El Paso as candidates for president-elect. Texas attorneys will cast their votes during an election this spring. Election results will be announced May 1. The president-elect will serve as president of the State Bar of Texas from June 2014 until June 2015. Read the full press release

Registration is open for the 31st Annual Texas Forum

The State Bar of Texas Standing Committee on Paralegals is sponsoring the 31st Annual Texas Forum Friday, February 22, 2013, at City Place Conference Center, 2711 North Haskell, Dallas, TX. The Forum will begin at 9 a.m. and adjourn at 2:30 p.m. Registration is $25 for paralegals and $20 for paralegal students. Registration includes lunch, materials, and parking.
MCLE State Bar of Texas Accredited 4.0 hours (1.0 hour ethics)

Click here to register.

The State Bar of Texas tree ornament and recently reduced store merchandise!

The holidays are right around the corner and with that comes tree-trimming parties and a lot of gift giving! Why not pick up one of our beautiful green and gold State Bar of Texas ornaments? Or give an item such as a coffee tumbler or a set of coasters with the State Bar of Texas seal elegantly embossed? Stop by our website and discover the new prices in store!

State Bar of Texas merchandise ON SALE!

The State Bar of Texas merchandise store is having a sale just in time for the holidays! Men’s and women’s button down shirts have been marked down to just $23 (originally $47). Women’s: White (pictured), 97% Cotton, 3% Spandex. Men’s: White or Blue (pictured), 100% Cotton.

Get yours while supplies last. Visit the Shop With Us link on the State Bar of Texas website to see this item as well as other great State Bar of Texas merchandise.

Women's White Button Down Men's Blue Button Down

 

Veterans Day Op-Ed, by State Bar of Texas President Buck Files

If you had been at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on October 9, you might have been curious as to the VIP’s who were being interviewed by television crews and visited with by other passengers. Were they politicians or movie stars or successful businessmen? No, they were World War II veterans who were participating in the Honor Flight Program that would fly them to our nation’s capital so that they could see the World War II Memorial. These veterans were part of “the Greatest Generation.” They are all truly treasures of our nation as are all of those who have served our great country through military service.

On Veterans Day, there will be parades and ceremonies and speeches and veterans of all our wars will be honored. During their service, all lived the words of President John F. Kennedy: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

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State Bar of Texas deputy executive director Kelley Jones King earns national honor

Kelley Jones King, deputy executive director of the State Bar of Texas, has received the E.A. “Wally” Richter Leadership Award from the National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) Communications Section. The award was presented at the NABE Communications annual conference on October 12 in Denver.

The Richter Award is the section’s highest honor and is presented for outstanding achievement in the field of communications, extraordinary service to NABE colleagues, and distinguished leadership within the NABE Communications Section. Read the official press release.

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Minority director sought

Nominations are now being accepted for minority director for the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors. Self nominations will not be accepted. Four appointed positions were created on the Board in order to increase minority participation as well as to provide representation from varying professional, geographic, and social environments. Two positions will become vacant in 2013. Read the full details.

TYLA to present voting rights documentary and voter registration drive

In an ongoing quest to educate young people across Texas about their fundamental right to vote and the history of the suffrage movements that solidified that right, the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) is presenting "Vote America! Honor the Fight, Exercise Your Right" Video Presentation and Voter Registration Drive:

Tuesday, Oct. 2, 1:19 – 2:44 p.m.
Akins High School
Academy of Business, Leadership and Legal Enterprises, Library
10701 South First St., Austin

Deputy Voter Registrars will be on site to facilitate voter registration. Read the full press release.

State Bar of Texas selects 20 attorneys for Leadership Academy

Congratulations to this year's LeadershipSBOT class! 

Michelle Alden, Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program, Dallas
Raymond Baeza, Farmers Insurance, El Paso
Emma Cano, Haynes & Boone, LLP, San Antonio
Chalon Clark-Thomas, Brown McCarroll, L.L.P., Dallas
Tobias Cole, Midani, Hinkle & Cole, LLP, Houston
David Collins, Law Office of Derek R. Van Gilder, Bastrop
C. Michael Davis, The Law Offices of Jim Parsons, Palestine
Carina Garza, Griffith & Garza, L.L.P., Pharr
Aurora Martinez Jones, The Martinez Jones Law Firm, PLLC, Austin
Rudolph Karl Metayer, Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services, Austin
Barbara Nicholas, White & Wiggins, LLP, Addison
Ashley Pate, Potter Minton, PC, Tyler
LiLan Ren, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Austin
Jessica Rivera, Haynes & Boone, LLP, Houston
Eduardo Romero, Villarreal & Romero, PLLC, Laredo
Justin Smith, Norton & Wood, LLP, Texarkana
Rabeea Sultan, The Sultan Law Firm, Houston
Karla Vargas, Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, El Paso
Gregory Wilson, L.M. Tatum, PLLC, San Antonio
Alex Yarbrough, Sprouse Shrader Smith, P.C., Amarillo

Read the full press release on www.texasbar.com.

Resources available to help prevent lawyer suicides

Not another suicide. That’s a phrase I have found myself uttering too often. I’ve experienced the anguish and profound sense of loss on two separate occasions following the suicides of friends, both of whom were highly respected and accomplished lawyers. 

Since beginning work at the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP), I’ve learned all too well that those suicides were not anomalies. Rarely a month goes by that we don’t hear of a lawyer somewhere in our state who has taken their own life.

Sunday, Sept. 9, marked the start of Suicide Prevention Week in Texas and nationally, an effort to draw attention to this growing problem and reduce the number of suicides.

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State Bar iPad cases now available for purchase

Just added to the State Bar of Texas merchandise store: Leather iPad cases! The cases, which come in black and brown, are embossed with the State Bar seal and include a notepad for easy note taking. These soft leather cases look great and will give your iPad the protection it needs.

Purchase your new State Bar of Texas iPad case today for just $75 – They make great presents too! Download an order form by visiting our Merchandise page or click on the ‘Shop with Us’ link on www.texasbar.com.

New Scam Uses Texas Lawyer's Identity for Fake Website

The State Bar of Texas has learned that an apparent scam artist has assumed the identity of a Texas attorney who has not practiced in several years, and set up a fake law firm website using the attorney's maiden name, former office address, and portions of her professional biography.

The attorney was alerted to the scam after a legal finance firm contacted her at home with concerns about the  impersonator. Because the case is under investigation by the FBI and local law enforcement, we are withholding details on the matter. At this time we do not know how the scam artist is using or intends to use the fake website.

In recent years scams have targeted Texas attorneys with fraudulent checks and wire transfers in fake debt collection matters, and scammers have impersonated law firms and called members of the public attempting to collect debts.  This is the first time the State Bar of Texas has seen a fake website established in an attorney's name, and attorneys and the public should be vigilant about this new tactic.

If you have questions about the identity of a Texas lawyer, please search our official Find a Lawyer member directory or contact our Membership Department at (800)204-2222, Ext. 1383. If you are an attorney who believes your identity has been stolen, contact the nearest FBI office and local law enforcement.

Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat - September 19-22, 2012

Registration is now open! This three-day event is designed for staff whose primary roles include coordinating pro bono efforts, recruiting private attorneys to provide direct legal services to the poor and/or organizing training events so attorneys can deliver civil legal services to poor Texans. This retreat is open to pro bono coordinators in legal services programs and private law firms. Get the details.

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State Bar President-elect Nominee Process Underway

The State Bar Board of Directors is soliciting candidates for the 2013 President-elect race. State Bar Rules stipulate that the 2013 president-elect nominees shall come from non-metropolitan counties of the state (all counties except Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Travis).

The Board of Directors Policy Manual describes the criteria for selecting nominees. The Board will consider potential nominees’ involvement in State Bar committee work, knowledge of State Bar operations, participation in local and specialty bar associations, and other activities demonstrating leadership ability. Although prior membership on the State Bar Board of Directors is not a prerequisite for nomination, it is important in determining whether a lawyer is a qualified nominee. Nominees should submit a resume and a statement of views of the key issues facing the Bar, the role they would play in dealing with those issues, and what they would seek to accomplish during their tenure as President, all within the overall strategic plan of the State Bar.

Over a period of years, the office of State Bar president should include men and women, ethnic and racial minorities, lawyers from large and small firms and sole practitioners, and those from urban and rural areas of the state. The Board is working toward that end in the selection process.

The Board’s Nominations and Elections Subcommittee is accepting names and background information of potential candidates. Please write the subcommittee to recommend potential candidates, c/o Bob Black and Beverly Godbey, Nominations & Elections Subcommittee Co Chairs, P. O. Box 12487, Austin 78711-2487. Anyone submitting a name for consideration should first obtain that person’s consent to have his/her name submitted.

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Texas Gavel Awards recipients announced

The State Bar of Texas today announced recipients of the 2012 Texas Gavel Awards to honor journalistic excellence in legal reporting. The following reporters will be presented with an award on August 10 at the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas annual conference in Austin:

  • Jordan Smith, The Austin Chronicle, “The Science of Injustice”
  • Kevin Krause and Ed Timms, The Dallas Morning News, “Bail Bondsmen: Working the Numbers”
  • Jeff Prince, Fort Worth Weekly, “The Power of Alienation”
  • Mandy Oaklander, Houston Press, “Life Without Parole”
  • Andrew Horansky, KVUE-TV, “Criminalizing Kids”
  • Cindy V. Culp, Waco Tribune-Herald, “Perils and Pitfalls in the Pursuit of Innocence”

The Texas Gavel Awards are sponsored by the State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee and judged by an independent panel that includes out-of-state editors and legal reporting experts.

Journalists play an important role in educating the public about the legal system and the Texas Gavel Awards honor those efforts.

Files sworn in as 132nd State Bar of Texas President

Buck Files of Tyler was sworn in as president of the State Bar of Texas by Judge Cathy Cochran of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals at noon today, at the State Bar Annual Meeting in Houston. The meeting is being held at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

Files is a shareholder in Bain, Files, Jarrett, Bain & Harrison, P.C. in Tyler. He is certified in criminal law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization and criminal trial advocacy by the National Board of Trial Advocacy.

Read an interview with Files that was published in the June issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

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State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting: Day 1 Preview

State Bar Annual Meeting highlights in Houston today include:

- Adaptable Lawyer Legal Innovation track: Learn about the latest in social media and other legal technology, including a keynote presentation by Merrilyn Astin Tarlton on new busines models for attorneys at 1:30 p.m., Room 360ABDE.

- Texas Legal History: Explore Texas' legal history through 21 fascinating legal documents recovered and restored thanks to the efforts of the Supreme Court of Texas' Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force. 10 a.m., Room 320AB.


- Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon featuring James A. Baker III, former U.S. Secretary of State under President George H.W. Bush. Noon-1:30 p.m., Grand Ballroom.

- Receptions: Catch up with law school buddies or section colleagues, or rub elbows with fellow writers, at receptions starting at 4 p.m. Most are in the Hilton Americas Hotel; check Page 31 of your events guide for locations.

Stay up to date on this year's Annual Meeting! Visit twitter.com/statebaroftexas and facebook.com/statebaroftexas as we live tweet and post highlights throughout the day.

Tweet or Comment to Win a Free Full Registration to this year's Annual Meeting in Houston!

Former U.S. Secretary of State James A. Baker III, Marshawn Evans, and Richard North Patterson are just a few of the highlights of this year's State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting June 14–15 in Houston at the George R. Brown Convention Center.

There will also be a reenactment of Texas v. White at the Historic 1910 Harris County Courthouse as well as a chance to get a glimpse of Texas' legal past through an exhibit of recently preserved historical legal documents. Oh yeah, and there's enough CLE there for you to fulfill your year's requirements!

You can win a free full registration (both Friday and Saturday; travel and lodging NOT included) by following us Twitter @statebaroftexas or liking us on Facebook (facebook.com/statebaroftexas) and then doing one of the following (or both):

For you Twitter folks out there, retweet the following phrase: "Join me at the @statebaroftexas Annual Meeting, June 14–15 in Houston! texasbar.com/annualmeeting #sbot12".

Facebook friends, leave a comment on our Facebook page telling us what you're most excited about seeing at this year's annual meeting.

You have until noon on Friday, June 8 and can tweet or comment once per day. The winner will be randomly chosen and notified by 5 p.m. that day via Twitter DM or Facebook PM, depending on how they entered.

Good luck and see you in Houston!

Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers 23rd Annual Convention

The Texas Lawyers Assistance Program and Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers are co-hosting their Annual Convention in San Antonio, June 1st - 3rd. Participation is a great way to meet other members of the legal profession who are in recovery from substance abuse and/or mental health problems and to learn about how these issues affect lawyers’ lives and practices. Attendees are asked to maintain the confidentiality of those in attendance. Registration information and agenda are available at: www.TexasBar.com/TLAP. Things to know: registration is $220 but scholarships are available, up to 9.5 hours of ethics CLE is pending, exciting speakers from around the country are lined up. Questions? Call TLAP at 1-800-343-8527.

Register for Annual Meeting now -- and save $50!

The State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in Houston is right around the corner! Register before May 15 and save $50. Registration includes breakfast, lunch, a flash drive with all the materials, free wi-fi in the meeting rooms, and two quality days of CLE. Receive all of your MCLE and ethics requirements for only $245!

This year's keynote speakers include former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, attorney and reinvention strategist Marshawn Evans, and best-selling author Richard North Patterson. For more information, click here. To download the Annual Meeting brochure, click here.

Frank E. Stevenson II of Dallas Elected 2012-13 Chair of the State Bar Board

Frank E. Stevenson II, a partner in the Dallas office of Locke Lord, L.L.P., has been elected Chair of the Board of Directors of the State Bar of Texas. He will take office during the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting to be held June 14-15 in Houston and will serve as chair until June 2013.

Stevenson has practiced administrative, transportation, real estate, and finance law for more than 30 years. He has served on the board of directors of the State Bar of Texas since 2010 and on the board of the Dallas Bar Association since 1999, serving as president in 2008. He has served on the Dallas Bar Foundation’s board of directors since 2007, and was chair of the Dallas Bar/Legal Aid of Northwest Texas Equal Access to Justice Campaign in 2003.

Stevenson is an associate member of the Dallas Citizens Council and serves on the executive committee of the Sammons Center for the Arts. He has been on the board of the North Dallas Chamber of Commerce since 2007 and has served Amherst College in numerous capacities, including as a member and then chair of the executive committee of the Alumni Council. The college awarded Stevenson its Medal for Eminent Service in 2009.

He is a fellow of the American Bar Foundation, a sustaining life fellow of the Texas Bar Foundation and the Dallas Bar Foundation, and a life fellow of the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers Foundation.

He graduated with a B.A. magna cum laude from Amherst College and earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law.

2012 Judicial Poll is Open

The State Bar is conducting a poll of the contested Supreme Court of Texas, Court of Criminal Appeals and Court of Appeals district races up for election. This is a non-partisan straw poll of our current members.

Members must vote by Tuesday May 8, 2012, at 5:00 p.m.

Please visit TexasBar.com for details and to participate.

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Warning - Fake "Account Suspended" Email

Update 4/2/2012

We have received more reports that lawyers are receiving a scam/phishing attempt. This is not from the State Bar. Do not click links contained in the message which reads as follows: 

From: State Bar of Texas <acs35@comcast.net>
Date: April 2, 2012 3:47:21 PM CDT
To: undisclosed-recipients:;
Subject: Account Suspended

Dear Subscriber,
 
Your State Bar of Texas account has been suspended because of unusual invalid login attempts into your account. You may experience inability to access certain feature. To restore your account, please click on the link below and complete the form.
 
[link]
 
Click on the link above (or copy and paste the URL address into your web browser) to complete the form.
 
Thank you for co-operation.
Technical Support
State Bar of Texas

Original blog post 2/23/2012

We received reports late today about an email purporting to be from the State Bar of Texas with the subject line: "Texas Bar Account Suspended." The email asks the recipient to click a link and provide information.

This email is not from the State Bar of Texas and is a scam/phishing attempt. Do not click the link contained in the email or provide information in response to it.

If you did provide information in response to the scam email we recommend that you log in to My Bar Page on TexasBar.com, click "Update My Profile," and change your password. If you need help please email webmaster@texasbar.com.

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State Bar of Texas election 2012

Election 2012 for State Bar and TYLA presidents-elect and district directors is currently underway and will continue until 5:00 pm on May 1, 2012. Read about the candidates.

You can vote online now, or if you prefer to vote via a paper ballot, election packets were mailed on April 2, 2012 and may take five (5) to seven (7) days for delivery. Complete your ballot and return it in the postage paid envelope provided.  If you have not received your paper ballot by U.S. mail by April 9, 2012, please call 1-800-218-4026 for assistance Monday – Friday, 8:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. CT.

The deadline to cast your vote is May 1, 2012 at 5:00 pm. Votes must be received either online or at the designated U.S. Postal address no later than that date and time.

2012 voting for State Bar and TYLA presidents-elect begins April 2

Election 2012 online voting for State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) presidents-elect will begin April 2 and end May 1. Paper ballots will be mailed April 2.

The State Bar Board of Directors approved the nominations of E. Steve Bolden, II of Dallas and Lisa Tatum of San Antonio as State Bar president-­elect candidates. The TYLA Board of Directors approved the nominations of Shivali Sharma of Texarkana and Kristy Sims Piazza of Plano as TYLA president-elect candidates.

To view the candidates' bios, please visit www.texasbar.com/elections.

LeadershipSBOT nominations due June 29, 2012

The State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association are looking for 20 Texas lawyers to participate in LeadershipSBOT. This diversity initiative is designed to recruit, train, and retain Texas lawyers for leadership positions in the legal community and the State Bar of Texas. Program participants will be selected to reflect the cultural, ethnic, geographic, and practice area diversity of the state. Nomination forms are due June 29, 2012. For more details read the nomination letter and download the nomination form.

