Bar associations and state legislatures across U.S. reach out to rural lawyers

Editor’s Note: This article coincides with the Texas Bar Journal’s feature story on law practices in small towns and rural communities, published in the July 2015 issue.

Statistics on Texas lawyers reveal some interesting trends of the dispersal of the legal workforce. The state has a ratio of one attorney for every 312 citizens, and metropolitan areas have a ratio of 1:288, which is similar to the national attorney-population ratio of 1:252. But in rural areas, the ratio becomes 1:896.

These numbers raise the question of whether Texas attorneys are disproportionately concentrated in the cities. As of 2013—the most recent year for which the state bar has data—83 percent of all active, in-state attorneys were located in the four largest metropolises (the Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio metropolitan statistical areas).

While approximately 11 percent of the state’s population resided in rural areas, only 4 percent of active, in-state attorneys practiced in these places. And some rural counties had exceptionally high attorney-population ratios, such as 1:2,431 in Zavala County, southwest of San Antonio, where the median household income was $25,291 (compared with the state average of $51,714) and 42 percent of the 12,000 residents lived below the poverty line. Eight Texas counties had no attorneys whatsoever, 67 counties had five or fewer, and nearly half of the state’s 254 counties had attorney-population ratios of 1:1,000 or higher.

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Making it through law school with a disability

By J. Sam Thomas

Editor’s Note: This featured blog post coincides with the upcoming July issue of the Texas Bar Journal, which focuses on the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.


This is a great time to be blind. I wouldn’t exactly recommend it as a hobby, but when I think about the challenges that I would have encountered before the development of modern accessibility technology, the struggles I face are put in perspective. My great-grandfather had the same progressive, untreatable visual disease that I have. He was able to work with the aid of a full-time assistant and read by way of mail-order books-on-record that took weeks to deliver. My assistant is Siri, and I can download almost any book in seconds.

Not all progress has been technological, however. In the 25 years since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, public life has become more accessible to people with disabilities. Curb cuts have opened many public spaces to wheelchair users, and reasonable accommodations have become more common at work and at school. Arguably just as important, greater inclusion has decreased the stigma and stereotypes associated with many conditions.

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Violence and Attorneys--Time for a Wake-up Call?

By John G. Browning

We usually don’t consider the practice of law to be a dangerous profession, nestled as we normally are behind desks. But as the articles in the upcoming September issue of the Texas Bar Journal illustrate, violence has a very real impact on the legal profession—from the legal implications of and reactions to mass shootings to the risks faced by attorneys working in areas like family law and criminal law. And the danger is national in scope, as explored by Mark Hansen in his 1998 ABA Journal article, “Lawyers in Harm’s Way.” Hansen’s survey of family lawyers found that 60 percent of the respondents had been threatened by an opposing party, 17 percent had been threatened by their own client, and 12 percent reported being the victims of violence at the hands of an opposing party or client.

Since 2001, Utah attorney Stephen D. Kelson has closely studied the issue of violence against lawyers in multiple states. His 2006 survey of Utah lawyers revealed that 46 percent of the respondents reported being threatened or physically assaulted at least once, with 42 percent of the incidents occurring at the lawyer’s office. Reports from other states point to similar levels of threats or violent acts committed against lawyers, including Idaho (41 percent), Nevada (40 percent), Wyoming (46 percent), Oregon (37 percent), New Mexico (40 percent), Kansas (41 percent), and Arizona (42 percent).

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An excerpt from 'When You Drink the Water, Remember Who Dug the Well'

Gene Cavin was hired in 1963 to develop a program for the continuing education of Texas lawyers.

 “Education is to law practice as fertilizer is to agriculture.” —Lee Turner

A lawyer’s legal education cannot end with passing the bar examination. It must continue for as long as he or she practices, and there is no exemption from the need to learn about changes in the law and to incorporate those changes into an ongoing practice.

