New HBA president will focus on education, member benefits, pro bono

Laura Gibson, a partner in Ogden, Gibson, Broocks, Longoria & Hall, has assumed the role of president of the Houston Bar Association—the fifth-largest metropolitan bar association in the nation. She is only the fourth woman to hold the position in the association’s 145-year history.

“I am honored to serve, especially to follow in the footsteps of Lynne Liberato, Amy Dunn Taylor, and Denise Scofield,” Gibson said. “I pledge to work hard to meet the needs of our members, to inform all of the lawyers in our great city of the value proposition that HBA membership provides, and to lead the bar’s efforts to continue to serve our community.”

Gibson said she will focus her efforts on increasing membership benefits—including free CLE content and renovating the HBA’s mentorship program—and recruiting Houston Bar Fellows, which will increase funding for pro bono service. Another goal will be the development of teaching opportunities for attorneys. One initiative, called Teach Texas, will consist of a partnership with the Texas Supreme Court Historical Society to educate seventh-grade students about history and law.

Gibson is no stranger to leadership in the HBA. She has been a member of the association’s board of directors since 2006 and has chaired or served on numerous HBA sections and committees. Gibson is also a director for District 4 of the State Bar of Texas and, in 2013, received the Trailblazer Outside Counsel Award from the State Bar’s Texas Minority Counsel Program.


Houston Bar to offer special LegalLine program for flood victims June 3

Houston residents affected by the recent flooding and other severe weather can find answers to legal questions during an extended LegalLine program from noon to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3, the Houston Bar Association announced today.

The association invites the public to call (713) 759-1133 to speak to an attorney knowledgeable in matters such as insurance, property, landlord-tenant law, contracts, disaster assistance, and other consumer issues.

“We recognize that many people in Houston will have a need for legal advice on how to deal with the damage they experienced,” Houston Bar President Laura Gibson said. “To meet this need, members of the Houston Bar Association are hosting an extended LegalLine program to give advice to those who have been adversely affected by the flooding conditions.”

The 11,200-member nonprofit association offers LegalLine as a public service on the first and third Wednesday of each month, usually from 5 to 9 p.m., giving area residents the chance to speak to volunteer attorneys for answers to legal questions, brief legal advice, and other resources.

For more information on flood relief resources, including the State Bar of Texas legal hotline, visit

Free legal clinic for veterans this weekend in Pearland

Veterans needing legal assistance or advice will have an opportunity to meet with an attorney at no cost this Saturday. During a free clinic at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7109 in Pearland, veterans and spouses of deceased veterans can speak with a lawyer regarding any area of law, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits. Those who need ongoing representation and who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney.

The clinic, which is a public service of the Brazoria County Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative, will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at 4202 W. Walnut, Pearland, 77581. For more information, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at (713) 759-1133 or go to

People's Law School at UH Law helps public learn basic rights

The University of Houston Law Center will host the People’s Law School from 9 a.m. to noon April 4. More than 40 volunteer attorneys, judges, and law professors will teach courses and answer questions on various topics at one of the country’s oldest and most notable law programs for citizens.

Richard M. Alderman, University of Houston Law Center professor emeritus, said more than 50,000 people have attended the People’s Law School and discovered that knowledge is power when it comes to law.

“The People’s Law School won’t make you an attorney, but it will help you settle disputes and avoid problems,” Alderman said in a statement. “Whether you are buying a car, preparing a will, dealing with a debt collector, or in a dispute with your neighbor, knowing your legal rights can make a difference.”

Attendees can visit three sessions and acquire information on their basic rights in business, tax, employment, health insurance, consumer, credit and debt collection, wills and estates, family, insurance, landlord and tenant, justice court, and Social Security law.

The free event is a partnership with the university’s Center for Consumer Law and the Houston Bar Association. Coffee and donuts will be served.

Registration is limited to the first 1,000 people. Take advantage now and register for the event by visiting


Buck takes office as 2015 Houston Bar Foundation chair

William R. Buck of Exxon Mobil Corp. is the new chair of the Houston Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Houston Bar Association.