TYLA names president-elect candidates

TYLA names Shivali Sharma of Texarkana and Kristy Sims Piazza of Plano as President-elect candidates. The attorneys will face one another in an election this spring to become president-elect of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA). Election results will be announced May 1. The president-elect will serve as TYLA president from June 2013 until June 2014. Read the full press release

Register online for this year's State Bar Annual Meeting in Houston

Online registration is now open for the State Bar's 2012 Annual Meeting. This is your once-a-year opportunity to receive a year’s worth of CLE at the best price in town! Choose the courses best suited to your practice, hear dynamic keynote speakers, and meet exhibitors and sponsors all in one place.

Annual Meeting will be held June 14-15, at the Hilton Americas Houston and George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.

Please visit www.texasbar.com/annualmeeting for more information and to register online!

Input sought by SOLUTIONS 2012 task force regarding indigent pro se litigants

The Supreme Court of Texas last year created the Supreme Court Task Force on Uniform Forms to develop forms to assist indigent self represented litigants. Its findings have been referred to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee. The Court has accepted the State Bar of Texas’ offer to assist with how best to provide our poorest citizens access to the courts.

State Bar President Bob Black has appointed SOLUTIONS 2012, a task force to collect data, information, and recommend potential solutions regarding issues faced by indigent pro se litigants. The task force is co-chaired by Tim Belton of Bellaire, a public member of the State Bar Board of Directors, and Tom Vick of Weatherford, a former board member. The task force will provide a report to the State Bar Board of Directors at its April 13 meeting and to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee at its April 13-14 meeting.

The State Bar invites all who have an interest to join in the discussion to propose the best possible solutions to ensure the administration of justice and public protection under the law.

For more information visit www.texasbar.com/solutions.

To provide input, please leave a comment below.

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State Bar of Texas develops civics education program for Texas teachers and students

The State Bar of Texas has designed an interactive web-based project to assist Texas teachers and middle and high school students in preparing for the new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards in the areas of government, history, citizenship and culture.

Civics education is a key component of State Bar of Texas President Bob Black’s initiatives this year, and he is working with the State Bar’s Law-Related Education Department to educate students as a way to help create more responsible citizens who one day will vote, sit on a jury, or become a public servant. Read the press release.

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State Bar of Texas nominates president-elect candidates

The State Bar of Texas Board of Directors has approved the nomination of attorneys E. Steve Bolden II of Dallas and Lisa Tatum of San Antonio as candidates for president-elect. Texas attorneys will cast their votes during an election this spring. Election results will be announced May 1. The president-elect will serve as president of the State Bar of Texas from June 2013 until June 2014. Read the press release

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Texas Gavel Awards 2012 call for entries

The Texas Gavel Awards are presented by the State Bar of Texas to recognize journalistic excellence that:

  • Fosters public understanding of the legal system
  • Educates the public about the law, the legal profession, and the judicial branch of government
  • Discloses practices or procedures needing correction in order to improve the practice of law, courts, or justice system

The entry deadline for work produced in 2011 is April 2, 2012. The entry deadline for work produced in 2011 is April 2, 2012. Download the entry form [PDF].

Winners will be recognized at the annual Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas (FOIFT) conference on August 10 in Austin.

Deadline extended for nominations for the Cindi Lazzari Award

The State Bar of Texas Entertainment and Sports Law Section Council is still soliciting nominations for the recipient of the 2011 Cindi Lazzari Artist Advocate Award.

The award is named for the late Cindi Lazzari, a Texas attorney who went far beyond the call of duty in her efforts to protect the rights of artists in the music industry. Each year the Council recognizes an organization or individual working in Texas who has been actively involved in advocating and supporting artist’s rights in the music business. Recipients of the award include Casey Monahan of the Texas Music Office, the SIMS Foundation, Robin Shivers and Nikki Rowling.

Nominees need not necessarily be attorneys. Nominations should be sent by email only to LazzariNominations and should include the following information:

  • the nominee’s name
  • the nominee’s employment (if an individual) and contact information
  • a brief statement (not to exceed 100 words) as to why the nominee should receive the award
  • a short bio of, or background information about, the nominee (if available).

The deadline for nominations has been extended through January 31, 2012.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

This month, the Texas Bar Journal takes a look at some of the major caselaw and legislative issues that have affected Texas lawyers and specific areas of law in the past year. While not exhaustive, this "year in review" offers an overview of recent events and invites discussion of what is in store for the legal profession in 2012. Let us know what you think of the January issue -- email comments to tbj@texasbar.com

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

This month, the Texas Bar Journal helps you answer some of those “friendly requests for advice” you may encounter at social gatherings in its latest installment of "Party Talk." In addition, you'll find information about the Texas Young Lawyers Association's latest project, Breaking the Silence: A Path to Finding Mental Health.
Let us know what you think of the December issue of the Texas Bar Journal — email comments to tbj@texasbar.com.

 

Minority director sought

Nominations are now being accepted for minority director for the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors. Self-nominations will not be accepted. Four appointed positions were created on the Board in order to increase minority participation as well as to provide representation from varying professional, geographic, and social environments. One position will become vacant in 2012. 

Nominees will be screened by an ad hoc committee comprised of members from the State Bar Board’s Nomination & Elections Subcommittee, Women in the Profession Committee, and the Racial Diversity in the Profession Committee. Nominees will be responsible for their own expenses related to the interview process. The Ad Hoc Committee to select minority directors will submit to the President of the State Bar two nominations for the one vacant position. The President shall appoint one of those nominated individuals, subject to confirmation by the Board of Directors, at the April 13, 2012, State Bar Board of Directors meeting. Minority Directors serve three-year, staggered terms.

Criteria for selection:
Any minority lawyer in good standing with the State Bar is eligible to be nominated as a minority member director, provided such lawyer has never served, or is not currently serving as a minority member director or as an elected director. To the fullest extent possible, the nominating committee shall only nominate persons who demonstrate the sensitivity and knowledge, gained from experiences in the profession and the community, necessary to represent the interests of minority lawyers.

A minority member of the State Bar is any lawyer who is female, African American, Hispanic American, Native American, or Asian American.

The nominating committee shall be guided, but not limited, by the following criteria in selecting its nominees for minority member director:

  • The minority population of the area in which the candidate resides and practices.
  • The degree of minority representation already on the State Bar Board of Directors from a particular geographic area.
  • Demonstration of leadership ability.
  • Involvement in civic or political activities within the minority community.
  • Participation in minority bar associations.
  • Participation in local bar, State Bar and American Bar Association committees and activities.
  • Year of licensure.
  • Number and content of recommendation letters.
  • Ethnicity and gender.

Deadline for nominations is 5:00 p.m., December 15, 2011. Persons interested in being nominated for the position should submit the following: a nomination letter from a third party; resume including information on bar participation, civic and political activities, ethnicity, gender, place of residence, and letters of recommendation (typically three to five).

Submit the information requested to:
Toni Nguyen, Chair
Ad Hoc Committee to Select Minority Directors
c/o State Bar of Texas
1414 Colorado Street, Ste. 300
Austin, TX 78701-1627

Self-nominations will not be accepted. (Please note that applying to be a minority director does not preclude an applicant from running as a district director candidate from a geographic area.  Petitions for the elected District Director candidate positions must be received at the State Bar headquarters by 5:00 p.m. on March 1, 2012, in order to be considered.)

This Month in the Texas Bar Journal

This month, the Texas Bar Journal looks at the different aspects of animal law and how it has evolved. In addition, you will find an update on the State Bar's Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans program since its launch last year.

State Bar of Texas selects 19 for leadership academy

The State Bar of Texas announced the members of its fourth annual leadership academy, LeadershipSBOT. The program is a diversity initiative to identify promising leaders in their communities and in the profession. This year's class includes: 

Sharesa Alexander, Hutto
Alex Bell, McLennan County DA’s Office, Waco
Dennis Carter, Law Office of Dennis Carter, Houston
Karen Denney, Haynes and Boone, LLP, Fort Worth
Capt. Deshun Eubanks, Fort Worth
Katherine "Katie" Fillmore, Austin
Jo Anne Garcia, Pharr
Aric Garza, Law Offices of Aric Garza, San Antonio
Gilbert Gonzalez, Bexar County Courts at Law, San Antonio
Zachary Hall, Third Court of Appeals, Austin
Amber James, Atkins, Hollmann, Jones, Peacock, Lewis & Lyon, Odessa
Shakeeb "Shak" Mir, Jackson Walker L.L.P., Dallas
Courtney Barksdale Perez, The Stafford Law Firm, Dallas
Anna Sankaran, Greenberg Traurig LLP, Houston
Andrew Sefzik, Sprouse Shrader Smith P.C., Amarillo
Manesh Shah, Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Dallas
Christie Villarreal, Austin
Jennifer Wang, Carrington Coleman, Dallas
Tania Ward, Cedar Park

The long range goal of the program is to develop leaders in the legal profession that more closely reflect the demographics of the state.

Looking for a little friendly advice? Send us your "Party Talk" questions!

As a lawyer, you probably get more than your fair share of requests for a little “free” advice, whether from friends, family, or neighbors. This holiday season, we’re bringing back our popular feature, “Party Talk,” to help you answer some of those friendly requests for advice.

What questions are you asked in social situations? Send us your question and answer by Nov. 1 and it could appear in our December issue. Email tbj@texasbar.com

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

As part of State Bar President Bob Black's initiative on civics education, the State Bar Law-Related Education Department debuts a new online resource for Texas students and teachers — Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! Civics Resources for Texas Students and Teachers. In addition, the many aspects of school law are examined in this month's issue of the Texas Bar Journal, including the high-profile issue of school finance.

Task force on additional resources for complex cases

Per HB 79 passed in the 82nd Legislature, First Called Session, the State Bar of Texas has appointed a task force to develop rules to determine whether a civil case requires additional resources for efficient judicial management.

The Task Force has posted draft rules for public comment. Click here [PDF] to see the draft rules. If you would like to provide comments, please send them to comments@texasbar.com. A public hearing will be held on Oct. 13, 2011 at 10:30am.

The Supreme Court of Texas will review the recommendations of the task force and promulgate rules by May 1, 2012. For more information, contact Ray Cantu at 512-427-1506.

PUBLIC HEARING

Date: Thursday, Oct. 13, 2011
Time: 10:30am-noon

Locations:

State Bar of Texas
1414 Colorado, Hatton Sumners Room
Austin, TX 78701

Chief Disciplinary Counsel
14651 Dallas Parkway, Ste 925
Dallas, Texas 75254

Chief Disciplinary Counsel
600 Jefferson, Ste. 1000
Houston, Texas 77002

Chief Disciplinary Counsel
Federal Reserve Bank Building
126 E. Nueva, Suite 200
San Antonio, Texas 78204

Legal clinic for wildfire victims is available today in Smithville

State Bar staff are volunteering today at a legal clinic in Smithville. Volunteers are available to provide legal advice and disaster information to those who have been affected by the wildfires. The clinic is located on 210 Main St., Smithville and volunteers will be available from 10a.m. - 6p.m.

Clinics are also available in Bastrop which are sponsored by the Austin Bar Association. Download a pdf for clinic details.

(Pictured: State Bar of Texas Executive Director Michelle Hunter (right) and State Bar employee Elma Garcia. Volunteers not pictured, State Bar staff Pat Nester and John Sirman).

 

State Bar president-elect nominee process underway

The State Bar Board of Directors is soliciting candidates for the 2012 president-elect race. State Bar Rules stipulate that the 2012 president-elect nominees shall come from metropolitan counties of the state (Bexar, Dallas, Harris, Tarrant and Travis).

The Board of Directors Policy Manual describes the criteria for selecting nominees. The Board will consider potential nominees' involvement in State Bar committee work, knowledge of State Bar operations, participation in local and specialty bar associations and other activities demonstrating leadership ability. Although prior membership on the State Bar Board of Directors is not a prerequisite for nomination, it is important in determining whether a lawyer is a qualified nominee. Nominees should submit a resume and a statement of views of the key issues facing the Bar, the role they would play in dealing with those issues, and what they would seek to accomplish during their tenure as President, all within the overall strategic plan of the State Bar.

Over a period of years, the office of State Bar president should include men and women, ethnic and racial minorities, lawyers from large and small firms and solo practitioners, and those from urban and rural areas of the state. The Board is working toward that end in the selection process.

The Board's Nominations and Elections Subcommittee is accepting names and background information of potential candidates. Please write the subcommittee to recommend potential candidates, c/o Terry Tottenham and Pablo Almaguer, Nominations & Elections Subcommittee Co-Chairs, P. O. Box 12487, Austin 78711-2487. Anyone submitting a name for consideration should first obtain that person’s consent to have his/her name submitted. The deadline for nominations is October 1, 2011.

Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat - Sept. 7-9, 2011

The Pro Bono Coordinators Retreat is designed for staff whose primary roles include coordinating pro bono efforts, recruiting private attorneys to provide direct legal services to the poor and/or organizing training events so attorneys can deliver civil legal services to poor Texans.

This two-day event provides valuable training on increasing the quantity and quality of legal services available to the poor through pro bono efforts. The retreat will be held Sept. 7th - 9th, 2011 at the Texas Law Center in Austin.

This year's retreat room block is at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel - Austin University. The room block discount closes August 19th. The deadline to register for the retreat is August 24th. Download the registration form and agenda (both are in pdf format).

TMCP Save the Date - Houston

The State Bar of Texas Office of Minority Affairs invites you to a complimentary TMCP networking event on Thursday, July 21, 2011 from 6:00 pm - 8:00 pm. This is a great opportunity to network with other legal professionals in the Houston area. You must RSVP by July 18. Read the full details [PDF].

The mission of the TMCP is to increase opportunities for minority and women attorneys who provide legal services to corporate and government clients, and to expose those organizations to the legal talent found in the minority and woman community.

2011 Gavel Award recipients announced

The State Bar of Texas today announced recipients of the 2011 Texas Gavel Awards honoring journalistic excellence that helps foster public understanding of the legal system.

Awards will be presented Friday, August 12, at the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas (FOIFT) annual conference in Austin. Read the press release for full details and a list of the recipients.

Texas Bar Journal - July Issue

Inspired by the Texas Forensic Science Seminar, this issue of the Texas Bar Journal investigates the state of forensic science in Texas. Also included are new performance guidelines for non-capital criminal defense developed by the Legal Services to the Poor in Criminal Matters Committee. 

 

Texas Minority Counsel Program - Early Bird Registration

Join the State Bar of Texas Office of Minority Affairs for the 19th Annual Texas Minority Counsel Program (TMCP) at the Hyatt Regency Austin in Austin, Texas.

The mission of the TMCP is to expand and increase the opportunities for minority and women attorneys to provide legal services for corporate and government clients, and to encourage corporations and government agencies seeking outside counsel to hire and retain minority and women lawyers.

Early bird registration ends Friday, July 22, 2011. Click here for more details

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Bob Black sworn in as State Bar of Texas President

Bob Black was sworn in today by Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson at a special ceremony at the annual meeting in San Antonio. He will serve as president of the State Bar until June 2012.

Black is managing shareholder of MehaffyWeber in Beaumont. He has served as chair of the State Bar Board of Directors, Policy Manual Subcommittee, Facilities and Equipment Subcommittee, co-chair of the Nominations and Elections Subcommittee, and vice chair of the Executive Committee. He was also past president of the Jefferson County Bar Association.

Black earned a J.D. summa cum laude from Texas Tech University School of Law in 1980, where he was an editor of the Texas Tech Law Review. He was recently honored as the Distinguished Alumnus of Texas Tech University School of Law for 2011.

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Individuals and organizations honored by State Bar of Texas

Presentation of awards honoring exceptional service to the public and the legal profession will be a highlight of the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting, to be held June 23-24 at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. Read the press releases for more details.

 

LeadershipSBOT nominations due July 1, 2011

The State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association are looking for 20 Texas lawyers to participate in LeadershipSBOT. This diversity initiative is designed to recruit, train, and retain Texas lawyers for leadership positions in the legal community and the State Bar of Texas. Program participants will be selected to reflect the cultural, ethnic, geographic, and practice area diversity of the state. Nomination forms are due July 1, 2011. For more details read the nomination letter and download the nomination form.

10 Minute Mentor Goes to Law School

Due to its popularity among practicing members of the bar, Ten Minute Mentor has been expanded to cover topics of interest to law school students interested in learning about the ins and outs of practicing law. Visit the 10 Minute Mentor Goes to Law School website.

June 2011 Texas Bar Journal

In this month's issue of the Texas Bar Journal:

Bob Black Takes Office as President of the State Bar of Texas
Black, managing shareholder in MehaffyWeber, P.C. in Beaumont, takes office as the 131st president of the State Bar of Texas during the State Bar Annual Meeting in San Antonio, June 23–24. Read his profile.

2011 Texas Bar Journal Short Story Fiction Writing Contest
Making it through a competitive initial round of judging, sixty Texas lawyer-authors earned a spot in the finals. Their stories can be found online at texasbar.com/tbj.

Natalie Cobb Koehler Will Serve as TYLA President from June 2011 until June 2012
Koehler is the Bosque County attorney and a sole practitioner in Meridian. She will be sworn in at the State Bar Annual Meeting in San Antonio. Read her profile.

 

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Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers 22nd annual convention

The Texas Lawyers Assistance Program is hosting its annual convention in coordination with the non-profit, Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers (TLCL) from June 3rd to the 5th at the Hyatt Hotel in Austin.

Now in its 22nd year, this event will highlight speakers from around the state and the country who will share their experience, strength and hope for living a great life as a lawyer recovering from substance abuse or mental health issues.