Today we are overwhelmed by the offerings from dozens of continuing legal education providers. The State Bar of Texas, the largest provider in our state, plans and presents courses to live audiences, and video recordings of these presentations are available to those who choose to watch them in the convenience of their hotel rooms, homes, and offices. Additionally, programs are presented in vacation destinations and even on cruise ships. It wasn’t always this way.

Before we partake of the smorgasbord of CLE offerings, let’s press the rewind button to 1961. Houston Endowment Inc. and the MD Anderson Foundation had donated $10,000 to the State Bar to create a fund to support the publishing of legal books for Texas lawyers. Under the leadership and cajoling of then-State Bar President Paul Carrington Sr., 39 lawyers from both sides of the docket wrote articles for the first publication titled, Personal Injury Litigation in Texas. As indicated in the editor’s preface, the State Bar of Texas was in the forefront of providing service to its members. This undertaking is considered unique in the annals of “How To Do It” practice manuals now available in the profession.

To read the entire article by James E. Brill, go to the Texas Bar Journal.

An excerpt from 'Go Fish'

In 1984, on the Haffjardara River in Iceland, Ralph Duggins cast a line against 30-mile-per-hour gusts, working to catch an Atlantic salmon. “I had to forget the wind and get with it pretty quickly if I was going to be able to get my fly out there,” Duggins said. It was his first time fly-fishing—and a cold introduction—but after a couple of days with no luck, Duggins finally hauled in a beauty, marking the beginning of a beloved hobby. Even now, decades after that trip, Duggins maintains that patience is one of the most challenging aspects of fly-fishing. This doesn’t stop him from pursuing the sport—and the next great catch.

Duggins, a partner in Cantey Hanger in Fort Worth, has a love for nature that dates back to his childhood in Missouri, where he grew up visiting his grandparents’ Ozark lodge on the Gasconade River. Using a cane pole and live bait, he would fish with his grandfather, Dru Pippins, who, for many years, served as chair of the Missouri Conservation Commission. Today, Duggins is vice chair of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission, and his passion for outdoor recreation remains strong—especially when it comes to fly-fishing.

Duggins returned to Iceland several times following his initial excursion, and the prospect of more Atlantic salmon has taken him to the Ponoi River in Russia. In Colorado, Montana, and Alaska, he fishes for trout. And he fondly recalls visits to the Florida Keys, where he has used a fly rod to land tarpon—boney fish that can weigh more than 100 pounds. Closer to home, in Rockport, Duggins pursues redfish. “It’s gotten crowded because so many people enjoy it, but it can be darn good,” Duggins said of the local hotspot.

When it comes to selecting gear and prepping for a fishing trip, Duggins says he considers . . .

To read the entire article by Hannah Kiddoo, go to the Texas Bar Journal.

An excerpt from 'A 'Friend' at Court?'

In the increasingly wired world in which we live, it comes as no shock that 72 percent of all adult Americans have a presence on at least one social networking site. But would you—and should you—be surprised if you received a Facebook friend request from a judge or if you learned that an opposing counsel was Facebook friends with the judge? Should judges enjoy the benefits of social media, or is it more important to avoid any relationship that might compromise the appearance of impartiality or erode public confidence in the courts? Judges, lawyers, and judicial ethics authorities throughout the country have wrestled with these questions. This article will provide not only an overview of how Texas and other states have addressed these issues but also an examination of the fleeting nature of “friendship” in the digital age and the type of online miscues that judges have made.

First, let’s remember that judges are human, too.

To read the entire article by John G. Browning, go to the Texas Bar Journal.

An excerpt from 'Love for Trade'

Preema, a suburban housewife (whose name has been changed), allegedly earned extra spending money by acting as a “personal service provider” for male clients. Paul, her husband, was suspicious of her behavior. During their divorce proceedings, Paul’s private investigator—on stakeout at the local apartment brothel—watched Preema’s attorney arrive at her room wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and sunglasses, but carrying no briefcase. He left exactly one hour later. During Preema’s deposition, she explained that her lawyer came that day to pick up payment for his legal services. She testified that she paid her lawyer in cash but had no receipt. Paul’s attorney sought a motion to compel the opposing lawyer’s deposition. The court denied the request, suggesting that the lawyer refer the matter to a State Bar of Texas grievance committee. Would you file a grievance against this opposing counsel?