Buck took office Feb. 26 at the foundation’s Annual Meeting and Luncheon at the Four Seasons Downtown, according to an HBA news release. He succeeded John Eddie Williams Jr. of Williams Kherkher Hart Boundas LLP, who will serve as immediate past chair.

Buck is general counsel-upstream companies for Exxon Mobil, where he manages law support for exploration, development, production, and related research operations. He holds a bachelor’s degree and a law degree from the University of Colorado and is admitted to the Texas, Colorado, New York, and Louisiana bars.

Buck also is a member of the Tahirih Justice Center Advisory Council and a former chair of the Oil & Gas Practice Committee of the Institute of Energy Law. 

 Also serving the Houston Bar Foundation in 2015:

  • Vice chair: Jeffrey Kaplan, LyondellBasell Industries
  • Treasurer: Tom Godbold, Twin Eagle Resource Management LLC
  • Newly appointed directors: Michael Donaldson, EOG Resources Inc.; Veronica H. Foley, Precision Drilling Corporation; Travis J. Sales, Baker Botts LLP
  • Completing two-year terms as directors: Timothy McConn, Andrews Kurth LLP; Denise Scofield, Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP, who also is chair-elect

The foundation provides grants to support pro bono civil legal services for low-income Texans through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers, as well as other community service and education programs.

Texans prominent at ABA Midyear Meeting in Houston









The American Bar Association’s 2015 Midyear Meeting came to Houston this month, and it wasn’t hard to find Texans in prominent roles.

Texans were speakers and award recipients during the concurrent meetings of the ABA and several related groups, including the National Association of Bar Executives, the National Conference of Bar Presidents, and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

State Bar of Texas President Trey Apffel helped open the bar presidents’ conference by welcoming the leaders to Houston and explaining the city’s nicknames, including Space City, Bayou City, and H-Town.

“But Houston is also known by another name, the Big Heart,” Apffel said, referring to the moniker earned after the city housed Hurricane Katrina evacuees in 2005. “And it’s that spirit of service that guides the State Bar of Texas and local bar associations like the Houston Bar—as I’m sure it also guides each of the organizations represented in this room today.”

Apffel also promoted professionalism and ethics in the law during a keynote address before the National Organization of Bar Counsel, a nonprofit group whose members enforce ethics rules that regulate lawyers’ professional conduct in the U.S., Canada, and Australia.

“A fellow Texas attorney once said, ‘Ethics and professional responsibility should be of paramount concern to all lawyers,’” Apffel said. “‘Given the public’s skepticism of lawyers, the conduct of every attorney reflects on the profession.’ Practicing for more than 30 years as a trial lawyer has taught me the importance of being ethical in all situations.”

Other event highlights appear below.

Spirit of Excellence Awards

Former State Bar of Texas board chair Kim J. Askew, a partner in K&L Gates in Dallas, was one of four attorneys to receive a 2015 Spirit of Excellence Award from the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession. Other winners were former ABA President Robert J. Grey Jr. of Richmond, Virginia; Judge Jacqueline H. Nguyen of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in California; and Kevin K. Washburn, assistant secretary of Indian Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Click here to stream video from Askew’s speech, and look for a printed version in the March issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

American Lawyers Alliance Awards

The American Lawyers Alliance, a nonprofit organization that promotes understanding of the legal system, honored three Texans during its 2015 midyear awards luncheon.

Carolyn Clark of San Antonio and Phyllis Dent of Houston received 2015 Outstanding Individual Volunteer awards, while Lucy Harrison of Longview received the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award. State Bar of Texas President-elect Allan K. DuBois and his wife, Pam, presented the awards.

The organization also presented ALA Auxiliary Support Program Awards to 12 local or state auxiliaries from across the country, including the Houston Bar Association Auxiliary and the San Antonio Bar Auxiliary.

Book reception and presentation

Former State Bar President Richard Pena of Austin and co-author John Hagan spoke at a reception celebrating their book, Last Plane Out of Saigon, which chronicles Pena’s experiences as an operating room specialist in the Vietnam War.