The convention will also feature presentations about new, as well as tried and true, methods for reducing stress and maintaining a sense of balance and wellness so that the practice of law is a sustainable career path. The Austin Chapter of TLCL is hosting an Ice Cream Social on Friday night at the hotel.

Download the registration form (pdf) for more information.

TMCP counsel of the year award nominations deadline is June 15

The TMCP Corporate Counsel of the Year and Trailblazer Outside Counsel of the Year awards nomination deadline is June 15, 2011. Visit www.texasbar.com/tmcp for more details and nomination forms.

The Corporate Counsel of the Year Award is presented to the corporate counsel that has done the most to open doors for Texas minority and women attorneys by promoting diversity within their department and/or company, and by consistently hiring minority and/or women attorneys in private practice to perform legal work on behalf of their company.

The Trailblazer Outside Counsel of the Year Award is presented to the nominee judged by the Selection Committee to have done the most to effectuate the promotion of diversity within the legal profession through hiring, retention and mentoring of minority and women attorneys, partnering with minority and women owned law firms, and involvement with Bar and/or community activities designed to promote diversity within the legal profession.

Law Day and YouTube contest awards presented at the Texas Law Center

The State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) presented awards to winners of the 2011 Law Day and YouTube contests. State Bar President Terry Tottenham and TYLA Vice President David Courreges presented the awards, with prizes ranging from $50 to $1,000.

The national Law Day theme was “The Legacy of John Adams: From Boston to Guantanamo.” Participants of the YouTube contest were asked to create a 30-second video in the style of a public service announcement on the topic of how lawyers have made a difference in our society. Read the press release for full details.

Introducing the Texas Legal Vendors directory

We have relaunched our vendor marketplace (previously known as “Marketplace”) as “Texas Legal Vendors.”

Texas Legal Vendors is a directory of legal vendors that offers a variety of services for lawyers and legal professionals. Vendors may advertise in several categories, such as case management software, corporate kits, and time and billing. Each vendor has a profile page which can include special offers and white papers.

We hope Texas Legal Vendors serves as a valuable resource for Texas attorneys and as an effective venue for law vendors to promote their products and services. If you have questions or ideas, please contact webmaster@texasbar.com.

New frontiers in environmental law

Can new technology help us reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Is “fracking” contributing to groundwater contamination in Texas? What is the cost of noncompliance with the EPA’s oil spill cleanup rules?

From groundbreaking initiatives to the aftermath of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the environment — and environmental law — is taking center stage. The May issue of the Texas Bar Journal focuses on new frontiers in natural resource management and the Texas attorneys who are on the front lines.

YouTube contest winners announced

Lone Star Stories logoThe State Bar of Texas 2011 YouTube video contest awards will be presented May 9 at the Texas Law Center in Austin as part of the statewide Law Day celebration. This year's theme was "The Difference a Lawyer Makes." Participants were asked to create a 30-second video in the style of a public service announcement.

Winner of a $500 scholarship in the under 18 category is Ryan Nelson of Dallas for his video, "What's Great About Lawyers." Matthew Crouch, an attorney with the Office of the Texas Attorney General in Austin, picked up a $500 prize in the 18 or older category for his video, "What They Gave." Jacob and Erin Lawler of Georgetown received $500 for the People's Choice Award for their video, "Texas Lawyers: Looking Out For You."

Finalists in the under 18 and 18 or older categories were judged by Dallas entertainment lawyer and film producer Sally Helppie, Left Brain Creative video production company director Cathy Davenport, and San Antonio attorney and Texas Young Lawyers Association officer Alyssa J. Long. The People's Choice Award was based on the number of YouTube views at the time the finalists' videos were submitted for judging.

To view all the entries, visit www.youtube.com/statebaroftexas.

Congratulations to our 2011 Law Day winners!

The State Bar of Texas and the Texas Young Lawyers Association invited local bar associations and young lawyer affiliates to participate in the statewide Law Day contests.

We had many talented entries this year and are excited to recognize our winners on Monday, May 9, 2011 at the Texas Law Center in Austin. The theme celebrated this year was The Legacy of John Adams, From Boston to Guantanamo.

Click here for the list of winners [pdf].

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.

Texas attorneys can now request admission as solicitors in the UK

Texas attorneys can now request admission as solicitors in the United Kingdom. The Solicitor’s Regulatory Authority (SRA), which administers lawyer admission to the UK, recently amended its system of recognition for foreign lawyers. The change to the SRA admission requirements required the State Bar of Texas to seek approval for lawyers wanting to apply for admission to the UK. 

The new SRA system required a re-evaluation of the State of Texas as an eligible jurisdiction. A questionnaire was completed and submitted to the SRA for review. The questionnaire covered  admission, discipline, and membership requirements. The survey required a coordinated response from the Texas Board of Law Examiners, Chief Disciplinary Counsel of the State Bar of Texas, and State Bar Membership Department. 

If you have questions about this change, please call the State Bar of Texas Membership Department at (512)427-1383.

Texas Bar Journal: president-elect candidates discuss the issues

The April issue of the Texas Bar Journal asked 2011-2012 State Bar of Texas president-elect candidates Guy Choate of San Angelo and F.R. “Buck” Files, Jr. of Tyler to share their perspectives on issues facing the State Bar of Texas. 

Votes for the State Bar of Texas president-elect can be cast by paper ballot or online from April 1 to May 2, 2011. The deadline to cast ballots is May 2, 2011, at 5 p.m. CST.

Election 2011 - Vote Now

Election 2011 for State Bar and TYLA presidents-elect is underway. Vote online now. Paper ballots were mailed on April 1. The voting deadline is May 2 at 5 p.m. If you do not receive your packet by April 8, please email custserv@vres.us or call 800-218-4026.

Voting for State Bar and TYLA presidents-elect begins April 1

Election 2011 online voting for State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) presidents-elect will begin April 1 and end May 2. Paper ballots will be mailed April 1.

The State Bar Board of Directors approved the nominations of Guy Choate of San Angelo and F.R. "Buck" Files, Jr. of Tyler as State Bar president-­elect candidates. The TYLA Board of Directors approved the nominations of David Courreges of Austin and C.E. Rhodes of Houston as TYLA president-elect candidates.

To view the candidates' bios, please visit www.texasbar.com/elections.

New MCLE requirements take effect June 1, 2011

Beginning June 1, 2011, a minimum of 12 of the 15 hour MCLE requirement must be completed through attendance at “Accredited CLE” activities. A maximum of 3 self-study hours per compliance year will be allowed. Please review the changes at  www.texasbar.com.

Nominations are open for LeadershipSBOT

The State Bar of Texas and Texas Young Lawyers Association are looking for 20 Texas lawyers to participate in LeadershipSBOT. This diversity initiative is designed to recruit, train, and retain Texas lawyers for leadership positions in the legal community and the State Bar of Texas. Program participants will be selected to reflect the cultural, ethnic, geographic, and practice area diversity of the state. It is not designed to compete with bar association and local affiliate leadership academies but to complement those exceptional programs.

Nomination forms should be submitted by July 1, 2011. Read the nomination letter and download the nomination form.

9th Annual Texas Minority Attorney Program (TMAP) is here

The Texas Minority Attorney Program (TMAP) is a one-day live CLE seminar and networking event geared towards minority and women solo and small firm practitioners. Participants have the opportunity to learn more about the issues facing solo and small firms, discuss various client development strategies, and network with area judges and other legal professionals.

This year's topics include Advertising Your Practice: Do’s and Don’ts, Legal Research for Solo and Small Firm Practitioners, Avoiding a Grievance, and Judges Panel: A View From the Bench. The course benefits include a full day of CLE for only $75 (register by the deadline), lunch included, course materials provided on a convenient USB drive, the opportunity to gain valuable CLE and earn ethics credit, and the opportunity to learn how to enhance client services. The MCLE credit will be 6.75 Hours (2.75 Ethics) for San Antonio and 6.5 Hours (1.75 Ethics) for Houston.

TMAP will be held at Bright Shawl in San Antonio on April 1st and at South Texas College of Law's Garrett-Townes Auditorium in Houston on May 6th. For more information, to view the brochure, and to register for the seminar, please visit www.texasbar.com/tmap.

2011 LeadershipSBOT Class

LeadershipSBOT through teambuilding and development of leadership skills contribute $1,000 to ProBAR.

Some of this year's class (pictured below) participated in a team building exercise. The class will spend the next couple of days attending workshops and listening to a line-up of speakers on a variety of leadership topics.

The State Bar established the LeadershipSBOT program to prepare lawyers for leadership positions in the legal community. Participants commit to serve at least one year on a committee or board of the State Bar, and must demonstrate a willingness to use the LeadershipSBOT experience within their communities. 

Nominations are now being accepted for next year's class. For more information please contact Kelley Jones King at Kelley.JonesKing@texasbar.com.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

 What does “property” mean in the 21st Century? Is property something you can touch or, in the tech age, is property an idea? Can the framework for human life be considered “property?” This month’s issue of the Texas Bar Journal looks at what “property” means today and how that is shaping the law.

Legal ArticlesCultural Property: Who Owns It and What Laws Protect It?
 by Professor Marilyn E. Phelan; Music, Lyrics, and Copyright: Intellectual Property Rights in Music by David Showalter; America's Most Mysterious Gold Coins 
by Steve Roach; One Bad App Spoils the Bunch: Brand Protection in the App Era 
by David Bell and Hope Hughes; and Avoiding a Science Fiction Soap Opera: Excluding the Pre-Embryos from Probate by Bridget M. Fuselier.

Profile — Texas lawyers take their passions seriously, as you'll see from a story about Larry Macon, a San Antonio lawyer who holds the world record for most marathons run in a single year.

Texas Gavel Awards call for entries

April 1, 2011 is the entry deadline for the Texas Gavel Awards, honoring journalistic excellence in legal reporting. Visit www.texasbar.com/media for the call-for-entries brochure.

The Texas Gavel Awards program is coordinated by the State Bar of Texas Public Affairs Committee.

Awards will be presented August 12, 2011 in conjunction with the Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas annual conference in Austin.

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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. 

Registration is open for 2011 Annual Meeting

Online registration is open for the 2011 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting. Annual Meeting is your once-a-year opportunity to learn, connect, and grow. Whether you are looking to earn CLE credits, hear dynamic speakers, or meet exhibitors and sponsors who can help grow your business, Annual Meeting is where you can find it all.

This year's featured keynote presentations are Mike Thornton, Congressional Medal of Honor recipient and former Navy SEAL, who will speak at the Bar Leaders Recognition Luncheon and H.W. Brands, bestselling historian and biographer who has twice been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, who will speak at the General Session Luncheon.

This year's Annual Meeting will be in San Antonio on June 23 and 24 at the Grand Hyatt San Antonio and Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. For more information and to register, please visit www.texasbar.com/annualmeeting.

Referendum 2011 - Timeline of development of proposed rules

The process leading up to the Referendum included numerous opportunities for those who had concerns with the proposed rules to make their voices known. This process has taken a long time, debate has been invited and ongoing throughout, and the debate and input by lawyers and the public has benefited the proposed rules that are under consideration. Every Texas lawyer is encouraged to read the proposed rules and decide for him or her self whether these rules reflect the way they practice in 2011. Then, vote responsibly.

A brief overview of the process:

  • The committee began developing these proposed rules in 2003. The Supreme Court appointed an independent task force to look at the rules and review the committee’s work. There were many differences that led to multiple reports and joint hearings before the Court.
  • In October 2009, the Supreme Court published the proposed rules for comment. It received more than 500 comments. The Court went through those comments and made numerous changes based on the input it received.
  • In April, the Court asked the State Bar Board of Directors to consider the revised rules and report back by Oct. 6, 2010. The Board sought written input both through the mail and electronically and held hearings throughout the state. A member of the Court attended each of the hearings that were conducted. The Board compiled and considered all the comments received and made changes to the proposed rules for recommendation to the Court.
  • Shortly before the October deadline, the Bar Board began to receive strong concerns about the proposed rules concerning conflicts. The Board voted to send all its proposals to the Court with the exception of the Conflicts rules which the Board asked for more time to consider and consult with those who had expressed strong concern with those proposals.
  • The Court allowed the Bar to continue the debate on the Comments portions of the proposed rules, to hold another public meeting with ethics counsel and others from throughout the state, to ensure those concerns were heard and addressed.
  • On November 5, the Board adopted the remainder of the proposed rules and sent them to the Court with a petition for referendum.
  • The December 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal included the proposed rules to be voted on. The January issue included commentary and asked numerous people whether they would advise support of the rules. An educational webcast explained the new rules and advised viewers of some of the concerns expressed by those who did not support specific rules.
     

New grant will expand legal help for Texas veterans

The Texas Veterans Commission today announced the recipients of more than $2 million in grants for veterans' assistance.

Among the awards is a $95,000 grant to the Texas Legal Services Center (TLSC) for the purpose of expanding its Veterans Legal Hotline for Texas veterans who do not have access to civil legal services. According to TLSC's Randall Chapman, the grant will allow it to increase hotline hours and hire additional staff to help provide the service.

Legal services provided to veterans primarily address issues relating to family, employment, housing, consumer, probate, and access to health care and benefits.

For details on State Bar of Texas efforts to provide legal help to Texas veterans, see Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans.

Texas Bar Journal forms now online!

You no longer need to send an email, fax, or letter to submit your Laurel, Lawyer on the Move, or  Memorial to the Texas Bar Journal. Visit www.texasbar.com/tbj to submit your announcement or Memorial with our new online forms. Filling out the forms is quick and easy.

2011 State Bar YouTube contest theme is "The Difference a Lawyer Makes"

The theme for the 2011 State Bar YouTube contest is "The Difference a Lawyer Makes." The contest asks participants to create a video answering the following question: “How do lawyers make a difference in our society?” 

Three winners will be chosen: one winner from the 18 and under category (all persons who contribute to the video must be under 18), one winner from the 18 and older category, and one winner from the People’s Choice category. Groups or classrooms may enter the 18 and Older or Under 18 categories. The Under 18 winner will receive a $500 scholarship. The two other winners will receive a $500 cash prize.

All three winners will receive an expenses-paid trip to the State Bar of Texas in Austin, on Monday, May 9, 2011, where winning videos will be shown and the winners recognized as part of the statewide Law Day celebration.

For more information and for instructions on how to enter the contest, you may visit www.texasbar.com/youtube.

Referendum 2011: By the Ballot - An Improvement to the Current Rules

Referendum 2011 started on Tuesday, January 18. Please take the time to understand the proposed disciplinary rules. This post explains by ballot item how the proposed rules improve the current rules. To read the proposed rules, please click here [PDF]. Again, please take the time to study the issues before you vote.

 

Ballot Question A.Terminology, Competent and Diligent Representation, Scope of Representation and Allocation of Authority, Communication, Fees, Confidentiality, Safekeeping Property, and Declining or Terminating Representation:

Do you favor the adoption of Proposed Rules 1.00–1.05 and 1.15–1.16 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, as published in the December 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal?

  • Proposed Rule 1.00, which replaces the current Terminology section, adds terms that reflect the modern-day practice of law (for example, see "affiliated," "confirmed in writing," and "writing") and that should help Texas lawyers understand when they may be violating a Rule (for example, see "personally prohibited" and "represents").
  • These and other proposed Rules require a client's "informed consent" to otherwise prohibited activity.  Other proposed Rules, such as the conflicts-of-interest rules, require further that the "informed consent" be "confirmed in writing"; oral consent would no longer suffice. But a lawyer could generally comply with this new requirement by sending a written confirmation (such as an e-mail) of the client's oral informed consent.
  • Proposed Rules 1.03, 1.04, and 1.15 require lawyers to communicate more with their clients. These requirements respond to the large number of grievances that are filed based on lawyers' alleged failure to communicate sufficiently with clients.
  • Proposed Rule 1.05 simplifies the definition of "confidential information" by removing the burdensome distinction between "privileged information" and "unprivileged client information." The definition remains broad to protect clients, but the Rule would no longer subject a lawyer to discipline for using or disclosing information that is generally known or readily obtainable from sources generally available to the public. The revised Rule would also allow a lawyer to use or disclose confidential information when seeking legal advice about the lawyer's compliance with the Rules.
  • Proposed Rule 1.15 distinguishes between a lawyer's obligations to a client and to a third person when safekeeping property. The proposed Rule was revised substantially in response to concerns that were raised in the public comment period and now makes clear that the lawyer's duty to third persons generally arises only when the lawyer "knows" that property belongs to third persons. The proposed Rule also adds a defense for lawyers dealing with claims to the property that the lawyer reasonably believes are not valid, and it contains more explicit guidance about client trust accounts.
  • A list of defined terms in each proposed Rule appears before the comments to each Rule.


Ballot Question B. Conflicts of Interest: Multiple Clients in the Same Matter:

Do you favor the adoption of Proposed Rule 1.07 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, as published in the December 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal?

  • Texas would follow the ABA’s lead in abolishing current Rule 1.07, which addresses a lawyer’s often misunderstood role as an “intermediary.” While proposed Rule 1.07 is unique, it gathers requirements that lawyers in Texas and elsewhere have to tease out of other rules. The proposed Rule mandates certain disclosures to clients before, or as soon as reasonably practicable after, a lawyer undertakes the representation of more than one client in the same matter. The proposed Rule lists three specific, reasonable things that lawyers must tell clients to comply with the disciplinary rules and, thus, provides far more certainty to lawyers than the current Rules governing multiple-client representations (Rules 1.06(c)(2) and 1.07) in what they must disclose to avoid discipline.


Ballot Question C. Other Conflicts of Interest:

Do you favor the adoption of Proposed Rules 1.06 and 1.08 - 1.12 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, as published in the December 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal?