To read the entire article written by William Herrscher, go to the Texas Bar Journal.

Dallas lawyer, TBJ board member wins legal writing award

Dallas attorney John G. Browning has received a 2014 Burton Award for Distinguished Achievement in Legal Writing, his law firm announced. 

Browning, a partner in Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith LLP, received the award for “Keep Your ‘Friends’ Close and Your Enemies Closer: Walking the Ethical Tightrope in the Use of Social Media,” published in the St. Mary’s Journal of Legal Malpractice & Ethics in 2013. The article was one of five law review pieces Browning published last year.

This is the fourth Burton Award for Browning, who is a member of the Texas Bar Journal Board of Editors.

“I’m pleased that the judging panel chose to recognize a cutting-edge topic like the ethical concerns lawyers must be mindful of when using newer technologies like social media,” he said. “And I’m just amazed and humbled at the thought of receiving this wonderful accolade for the fourth time.”


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Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange: An update on key deadlines

The January Texas Bar Journal features an update on important deadlines for the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange, and we’ve released the story early here.

Health insurance companies are accepting enrollments through the private exchange for a six-month period, ending March 31, 2014, for coverage effective dates starting in 2014. For a desired coverage effective date of Jan. 1, the application completion deadline is Dec. 19.

The Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange is a multi-carrier private exchange designed exclusively for State Bar of Texas members and their staff and dependents. Read the TBJ story and visit the Member Benefits website for more information.  

The TBJ May Issue

Inside: C.E. Rhodes, Priscilla Camacho, Victor Villarreal, and Sam Houston on how they are getting the word out to students about the TYLA project What Do Lawyers Do? Plus: A look at social host liability in Texas, a new book by James L. Haley on the history of the Texas Supreme Court, a video that uses Brady V. Maryland to train law enforcement officers, and tips on how to wow if you land at a solo or small firm after law school. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue. 

The TBJ April Issue

Inside: State Bar president-elect candidates Trey Apffel of League City, Steve Fischer of Rockport, and Larry W. Hicks of El Paso talk about the issues facing the legal profession, ethics, and the next generation of lawyers. Plus: A comprehensive look at the oil and gas industry in Texas, Supreme Court of Texas Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson on the state of the judiciary, a Q&A with TYLA president-elect candidates Rebekah Steely Brooker of Dallas and Alfonso Cabañas of San Antonio, and tips on dealing with the electronic media. Go to the Texas Bar Journal to read the entire issue. 

This Month in the Texas Bar Journal

How is the criminal justice system in Texas responding to the issues of incarceration, recidivism, and rehabilitation? This issue of the Texas Bar Journal examines the Texas criminal justice system and several ways the state is working to reduce recidivism.


Incarceration, Recidivism, and Rehabilitation
• Punishment and Rehabilitation: A Brief History of the Texas Prison System. Page 604.
• Prison Is Prison: A Conversation with Michael Morton. Page 608.
• Reducing Risk and Recidivism: The Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Page 612.
• Veterans Courts in Texas. Page 616.

Other Features
• 2012 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting Coverage. Page 620.
• Ethics Opinions 617, 618, and 619. Page 636.
• Solo/Small Firm: Preparing for a Disaster. Page 642.

To advertise with us or to submit a Memorial, Lawyer on the Move, Letter to the Editor, legal article, and more, visit our Submissions & Subscriptions page.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

From the economy to technology to cultural practices, international integration is quickly becoming the norm, even in Texas. This issue of the Texas Bar Journal provides several tools to help Texas attorneys practice in an increasingly global atmosphere.


