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.

DIRECTORS (terms expiring in 2017)

Allan Dubois, State Bar president-elect, of the Law Office of Allan K. Dubois in San Antonio

Barrett Thomas, TYLA president-elect, of the Thomas Firm in Sweetwater

Barbara R. Bass, public member, of Gollob Morgan Peddy in Tyler

Amy Bryan, District 14 member, of Fraser, Wilson & Bryan in Stephenville

E. Leon Carter, District 6 – Place 4 member, of Carter Scholer Arnett Hamada in Dallas

David Chaumette, District 4 – Place 2 member, of Chaumette in Houston

Jose “Joe” Escobedo Jr., District 12 member, of Escobedo, Tippit & Cardenas in McAllen

Sylvia Borunda Firth, minority director, from El Paso

Joe “Rice” Horkey Jr., public member, from Lubbock

Joseph Indelicato Jr., District 4 – Place 7 member, of Joseph Indelicato Jr. in Houston

John Jansonius, District 6 – Place 3 member, of Jackson Walker in Dallas

Mary Abbott Martin, District 4 – Place 4 member, of Peckham in Houston

Brian Miller, District 11 member, of Royston Rayzor Vickery & Williams in Corpus Christi

Ruben Robles, District 17 member, of Robles, Bracken & Hughes in El Paso

Lance Sharp, District 9 – Place 1 member, of the Sharp Firm in Austin

LIASONS (terms expiring in 2015)

Hon. Ed Kinkeade, federal judiciary liaison, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas in Dallas

Hon. David Evans, judicial section liaison, of the 48th District Court in Fort Worth

SECTION REPRESENTATIVES (terms expiring in 2017)

Tina Green, section representative to the board (medium-sized), of Capshaw Green in Texarkana

Pat Maher, section representative to the board (large-sized), of Shannon, Gracey, Ratliff & Miller in Fort Worth

New SBOT, TYLA leaders take office

 

The State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting saw a changing of the guard in the leadership of the State Bar and Texas Young Lawyers Association.

San Antonio attorney Lisa M. Tatum took the oath as State Bar president, replacing 2012-2013 President Buck Files of Tyler. Galveston County personal injury lawyer Trey Apffel, who won a runoff election in May, succeeded Tatum as president-elect. Also, Granbury attorney Cindy V. Tisdale replaced Frank E. Stevenson II of Dallas as chair of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors.

During the meeting, Tatum previewed her initiatives for the year, including the Care Campaign for low-income Texans, which is designed to connect lawyers and clients, increase pro bono efforts, and encourage service providers and programs to coordinate to meet needs. The program will include a Care Kit, providing materials for attorney groups to hold legal services clinics, she said.

Tatum, the first African American lawyer to serve as State Bar president, also is spearheading the web-based civics project Vote for Me, I was the First!, which highlights important “firsts” in U.S. and Texas history included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills social studies standards for elementary school students. The project will feature 22 animated historic figures explaining their accomplishments in 30-second vignettes.

Plano family law attorney Kristy Blanchard took office as president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, replacing 2012-2013 President C.E. Rhodes of Houston. Flower Mound attorney Cameron J. Cox replaced Alyssa J. Long of San Antonio as TYLA chair.

The meeting took place June 20-21 at the Hilton Anatole in Dallas.

Above: Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, left, swears in Lisa M. Tatum of San Antonio as the 2013-2014 State Bar president. Below, at top: Texas Supreme Court Justice Phil Johnson, left, swears in Trey Apffel of League City as the 2013-2014 State Bar president-elect. At bottom: Cindy V. Tisdale, a Granbury attorney, speaks after being sworn in as the 2013-2014 chair of the State Bar of Texas Board of Directors. 

 

 

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.

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.)

State Bar Board Passes Resolution Supporting Prime Partner Banks

On Jan. 28, during its quarterly meeting in Austin, the State Bar Board of Directors passed a resolution supporting Prime Partner banks. The resolution urges lawyer organizations in Texas to move their business to Prime Partner banks because they voluntarily provide millions in additional funding to legal aid programs in Texas.

Click here for a list of Prime Partner banks. 

After interest rates crashed to nearly zero percent in 2008, Prime Partner banks voluntarily agreed to offer one percent interest on lawyer trust accounts. The interest on those accounts — known as IOLTA (Interest On Lawyer Trust Accounts) — funds legal aid programs throughout Texas. These legal aid programs assist low-income families through domestic violence, housing, disability, and other legal problems.