  • Proposed Rule 1.06 aligns Texas with every other state by defining conflicts of interest so that a conflict exists if a lawyer is adverse to a current client in any matter, not just in substantially related matters. The elimination of the substantial relationship test is not as significant as some lawyers seem to believe.  There are actually two prongs to the current Texas conflicts rule.  One is the substantial relationship test; the other prong provides that a lawyer shall not represent a person if the representation of that person “reasonably appears to be or become adversely limited by the lawyer’s or law firm’s responsibilities to another client or to a third person or by the lawyer’s or law firm’s own interests.” Additionally, because the federal courts in Texas adopt the 49-state rule, and because so many lawyers are also admitted elsewhere, many lawyers currently follow the 49-state rule, which provides that a lawyer or law firm may not be adverse to a current client on any matter without consent from their clients.
  • Proposed Rules 1.06 and 1.08–1.11 contain imputation provisions that do not subject a lawyer to discipline for engaging in a conflicted representation unless the lawyer either knew or reasonably should have known of the conflict. Proposed Rule 1.08(a) also contains new scienter standards that should protect against a lawyer being disciplined despite having acted reasonably. Finally, like other proposed Rules, proposed Rule 1.08 contains more specific guidance for lawyer-client communications.
  • Proposed Rules 1.09 and 1.12 have been reorganized and clarified. Proposed Rule 1.12 also provides enhanced guidance for lawyers facing reporting requirements imposed by Federal law.


Ballot Question D. Prohibited Sexual Relations, Diminished Capacity, and Prospective Clients:

Do you favor the adoption of new Proposed Rules 1.13, 1.14, and 1.17 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, as published in the December 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal?

  • Proposed Rule 1.13 generally prohibits a lawyer from representing a client with whom the lawyer has sexual relations. But there are exceptions for a lawyer and client who are married to one another or were engaged in an ongoing, consensual sexual relationship that predates the lawyer-client relationship. The proposed Rule is a workable articulation of a requirement that has been discussed for over a quarter of a century by the Texas Bar.
  • Proposed Rule 1.14 addresses a lawyer's options and obligations when the lawyer is dealing with clients who have diminished capacity. It replaces current Rule 1.02(g), which lawyers have said exposes them to fiduciary duty claims for their roles in initiating allegedly unnecessary guardianships. The proposed Rule provides several options aside from guardianships and permits a lawyer to disclose a client's confidences when the lawyer is seeking to protect the client's interests.
  • Proposed Rule 1.17 concerns conflicts created by prospective clients. The proposed Rule defines a "prospective client" in a manner that excludes individuals who seek solely to conflict out lawyers who might otherwise represent the individuals' adversaries. The proposed Rule also contains a waiver provision that permits the lawyer to condition a conversation with a prospective client so that the conversation will not prohibit any future representations.


Ballot Question E. Advocate, Law Firms and Associations, Public Service, and Maintaining the Integrity of the Profession:

Do you favor the adoption of Proposed Rules 3.01-3.10, 5.01-5.07, 6.01-6.03, and 8.01-8.05 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, as published in the December 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal?

  • Several changes to these proposed Rules are not substantive. But proposed Rule 3.03 has been revised substantively to clarify a lawyer's obligation of candor toward a tribunal. For example, with an exception for criminal matters, the Rule now permits a lawyer to refuse to offer or use evidence that the lawyer reasonably believes, but does not know, is false. Proposed Rule 3.07, which relates to trial publicity, has also been revised substantively. As revised, it gives a lawyer more leeway in responding to allegations of misconduct against the lawyer and in making statements to protect a client from the prejudice of publicity that neither the lawyer nor client initiated.
  • The substantive changes to the Section 5 Rules, which address supervised lawyers and nonlawyer assistants, reflect the changes in partnership designations and responsibilities since the current Rules were drafted. The changes place responsibility where it belongs (i.e., on lawyers with managerial or supervisory authority), not on lawyers based purely on their titles. The proposed Rules also make clear, however, that lawyers are not expected to take remedial action beyond the scope of their authority.
  • Proposed Rule 6.03 is new and addresses a lawyer's obligations when the lawyer participates in law-reform activities that may affect the interests of the lawyer's client. In light of this new Rule, references to law-reform activities in current Rule 6.02 have been deleted.


Ballot Question F. Counselor, Non-Client Relationship, Information About Legal Services, and Severability of Rules:

Do you favor the adoption of Proposed Rules 2.01–2.02, 4.01–4.04, 7.01–7.07, and 9.01 of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct, as published in the December 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal?

  • Proposed Rule 2.01 is substantively the same as current Rule 2.01. Consistent with other proposed Rules, proposed Rule 2.02 now requires a client's "informed consent" rather than "consent[] after consultation." The changes to proposed Rules 4.01–4.04 are generally stylistic; however, the current Rule 4.04 requirement for a lawyer not to use means that have no substantial purpose other than to "embarrass" a third person has been modified for constitutional reasons. No substantive changes were made to Rules 7.01–7.07, which were modified in 2005 after going through a referendum in 2004. Proposed Rule 9.01 also contains no substantive changes.
     

This email was prepared with assistance from members of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee. For more information about Referendum 2011 and to vote, visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.

 

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Referendum 2011: Clarifying the Issues

Voting in Referendum 2011 starts next Tuesday, January 18, and continues through February 17. Some have suggested vote “No” on everything; some have suggested vote “Yes.” It is up to each Texas lawyer to vote responsibly by studying the proposed rules independently before casting a vote. This post is in response to many requests for information about statements circulated among members of the Bar. Below are six statements you may have heard or read and some clarifying information. Additional statements will be addressed soon. 

YOU MAY HAVE HEARD/READ: “Proposed Rule 1.07 requires lawyers to give clients what are in effect ‘Miranda warnings.’ And some of the Miranda warnings make no sense. For example, if co-clients disagree on an issue, the required warning says that they must resolve the issues themselves ‘without the lawyers advice,’ even if the clients want the lawyer to tell them what the controlling law is on the issue or provide other simple advice that they both request.”

CLARIFICATION: Aside from the fact that the disclosures in Proposed Rule 1.07 are intended to enlighten the listener, they have nothing in common with Miranda warnings. The disclosures in the proposed rule are intended to make clients aware of the implications of a lawyer representing multiple clients in the same matter. Under the proposed rule, the lawyer must tell clients that they “must be willing” to make independent decisions without the lawyer’s advice to resolve issues that arise among them. This is because the lawyer cannot advocate for one client against any other client in the matter. See the full text of proposed Rule 1.07(a)(2)(ii) and comment 8.



YOU MAY HAVE HEARD/READ: “Proposed Comment 8 to Rule 1.07 says lawyers must make several ‘determinations’ before agreeing to represent multiple clients in a case or matter.”

CLARIFICATION: Comment 8, like other comments to the proposed rules, does not require lawyers to take any action. Instead, the comment explains determinations a lawyer “should” make. As paragraph 7 in the Preamble states, the comments do not add obligations to the rules, and no disciplinary action may be taken solely for a lawyer’s failure to conform to comments.



YOU MAY HAVE HEARD/READ: “Comment 7 to Rule 1.09 misstates the long-standing definition of when two matters are ‘substantially-related’ as defined by Texas courts. This point is critical in determining conflicts-of-interest. The 20+ year Coker precedent, repeatedly reaffirmed by the Texas Supreme Court, defined ‘substantially related’ as whether the facts of two matters are so related that they create a genuine risk that the confidential information of a former client will be violated. Inexplicably Comment 7 declares that the test is whether the facts and issues are similar. The Comment attempts to change longstanding, substantive law declared by the Texas Supreme Court.”

CLARIFICATION: Comment 7 to proposed Rule 1.09 is consistent with precedent. In an opinion that postdates and cites NCNB Texas National Bank v. Coker, 765 S.W.2d 398 (Tex. 1989), the Supreme Court of Texas asserted: “We have held that two matters are ‘substantially related’ within the meaning of Rule 1.09 when a genuine threat exists that a lawyer may divulge in one matter confidential information obtained in the other because the facts and issues involved in both are so similar.” In re Epic Holdings, Inc., 985 S.W.2d 41, 51 (Tex. 1998) (emphasis added) (citing Texaco, Inc. v. Garcia, 891 S.W.2d 255, 256–257 (Tex. 1995) (per curiam); Coker, 765 S.W.2d at 400; Metropolitan Life Ins. Co. v. Syntek Finance Corp., 881 S.W.2d 319, 320–321 (Tex. 1994) (per curiam); Tex. Disciplinary R. Prof’l Conduct 1.09, cmt. 4B, reprinted in Tex. Gov’t Code Ann., tit. 2, subtit. G app. A (1998) (Tex. State Bar R. art. X, § 9)), quoted in Landers v. State, 229 S.W.3d 532, 535 (Tex. App.—Texarkana 2007), aff’d 256 S.W.3d 295 (Tex. Crim. App. 2008); see also Nat’l Med. Enters., Inc. v. Godbey, 924 S.W.2d 123, 129 (Tex. 1996) (“The pending action is substantially related to the prior investigations and lawsuits involving NME and Cronen, as the district court found. The allegations throughout are identical in all material respects. See Texaco, Inc. v. Garcia, 891 S.W.2d 255, 257 (Tex. 1995) (holding two distinct claims were substantially related due to the existence of similar liability issues, scientific issues, and defenses).”). 



YOU MAY HAVE HEARD/READ: “The proposed rules will turn fee collection in the criminal defense world on its head.”

CLARIFICATION: This concern may be a reference to proposed Rule 1.15 (regarding safekeeping of property). Comment 12 to that rule says, “Applicable law, not these Rules, determines when a fee is earned.” Criminal defense counsel should review the law on commingling client and lawyer funds when the lawyer has possession of unearned fees. The proposed rule does not (and could not) change this law, and it does not change how the existing rule handles a flat fee.



YOU MAY HAVE HEARD/READ: “Proposed Rule 1.08 contains standards that are inconsistent with a lawyer's fiduciary duties. Rule 1.08(a) would permit a lawyer-client business transaction if ‘the lawyer reasonably believes that the terms of the transactions ... are fair and reasonable to the client.’ But the fiduciary standard requires that the transaction be objectively fair and reasonable to the client.”

CLARIFICATION: Proposed Rule 1.08(a) does nothing to undermine when lawyers may be sued for breach of fiduciary duty by specific clients they have harmed. The “reasonably believes” standard recognizes that a lawyer defending against a disciplinary complaint that he or she had entered into a transaction with a client that was not “fair and reasonable” would necessarily present the objective view of a “reasonable” lawyer in the same circumstance. The “reasonably believes” standard is implicit in the existing rule. Making the standard explicit will provide a clear defense for a lawyer who acted reasonably when entering into a business transaction with a client.



YOU MAY HAVE HEARD/READ: “The Bar Board asked the Supreme Court for more time to address the conflict of interest rules, but the Court refused to grant that extension.”

CLARIFICATION: In a letter dated October 1, 2010, State Bar President Terry Tottenham conveyed to the Court the State Bar Board of Directors’ recommendation that the Court allow the Board more time to consider proposed Rules 1.06 through 1.09. The Court allowed the Board until November 8, 2010 to collect more information and to provide final recommendations. During the extended review period, Bar leaders re-opened the public-comment period, hosted a meeting of ethics counsel to discuss proposed Rules 1.06 through 1.09, and held a special Board meeting during which directors took final votes on the proposed rules. Proposed Rules 1.06 and 1.07 were modified further in response to the input received in the extended review period.


Patricia D. Chamblin
Chair, Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee

Linda S. Eads
Past Chair, Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee

Lillian B. Hardwick
Past Chair, Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee

Additional information regarding the proposed rules is posted at www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate. Exercise your right to vote responsibly by taking the time necessary to understand the issues and options yourself before casting your vote on the proposed rules.

Referendum 2011: Q&A with Tom Watkins

State Bar members will begin voting on proposed changes to the Texas disciplinary rules on Tuesday, January 18. Below is an interview with Thomas H. Watkins, who served as chair of the Supreme Court of Texas Task Force on the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. 

Q: How did you become an authority on the Texas disciplinary rules?
A: The Supreme Court of Texas called and asked if I would chair the Task Force on the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. I puffed up like a toad. I was so proud. It wasn’t until seven years later that I realized this is what a Republican Supreme Court does to punish a Democrat.

Q: What is the most frustrating criticism of the proposed rules?
A: There have been a number of criticisms based on misunderstanding. For example, the proposed “No sex with clients” rule. Several have complained that it doesn’t go as far as the American Bar Association model rule. In fact, it’s almost exactly the same. If anything, it’s stronger.

Q: What is the most compelling argument for adopting the proposed amendments?
A: First, there are areas in the disciplinary rules where we need more uniformity. Second, there are areas where we need better protection for lawyers. Third, there are areas where we need better protection for clients.

Q: Have lawyers and the public had enough opportunity to provide input?
A: There have been plenty of opportunities. The truth is that lawyers have very busy schedules and are driven by client needs. You have to take time out of a busy schedule to study and consider the proposed rules. Of course, that’s true of the old rules, too.

Q: Are there surprises in the rules?
A: Every change — every current rule, for that matter — is a surprise to some. Some think the multiple-client representation rule is burdensome. In fact, it’s not as burdensome as the current rule, which is ignored. The new rules are useable. The current rules are not useable.

Q: Why is the ballot divided into six questions?
A: There are various issues for various segments of the bar membership.

Q: Which are the easiest ballot questions to vote “Yes” on?
A: All of them are easy to vote “Yes” on. The most misunderstood proposals are the conflicts of interest rules. Most misread proposed Rules 1.06 and 1.07. Proposed Rule 1.06 removes the “substantially related matter” test. Some want to keep it. Personally, I don’t understand that. They want to be able to sue and defend the same client. I think that’s bad PR for us as a profession. The “substantially related matter” test is not recognized in federal courts or the ABA Model Rules. If we’re striving for uniformity, we need to fix that.

Q: Why are proposed Rules 1.06 and 1.07 separate?

A: Proposed Rules 1.06 and 1.07 are essentially covered by 1.06 in the current rules. Some don’t like having an extra rule. I believe strongly that we need it. If you are ever sued for malpractice, the disclosures required under current Rule 1.06(c)(2) will haunt you. There’s no way you could have complied. Proposed Rule 1.07 eliminates that. The disclosures under the current rule are replaced with three important disclosures that create a safe harbor. The tradeoff is that you have to make the disclosures every time, but there’s a safe harbor. You’d be better off than under the current system. I think that’s a good tradeoff.

Q: Are the comments and criticisms that have circulated about the proposed rules fair?

A: Lots of groups and individuals have provided input. That has been an essential part of this process. The proposed rules have changed from one draft to the next. The instances where those criticisms have not been adopted have been because of counter opinions and compromises. If you try to design a horse by committee you’re going to get a camel. The proposed rules are a camel. But they can’t be accused simultaneously of being not enough like the ABA Model Rules and changing too much. If we adopted the ABA rules, it would require far more changes.

Q: What happens if the proposed rules don’t pass?

A: We’re stuck with what we’ve got. We’ll be a national embarrassment on the “No sex with clients” rule. A whole lot of work will go down the tubes.

Q: If a member of the State Bar is just tuning in now, what’s the best way to get up to speed on the proposed changes in order to make an informed decision?
A: There will be plenty of presentations at CLE programs. Of course, not every lawyer will be interested in or affected by all of the disciplinary rules. There are various practices that are not covered by all of the disciplinary rules. In my opinion, Texas lawyers know a whole lot more about the disciplinary rules because of the attempts to change them. If they fail, a lot of good education has taken place. If they pass, it will improve how lawyers comply. Lawyers will start off with better knowledge of the new rules than they have of the current rules.

Q: Any final thoughts?
A: As with any legislative act, any court decision, or any public endeavor that you begin to scrutinize, it’s easy to pick out portions and say, “They don’t do that right.” But you have to pay attention to the compromises that were necessary to move forward. There are provisions in the original U.S. Constitution we find objectionable today. Everyone says, “That’s wrong.” But were they worth it if otherwise we didn’t get a country? I hope Texas lawyers will recognize other views in order to achieve much-needed changes.

Thomas H. Watkins is a partner in Brown McCarroll, L.L.P. in Austin. A graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, he is a member of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the American Board of Trial Advocates. A frequent speaker at CLE seminars, Watkins has served on the Texas Commission for Lawyer Discipline and as chair of the Texas Board of Disciplinary Appeals.


For more information about Referendum 2011, including A Guide to the Issues [PDF] and Commentary from Members of the State Bar TDRPC Committee on Specific Rules [PDF], please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate

TexasBarCLE to present a webcast today on the proposed amendments to the disciplinary rules

Today from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., TexasBarCLE will present a webcast on the proposed amendments to the disciplinary rules featuring Linda Eads, Tom Watkins, and Kennon Peterson. Registrants can earn 2 hours of ethics MCLE. For more information and to register, click here.

For more information on the proposed rules and on the referendum, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.

Referendum 2011: Asking the experts

There is a lot of information available about Referendum 2011 and we hope we have provided some materials that make the information easier to digest. Late last week, we received a question asking about a concern from some criminal defense lawyers that the proposed amendments, if passed, would turn fee collection in the criminal defense world on its head. To get the best answer possible, we asked past chairs of the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct Committee the question and following below is the quick answer and then a more in-depth answer from past chair Lillian Hartwick. We hope this is helpful to Texas lawyers as they think about the proposed rules.

From the TDRPC Committee chairs: 

"This concern may be a reference to proposed Rule 1.15 (regarding safekeeping of property). This rule does nothing to harm defense counsel, but defense counsel should be aware that there may be obligations under other laws on how to handle fees not yet earned. Criminal defense lawyers should not have an ethical problem with this rule but should review the law on commingling client and lawyer funds when the lawyer has possession of unearned fees. The proposed rule does not change this law (and it could not) and puts criminal defense lawyers in no worse or better position than the current rule."