 Globalization and International Law:
• Transnational Disputes in a Global Economy. Page 512.
• How to Avoid the Broad Nature of Export Control Violations. Page 520.
• Joint Ventures in Texas: A Primer for International Partners. Page 524.
• Managing U.S. Immigration Risks: Key Concepts for a Global Workforce. Page 530.
• Hiring Foreign Nationals on an H-1B Visa. Page 535.
• Business Entertainment "Texas Style" Here and Abroad: What You Need to Know. Page 536.

Profiles of 2012 Pro Bono and Legal Services Award Winners. Page 540.

February 2012 Bar Exam High Scorer Remarks. Page 544.

State Bar Section Reports (2011-2012). Page 546.

State Bar Committee Reports (2011-2012). Page 556.

Solo/Small Firm: Going Global — Delving into the International Legal Arena. Page 566.

To advertise with us or to submit a Memorial, Lawyer on the Move, letter to the Editor, legal article, and more, visit our Submissions & Subscriptions page.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

This month in the Texas Bar Journal:

A profile on Buck Files, a shareholder in Bain, Files, Jarrett, Bain & Harrison, P.C. in Tyler, who takes office as the 132nd president of the State Bar of Texas during the State Bar Annual Meeting in Houston, June 14–15. See what he has in store for the year. Page 434.

A profile on C.E. Rhodes, U.S. operations and Compliance counsel to Baker Hughes, Inc. in Houston, who takes office as president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association at the Annual Meeting. Page 474.

Legal article on the Texas Supreme Court's revisiting of the Covenants Not to Compete Act. Page 438.

Frank E. Stevenson II of Dallas becomes chair of the State Bar Board of Directors this month. Page 462.

Read the winning entries of the 2012 Texas Bar Journal Short Story Fiction Writing Contest. Finalists are listed on page 446; the winning stories begin on page 448.

A profile on retired Dallas attorney Rex Spivey's work with Habitat for Humanity International. Page 467.

Solo/Small Firm: How to Hire Well-spoken Lawyers. Page 478.

Also: Ethics Opinions, Disciplinary Actions, Memorials, and more can be found at


To advertise with us or to submit a Memorial, Lawyer on the Move, letter to the editor, legal article, and more, visit our Submissions & Subscriptions page.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

In this issue of the Texas Bar Journal, we provide an article by Steve Fischer that discusses the patterns of growth and employment for lawyers in Texas, providing statistical data including two comprehensive lists on statewide attorney-to-population ratios and caseload numbers. Associate Editor Patricia Garcia examines the issue of diversity in the legal profession, while John Browning and Robert Bogdanowicz share their experiences as mentor and mentee, respectively, and the benefits of the mentoring process to the betterment of the profession. Managing Editor Judy Marchman takes a look at the new law school being developed in Dallas and talks with incoming Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Michael H. Schwartz. Let us know your thoughts. Email us at

In addition, you can learn more about this year's Annual Meeting, which heads to Houston June 14-15, 2012.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

This month, the Texas Bar Journal examines the efforts of the Texas Supreme Court-appointed Texas Court Records Preservation Task Force to build awareness of the importance of preserving the state's vast collection of historical court documents. In addition, we look at the issue of recovering stolen Texas court documents, provide document preservation tips, and highlight the work of the State Bar of Texas Archives Department. We also introduce the 2012-13 State Bar President-elect candidates, Steve Bolden of Dallas and Lisa Tatum of San Antonio, and the 2012-13 Texas Young Lawyers Association President-elect candidates, Kristy Sims Piazza of Plano and Shivali Sharma of Texarkana.

This month in the Texas Bar Journal

This month, the Texas Bar Journal highlights The Unconscious Truth: Physical and Legal Effects of Underage Binge Drinking, a new project from the Texas Young Lawyers Association on the legal consequences and health dangers associated with underage binge drinking. In addition, we also take a look at juvenile law and the juvenile justice system, including an overview of juvenile vs. criminal law, deferred prosecution, and the law concerning underage drinkers stopped for a DWI.

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

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