Asked what readers should take away from the book, Pena said that wars have consequences. “Fifty-eight thousand Americans were killed in Vietnam; 3.1 million went to Vietnam,” he said. “I have always thought that their story needed to be told.”

Click here to read the ABA Journal’s coverage of the reception and here to read a Texas Bar Blog Q&A with Pena about the book.

Also, read an excerpt from Last Plane Out of Saigon in the September 2014 Texas Bar Journal.

Diversity forum

State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa M. Tatum of San Antonio and Houston attorney Benny Agosto Jr., chair of the State Bar of Texas Hispanic Issues Section, spoke at a forum on how to prepare bar associations for diversity and inclusion.

Tatum said two keys to success are to make diversity a mainstream conversation within an organization and to implement a detailed action plan. Progress is possible even if you can’t afford a full-time staff member devoted to the efforts, both speakers said.

Alternatives include coordinating with other bar associations or finding established programs you can duplicate. “If you don’t have the budget, that doesn’t mean you cannot have the function and the wherewithal to get things done,” Agosto said.

Legal initiatives for veterans

Former State Bar director Travis Sales, a partner in Baker Botts in Houston, participated in a panel discussion on veterans’ legal initiatives, highlighting programs such as the Houston Bar Association Veterans Legal Initiative and the State Bar’s Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans. Another former State Bar director, Jo Ann Merica, special counsel to McGinnis Lochridge in Austin, joined HBA Executive Director Kay Sim and others in representing Texas during a meeting of the ABA Coordinating Committee on Veterans Benefits & Services.

Other Texans at ABA

Justice Douglas Lang of the Fifth Court of Appeals and Dallas attorney Mark Sales, both former State Bar directors and former Dallas Bar Association presidents, led a workshop on how metro bars should play a role in mentoring new lawyers. Bree Buchanan, director of the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, spoke about raising awareness of lawyer assistance programs. Amy Turner, State Bar human resources director, spoke on a panel about creating a “harmonious rhythm” with staff, and Lowell Brown, communications director, was one of four panelists discussing creative ways to welcome and engage new members.

Visit the State Bar of Texas Flickr page for an album of photos from the conference. 

Pictured from top, left to right: ABA President William C. Hubbard joins Karen Apffel and State Bar of Texas President Trey Apffel at the Spirit of Excellence Awards presentation. State Bar Immediate Past President Lisa M. Tatum congratulates Spirit of Excellence Award winner Kim J. Askew of Dallas, a former State Bar of Texas chair. Former State Bar President Richard Pena of Austin and co-author John Hagan discuss their book during a reception. 

Harvest Celebration raises more than $668,000

The Houston Bar Association, Houston Bar Foundation, and Houston Bar Association Auxiliary hosted the 65th Harvest Celebration on Monday, Nov. 17, raising over $668,000 for pro bono efforts. More than 1,000 Houston Bar Association members and guests attended the event, which honored area law firms, corporate legal departments, and individuals who are providing pro bono services to Houstonians.

Pro Bono Spotlight: Taylor Lamb

The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support the National Pro Bono Celebration (Oct. 19-25). Pro bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community is doing to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more people in the legal community to get involved. Today, we feature Taylor Lamb for her invaluable work in the Houston legal community.

The Houston Bar Association, the Houston Bar Foundation, and the HBA’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers established the Veterans Legal Initiative in 2008 to serve the legal needs of Houston’s large veteran population. In 2011, a Texas Access to Justice Foundation grant allowed the initiative to partner with other bar associations to establish Saturday legal clinics in a 17-county area where low-income veterans had little access to pro bono legal services.

Kathy* came into one of those legal clinics, in Lake Jackson, needing a divorce. Originally married in January, Kathy was the victim of an assault by her husband, Brad*, at the beginning of May. The Brazoria County Sheriff’s Department arrested Brad, who was on felony probation at the time he assaulted his wife and was held on a no-bond status.

Freed from an immediate physical threat by her abusive husband, Kathy was able to move out and purse legal remedies to dissolve their marriage and ensure her future safety. Through the Veterans Legal Initiative, she was matched with volunteer attorney Taylor Lamb, who obtained IOLTA certification for Kathy’s case and had her husband served in the Brazoria County jail.