For a more in-depth explanation of the discussion leading up to the proposed rule, here is a historical explanation from Lillian Hartwick, former chair of the TDRPC Committee:

The ABA Model Rule:

(c) A lawyer shall deposit into a client trust account legal fees and expenses that have been paid in advance, to be withdrawn by the lawyer only as fees are earned or expenses incurred.

The Texas proposal:

(d) A lawyer shall deposit unearned fees and advanced expenses into a client trust account, to be withdrawn by the lawyer only as fees are earned or expenses are incurred.

Following is the explanation by the Committee (in its report) regarding why it rejected that provision—

ABA Paragraph (c) This paragraph tells lawyers that legal fees and expenses paid in advance shall be deposited into the client trust account, to be withdrawn only as earned. The Task Force also adopted this paragraph. The Committee did not adopt this paragraph. Lawyers use different terms to label advance payments. Sometimes they are called flat fees. Sometimes agreements with clients make it clear that fees paid in advance are non-refundable retainers or flat fees. Sometimes clients agree that the lawyer has earned the fee when it is received. The validity of such agreements will depend on many factors, such as the work actually done, the client’s sophistication and the client’s desire to hire a particular lawyer. The variations on these agreements and the different results in the case law depending on the facts involved make this area not suitable for the blanket rule proposed by the ABA.

During the court conference in March 2008, the committee continued to suggest that the issue that the ABA was targeting be handled in the comments. (The committee actually suggested this comment during the conference: "When a lawyer receives from a client moneys that constitute a prepayment of a fee, the lawyer shall handle that fee in accordance with this rule until the lawyer has earned the fee.") Part of the committee’s concern was that some readers wouldn’t know an “advance fee” (the rule contains “advance”) from a “flat fee,” causing the rule language to be unclear. However, given reasoning from the Court, the committee ultimately agreed to the inclusion in the rule, as long as comments made clear that there were many kinds of fee agreements, implying that a flat fee agreement was certainly a possibility, but that it should be clear (to the lawyer, as well as to the client) and agreed to by the client. Thus, no one in the conference was anticipating making a flat fee (or even advance fee) arrangement go away. However, the goal was to make lawyers think about any differences between those two types of fee agreements (and Texas case law may suggest they’re the same, such that criminal defense lawyers should find some other term to use or not use a term and simply be descriptive in a written fee agreement with the client).

The criminal bar should understand that (except for the problem of commingling, which is a violation of this rule) its problem would be with applicable law, not this rule, as indicated in the proposed comment: “Paragraph (d) addresses unearned fees. Fee agreements sometimes state that the fee is a flat fee, advance fee, nonrefundable retainer, or some other kind of fee. But without regard to the label, if the fee is a prepayment for services, paragraph (d) requires a lawyer to deposit the fee into a trust account until it is earned. Applicable law, not these Rules, determines when a fee is earned.” If a criminal defense lawyer takes money that applicable law says belongs to the client, the lawyer has violated a number of the Rules.
 

Do you have the "write" stuff?

New year, new you, right? Of course! We may not be able to help you shave off those few extra pounds you’ve been wanting to shed, but we can help you get ahead of deadlines. Okay, maybe just one deadline, but that’s a start, right?

The 2011 Texas Bar Journal Short Story Fiction Writing Contest is in full swing. (We’ve already received a couple of stories! Whoooo!) The June 2011 issue of the Texas Bar Journal will feature the top four stories, as judged by our independent panel.

This year, we’ve decided to give a 21st Century twist to the contest by allowing you to send your story via email (I’ll get to that address later, I promise). Deadline to send your story is 5 p.m. CST March 1, 2011. Seriously folks. 5 p.m. CST March 1, 2011. Anything received after 5:00:01 p.m. CST will be sent into the email ether.

Here’s the rest of the lowdown on the contest:
     • Stories must deal with or be related to the law or lawyers in some fashion.
     • You must be an eligible Texas Bar member in good standing to enter and you can’t serve on the boards of the State Bar or the Texas Bar Journal.
     • Only one entry per person.
     • Stories should be up to 2,000 words and be previously unpublished.
     • Entries MUST be submitted via email in Word or WordPerfect as an attachment. (No PDFs!) Do not send your story in the body of the email. A cover sheet that includes the author’s name, story title, author’s complete mailing address, email address, phone number, and word count must accompany each story. The author’s name should not appear on the story; only the title should appear on the manuscript.
     • Format: Any font; size 12; 1.5 spacing.

Make sure you take a second look at your story before you click “Send,” as revised versions will not be accepted once an entry is received.

Send your story and a completed entry form to pgarcia@texasbar.com by 5 p.m. CST March 1, 2011.

Pro Bono College application deadline is Dec. 31

The deadline to submit applications to the Pro Bono College for this year is December 31. Created in 1992 by the State Bar of Texas, the Pro Bono College recognizes attorneys who have far exceeded the State Bar's aspirational pro bono goal in their efforts to address the vast unmet legal needs of the poor.

To apply, attorneys may complete this application. The application period for the Pro Bono College begins January 1 and ends December 31. Membership must be renewed annually to remain an active member of the Pro Bono College. There is also an associate membership in the College recognizing the achievements of Texas paralegals in pro bono service.

For guidelines, the paralegal application, and more information, you may visit http://www.texasbar.com/probonocollege.

Court orders referendum on disciplinary rules



The Supreme Court of Texas has ordered a referendum of Texas lawyers on proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. The referendum will take place between January 18 and February 17, 2011. State Bar members will have the option of voting online or by paper ballot. 

The proposed Rules and interpretive comments will be published in the December issue of the Texas Bar Journal. Lawyers will vote only on the proposed Rules, not the interpretive comments.  

Click here for the Court's order.

Click here for the referendum ballot.

Click here for Exhibit A (the proposed Rules and interpretive comments) [large file].

Click here for Exhibit B (a redlined version of the proposed changes) [large file].

For more information on the process leading to the referendum, visit texasbar.com/rulesupdate or email rcantu@texasbar.com.

 

Paralegal Division conducts salary survey

The Paralegal Division of the State Bar of Texas asks that all Texas paralegals participate in its 2010 Compensation Survey between now and December 15.

Information collected will result in a report that allows Texas paralegals to compare compensation packages by geographic region. All responses are anonymous. The results will be published in March 2011. 

Texas lawyers commemorate Veterans Day

Above, leaders of the Texas Young Lawyers Association prepare for a Veterans Day parade in Dallas on Nov. 11, 2010, as part of the Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans project. Click here for a list of free legal clinics around the state this weekend in conjunction with Veterans Day.

State Bar petitions Supreme Court for referendum on disciplinary rules

On Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors approved final recommendations to the Supreme Court of Texas regarding proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct (TDRPC). The Board voted 35 to 1 to approve the recommendations of its Discipline and Client-Attorney Assistance Program Committee regarding proposed Rules 1.06–1.09, which concern conflicts of interest. By a separate 35 to 1 vote, the Board requested that the Court authorize the State Bar to conduct a referendum of Texas lawyers on all of the proposed TDRPC amendments.

See the links below for details (files are in PDF format): 

Petition for referendum (filed Nov. 8)

Final proposed TDRPC amendments, including comments

Proposed referendum ballot

Proposed referendum timeline

The Board is committed to ensuring that all members are educated about the proposed Rules and the effect they would have on lawyers and the clients they serve. For more information on the process leading to the recommendations, visit texasbar.com/rulesupdate or email rcantu@texasbar.com.

State Bar to offer "Success Strategies and Key Lessons for Young Lawyers" program

On Friday, November 12, The State Bar of Texas and TexasBarCLE will host "Success Strategies and Key Lessons for Young Lawyers." The seminar is a one-day program to provide young lawyers with tips for a successful career. The seminar will be at Cityplace Conference Center, 2711 North Haskell, Dallas, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m, with a networking breakfast at 7:45 a.m. and a luncheon at 12 p.m.

This non-mandatory course is designed to complement the mandatory four-hour "Guide to the Basics of Law Practice" course offered by the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism. The course will review free legal resources lawyers never knew they had, negotiation techniques, information for lawyers starting their own practice, avoiding disciplinary action, and information about what lawyers' paralegals can do.

Kim J. Askew, K&L Gates LLP, will present "How to Succeed in Your First Trial or Transaction," and Lisa S. Richardson, Richardson & Cechura, PLLC and Gindi E. Vincent, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, will present "Striking a Balance: How to Salvage Your Life and Sanity as You Strive to Get Ahead at Work." Robert Dubose, Alexander Dubose & Townsend LLP, will present "Legal Writing for the Rewired Brain" at the luncheon.

The course is worth 6.75 hours of MCLE credit including 1.75 hours of ethics credit. Get more information about the course or register for the course today.

November Texas Bar Journal focuses on Terry Tottenham initiative

Despite the best intentions and tireless efforts of veterans groups and social services providers, too many of our service members cannot find or afford the help that they need and that they deserve. Lawyers’ expertise in the law can be a lifeline. This issue of the Texas Bar Journal focuses on State Bar President Terry Tottenham’s initiative to help our veterans, Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans.

Conflicts rules discussed at Dallas meeting

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

Click here for an MP3 audio recording of the meeting

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

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

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

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

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

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

Time remains to comment on proposed conflicts rules

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

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

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

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

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

State Bar offers new member discounts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue Reading...

State Bar Board to hold special meeting on rules recommendations

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

Make an impact by serving on a State Bar committee

State Bar of Texas President-Elect Bob Black will soon begin making committee appointments for 2011.

State Bar committees work on a wide range of programs and issues facing both lawyers and the public. The work of the State Bar would not happen without the efforts of countless dedicated and generous volunteers.

If you are a Texas lawyer and would like to volunteer, check out our list of committees and then fill out a committee interest form no later than Dec. 3, 2010.

Final hearing on proposed changes to TDRPC takes place in Austin Sept. 10

More than 80 people attended the ninth and final hearing on proposed disciplinary rules changes on Sept. 10 in Austin.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the hearing.

State Bar President Terry Tottenham welcomed those in attendance, Tom Watkins of Austin presented an overview of the rules, and State Bar Immediate Past President Roland Johnson served as moderator. Also on hand were State Bar directors Steve Benesh of Austin, Roy Brantley of College Station, John Hatchel of Woodway, Jo Ann Merica of Austin and Annettee Raggette of Austin. Also in attendance were State Bar President-elect Bob Black of Beaumont, Supreme Court Justices Phil Johnson and Dale Wainwright, Supreme Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson, and Hon. Charles Holcomb of the Third Court of Appeals.

Ron Beal, Baylor Law School professor, was the first to comment, addressing Rule 3.05 and ex parte communications with a tribunal, saying the proposed change would have a devastating impact on administrative law, and that the definition of "pending" case be retained. "It is imperative that the provision be put back in the rule. A client must know exactly who will make a decision at the time of filing. It is highly unethical otherwise."

Pamela Bolton of Texas Watch, a consumer advocacy group, was the next to comment on Rule 3.05. "Allowing an attorney to attempt to persuade an agency before she has actually filed smacks of impropriety. Regardless of what actually occurs behind closed doors, public perception is negatively impacted," she said. "This is a basic public policy question about open government: do we want to shine sunlight on lawyer-agency communications or do we want to allow industry attorneys to work behing closed doors to sway state-paid officials?"

Cyrus Reed, a non-lawyer with the Sierra Club, Lonestar Chapter, also testified against the changes to Rule 3.05 (c), urging that current language be retained. "It is important that clear, ethical guidelines for lawyers exist, and that undue influence be prevented."

Bruce Bower, an attorney with Texas Legal Services Center who has 34 years experience in administrative law in four states, wrapped up comments on Rule 3.05 with, "Let communication be on the record. Foster transparency and foster confidence in the legal system."

Jim Parker, an Austin trial lawyer, addressed several rules, taking issue with "informed consent" and urged that the rule be more clear.

Next up was Tom "Smitty" Smith, director of the Texas office of Public Citizen. Among his concerns - "changes that we believe would permit unreasonable fees and expenses, reduce client confidentialty protections, and permit ex-parte agency contacts."

Julie Oliver, who also testifed at the Lubbock hearing and representing the Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountabilty, expressed concern that there has been "missed opportunities" to protect the public, and cited nine rules.

Ginny Agnew of Herring & Irwin in Austin told the panel, "It is absurd that Texas doesn't have a prohibition against sex with clients. It is an embarrassment to our profession." She suggested that the rule be "unequivacable and enforceable," suggesting the ABA Rule on the topic is clear. Supreme Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson offered clarification on the proposed rule and added that in drafting the rule, concern was extended to affording protection to people who are not clients, such as the daughter of a client. Peterson also indicated that addressing "expenses" in addition to "fees" is already occurring.

Susan Morrison of The Fowler Law Firm in Austin, and speaking on behalf of "Texas women lawyers," also urged changes to Rule 1.13. "We've been asking for more than 10 years that this be addressed. We need to bring our level of professionalism at least up to the level of massage therapists. They have a rule. We need one. Let's do it."

Jim McCormack of Austin asked, "Is there enough benefit to the public and the legal profession of the proposed rules to justify the fiscal impact?" Several additional questions were fielded as the hearing ran over its 2 p.m. end time.

Johnson reminded the group that the State Bar Board of Directors will address the proposed changes at its Oct. 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the Supreme Court of Texas by Oct. 6. He reminded people to contribute comments on the blog or via email to rcantu@texasbar.com.

For details on the proposed amendments, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.

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Public education hearing held in San Antonio Sept. 9

About 30 people attended the Thursday, Sept. 9, public education hearing in San Antonio on the proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the hearing.

Once again, State Bar President Terry Tottenham welcomed those in attendance, Tom Watkins of Austin presented an overview of the rules and State Bar Immediate Past President Roland Johnson served as moderator. Also in attendance were local directors Allan DuBois of San Antonio and Steve Schechter of Boerne, Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, and Supreme Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson.

Only two people formally commented.

Enrique Valdivia, an attorney with the San Antonio office of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, took issue with proposed Rule 3.05 -- maintaining impartiality of a tribunal and ex parte communications. "Don't eliminate Section (c)," he said. "It's important to keep the rule as is." He referenced a specific case and the importance of transparency in administrative and environmental law cases.

Robert Loree, a partner in a small firm in San Antonio, asked a question regarding the binding arbitration clause in proposed Rule 1.08 and whether it is in conflict with the Texas General Arbitration Act. Watkins responded that when a statute is more restrictive than a DR, "you got to do both" and that the statute is not in conflict with the rule. Loree stated his firm has extensive experience handling such disputes and has four cases pending before the Texas Supreme Court. He said, "Satellite litigation doesn't advance the merits of the claim. As a practitioner, I'd like to see the rule benched. In the long run, it's in the best interest of both the client and the lawyer."

A question was posed as to how soon the implementation of new rules could be anticipated. Johnson reminded the group that the State Bar Board of Directors will address the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting, make a recommendation to the Supreme Court of Texas by Oct. 6, and when the court is ready it is likely that a referendum will take place. He reminded people to contribute comments on the blog or via email to rcantu@texasbar.com.

For details on the proposed amendments, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.

The ninth and final hearing will take place at the Texas Law Center in Austin on Friday, Sept. 10.

 

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Public education hearing: McAllen, Sept. 8

About 50 people attended the Wednesday, Sept. 8, public hearing in McAllen with seven people commenting on the proposed Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. As at most of the prior hearings, Tom Watkins of Austin presented an overview of the rules and State Bar Immediate Past President Roland Johnson served as moderator. Local director Arnold Aguilar was on hand to hear from constituents. Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson, State Bar President Terry Tottenham, and Supreme Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson were also at the hearing.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the hearing.

Speaking at the hearing:

  • Pamela Brown, an attorney with Texas RioGrande Legal Aid in Weslaco, thanked the Bar for coming to the Valley and acknowledged the work that had been put into considering and drafting the proposed rules. Brown applauded proposed Rule 1.13, Prohibited Sexual Relations with Clients, relating a story of a client who was allegedly raped by her attorney and who filed a grievance but learned there was no applicable rule for her circumstance. Brown suggested that “expenses” be added to part (b) so that it would prohibit sexual relations as payment for fees and expenses.

    Brown supported proposed Rule 3.03 (b) and (c), Candor Toward a Tribunal, and commented that, if followed, these rules will greatly benefit her clients, all of whom are poor. 

    Brown expressed concern that by adding “reasonably” into proposed Rule 1.01(a), regarding a lawyer’s competence in accepting or continuing employment, the rule has been changed from an objective rule to a subjective rule. She said that adding the “loosy goosy” wording makes lawyers feel better entering into new areas of practice but does nothing toward “protection of the public.” Watkins explained that in this particular case, a scienter rule was applied and that some people like that addition while others do not.

    The final rule Brown commented on was Proposed Rule 3.05, Maintaining the Impartiality of a Tribunal. Recognizing that one of the concerns is that there are non-attorneys who appear before administrative tribunals, she compared that to a judicial proceeding where pro se litigants are also prohibited from ex parte communications with judges. She contended that no one who appears before an administrative board or decision maker should be communicating with those entities. Balancing the playing field and protecting the public must be the priority in this setting and Brown suggested this is true whether there is a “pending matter” or not.

    Watkins discussed how Proposed Rule 3.05 had come about. Because regulations and permitting processes can be extremely complicated, he said it has been necessary and a common practice for lawyers to go to agencies to figure out what is needed and what the process is prior to submitting a permit. He added that if the rule moves away from the current proposal it is going to prohibit what a whole bunch of lawyers consider regular practice. But he also noted that the rule may need to be reanalyzed.
  • David Hall, executive director of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid, endorsed Legal Aid’s position on proposed Rule 3.05 but primarily spoke on proposed Rule 1.08(e), which prohibits a lawyer from accepting compensation for representing a client from one other that the client unless the client provides informed consent. This is problematic for Legal Aid, Hall explained, because all of its clients’ fees are paid by sources other than clients. Hall said that TRLA receives funding from more than 60 sources and that providing meaningful informed consent to clients would be burdensome and add up to 4,000 hours per year in additional labor. Watkins explained that his interpretation of the rule is that salaried lawyers are not subject to this rule because their compensation is not based on whom they represent. He admitted it is not clearly set out in the rule and encouraged Hall to write a letter addressing this concern and suggesting a solution. Hall liked Watkins’ interpretation but said, unfortunately, that is not what the current proposal says.
     