Below is the text of the Board’s resolution calling on Texas lawyers to move their business to Prime Partner banks:

 

RESOLUTION SUPPORTING FUNDING FOR CIVIL LEGAL AID IN TEXAS

APPROVED BY THE BOARD OF THE STATE BAR OF TEXAS 

WHEREAS, civil legal services to the poor in the State of Texas are funded in large part by interest on lawyers trust accounts (IOLTA);

WHEREAS, interest income received for IOLTA accounts in the State of Texas has decreased dramatically over the past few years, resulting in a reduction in revenue of $20 million in 2007 to $5.5 million in 2009 alone;

WHEREAS, the Texas Access to Justice Foundation has addressed this critical shortfall in funding for legal services for the poor of Texas, in part, by creating the Texas IOLTA Prime Partners Program for banks in the State of Texas;

WHEREAS, the Prime Partner Program consists of those banks committed to their communities and the State of Texas and willing to pay a minimum of 1% interest or an interest rate equal to 75% of the Federal Funds Target Rate of interest, whichever is higher, on IOLTA accounts;

WHEREAS, more than 90 banks in the State of Texas have become members of the Prime Partners Program to help fund legal services for the poor which is still greatly underfunded in Texas;

WHEREAS, the State of Texas still has a large number of low income residents who are denied access to the justice system because of their inability to afford basic legal services;

WHEREAS, many lawyers in the State of Texas provide many hours of free legal services each year, and the State Bar of Texas encourages all of its members to provide pro bono legal services to the public in a minimum amount of 50 hours each year, yet the need for additional legal representation is great; and

WHEREAS, the Legal Services to the Poor in Civil Matters Standing Committee has passed a resolution urging the State Bar of Texas to encourage and request all Texas banks and eligible financial institutions that it uses for its business become members of the Texas IOLTA Prime Partners Program of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the State Bar of Texas urges the Sections of the State Bar, local bar associations, and TYLA Affiliates to encourage and request all banks and eligible financial institutions doing business with those organizations to become members of the Texas IOLTA Prime Partners Program of the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, and to pay a minimum of 1% or an interest rate equal to 75% of the Federal Funds Target Rate, whichever is higher, on the deposit of qualifying IOLTA funds in support of the provision of civil legal services to the poor in the State of Texas; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that should any of the banks and eligible financial institutions doing business with the State Bar, Sections, local bar associations, or TYLA Affiliates refuse to become Prime Partners, those organizations should investigate all other banking options and are strongly encouraged to move their business from any such bank and eligible financial institution to other banks and eligible financial institutions that are members of the Texas IOLTA Prime Partners Program and to support the Texas IOLTA Prime Partner Program through all other efforts including education and outreach on the Program and on the paramount need for increased funding for civil legal aid.

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.

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.

Over the next few weeks, I want to share with you how and why some of the proposed Rules were developed. The State Bar has been in listening mode. We believe it has been important to the process to collect information, listen to stakeholders, and weigh all concerns before making a recommendation to the Court. One place where there has been concern regarding the proposed Rules on conflicts of interest is whether the proposals make it easier or more difficult for lawyers to move laterally from one law firm to another and for law firms to merge. The Supreme Court of Texas has allowed the State Bar extra time to finalize its recommendation on the conflicts Rules. Please take time to study the existing Rules and the proposed amendments to those Rules. The State Bar wants to know what lawyers think and to ensure that these proposals have been fully vetted. If you want to suggest a change, please provide specific proposed language for any modifications you would like considered. Send your comments care of rcantu@texasbar.com by October 20. For more information about the proposed Rules, click here.

If, after the Board makes its final recommendation to the Court, the Court orders a referendum of all Texas lawyers, your State Bar will work hard to make sure that all members have the information they need to make an informed decision on the merits of the Rules. I hope that fear of change will not influence your opinion regarding the proposed Rules. Instead, in the spirit of self-regulation, I hope that you analyze the proposed Rules and make an independent determination about whether the proposed Rules, on the whole, are an improvement over the existing Rules.

Please be on the lookout for messages on specific Rules, including how proposed language in each Rule evolved and what the practical implications will be if adopted. I urge you to take time to study the proposed Rules and consider them with an open mind. Compare the proposed Rules with the existing Rules and ask yourself, Will these improve the practice of law in Texas? We owe it to the public, to the profession, and to ourselves to do what is right.

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.

Kim Askew Testifies at Sotomayor Hearing

On July 16, Dallas lawyer Kim J. Askew, chair of the American Bar Association Standing Committee on the Federal Judiciary, testified regarding the ABA's rating of Judge Sonia Sotomayor as "well qualified" to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court. Askew is a partner in K&L Gates and a former chair of the State Bar of Texas board of directors. In case you missed her testimony, here it is:

Austin lawyer an elite Yelper

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

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

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

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

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