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. 

Conference challenges bar associations to R.I.S.E.

The National Association of Bar Executives held its 2015 Midyear Meeting in Houston this month, as did several related groups, including the American Bar Association, the National Conference of Bar Presidents, and the National Conference of Bar Foundations.

The NABE conference focused on the bar as a business, a theme that was first presented at the group’s annual meeting in Boston. Attendees were challenged to “R.I.S.E., which stands for Reach, Improve, Serve, and Engage.”

Takeaways from some of the sessions are listed below.

Changing Demographics: Looking Beyond Our Borders

Most people acknowledge that the United States is considered a melting pot of cultures. But many might be surprised to learn that Houston is the most ethnic city in the country. According to Stephen L. Klineberg, a professor and co-director of Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research, H-Town, the fourth-largest city in the nation, is most representative of the population of U.S., which he calls a “microcosm of the world.”

In a presentation to a packed house, Klineberg discussed changing demographics—in Harris County 70 percent of the population under the age of 20 is Hispanic or black—and speculated on what the future holds.

Success in the 21st century will be more about knowledge resources than natural ones, he said. And for a city like Houston, that is a seismic shift in thinking.

Young/New Lawyers: Myths, Assumptions, and Realities

There’s a generation gap associated with just about everything, including the law profession. So how do the old and new attorneys play together?

According to panelists, the solution is to flatten out the field and remove the hierarchy. Words and themes such as “collaborate,” “trickle-up theory,” “bridge the gap,” and “inviting” were emphasized as attorneys discussed ways to integrate young and new lawyers into existing organizations, including everything from local bar committees to leadership roles within firms.

Knowledge and resources should be tapped from all angles, especially when it comes to using technology. That’s where young and new lawyers can share best practices and their experiences with seasoned attorneys.

We need to “adopt a spirit of collegiality,” said Susan Oehl, a panelist and Houston attorney with Jenkins and Kamin.

What Do You Think? … How to Apply Innovation and Technology to Find Out What Your Members Are Thinking

In this plenary session, bar executives, lawyers, and communicators broke out into groups based on topics from a survey that was conducted prior to the meeting.

Following an adapted version of open space technology—a free-thinking approach to improving leadership—attendees brainstormed ways to deal with different issues that an association or organization might be faced with, including hosting video conferences, raising participation levels, and getting rid of outdated programs.


Austin Bar Association wins Luminary Award

The Austin Bar Association took home a Luminary Award for Excellence in Electronic Publications for its e-newsletter Bar Code at the National Association for Bar Executives Communications Section Workshop, held last week in Indianapolis.

“My favorite part of the Luminary Awards is that the entries are judged by our peers—other bar communicators who understand the benefits as well as the challenges of communicating within a bar association,” said Kat Hinson, communications director for the Austin Bar. “It’s a huge compliment when other communications professionals think your work is outstanding.”



Created about a decade ago, Bar Code underwent a redesign in January 2014 to introduce a refreshed design featuring more photos and logos. It was this new look and vision that earned the publication its first Luminary Award. Bar Code provides a listing of about 10 to 12 volunteer opportunities, section-sponsored CLEs, and local law-related news and court announcements. Because it is sent weekly, readers have more timely access to information and news and are better able to schedule for these occasions that can assist with professional development and networking.

“We prioritize events or volunteer opportunities hosted by the Austin Bar, the Austin Young Lawyers Association, and other law-related organizations,” said Hinson. “We only include items for the two weeks prior to the event so that content stays fresh. We’ve had great feedback from members. They like that it’s more engaging and that, visually, it’s much more interesting.”

Tatum speaks at national bar meeting, accepts civics education award

BOSTON — State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa Tatum joined Missouri Bar Past President Lynn Ann Vogel on Aug. 8 to present “Creating Energy in Your Bar,” a presentation highlighting successful bar programs from across the country.

“There’s no point in reinventing the wheel if you can take what you like from these programs and make it your own,” Tatum said during the presentation, which was part of the National Conference of Bar Presidents 2014 Annual Meeting.

Tatum and Vogel used the hourlong presentation to share tips, tactics, and innovative ideas from more than two dozen bar association programs, including Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans, an initiative of 2010-2011 State Bar of Texas President Terry Tottenham.

Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans helps develop and assist pro bono legal clinics for military veterans who can’t afford or lack access to legal services. The program continues to grow, and more than 30 local bar associations are now participating. In all, approximately 4,000 attorneys have volunteered to help more than 13,000 veterans through the program.

Slides from the presentation and other National Conference of Bar Presidents sessions are available here

While in Boston, Tatum represented the State Bar of Texas in accepting a National Association of Bar Executives LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award for the I was the First. Vote for Me! civics education project, one of her initiatives as president in 2013-2014. Judges unanimously selected the project in the category of state bars with more than 18,000 members and commended it for incorporating history, reading, math, and voting into a single program.

Through a book and a series of 30-second animations, I was the First. Vote for Me! teaches elementary school students about important figures in U.S. and Texas history included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards. Both the website and the book are available in English and Spanish.

The award was presented Aug. 7 during the National Association of Bar Executives 2014 Annual Meeting

Top: State Bar of Texas Immediate Past President Lisa Tatum, right, and Missouri Bar Past President Lynn Ann Vogel after their Aug. 8 presentation at the National Conference of Bar Presidents 2014 Annual Meeting in Boston. Above, from left: State Bar of Texas Executive Director Michelle Hunter, 2014-2015 President-elect Allan DuBois, Tatum, and 2014-2015 President Trey Apffel at the National Association of Bar Executives awards ceremony, where Tatum accepted an award for the State Bar of Texas civics education program I was the First. Vote for Me!


State Bar of Texas education project wins national award

A State Bar of Texas project educating elementary students on important firsts in U.S. and Texas history has been awarded a National Association of Bar Executives LexisNexis Community and Educational Outreach Award. The award honors outstanding bar public service and law-related education programs.


The State Bar of Texas’s I was the First. Vote for Me! project was unanimously selected in the category of state bars with more than 18,000 members and was commended for incorporating history, reading, math, and voting into one program.

I was the First. Vote for Me!, an initiative of 2013-2014 State Bar of Texas President Lisa Tatum of San Antonio, is an interactive program educating elementary students about important figures in U.S. and Texas history included in the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards.

Through 30-second animations, nearly two dozen historic figures share their significance while their words are displayed “karaoke style” across the bottom of the screen. After viewing the animations, students can vote on their favorite animation and view the results in a graph.

In addition to the web-based materials, a book is available in hard copy and e-reader. Both the website and book are prepared in English and Spanish.