Licensed in 2010, Lamb is an associate who handles corporate and transactional matters at Gray Reed & McGraw, P.C., in Houston. Since the firm started its pro bono program two years ago, Lamb has handled pro bono cases for Houston Volunteer Lawyers, primarily through the Veterans Legal Initiative.

“There are so many in need,” she said. “They are so grateful when you take the time to listen to them at the clinics. If there is something you can do, you want to do it.”

When Lamb met Kathy, she knew she wanted to help her. “She was an injured veteran who was very young,” Taylor said. “She was younger than me, and she had already had this whole life experience. It was hard to see someone that young who had already gone through so much.”

In addition to handling the divorce, Lamb had to obtain protective orders for Kathy and represent her in hearings in Brazoria County. While it was “a little intimidating,” Lamb said the court experience and interaction with the judge were very positive. She credits her firm’s family law group and the support she received from Houston Volunteer Lawyers with making it easier to handle the case.

Brad pleaded guilty to assault of a family member and was sentenced to 120 days in the county jail. Six days after his release, Lamb finalized the divorce for Kathy, a relatively quick turnaround made possible by a dedicated volunteer and what Lamb describes as “the perfect client.”

“She was so patient and brave in working through the traumatic facts of the case,” Lamb said. She was touched that at the final hearing, Kathy brought a notebook she kept throughout the legal proceedings containing all of the emails Lamb had written to her. “She was so visibly relieved to have this behind her.”

Lamb’s firm started its pro bono program in 2012, and it enjoys great support from firm leadership, she said. The firm sponsors legal advice clinics and is partnering with Houston Volunteer Lawyers to provide new quarterly clinics at the Houston Area Women’s Center.

“It’s so nice to be able to furnish this service,” Lamb said.

*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.


Houston Bar Association publishes updated Elder Law Handbook

The Houston Bar Association has completed the annual update of its 40-page Elder Law Handbook, which is now available at no charge to individuals and organizations.

The revised handbook features helpful information on numerous legal topics relevant to senior citizens and their families, including social security, Medicare and Medicaid, wills and probate, guardianship, burial provisions, banking, taxes, and homesteads. It also provides referrals to additional resources and phone numbers.

Electronic copies of the handbook—available in English, Spanish, and Chinese versions—can be downloaded for free via the HBA website at The HBA’s Family Law and Consumer Law handbooks also are available at the website.

Printed copies of the updated Elder Law Handbook are available at the Houston Bar Association’s office at 1111 Bagby Street, FLB Suite 200. Parties interested in receiving the handbook through the mail should call (713) 759-1133. Organizations seeking multiple copies can fax their request to the HBA at (713) 759-1710 or call (713) 759-1133.

Local bars offering free veterans legal clinic Saturday in Pearland

Veterans seeking legal advice or legal assistance can visit a free legal clinic on Saturday, June 28, 2014, in Pearland, southeast of Houston. The clinic is joint-sponsored by the Brazoria County Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of local bar associations spanning 17 Texas counties that provides pro bono legal services to thousands of veterans.

The clinic will be held from 9:00 a.m. to noon at the VFW Post 7109 in Pearland, at 4202 W. Walnut St. Any U.S. veteran or a spouse of a deceased veteran is welcome to attend the clinic, and no appointment is necessary. Volunteer attorneys will be available to answer legal questions and provide counsel on matters concerning a variety of areas of law, including wills and probate, consumer, real estate, tax, and disability/veterans benefits. Some veterans in need of ongoing legal representation who qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case.

The Veterans Legal Initiative additionally holds a free legal clinic every Friday from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. on the first floor of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center in Houston.

For more information on the June 28 Pearland clinic and other services for veterans, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at 713-759-1133 or visit

Houston Bar to celebrate Law Day with extended LegalLine hours, community service programs

The Houston Bar Association announced Wednesday it will offer extended hours for its free legal advice program, LegalLine, and sponsor public education programs in honor of Law Day, a national holiday recognizing the rule of law. 