  • Juanita Valdez-Cox, executive director of La Union del Pueblo Entero (LUPE), complained that there was no representative of the community on the task force. She testified that the public needs input to ensure the public is protected. She complained that public comments that were sent in during the comment period in the fall of 2009 were ignored. Watkins assured her that public protection is paramount to the process and said the task force started with a public member but that person resigned. A legal aid lawyer is now on the State Bar TDRPC Committee but that has not always been the case. Peterson said that comments were received from Public Citizen during the comment period and that changes did come out of those recommendations.
     
  • Gary Gurwitz, an attorney with Atlas and Hall in McAllen, said that the most grievous change from the October 2009 proposed rules was the change to Rule 1.07 regarding representing multiple clients in the same matter. He called it a critical rule in ensuring that lawyers have provisions to follow when representing multiple clients. He explained the extensive process that led up to the original proposal and supported returning to that verbiage. Gurwitz believed the proposal was emasculated because lawyers were afraid that nobody would sign an agreement with so many provisions. He disagreed with that contention saying he had never had a client walk away because of too much disclosure. Gurwitz said that the proposed rules are now weaker than the rules currently in effect. He supports a fail-safe rule that would give lawyers protection because they would know exactly what they have to say and would protect the public because they get a lot more information.
     
  • Alejandro Moreno, Jr. of Edinburg commented on proposed Rule 1.08(g)(2) regarding arbitration. Moreno suggested that lawyers only be allowed to require arbitration if they are representing a client in arbitration and if the representation is in court then a dispute also be resolved in court.
     
  • J.W. Dyer of the Dyer Firm in McAllen asked about the “deposition product” under proposed Rule 1.05(a) regarding confidential information. Watkins agreed that this is a huge issue under the current rules and explained that defining information that is “generally known by the public” and “readily available” will be a moving target as technology continues to develop.
     
  • Tom Rayfield of McAllen said he sometimes represents attorneys before grievance entities and asked if there had been discussion about changes to Rule 8.04(a)(3) regarding misconduct. Rayfield called the rule a “catch-all” for grievances and suggested it be clarified. Watkins told him that the group had not considered changing the rule and that it was left as it is on purpose. Rayfield also suggested that in regard to Rule 1.13, Prohibition of Sexual Relations with a Client, it might be appropriate for there to be a definition regarding attorney/client relationship. Watkins agreed it might be difficult to define but guaranteed that juries can identify when the relationship began. Peterson referred to comments 3 and 4 of proposed Rule 1.17, Prospective Clients, suggesting that there has to be good-faith discussion about representation with respect to a particular matter before the relationship commences. 

Immediate Past President of the State Bar of Texas Roland Johnson thanked those who attended for their participation and encouraged further comments be posted to the State Bar blog, emailed to rcantu@texasbar.com, or sent c/o Ray Cantu, State Bar of Texas, P.O. Box 12487, Austin 78711.

For details on the proposed amendments, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate

Public education hearing: Corpus Christi, Sept. 7

In spite of high winds and rain, more than 40 people attended the public-education hearing in Corpus Christi on Tuesday. Tom Watkins of Austin presented an overview of the proposed rules and covered some of the rules that have generated discussion. Kennon Peterson and immediate past president Roland Johnson were on hand to facilitate the discussion and Supreme Court Justice Paul Green and State Bar director Pat Wolter were also in attendance.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the hearing

Some of the comments/questions from the hearing included:

  • William “Bill” Edwards of The Edwards Firm in Corpus Christi expressed concern regarding the prescribed process for obtaining a client’s informed consent “confirmed in writing.” In the rules there are several references to “confirmed in writing” – some of them indicate that the client should provide confirmation in writing and others do not. Edwards noted that the definition of “confirmed in writing” in Rule 1.00(f) does not  require that the client respond to a lawyer’s written confirmation of a client’s oral informed consent. Tom Watkins agreed but said the better practice is to obtain a response from the client.  Edwards suggested requiring a response, and perhaps even a signature, from the client each time written confirmation of informed consent is required. Edwards also expressed concern about proposed Rule 1.08(g)(2) regarding arbitration. He went through a series of questions regarding the American Arbitration Association before concluding that no one can give informed consent about arbitration if they do not know what it means.

    Edwards also suggested that Rule 3.05 ought to stay the way it is and that the disciplinary rules ought to not be changed to contradict a recent Professional Ethics Committee opinion that disallowed communications between administrative lawyers and tribunals that will make decisions involving the matter that is the subject of the communication.  Watkins described this as a hot-button issue and suggested that it is not as clear cut as either side makes it out to be.  He indicated that administrative lawyers need to be able to communicate in order to obtain information they need to file applications but that there also has to be sufficient protection of the public.
     
  • Nancy DeLong, a lawyer with Texas RioGrand Legal Aid, said that some of the rules water down protection of clients.  She agreed with Edwards’ concerns regarding proposed Rule 3.05, adding that it is “bad for the little people.” She also commented that taking “preferably in writing” out of proposed Rule 1.04 was offensive. Kennon Peterson explained that the preference, which is not an enforceable mandate, was moved to comment 3 for proposed Rule 1.04.  She indicated that the change is not intended to make the preference any less important.

    After noting that her clients  have told her about prior lawyers attempting to engage in inappropriate sexual relations with them, DeLong said that sexual relations between lawyers and clients need to be prohibited in proposed Rule 1.13.

    DeLong also commented that the proposed conflicts standards might make it easier for lawyers to get around conflicts prohibitions and that with current technology, an argument can be made for more stringent conflicts rules.
     
  • John Gsanger, also of The Edwards Firm, suggested that Rule 1.08(g)(2) starts out on the right track by requiring a client to have independent legal counsel when a lawyer makes an agreement with the client that requires a dispute between the lawyer and client to be referred to binding arbitration.  But he said the second half, which requires the lawyer to make certain disclosures but does not require independent legal counsel for the client, “totally castrates the first half.” He suggested eliminating the second half or requiring additional disclosures to the client  and the client’s signature  on a writing conveying that the client understands all rights the client is giving up.
     
  • Brad Condit, a solo practitioner in Corpus Christi, commented on proposed Rule 1.06.  He suggested allowing an electronic recording of communications to satisfy the “confirmed in writing” standard. He also suggested that the proposed rules should include standards limiting a lawyer’s ability to choose where a suit will be litigated.
     
  • Brian Miller, of Royston Rayzor Vickery & Williams, said he was “pleasantly satisfied” with some of the compromises in the proposed rules. Regarding proposed Rule 3.05 he indicated that a balance was struck between the adjudicated rove versus the administrative reality. He recognized the hard question to be answered regarding proper lobbying versus ex parte communications. Regarding proposed Rule 1.08(g)(2), Miller expressed concern about  binding arbitration agreements in personal injury cases but suggested they are appropriate in other cases without the involvement of independent legal counsel.

The hearing ended with Roland Johnson reminding people to contribute comments on the blog or via email to rcantu@texasbar.com.

For details on the proposed amendments, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate

Public education hearing: Dallas, Sept. 3

A full house was in attendance at the fifth of nine public education hearings held at the Belo Mansion in Dallas. After a 30-minute presentation by Supreme Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson highlighting the proposed changes in the rules, the floor was opened to comments. While initial comments were limited to five minutes, the time constraints were suspended to ensure that questions were addressed and that comments were adequately expressed. Click here to listen to an audio recording of the hearing.

A sample of some of the comments from the hearing:

Linda Turley, a lawyer with a six-person firm in Dallas, expressed concern with proposed DR 1.15 regarding safekeeping of property. She said she was alarmed that the rule “has the effect of making substantive law changes,” which should not be the purpose of disciplinary rules. According to Turley, the rule would adversely impact clients in healthcare subrogation cases and should be reconsidered.

Judge Staci Williams expressed concern with proposed Rule 1.13 and urged that a per se rule be adopted. Judge Williams had looked at rules from other states and supported a clear rule that makes it perfectly clear what is ethical. She also suggested that other professions that have close relationships with clients have already adopted this more strident prohibition. At a minimum, she urged that a definition of “sexual relations” be added to the proposed rule.  One individual in the audience encouraged caution as implementation of this kind of rule might open more lawyers up to extortion from past clients. He acknowledged that there are two extremes and that he did not know the answer.

Cindy Solls, a Dallas lawyer/mediator, expressed concern that the rules did not directly address mediation. She was concerned that especially proposed Rule 1.08, the “aggregate settlement” proposed rule, might not be workable in a mediation setting.

Michelle Wong Krause, who said she had done numerous workers’ compensation cases, expressed concern with Rule 3.05 and said that it is common practice for administrative lawyers have discussed policies and procedures with Administrative Law Judges along the way. She suggested that perhaps defining “matter” to apply to particular cases might make the proposed rule more palatable.

• Questions also arose regarding proposed rule 1.05 regarding information that is confidential and that which is generally available to the public. Another lawyer suggested that proposed rule 1.04 changing “unconscionable” to “clearly excessive” might open lawyers up to more risk. He described “unconscionable” as morally appropriate versus “clearly excessive” as quantitative.

The public education hearings will continue next week in Corpus Christi, McAllen, San Antonio, and Austin. Click here for the complete schedule with dates and locations and click here for details on the proposed changes.

Public education hearing: Tyler, Sept. 2

The fourth of nine public education hearings on proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional took place Sept. 2 in Tyler at Traditions restaurant. About 20 people attended, most of them lawyers. Click here to listen to a recording of the hearing.

The hearing began with introductions by State Bar of Texas President Terry Tottenham and moderator Roland Johnson, immediate past president of the State Bar. Tom Watkins, who chaired the committee that oversaw drafting of the rules, then gave a presentation that detailed several of the proposed changes. He emphasized that the proposed changes would bring Texas disciplinary rules in line with those in other states, which is important, he said, because of a growing trend toward multistate practice. He also pointed out that the proposed rules would provide more guidance to attorneys facing potentially touchy questions by giving more clear direction on how to handle potential conflicts (for example, in representing multiple parties or entities under Rule 1.07). Watkins said that by providing additional direction for attorneys the proposed rules would also provide much stronger protections for clients because the proposed rules are clearer about how attorneys must obtain informed consent on potential conflicts.

While none of the attendees signed up to provide formal public testimony, Watkins’ presentation did generate discussion:

  • An attendee said he thinks it is helpful that the proposed rules better address representation of multiple parties.
     
  • Tyler attorney Rick Wilbanks observed that it seems the rules are moving away from the old adage that attorneys should “avoid even the appearance of impropriety” and instead are carving out exceptions which allow attorneys to do things that might appear unethical. Tom Watkins agreed that over the years the “appearance of impropriety” standard has been removed from the rules, but said that rather than allowing unethical behavior the rules are much stronger and more refined. Proposed amendments, Watkins said, remove a lot of the “middle ground” which can lead to uncertainty and thus to problems.
     
  • Beau Sinclair, also an attorney in Tyler, asked how well the proposed amendments balance public and lawyer interests and uniformity, which Watson had described during his introduction. Watkins said he could not measure the degree of balance, but that he feels there is much more of an emphasis on uniformity, more public protection in terms of informed consent, and more ways for lawyers to protect themselves where there is no way under the current rules.

Also attending the hearing were Texas Supreme Court Justice Dale Wainwright, Commission for Lawyer Discipline member and former State Bar President Guy Harrison, and State Bar District 2 director Ricky Richards.

Public hearings will continue this week and next in Dallas, Corpus Christi, McAllen, San Antonio, and Austin. Attorneys who attend will receive one-half hour of ethics MCLE credit. Click here to comment on the proposed amendments and click here for details on the proposals and the process

Public education hearing delivers lively exchange in Houston

A lively and fast-paced Q&A occurred in a packed room Wednesday in Houston, on the third day of public education hearings on proposed rules changes.

Click here to listen to an audio recording of the hearing.

The comments portion launched with a reference to "amorous relations." Said one young lawyer, "I don't do it, but I don't think others should have a ban imposed by the Bar." He said he believes there are enough existing rules to dissuade lawyers from thinking that sex with clients is an acceptable practice. Offered another lawyer, "Most lawyers would already agree that sex with clients will get you into trouble either civilly or criminally."

Chuck Herring from Austin took issue with a plethora of proposed changes, including criticism that a cost-benefit analysis on implementation and enforcement was lacking; potential impact on firms regarding contract lawyers' access to confidential information; an ommission of prohibition on "reasonable expenses" in addition to fees in the "no sex with clients" rule; and that Rule 1.06 does not prohibit "conflicted representation -- again a departure from the ABA."

Houston solo Jimmy Brill pondered that if a judge reverses fees that a lawyer reasonably believes are not excessive, would the lawyer then be subject to discipline? And, "As a solo, if a firm hires me and I give up confidential information on my clients, am I subject to discipline?" Regarding Rule 1.17 and the issue of uniformity, he said, "Clients are not commodities that can be bought and sold."

Echoed another lawyer on "excessive" fees, "I have a problem with a judge slashing what I believe to be reasonable fees, and then having a client coming back and suing me."

Pat Chamblin from Beaumont, who served on the committee that studied and drafted the proposed changes, said the committee attempted to bring the standard to middle ground and that there may be case authority that addresses the issue.

An environmental law solo took issue with Rule 3.05 -- impartiality of a tribunal on "matters pending." "I oppose the change. Applicants for permits should know upfront who the decision makers are going to be and have assurance that their advocates can approach the tribunal. Access is critical."

A lawyer from the city attorney's office took issue with Rule 1.05 and disclosure of confidential information, saying the rules are about what is moral and ethical, and that the proposed rule doesn't serve the public or lawyers. He also believes "substantial" need not precede "bodily injury" because a lawyer has an obligation to disclose information if she has reason to believe that a threat of bodily injury in any way exists.

Concern regarding "informed consent" prompted a remark that this rule could lead to disincentive to take new cases, as clients dissatisfied with settlements could rush to file a grievance.

State Bar board members and section reps from southeast Texas in attendance included Warren Cole, Greg Dykeman, Damon Edwards, Stewart Gagnon, L. Bradley Hancock, Tommy Proctor, Barrett Reasoner and Travis Sales.

A question was posed as to "whether a referendum might not actually take place." Roland Johnson, serving as moderator, responded with an overview of the process and explained that the court will determine the terms and conditions after the Bar makes its report to the Texas Supreme Court by Oct. 6, and that a referendum is likely later this year or early next year.

To comment on the proposed changes, click here or email ray.cantu@texasbar.com

For details on the proposed amendments, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate.

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Hearings on rules changes continued today in El Paso

The second of nine public education hearings on the proposed rules changes took place today in El Paso. The crowd of 26 was predominantly lawyers. The hearing was again moderated by Roland Johnson, immediate past president, with a presentation by Tom Watkins, chair of the Supreme Court Task Force that studied the issue in depth. Steve James, section representative to the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors, was also on hand to listen to local comments. Click here to listen to the recording of today’s hearing

Excerpts of comments and concerns raised today:

  • An attorney from Texas RioGrande Legal Aid raised a question regarding proposed Rule 3.05, having to do with maintaining impartiality of a tribunal, namely, ensuring that the public knows about decisions being made that directly affect them. “We must have transparency to have justice; it is essential that the public have access to information. The proposed rule limits administrative attorneys’ ability to serve their clients.” Her suggestion was to leave the rules language as is concerning ex parte communications.
     
  • A lawyer from the Office of the City Attorney commented on arbitration agreements between attorneys and prospective clients, and how enforcement of the proposed new rule would work with respect to agreements already standing. His question was in regard to whether past agreements would have to be redone to comply with new rules if adopted. While no decisions have been made in that regard, Court Rules Attorney Kennon Peterson indicated the Court would probably make the rules effective going forward from any date of adoption.
     
  • Mark Osborn, an El Paso attorney who serves on the Professional Ethics Committee, addressed what he deemed a problematic issue with changes to Rule 3.05 pertaining to “pending matters.” “The rules already provide that you can’t unduly influence decision makers, and the proposed change is a green light for rich people to buy boards,” he worried.

In response to a question as to whether the rules would be offered as a package or voted on singly in a forthcoming referendum, Johnson responded that no decision had been made on whether the Bar would make a recommendation about a proposed ballot in its report to the Court.

Watkins added in response to a comment that the rules should not be changed for the sake of change, that the changes had been considered over many years and that all the changes had to be considered within the parameter of first protecting the public, then serving lawyers, and then providing uniformity over multiple jurisdictions. With increasing interstate practice and rapid-fire challenges presented by technology, careful consideration has gone into the drafting of each proposed rule change.

Johnson reminded the crowd that there is still time for the board to recommend changes for the Court to consider, and that the Court is open to input from lawyers and the public, as demonstrated by the presence of Supreme Court justices at the hearings. Today’s hearing was attended by Justice Dale Wainwright. Justice Phil Johnson attended the hearing in Lubbock.

The hearing Wednesday will take place in Houston. Participating lawyers will earn 0.5 hours ethics credit for attending the hearings. Public protection is an important core function of the Bar and citizens are encouraged to offer input, too. Click here to post a comment and click here for details on the proposed rules changes

The State Bar Board of Directors will take up the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the Texas Supreme Court by Oct. 6.

Public education hearings on proposed disciplinary rules changes kick off in Lubbock

More than 40 attorneys and members of the public turned out Monday in Lubbock to learn about proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct at the first of nine public education hearings to be held around the state this week and next.

