State Bar's #txlawdesk project reveals traditional office styles and heavy workloads

As we take a look at the first installment of the State Bar of Texas’s #txlawdesk social media project, it’s clear that many Texas lawyers keep traditional desks.

According to the Harvard Business Review’s October 2014 cover story, the design of an office or workspace can affect a host of important issues, including collaboration, concentration, rejuvenation (breaks for our bodies and brains), productivity, creativity, communication, income, and job satisfaction. Many businesses, particularly large tech companies like Facebook and Samsung, put considerable resources into designing office layouts and choosing tools and gadgets.

But while many Silicon Valley startups favor open offices with public spaces and modern multi-person desks, the vast majority of our #txlawdesk submissions featured classic, dark wood desks located in private offices. Some desks were clean and others proved messy with piles of paper. Many had personal touches such as family photos or artwork, and several offices featured standing desks, a nod to the increasingly prevalent notion that sitting can be harmful for your health.

We’ve included some of the most interesting photos from the #txlawdesk project, along with each person’s top five items that are indispensable to their daily practices. Keep sharing and discussing what keeps you organized, motivated, and effective. We’ll be doing another blog in the coming weeks to feature fascinating new Texas law desks as well as ones we might have missed the first time around.

Melissa Munson (@MelissaAMunson), energy law attorney in Houston
1) dual monitors, 2) month-at-a-glance calendar, 3 )bookshelf of reference resources, 4) Le Pens, and 5) the view from my window!


Christian Dennie (@ChristianDennie), DFW lawyer and college sports law blogger
"I keep it clean. I don't understand the mountain filing system."
1) family photos, 2) Himalayan salt rock lamp for positive energy, 3) wall of advisers, 4) thinking bat, and 5) computer


Mark Unger (@miunger), family lawyer in San Antonio
"I believe that to be really creative you have to get outside your 'o-zone' (office), where everything happens and can distract you. I do a ton of work from wherever I happen to be. For a guy and a lawyer like me, it's about changing my surroundings to allow me to see all sides of a case (or an obstinate attorney or CLE paper of just life). But what I'll call my preferred 'optional virtual practice' spot is at Local Coffee in San Antonio, in one of the cup-like chairs in a corner nook. It's where I've worked on my recent 'Observations from the Corner Table' (a phrase I have to credit to one of my best friends, Eric Greeson)."


Mark T. Mansfield (@thefathermapple), general practitioner in Hurst
“Almost licensed for a year, with the mix-matched furniture to prove it" (a cobbled together Ikea). 
1) laptop for travel, 2) scanner for nearly paperless office, 3) wide-screen for: 4) rules and drafts,
5) smartphone for Twitter.


Victor Vital (@vitaladvocacy), Dallas trial lawyer, has set up his office as a "collaborative workspace" with computer screen projected onto the wall and using the floor-to-ceiling windows to do "visual strategizing for upcoming trial."
1) digital whiteboard, 2) computer “screen” projection, 3) collaboration corner, 4) rule books, and 5) binders



Michael Smith (@mcj_smith), civil litigator in Marshall
“My ‘desk’ is actually the most rarely used part of my work environment. I get most of my work done on either my editing standup desk or my computer monitor standup desk." (left to right): 1) stand-up desk for editing, 2) dictation headset, 3) iPad Air;,4) O'Connor’s Federal Rules, 5a) Varidesk computer stand-up desk, and 5b) ScanSnap


Jason Steed (@5thCircAppeals), appellate and commercial litigation attorney in Dallas
6"x9" notepads, blue-ink Pilot pens, laptop w/ dual-monitor setup, Mountain Dew, Record player/iPod for music



Nicholas Sarokhanian (@NickSarokhanian), Dallas trial lawyer
1) Rosary, 2) family,  3) the Constitution, 4) case-specific legal pads, 5) stationery, and, of course, 5) the Texas Bar Journal.


Don Willett (@JusticeWillett), justice of the Supreme Court of Texas
• #SCOTX courtroom
• conference room
• Court office (Capitol view!)
• satellite office

Twitter novel contest: And the winners are ...

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

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

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

Casey won our grand prize, an Apple iPad.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Milestone for the State Bar's Social Network

In May, Bill Medaille of Austin became the 10,000th Texas lawyer to register for Texas Bar Circle, our social and professional network for State Bar of Texas members. Since then, 800 more lawyers have joined the ranks.

We’re recognizing user 10,000 because he met a goal of the 2008-2009 State Bar Web Services Committee, which helped launch the community in 2007 as the first-ever social network by a bar association. Recently, the California, Oklahoma, Missouri, Minnesota, and Tennessee state bars, and others, launched or announced their own communities.

So how is Texas Bar Circle doing? The trend line of registrations for the first half of 2009 matches lawyer adoption of LinkedIn, which Kevin O’Keefe of LexBlog called an “avalanche” and Stem Legal’s Steve Matthews estimated at 840,000 in June 2009, up from 406,000 in December 2008. Of course our numbers won’t approach those, but it seems the legal industry is catching on to the value of social networking.

Texas Bar Circle users have created more than 250 groups on topics ranging from business development (Solo and Small Firm Practice, Rainmaking) to regions (Houston Attorneys, Austin Attorneys) to hobbies (Biker Barristers,  Musical Lawyers) to eclectic (God Forsaken Places to Practice; Killers, Thieves, and Lawyers). They’re also making direct connections and finding opportunities on a platform which we hope, as an exclusive community of lawyers, has a unique value among tools like LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, which lawyers should also embrace.

If you’re a Texas lawyer and not yet a Circle member, check it out at You won’t find the bells and whistles of a Facebook or LinkedIn, but you will find a usable tool for building relationships – which is what social networking is all about.