The extended LegalLine program will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 7. The public can call the Houston Bar Association at 713-759-1133, where volunteer attorneys will answer simple legal questions, give brief legal advice, or refer the caller to the appropriate social service or legal aid agency for further assistance.

This year’s Law Day theme is American Democracy and the Rule of Law: Why Every Vote Matters. The association’s other Law Day-related programs are listed below.

  • From late April through early May, attorneys and judges will read the book Amelia Bedelia’s First Vote to elementary students in 100 classrooms throughout school districts and private schools in Harris County. For participating schools, contact Tara Shockley at 713-759-1133 or
  • On May 1, HBA President David Chaumette, Harris County Administrative Judge Robert Schaffer, and District Clerk Chris Daniel will pass out pocket-size copies of the Constitution to all citizens who report for jury duty at the Harris County Jury Assembly Room.
  • Also on May 1, the HBA and the Harris County judges will present the annual Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards for outstanding pro bono legal services to law firms, a corporation, and an individual in a noon ceremony at the Civil Courthouse.
  • Attorney/judge teams will hold interactive “Dialogues” on the importance of voting in a number of high school classes in late April through mid-May.
  • Law Day posters created by elementary and middle school students will be on display in several office buildings and courthouses in downtown Houston from April 28 to May 9.


Free legal clinic for veterans April 12 in Conroe

Veterans who need legal advice can visit a free legal clinic Saturday, April 12 in Conroe.

The clinic will be held from 9 a.m. to noon at the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic, 800 Riverwood Court.

No appointment is necessary.

The Montgomery County Bar Association, the Woodlands Bar Association, and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative are co-sponsoring the clinic.

Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, can receive advice and counsel at the clinic from a volunteer attorney in any area of law, including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate and tax law, as well as disability and veterans benefits.

Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid will be assigned a pro bono attorney through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers.

The Houston Bar Foundation also sponsors weekly clinics at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center (first floor) from 2 to 5 p.m. Fridays. For more information on the clinics, visit

Houston Bar event offers free wills, medical directives to low-income seniors

Elderly citizens who meet income guidelines can receive simple wills and basic medical directives at a free event sponsored by the Houston Bar Association’s Elder Law Committee.

To apply for assistance through the committee’s Will-A-Thon, senior citizens must call 713-228-0735 between the hours of 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. by April 4 to complete a screening application over the phone, according to the Houston Bar. To qualify, applicants must be Harris County residents 60 years of age or older and meet the Houston Volunteer Lawyers’ low-income guidelines.


Those who qualify will receive an appointment to meet with a volunteer attorney on April 9 at the Third Ward Multi-Purpose Center, 3611 Ennis, Suite 118. The documents will be completed and executed on May 21 at the Third Ward Multi-Purpose Center.

The committee provides free legal services and advice to senior citizens in Harris County, as well as free handbooks on elder law.

Houston Bar Foundation honors attorneys for pro bono, volunteer service, legal writing

The Houston Bar Foundation, the charitable arm of the Houston Bar Association, recently announced its annual awards for pro bono service, volunteerism, and legal writing.

S. Jack Balagia Jr., the vice president and general counsel of Exxon Mobil Corp., was named the fifth recipient of the James B. Sales Pro Bono Leadership Award.

The foundation also named the recipients of awards for outstanding contributions to Houston Volunteer Lawyers, which provides pro bono legal services to low-income residents; for volunteer service to the Dispute Resolution Center, providing free alternatives to formal litigation; and for legal writing in the HBA’s professional journal.

The winners appear below, as provided by the HBA.