Roland Johnson, State Bar of Texas immediate past president, provided background information on the issue and served as moderator during a Q&A session. Tom Watkins, chair of the Texas Supreme Court Task Force convened to study the issue, answered questions from those in attendance. Members of the State Bar Board of Directors Becky Baskin Ferguson of Midland and Kyle Lewis of Dumas participated, as well. Click here to listen to the transcript.

A sampling of comments and questions:

  • A lawyer who served on the State Bar committee charged with studying the proposed rules changes remarked that “some of the best legal minds in ethics and professional responsibility have spent thousands of hours of work…on the arduous process, trying to get it [the rules] as close to perfect as possible.”
  • Another attorney voiced a concern regarding whether “confidential” was defined too broadly. Many concerns raised had to do with definitions and interpretations.
  • A representative of a newly formed group, Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability, stressed the importance that the public interest be heard. She posed questions related to confidentiality, informed consent, and issues related to arbitration.
  • A question was posed about “prior contact with client or prospective client” as it relates to clients asking questions on lawyers’ websites, raising the issue of posting rules language to attorneys’ websites.
  • A number of questions were raised around the issue of prohibited sexual relations, including a request to define “sexual relations” and addressing expenses in addition to fees in proposed rule 1.13. Said Watkins in response to one such question, “We’re not trying to regulate sexual conduct with this rule; we’re trying to ensure adequate representation and protection for the client.”

Watkins and Kennon Peterson, Supreme Court rules attorney, responded to a wide range of questions, provided clarification, and offered insight on the process and task at hand.

Rule 3.05 concerning “ex parte communications” drew questions surrounding “pending” and “anticipated” matters, and the intent of state agency decision makers.

Tuesday’s hearing will take place in El Paso. Want to know more or voice your opinion? Click here to see the schedule (pdf) for the remaining hearings. Participating lawyers will earn 0.5 hours ethics credit for attending the hearings. The bar is deeply committed to protecting the public and wants to hear from citizens, too. Click here to post a comment.

The State Bar Board of Directors will take up the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the Texas Supreme Court by Oct. 6.

Click here for MP3 audio of the Lubbock hearing

 

Hearings continue this week on proposed amendments to the disciplinary rules

A series of public education hearings on proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct began this week. Those interested in the proposed changes are encouraged to attend. Attorneys who attend will receive one-half hour of ethics MCLE credit. 

The Supreme Court of Texas has asked the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors to consider proposed amendments and provide recommendations or comments to the Court by Oct. 6, 2010. Read details on the proposed changes at www.texasbar.com/ethics and provide comments here.

The public education hearings will take place:

Lubbock – Monday, Aug. 30, Noon – 2 p.m.

Texas Tech University School of Law
Lanier Auditorium, Room 153
1802 Hartford Avenue
 
El Paso – Tuesday, Aug. 31, Noon – 2 p.m.

Commissioners Courtroom, 3rd Floor
500 E. San Antonio
 
Houston – Wednesday, Sept. 1, Noon – 2 p.m.
Hyatt Regency, Dogwood Room
1200 Louisiana Street
 
Tyler – Thursday, Sept. 2, Noon – 2 p.m.

Traditions
6205 S. Broadway Avenue
 
Dallas – Friday, Sept. 3, Noon – 2 p.m.
Dallas Bar Association
Belo Mansion, Winstead Ballroom
2101 Ross Avenue
 
Corpus Christi – Tuesday, Sept. 7, Noon – 2 p.m.
Town Club, 6th Floor
800 N. Shoreline Blvd.
 
McAllen – Wednesday, Sept. 8, Noon – 2 p.m.

Casa de Palmas Renaissance
101 N. Main Street
 
San Antonio – Thursday, Sept. 9, Noon – 2 p.m.
Bexar County Courthouse (Old Courthouse)
Presiding Courtroom, 2nd Floor
100 Dolorosa
 
Austin – Friday, Sept. 10, Noon – 2 p.m.
Texas Law Center
Hatton W. Sumners Conference Room
1414 Colorado Street

Reminder: TMCP is next week, Sept. 1-3

Don't forget: the Texas Minority Counsel Program (TMCP) is next Wednesday through Friday, Sept. 1-3, at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas in Dallas, Texas.

The mission of the TMCP is to expand and increase the opportunities for minority and women attorneys to provide legal services for corporate and government clients, and to encourage corporations and government agencies seeking outside counsel to hire and retain minority and women lawyers.

Visit our web page at www.texasbar.com/tmcp for more information and to register today.

Texas Minority Counsel Program (TMCP) set for Sept. 1-3 at Las Colinas

The 18th annual TMCP conference - Sept. 1-3, 2010 - will attract corporations and government agencies wishing to participate in informational interviews with minority and women lawyers. The program will also include a two-track CLE program designed for minority/women lawyers and corporate/government counsel. It will be held at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas.

Click here for the TMCP brochure, sponsor list and interviewing opportunities.

 

Bar considers amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct

On July 7, 2010, the Supreme Court of Texas asked the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors to consider revised proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct and provide recommendations or comments to the Court by Oct. 6, 2010.

State Bar of Texas members will likely vote on the proposed amendments in November or December 2010.

The State Bar will soon hold public education hearings around the state on the proposed amendments. Click here for the hearing schedule [PDF]

To read the proposed amendments to the Disciplinary Rules, click here [PDF], and for a redlined version, click here [PDF].

For background on the process, please visit www.texasbar.com/rulesupdate

To provide input on the proposed amendments, please leave a comment below.

TYLA, Dallas Bar and El Paso Bar take 3 of 4 national LexisNexis Community Outreach Awards

The National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) today announced that it will recognize four recipients of the 2010 LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Awards at the ABA annual meeting Aug. 6 in San Francisco. Honorees include the following Texas programs:

  • The Texas Young Lawyers Association's "R U Safe? Protecting Yourself in Cyberspace," a four-part DVD that educates children and their parents about dangers on the Internet and provides tools for online safety.
  • A collaborative effort of the Dallas Bar Association and Big Brothers Big Sisters - the Amachi Texas Program - that recruits lawyers, judges and other legal professionals to mentor the children of prison inmates.
  • The El Paso Bar Association's Access to Justice Legal Fair, a collaborative effort to assist those who cannot afford legal representation. Nearly 400 people received free legal assistance during the six-hour event.

The community and educational outreach awards honor bar associations and bar foundations for commitment to public service. Also being honored is the Indiana State Bar Association.

Congratulations to all involved in serving the people of Texas through these exceptional service projects and making Texas lawyers proud!

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.

 

Twitter novel contest: And the winners are ...

Thanks to all who entered our first-ever Twitter novel contest. We asked attorneys to write a novel in 140 characters or less, and received 189 valid entries. We even received coverage on the Wall Street Journal Law Blog.

The winning entrant was Casey Burgess of Dallas, with this tweet:

"Swirling death, the dark cloud descends. As he runs for his cellar, the farmer learns that sometimes pigs can fly."

Casey won our grand prize, an Apple iPad.

In second place was Mark I. Unger of San Antonio (@miunger), with: 

"SheWalkedIn iFell @Love #WeDid RT@PookieBorn Birthdays MortgAge WorkLate GirlsTrip BikerDude FaceBookPics iFiled SheWalkedOut"

And our third-place winner was Ron Uselton of Sherman, with: 

"Wanted: wife's killer. Apply in person."

We were happy to have all three finalists at our awards ceremony during the Adaptable Lawyer track at the 2010 State Bar Annual Meeting.

Big thanks to Michael P. Maslanka for giving us the idea and for serving as a judge, and to our other judges, Chad Baruch, Michelle Cheng, Amanda Ellis, Thane Rosenbaum, Dom Sagolla, and Christine Son.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

  [Most links point to PDF files.]

Agricultural Law — This month, the Texas Bar Journal presents a special section on some of the legal issues involved in one of the state's largest and most vibrant industries. Among the highlights:

Oh Bury Me (Not) On the Lone Prairie: Establishing Family Cemeteries on Texas Farms and Ranches by Doug Jordan

Contracts as Fences: Representing the Agricultural Producer in an Oil and Gas Environment by Harper Estes and Douglas Prieto

Landowner Liability for Recreational Activities by Boyd Kennedy

From Fever Ticks to Feral Swine: Protecting Texas' Animal Agriculture by Wallace Eugene "Gene" Snelson II

Profiles — Texas lawyers take their passions seriously, as you'll see from stories about a pair of Houston lawyers and their love of their dogs and a Dallas lawyer who practices equine law and competes in an event known as musical freestyle dressage.

To read the digital edition of the Texas Bar Journal, click here.

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Deadline Approaching in State Bar YouTube Contest

There's still time to enter your videos in the 2010 State Bar YouTube contest! The deadline is April 1, and entering is simple: Just go to www.texasbar.com/texansonjustice for the contest rules and entry form. Then, pull out your video camera and shoot a 30-second PSA-style video that answers one of these two questions:

  1. Why are lawyers important to our society?
  2. How is the court system important to our society?

Winners will be announced April 30 as part of the State Bar's Law Day celebration. Prizes of $500 each will be awarded in the Under 18 and 18 and Over categories, as well as for the People's Choice Award. The contest is a great project for your children and their classmates or even for your local bar. So, get creative and show us why the legal system is so important to our society!

2010 Law Day student contests

Do you know a budding writer, artist, or photographer? The State Bar, along with the Texas Young Lawyers Association, is inviting students grade K-12 to show off their skills by entering the 2010 Law Day editorial, photography, and poster contests. 

The theme of this year's Law Day is "Law in the 21st Century: Enduring Traditions, Emerging Challenges." Judges are looking for essays, photographs, and posters that creatively describe or depict how the modern world is changing the way we practice law. All entries should be submitted to your local bar association or young lawyer affiliate. Winners may receive up to $1000 in prizes, plus an invitation to the State Bar of Texas Law Day Luncheon on Friday, April 30th. The deadline for all contests is April 1st.

More information on the contests is available here. To contact your local bar association, check out the State Bar's Local Bar Services.

Dress to Impress

Happy new year! Okay, so we're a little late for that, but it's still a (fairly) new year and there are new things to do — and wear. We know you have been looking pretty dapper lately, but may we suggest something else to spice up your closet in 2010?

Maybe something along the lines of a softer-than-a-cuddly-bear long-sleeved sporty top and a svelte vest? The State Bar's new apparel — vests, long-sleeved sports tops, and more — is fashion-forward and fills the void of utility that those old-timey polos just couldn't (we've still got some polos, but they certainly AREN'T old-timey). The State Bar has women's items and men's, too.

Maybe you didn't even know the State Bar sold merchandise. Now you do. So, now you can sport your State Bar pride on your threads and even your luggage. And flash drives. And coffee mugs. You get the picture.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

  most links point to PDF files

Social Media and the Law — Blogging and social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter have quickly become a part of our daily lives. This month, the Texas Bar Journal examines the role social media is playing in a changing legal landscape. Among the highlights:

Service of Process Via Social Media by John G. Browning

How Social Media Is Changing the Law by Kendall Kelly Hayden

Ethically Navigating the Social Media Landscape by Debra Bruce

Internet Defamation by Alyssa J. Long

Dangers of the Online Juror by John G. Browning 

Profiles — Texas lawyers take their passions seriously, as you'll see from stories about a Houston lawyer, who, along with his wife, is restoring the Historic Rocksprings Hotel, and an Austin lawyer who has turned her love of adventurous dining into a blog, Foodie is the New Forty.

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

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

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

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

MCLE Rules Embrace Digital Delivery Methods

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

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

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

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State Bar Announces Twitter Novel Contest

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

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

 

 

Relief is Just a Click Away

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

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

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

Texas Gavel Awards call for entries

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

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

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

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

Board makes recommendation to Supreme Court on professional liability insurance disclosure

(San Antonio) — After hours of debate and months of gathering information from Texas lawyers and the public, the State Bar Board of Directors, by a vote of 39 to 1, recommended to the Supreme Court of Texas that lawyers not be required to disclose whether or not they carry professional liability insurance unless a client or prospective client asks for that information. (In a June 2009 letter, the Court had asked the Board to make a recommendation on the issue by February 2010.)

In addition, the Board unanimously recommended that if disclosure were to be required, that it be done so through an administrative rule rather than a disciplinary rule.

The State Bar has compiled hundreds of pages of comments, reports, and background information to forward to the Court. In a transmittal letter to accompany those resources, the Board will respectfully ask the Court to seek the Board’s recommendation regarding the details of implementing any future disclosure requirement.  

For more information on the professional liability insurance disclosure issue, including an executive summary and the results of public hearings, surveys, and focus groups, click here.

 

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This month in the Texas Bar Journal

 

 most links point to PDF files

Legal Article — Controversial Uses of the 'Clawback' Remedy in the Current Financial Crisis by Spencer C. Barasch and Sara J. Chesnut.

 Texas Supreme Court Historical Society Turns 20 — Preserving and Celebrating Judicial History by William S. Pugsley.

ABA-YLD Adopts TYLA Voting Rights ProjectInspiring the Future: Texas Young Lawyers Association Takes Steps to Empower Youth by Patricia L. Garcia. 

Profile — Texas lawyers take their passions seriously, as you'll see from a story about Sally Heppie, a Dallas-based entertainment lawyer turned film producer.

 

 

The Texas Bar Journal wants your short stories!

It's that time of year again — not when we snuggle around the open fire or get a little silly at the office holiday party, no. It's time for aspiring John Grishams to dust off their typewriters (or more realistically, their computer keyboards) and get to writing their award-winning short story.

The 2010 Texas Bar Journal Short Story Fiction Writing Contest is officially on. The June 2010 issue of the Texas Bar Journal will feature the top three stories, as judged by our independent panel (it's a blind judging, too, to make it more fair). Deadline for entries is March 1, 2010.

"How long does my story have to be?" you ask. Well, we know you like telling stories, but, it's a short story contest, so keep it to 2,000 words or less.

You are pondering what you can write about, too, right? We're pretty open to the topic, as long as your short story is previously unpublished and deals with or is related to the law or lawyers in some fashion.

"What if I have entered or won a previous year?" you wonder. That's okay — go for win No. 2 or polish up last year's story. We welcome all entries, as long as it's from any lawyer licensed to practice in Texas who is in good standing. (We fibbed a little in that last sentence — directors of the State Bar or the Texas Bar Journal board of editors are ineligible.)

"How much time do I have?" you worry. No worries — the deadline is months away, next year in fact. Send those stories in by March 1, 2010, and you'll be good.

For more information, download an entry form.

Oh yeah, in case you missed it, the deadline for entries is March 1, 2010.

Providing access to justice to those who protect our country

The U.S. Armed Forces protect citizens’ rights, including the right to access to justice. The Houston Bar Association and Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program have found a way to ensure that Houston veterans receive access to justice in return.

Approximately 1/3 of Houston veterans are homeless and many more are living on modest means, unable to afford an attorney. Recognizing the severity of this issue, the Houston Bar Association implemented a program to aid our nation’s heroes. Every Friday from 2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m., volunteers from the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program staff a free legal clinic held at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center. Any veteran who attends receives a free legal consultation. Many times, questions are basic and the legal need is fulfilled. If by chance a veteran has an ongoing legal issue, the Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program determines if the veteran is eligible for free representation and connects qualified veterans with a volunteer attorney.

The attendance at the legal clinics has grown - attorneys are now seeing 30 attorneys a week. As the clinics’ success grew, the Houston Bar has expanded the program to include services at veteran transition homes and other special legal clinics. Houston lawyers agree that the volunteer efforts are very fulfilling and that attorneys are building close bonds with local veterans.

Volunteer attorney Denise Scofield described the relationships, “We know our clients, we receive Christmas cards, announcements about grandchildren, and emails. “

The Houston Bar Association held a training seminar on Friday, November 13 to assist with a statewide initiative. Speakers included volunteer attorneys who have experience siding veterans, Judge Mark Cater who developed the first veterans court  in Texas, and executive staff members of the Michael E DeBakey VA Medical Center. The State Bar of Texas will implement a program in June of 2010, Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans.

Above: On November 13, State Bar Director Allan DuBois of San Antonio discusses his experience handling a VA disability case.
 

Honoring our nation's veterans

The State Bar of Texas extends its deep gratitude to all veterans for their service to our country.

Throughout the year, our Legal Assistance to Military Personnel (LAMP) program recruits volunteer attorneys and legal professionals to assist soldiers and their families with legal issues involving family law, employment, housing, and more. Read more and learn how to volunteer

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This month in the Texas Bar Journal

 most links point to PDF files

New Disciplinary Rules — The Supreme Court of Texas has published for comment proposed amendments to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct. 

Pro/Con: Professional Liability Insurance Disclosure — The Supreme Court has asked the State Bar Board of Directors to recommend whether lawyers should be required to disclose to clients if they carry professional liability insurance. Read some of the arguments for and against the proposal.

20 Years of the Texas Lawyer's Creed — Read one man's observations on the need for the Texas Lawyer's Creed, as well as the personal reflections of some of the lawyers and judges who had a hand in crafting it. 

Profiles — Texas lawyers take their passions seriously, as you'll see from stories about El Paso lawyer Gene Semko, who moonlights as a Big 12 referee, and Bellville lawyers John and Taunia Elick, who caught the attention of the New York Times for their collection of historic houses.

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PLI disclosure hearing report: Lubbock, October 29

Nine lawyers braved cold, wet conditions to testify at a public hearing in Lubbock on whether lawyers should be required to disclose to clients if they carry professional liability insurance. Eight of the nine voiced opposition to a disclosure requirement; one expressed her support. The Supreme Court of Texas has asked the State Bar Board of Directors to recommend whether such a policy should be adopted. The Board will vote in January.