  • Fulbright & Jaworski LLP earned the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Houston Volunteer Lawyers by a large firm for the 14th consecutive year.
  • Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP received the award for Outstanding Contribution to the HVL by an intermediate firm for the second consecutive year.
  • Baker Hostetler received the award for Outstanding Contribution to the HVL by a midsize firm.
  • Beck | Redden LLP and Yetter Coleman LLP shared the award for Outstanding Contribution to the HVL by a small firm.
  • Coane and Associates, PLLC, and Jenkins & Kamin, LLP, shared the award for Outstanding Contribution to the HVL by a boutique firm.
  • Peter J. Bennett was honored for Outstanding Contribution to HVL by a solo practitioner for the second consecutive year.
  • Exxon Mobil Corp. was honored for Outstanding Contribution to HVL by a corporate law department.
  • Susan B. Sanchez of Exxon Mobil Corp. earned her second consecutive award as Outstanding Pro Bono Coordinator.
  • Jack Edwards and his firm, Ajamie LLP, along with John Spiller of Strasburger & Price, LLP, received special recognition from HVL for exceptional pro bono representation on a complex, time-consuming case that took more than five years to complete.
  • Attorney Robert G. Devlin was recognized for Outstanding Volunteer Service to the Dispute Resolution Center.
  • The Hon. Alvin L. Zimmerman was honored for Longevity of Exemplary Service to the Dispute Resolution Center.
  • The Hon. Dan Hinde, judge of the 269th District Court, was honored as the author of the outstanding legal article published in The Houston Lawyer, the HBA’s professional journal.

Free legal clinic for veterans set for Jan. 18 in Conroe

A free legal advice clinic for veterans will take place Saturday, Jan. 18 in Conroe, the Houston Bar Association announced Thursday.

The clinic will take place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Conroe VA Outpatient Clinic at 800 Riverwood Court, Suite 100. No appointment is necessary.

The clinic will provide an opportunity for any veteran or spouse of a deceased veteran to receive counsel from a volunteer attorney in any area of law—including family, wills and probate, consumer, real estate, and tax law—as well as disability and veterans benefits.

Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and who qualify for legal aid will be assigned a pro bono attorney through the Houston Volunteer Lawyers.


The Montgomery County Bar Association, The Woodlands Bar Association, and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative are co-sponsoring the clinic.

The Houston Bar Foundation also sponsors weekly clinics from 2 to 5 p.m. Fridays on the first floor of the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center at 2002 Holcombe Blvd. in Houston. For more information, visit

Houston Bar Association's Law Day program earns national honor

The Houston Bar Association announced Tuesday it is one of three organizations the American Bar Association will honor for its 2013 Law Day activities.

The HBA will join the Connecticut Judicial Branch and the Law Day 2013 Dream Team, a partnership of 12 Georgia organizations, in receiving the Law Day 2013 Outstanding Activity Award, according to the ABA.

The ABA will present the awards Feb. 7 at its 2014 Midyear Meeting in Chicago.


In a news release, the HBA said it impacted more than 53,000 people in the Houston area through its programming on the Law Day theme “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.”

A new HBA Law Day event was a “Day at the Courthouse,” where 45 special-needs students from middle and high schools saw a re-enactment of the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, KS case and learned about the importance of the ruling from Texas Supreme Court Justice Eva Guzman.

The students also toured the historic 1910 Courthouse and used gavels, scales of justice, law books, and the courtroom itself to create images for a Law Day photo contest for special-needs students. Fourteenth Court of Appeals Chief Justice Kem Thompson Frost organized the event.

The HBA also conducted its annual Law Day poster, essay, and photography contests open to all Houston-area elementary, middle and high schools; conducted dialogues on freedom between attorney-judge teams and high school seniors; held poster workshops for children in three low-income areas of the city; created Law Day education and legal resource packets for every Harris County district and county court; fielded questions from nearly 300 callers during a Law Day LegalLine program; and scheduled members to read a law-themed book to elementary students in more than 100 schools.

Learn more about Law Day here.


Crash course on jury duty for high school seniors

Many people dread jury duty, which is associated with detouring from our all-too-comfortable daily routines. High school seniors are no different, and with a multitude of enticing alternate options for how to spend their time, they likely are more susceptible to developing jury duty apathy.

On Nov. 7, a program of the Houston Bar Association will bring together 10 Harris County judges to teach Houston high school seniors about the importance of jury duty, as well as how juries are selected. Each judge works on humanizing the jury process for the students and dispelling common jury duty myths. The judge leads its class through mock questioning, treating the students as if they were potential jurors, and then selects a jury panel and discusses what made those students appropriate choices.