Three West Texas lawyers who serve on the Board of Directors attended the hearing — Guy Choate of San Angelo, David Copeland of Midland, and Kyle Lewis of Dumas. State Bar President Roland Johnson of Fort Worth and his immediate predecessor, Harper Estes of Midland, provided background on why the hearing was taking place and answered questions put to them by members of the audience. Jonathan Smaby, executive director of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics, moderated. Recordings of the Lubbock hearing and the five previous public hearings around the state are available at www.texasbar.com/plidisclosure.

Among the points raised during public testimony:

Continue Reading...

PLI disclosure hearing report: Dallas, October 28

More than 50 lawyers and members of the public took part in a lively public hearing on whether lawyers should be required to disclose to clients if they carry professional liability insurance. The Supreme Court of Texas has asked the State Bar Board of Directors to make a recommendation on the issue. The Board is soliciting input in advance of its anticipated January 2010 vote on the issue.

The hearing — the fifth in a series of seven around the state — took place at the Belo Mansion, home of the Dallas Bar Association. Several State Bar directors from North Texas were on hand, including Talmage Boston, Beverly Godbey, Tim Mountz, Mark Sales, Steve Bolden, John Jansonius, and Dan Micciche of Dallas; Janna Clarke and Mark Daniel of Fort Worth; Deborah Gagliardi of Arlington; Mike Gregory of Denton; John Hatchel of Woodway; and Chad Baruch of Rowlett. State Bar President Roland Johnson of Fort Worth provided an overview of the issue. Jonathan Smaby, executive director of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics, moderated the discussion. An audio recording of the hearing is available at www.texasbar.com/plidisclosure

Ten lawyers testified publicly. With varying levels of vehemence, nine expressed opposition to a disclosure requirement while one voiced support for the measure. Other attendees indicated their positions in writing. Of those, 19 opposed making insurance disclosure mandatory while one supported the proposal.

Among the points raised during public testimony:

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PLI disclosure hearing report: El Paso, October 27

During the fourth of seven public hearings the State Bar of Texas is holding around the state on whether lawyers should be required to disclose to clients if they have professional liability insurance, all six of the attendees who testified publicly spoke against mandating disclosure. At the request of the Supreme Court of Texas, the State Bar Board of Directors will vote to make a recommendation to the Court during the Board's January 2010 meeting.

The public hearing took place at the El Paso Commissioners Courtroom. State Bar President Roland Johnson attended, as did three members of the State Bar Board of Directors: Jeanne C. "Cezy" Collins and Cori Harbour of El Paso, and Pablo Almaguer of McAllen. Harbor is president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association; Almaguer serves as one of four minority directors on the Board. Jonathan Smaby, executive director of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics, moderated the discussion. An audio recording of the hearing is available at www.texasbar.com/plidisclosure.

Among the points raised during public testimony:

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National Pro Bono Celebration: Oct. 25 - 31, 2009

The annual National Pro Bono Celebration is an effort to showcase the difference that pro bono lawyers make to the nation, the justice system, the community, and the clients they serve.

Each weekday this month, this blog has featured Texas pro bono lawyers and their work.

For details on the national celebration, visit CelebrateProBono.org. For information on Texas events and activities, see the website of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation.

In recognition of the celebration, the State Bar of Texas board of directors passed a resolution commending the Texas legal community for its pro bono work and encouraging all bar members to contribute. Read it here.

PLI disclosure hearing report: Houston, October 16

Thirty-five people, almost all of whom were lawyers, attended a public hearing in Houston on whether attorneys should be required to disclose to clients whether they carry professional liability insurance. The Supreme Court of Texas has asked the State Bar Board of Directors to make a recommendation on the issue.

Ten attendees testified publicly. All expressed opposition to a disclosure requirement, with a few offering their preferences should such a policy take effect. An additional 17 attendees registered their opinions in writing. Fifteen of those expressed opposition to disclosure, with two indicating “No opinion.” No one offered support for disclosure, although State Bar President Roland Johnson, in the interest of fairness, read into the record from a task force report the primary arguments in support of disclosure.

Several State Bar directors were on hand, including Glenn Ballard, Tim Belton, Warren Cole, Bert Jennings, Bill Ogden, Tommy Proctor, and Travis Sales. Johnson moderated the discussion, which took place at South Texas College of Law. A digital recording of the hearing is available at www.texasbar.com/plidisclosure.

Among the points raised during public testimony:

Continue Reading...

PLI disclosure hearing report: Harlingen, October 15

Four attorneys attended the second public hearing in Harlingen – all of them speaking against lawyers having to disclose whether or not they have professional liability insurance to prospective clients. One of those attorneys traveled three hours from San Antonio to testify after having surgery the day before preventing his attendance at the Wednesday hearing.

Testimony of those who attended included:

  • Professional Liability Insurance covers only negligence and the majority of times where a lawyer has hurt a client it is not negligence.
  • This discussion must be a special interest issue.
  • If a lawyer is going to have to disclose issues that might impact representation there are other things more germane than insurance (examples: health, financial status, personal problems) What is so special about insurance that it should be disclosed?
  • The American Bar Association is never happy with the status quo [so the adoption of a model rule by the House of Delegates might or might not have relevance].
  • What public policy does this proposed disclosure truly serve?
  • What harm has resulted in the past that has caused the Supreme Court of Texas to offer this proposal?
  • People do not enter into personal or business relationships thinking about future mishaps and this proposal would add that context to the front end of the attorney-client relationship.
  • This proposal, if implemented would make lawyers more vulnerable to being sued by clients unhappy with the result of a case.
  • Clients will be worried about representation but will not be better protected with this disclosure.
  • The public looks at the issue globally without information/knowledge about what professional liability insurance covers or does not cover.
  • What percentage of lawyers are sued annually? The grievance process exists to punish lawyers who do not live up to their professional obligations.
  • Insurance disclosure is a ticket to draw people in to sue attorneys.
  • After more than 19 years in consumer bankruptcy practice, had several complaints filed with the State Bar that were dismissed because there was no misconduct. Those complainants would have been more likely to file suit if I had insurance and there is a likelihood that I would have had to pay even though the complaints were baseless.
  • This is a non-issue. Attorneys are not required to have professional liability insurance and if a client asks, we are already obligated to provide that information.

(Visit www.texasbar.com/plidisclosure for more information and background on this issue as well as a calendar of upcoming hearings.)

PLI disclosure hearing report: San Antonio, October 14

Of the approximately 60 people attending the first of seven State Bar of Texas public hearings regarding whether Texas attorneys should be required to disclose to the public whether or not they are covered by professional liability insurance, 21 lawyers testified against disclosure and one member of the public testified for “transparency” in all areas of the judicial system including disclosure.

The Supreme Court of Texas has asked the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors to give its recommendation on whether Texas attorneys should be required to disclose to the public whether or not they have professional liability insurance. The State Bar Board has developed a process for obtaining input from attorneys and the public, including a series of public hearings, which began in San Antonio Wednesday. State Bar directors will continue to collect information through their January 2010 board meeting where a vote will be taken with a final report prepared for the Court the first week of February.

State Bar directors at the hearing included Guy Choate of San Angelo; Lisa Tatum, Sylvia Cardona, Allen Dubois, Pamela Gilbert, and LaMont Jefferson of San Antonio; State Bar President Roland Johnson and President-elect Terry Tottenham also attended the hearing which was moderated by Jonathan Smaby, executive director of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism.

State Bar President Roland Johnson opened the hearing with a short overview of the Professional Liability Disclosure Issue and the Court’s request of the State Bar Board of Directors. Directors listened to the testimony and made themselves available after the hearing and over the coming months leading up to the January vote.

A sample of the testimony received at the hearing against requiring disclosure included:

  • The legal profession should not be singled out as the only profession to be required to disclose whether or not practitioners have professional liability insurance.
  • The trust relationship between a lawyer and a client would be immediately compromised once the lawyer discloses whether or not he or she has professional liability insurance.
  • Each firm should be allowed to make the business decision of whether to carry or disclose professional liability insurance coverage on its own.
  • A lawyer’s report of coverage is a snapshot of a moment and does not guarantee he or she will have coverage at the time in the future when a suit might be filed.
  • The profession already polices itself. The Court and the Legislature have reduced the number of lawsuits so it is ironic that this proposal will increase the number of lawsuits.
  • Those practitioners who do wrong and do not follow the rules will continue to break the rules and adding more rules will not clean up that bad behavior by the few who disregard the current codes of good conduct.  If you want to require insurance, do so – but requiring disclosure will not solve any problem.
  • Requiring disclosure of professional liability insurance is a disincentive for lawyers to do pro bono work. Clients will not benefit from such a requirement and small firms will be especially targeted.
  • This proposed requirement would disproportionately impact minority attorneys as most minority lawyers in Texas practice in small firms or solo practices.
  • In Court appointments, the lawyer often meets the client after the appointment is made — the practicalities of implementing disclosure make it impossible.
  • There is a danger that this will become an issue of competence not an issue of insurability. 
  • Consumers are smart and know what they want and what they need. The relationship between an attorney and a client is sacrosanct and forcing the disclosure of whether or not an attorney has insurance on the front end of that relationship plants a seed of doubt.
  • Attorneys take self-regulation seriously and our disciplinary system is real and effective. We do not need an insurance company to be part of that process.
  • How ironic to purport to solve a non-existent problem while simultaneously contaminating the lifeblood of pro bono.
  • Creates same problem of confusing the public that the Bar resolved several years ago when it eliminated the “not board certified” requirement from lawyer advertising.

(Visit www.texasbar.com/plidisclosure for more information and background on this issue as well as a calendar of upcoming hearings. A downloadable audio file of the San Antonio is posted on this page.)
 

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

most links below point to PDF files

Transition to Practice — Read about the State Bar's new mentoring initiative for local bar associations. Also included is best practice advice from Texas lawyers for changing times.

Transition from Transitive — Robert Fugate advises translating Latin phrases as part of an article on defining terms of art in legal writing.

Seizing Life — Plano lawyer Jeff Bray recounts his battle with cancer and the life lessons he's learned in "Don't Assume You Have Tomorrow to Get the Big Things Done."

Profiles — Texas lawyers take their passions seriously, as you'll see from stories about Hans Heppe, who has helped create a German-immersion school in Dallas, and Roberta Shaffer, who has been appointed Law Librarian of Congress.

Input sought regarding professional liability insurance disclosure

The Supreme Court of Texas has requested that the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors make recommendations by Feb. 5, 2010, regarding whether Texas lawyers should be required to disclose whether they are covered by professional liability insurance (PLI).

During the remainder of 2009, the State Bar will publish information regarding both sides of this issue and collect input via public hearings and other avenues, including this blog.

For background on this issue and the consideration process, please visit www.texasbar.com/PLIdisclosure

To provide your thoughts regarding PLI disclosure, you may leave a comment below or email statebarpresident@texasbar.com

Lawyer referrals go online

The State Bar of Texas Lawyer Referral Information Service (LRIS) has launched a new online service to more efficiently connect lawyers and clients, 24 hours a day. The service is available via the LRIS website.

The State Bar LRIS covers areas of Texas not served by local referral services. These are generally non-metropolitan areas. Members of the public who use the service pay a $20 fee for an initial 30-minute consultation with an attorney. Attorneys pay an annual fee to be part of the LRIS plus a percentage of any fees generated.

Before the launch of this online service, referrals by the State Bar LRIS were done by phone and only during business hours, Monday through Friday. The online service is available anytime and allows the public to fill out an online form and instantly receive the name of an attorney who might handle their matter. The attorney also receives an email notification with the client's contact information. With the old system, attorneys received only a monthly report reflecting the previous month's activity.

LRIS director Denny Sheppard says her program has seen an uptick in the total number of referrals after less than two weeks of offering the online referral tool. LRIS continues to operate a toll free number where people can call and be matched with an attorney.

In November, State Bar LRIS plans to launch an online portal where LRIS attorneys can pay dues and referral fees.

For more on LRIS, visit www.texasbar.com/LRIS

CAAP marks 10 years of mediating client-attorney disputes

The State Bar’s Client-Attorney Assistance Program (CAAP) is celebrating its 10-year anniversary this month.

The program was launched on Sept. 27, 1999, to help mediate problems between attorneys and their clients in cases where a formal disciplinary proceeding is not warranted. CAAP has a staff of eight, most of whom are certified mediators. Most complaints involve a lack of communication by attorneys.

The program gets high marks from both sides. CAAP director Bennie Ramirez related that more than 90 percent of clients surveyed are happy with the results obtained by CAAP. “We also get a lot of letters from attorneys who say they’re glad their dues are helping to pay for a program which helps them resolve client disputes and avoid the grievance system,” Ramirez said.

CAAP plans just a small celebration in its office to mark the anniversary, and then it’s back to the phones. For the future, Ramirez predicts technology will help CAAP be more and more of a one-stop shop for clients who need help. “We’re always working to streamline things and help more people,” she said.

Honoring the Best in Texas Journalism

The Freedom of Information Foundation of Texas and the State Bar teamed up to present the 2009 Texas Gavel Awards to nine Texas journalists on Friday during the FOIFT John Henry Faulk awards luncheon in Austin. The journalists were awarded for their efforts in helping to further the public's understanding of the legal system.

In addition, FOIFT honored Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis (D – Houston) and Texas Rep. Todd Hunter (R – Corpus Christi) for their work in getting a journalist shield law — the Free Flow of Information Act — passed in the last legislative session. Hunter and Ellis, shown with attorney and FOIFT member Paul Watler, were presented the James Madison Award, the FOIFT's highest award.

FOIFT and SBOT presented 2009 Texas Gavel Awards to the following journalists:

• Chris Vogel, Houston Press, "Crime Doesn't Pay (Back)"

• Dawn Tongish and Barry Blonstein, KDAF-TV Dallas, "DNA, Set Me Free"

• Brian New (third from left), Michael Humphries, and Larry Burns, KENS-TV San Antonio, "Stranded at the Pump"

• Elliott Blackburn (second from left), Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, "Hope Deferred," and 

• Steve McGonigle and Jennifer Emily, The Dallas Morning News, "Mistaken Identities."

Ellis, the luncheon's keynote speaker, praised the media for acting as a government watchdog. The Texas senator talked about the importance of newspapers, especially in these tough economic times ("I get them on Kindle, but I like to have something in my hands too.") and encouraged veteran journalists to mentor aspiring reporters.

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Recent law grad aces After The Bar Exam

Just eight days after State Bar President Roland Johnson launched AfterTheBarExam.com on August 1, one recent law grad completed the program. He'll receive a certificate of completion and can also claim CLE credit for certain courses once he's licensed.

After The Bar Exam features free resources and webcasts intended address concerns of those about to face the challenges and opportunities of a life in the law.

We've invited the gung-ho grad to appear on this blog and will reveal his name and future plans if he agrees (there's no pressure).

If you have questions or comments about After The Bar Exam, please email us at after@texasbar.com

 

Nominations Sought for Leadership SBOT

The State Bar is seeking nominations for the 2009-2010 class of LeadershipSBOT, which is designed to prepare lawyers for leadership positions in the legal community. Click here for a nomination form (PDF), which must be submitted by July 1, 2009.

CLE staff gives volunteers a standing O

TexasBarCLE, the State Bar's professional development program, is lucky to have hundreds of volunteer speakers and authors who help back up its slogan, "Education by the Bar, for the Bar." Staff members of TexasBarCLE recently honored four volunteers who they felt made outstanding contributions during 2008. J. Cary Barton of San Antonio, Chad Baruch of Plano, Rhonda H. Brink of Austin, and David A. Weatherbie of Dallas each received 2008 Standing Ovation Awards in the form of handsome blue obelisks engraved with their names (pictured).

"All of our volunteers deserve our gratitude for contributing to the continuing education of their peers," said Pat Nester, director of TexasBarCLE. "Nevertheless, some stand out each year for extraordinary dedication and commitment. The staff looks forward to singling out individuals that not only gave enormously to our efforts, but also were gracious, easy to work with, and -- oftentimes -- helped us out in a real pinch."

Free online legal research now spans 50 states

We've quietly launched a major update to our free online legal research tool.

Texas lawyers now have access to free caselaw from all 50 states, an improved search interface, and expanded federal libraries. The new service is dubbed Casemaker 2.1 and is available on My Bar Page (TexasBar.com) and on TexasBarCLE.com

You'll find lots of cool new features, including options to email a case or save it as a PDF or Word document with "live link citations" to other cited cases.

Please let us know what you think about Casemaker 2.1. Leave a comment below, or email webmaster@texasbar.com.

Archive of the Covenant

Among the treasures in Google's ambitious digital book repository are the 1882 Proceedings of the Texas Bar Association. That year, hundreds of Texas lawyers convened in Galveston to establish the volunteer organization that would serve as the precursor to the State Bar of Texas.

Also available through Google Book Search are the 1919 Proceedings of the Texas Bar Association and a 1907 Monograph on Legal Ethics by Houston lawyer John Charles Harris.

The Texas Legislature created the unified State Bar of Texas in 1939, one year after the Texas Bar Journal started publication. Now, thanks to a partnership with William S. Hein & Co., a complete, searchable archive of the magazine is available here

A reprieve for aspiring Grishams

Submissions for the 2009 Texas Bar Journal Short Story Fiction Writing Contest were supposed to be postmarked no later than than March 1, 2009. Apparently, the crack team of editors at the magazine failed to notice that March 1 is a Sunday, so you can have an extra day. That gives you a full weekend to search frantically for that long-lost manuscript or start writing a new tale. Postmark your entry by Monday, March 2, and your story may appear in the June 2009 issue of the Texas Bar Journal. Click here for the entry form.

Still not inspired? Read the winning entries from 2008 or listen to audio versions of those stories. Then, slam a couple of cappuccinos and start typing!