HBA created the Voir Dire Program in 2000 during a period of low juror turnout in Harris County. It seeks to increase the number of people who show up for jury duty in order to create a large, diverse jury pool for efficient administration of justice.

“Jury duty is not only a civic duty but a privilege,” said Judge Paula Goodhart of the Harris County Criminal Court at Law No. 1. “And the less intimidating and more informative we can make it for young adults, the more likely they will respond when called to duty.”

Houston Bar Association volunteers help plant 1,100 trees

Members of the Houston Bar Association (HBA) and their families helped plant 1,100 trees at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013. The event was a Houston Bar Association’s Lawyers Against Waste Committee project, and was part of the Houston Arboretum’s Arbor Day Celebration. HBA President, Brent Benoit (pictured below), had the idea for the project.

More than 300 HBA volunteers were on hand to help plant the trees, which were purchased from Doremus Native Plants through HBA member donations.

HBA President Brent Benoit

Texas children's hospital and Houston Bar Association partnership to provide legal assistance to low-income patients

Texas Children’s Hospital is first in Houston to introduce new medical-legal partnership to bring sick children critical legal assistance

Houston Volunteer Lawyers and Walmart support launch of program

HOUSTON – (Nov. 1, 2012) – Texas Children’s Hospital and the Houston Bar Association’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers today announced the formation of a medical-legal partnership (MLP) that will provide Texas Children’s low-income patients and patient-families with critical legal assistance. This is the first partnership of its kind to be offered in the Houston area.

Through the program, a dedicated Houston Volunteer Lawyers staff attorney will provide legal advice and representation to Texas Children’s patients and their families with assistance from outside pro bono lawyers.  The project is being funded in part by a donation from Walmart, which created a successful MLP with Arkansas Children’s Hospital last year with plans to expand the benefits of MLPs to other major pediatric hospitals nationwide.

“It has always been our mission to help low-income children with all of their medical needs and this program is just another example of how we are doing that,” said Mark A. Wallace, president and CEO of Texas Children’s Hospital.  “We appreciate the generous gift from Walmart for this beneficial medical-legal partnership that will bring much-needed support to these children who do not have another place to turn for this type of legal assistance.”  

MLP is a unique health-care delivery model that brings physicians and lawyers together to tackle health issues that have legal, rather than medical solutions.  This could include negotiating with a landlord to address sub-standard living conditions, such as a mold infestation triggering a child’s asthma; helping a family secure Medicaid payment for a specialized wheelchair or home nursing services; or preparing legal guardianships to allow parents to continue making health care decisions for their children with special needs after they turn 18.  

The Texas Children’s MLP initially will provide legal aid to patients in five areas:  Inpatient Rehabilitation, Fetal Center, Special Needs Primary Care Clinic, Retrovirology and Texas Children’s Pediatrics-Gulfgate. 

“Houston is blessed to have world class medical and legal communities,” said Brent Benoit, president of the Houston Bar Association. “Yet, we have individuals who are lost between these two groups—in need of health care, but with legal problems that prevent or frustrate their health care access.”

“Walmart is proud to support Texas Children’s Hospital to establish this important program,” said Jeff Gearhart, executive vice president and general counsel of Walmart.  “We’ve seen firsthand through our work with Arkansas Children’s Hospital that the medical-legal partnership is making a difference.  Families in need are receiving free legal advice otherwise unavailable to resolve issues that go beyond a hospital’s medical services.  This announcement furthers our goal to help create a network of medical-legal partnerships at children’s hospitals across the country.”

Endorsed by organizations such as the American Bar Association and the American Medical Association, medical-legal partnerships give health care teams the ability to treat adverse social conditions facing their already-ill patients. 

“Many of our patient families face challenging social conditions that further complicate their loved one’s medical condition. In many cases, an attorney is able to address those issues and healthcare outcomes improve. The Texas Children’s MLP attorney will work in collaboration with the healthcare team and we are confident that hundreds of our patients will benefit from this on-site legal assistance.  We are grateful to Houston Volunteer Lawyers for partnering with us in the establishment of this critical program. ,” said Sarah Maytum, director of patient and family services.

Other children’s hospitals with MLPs include Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, and Children’s Hospital Boston.

Contacts: Christy Brunton         
O: (832) 824-2645
C: (281) 684-3184

About Texas Children’s Hospital
Texas Children’s Hospital, a not-for-profit organization, is committed to creating a community of healthy children through excellence in patient care, education and research. Consistently ranked among the top children’s hospitals in the nation, Texas Children’s has recognized Centers of Excellence in multiple pediatric subspecialti

es including the Cancer and Heart Centers, and operates the largest primary pediatric care network in the country. Texas Children's has completed a $1.5 billion expansion, which includes the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute; Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, a comprehensive obstetrics/gynecology facility focusing on high-risk births; and Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, a community hospital in suburban West Houston.  For more information on Texas Children's, go to Get the latest news from Texas Children’s by visiting the online newsroom and on Twitter at

About Houston Bar Association, Houston Volunteer Lawyers
Founded in 1981 by the Houston Bar Association, Houston Volunteer Lawyers has delivered free legal services to low-income residents of Harris County for almost a quarter of a century, by linking qualified applicants with attorneys who volunteer their time on a pro bono basis.  Houston Volunteer Lawyers receives over 34,000 calls for assistance each year and annually delivers pro bono legal services valued at over $4 million to qualified applicants.  Additional information can be found by visiting or by following Houston Volunteer Lawyers on Facebook ( or Twitter ( 

About Walmart
Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE: WMT) helps people around the world save money and live better – anytime and anywhere – in retail stores, online, and through their mobile devices.  Each week, more than 200 million customers and members visit our 10,300 stores under 69 banners in 27 countries and e-commerce websites in 10 countries.  With fiscal year 2012 sales of approximately $444 billion, Walmart employs more than 2 million associates worldwide. Walmart continues to be a leader in sustainability, corporate philanthropy and employment opportunity. Additional information about Walmart can be found by visiting, and on Facebook at and on Twitter at Online merchandise sales are available at and

Rubin Named Executive Director of HBA's Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program

The Houston Bar Association welcomes Alissa Rubin as the new executive director of its Houston Volunteer Lawyers Program (HVLP). HVLP, founded in 1981, provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income Harris County residents, largely by placing their cases with volunteer lawyers throughout the Houston area. The program serves more than 20,000 men, women, and children each year, including families living with HIV/AIDS, veterans, and victims of natural disasters.

Rubin graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in 2002 among the top 16 in her class, and that year began working as a litigation associate in the Houston office of international law firm King & Spalding LLP. Rubin was elected partner of the firm last year. Throughout her tenure, Rubin handled complex commercial lawsuits from inception through trial, with special expertise obtaining and defending temporary restraining orders and temporary injunctions.

Rubin was also dedicated to pro bono work while in private practice, volunteering with HVLP and Catholic Charities to help those in need. King & Spalding awarded her a pro bono service award in 2006, 2007, and 2008 for her successful representation of an immigrant juvenile in deportation proceedings and other pro bono matters. Rubin says her move to HVLP is an extension of her dedication to providing legal services to persons in need.

Houston Bar Association's John J. Eikenburg Law Week Fun Run Set for March 26

Fun Run logoThe Houston Bar Association's 26th Annual John J. Eikenburg Law Week Fun Run will be held on Saturday, March 26 at Sam Houston Park, 1100 Bagby, Downtown Houston. The first race starts at 7:30 a.m.

All entry fee proceeds will be contributed directly to THE CENTER, a nonprofit organization dedicated to offering people with intellectual disabilities the opportunity to reach their full potential and to contribute to their community through education, job training, socialization, community living, and health care.

Since 1986, the Houston Bar Association has raised over  $886,000 for THE CENTER.

The event features an 8K run, a one-mile non-competitive children's run, a non-competitive one-mile family walk, and a wheelchair division in the 8K. The 8K race is an official spring series race of the Houston Area Road Runners Association, and is a sanctioned U.S.A. Track and Field event.

Visit the Fun Run website to register and learn more about special events planned for this exciting race!