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. 

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.

 

Free legal clinic for veterans scheduled for Texas City

Veterans, as well as spouses of deceased veterans, can obtain free legal advice and assistance during a clinic in Texas City on Saturday, Sept. 13. No appointment is needed for the clinic, which takes place from 9 a.m. to noon at the Texas City VA Outpatient Clinic, 9300 Emmett F. Lowry Expressway, Suite 206.

Volunteer lawyers will offer counsel in any area of the law—including family, wills and probate, tax law, and disability and veterans benefits. Veterans who need ongoing legal representation and qualify for legal aid may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case. The clinic is a public service of the Galveston Bar Association and the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative.

For more information, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at 713-759-1133 or go to hba.org.

 

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 hba.org.

Free veterans legal clinic May 31 in Tomball

Veterans who need legal advice or assistance can visit a free legal clinic from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 31 at the VA Outpatient Clinic, 1200 W. Main St., in Tomball.

No appointment is necessary. Any veteran, or spouse of a deceased veteran, can receive advice and 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 may be assigned a pro bono attorney to handle their case.

The clinic is a public service of the Northwest Harris County Bar Association, in conjunction with the Houston Bar Foundation’s Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of local bar associations that provide pro bono legal services to U.S. veterans in 17 Texas counties.

For more information on the clinic, contact the Veterans Legal Initiative at 713-759-1133. 

Local bars offering free veterans legal clinic Saturday in Lake Jackson

Veterans who need legal advice or assistance can visit a free legal clinic on Saturday, May 17 in Lake Jackson in conjunction with the Veterans Legal Initiative, a coalition of local bar associations providing pro bono legal services to U.S. veterans in 17 Texas counties.

The clinic will be held at the Lake Jackson VA Outpatient Clinic, 208 Oak Drive South, Suite 700, from 9 a.m. to noon. No appointment is necessary.

The Brazoria County 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 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 Houston Volunteer Lawyers to handle their case.

The Houston Bar Foundation also sponsors weekly Friday clinics at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center from 2 to 5 p.m. on the first floor. More information on the clinics is available at www.hba.org

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 hba.org.

Veterans Legal Initiative coalition legal clinics

Two legal clinics for veterans in Texas were held last week.

On November 16, the Bell County Bar Association sponsored a legal advice clinic for veterans at American Legion Post 573 in Harker Heights (near Killeen) in Bell County. JoAnn Merica 
(pictured) presented a CLE program for members of the Bell County Bar, then attorneys stayed to volunteer for the clinic. DeLaine Ward of the Austin Bar Association also came down to assist. Ken Valka, president of the Bell County Bar Association, along with Cynthia Champion and Cindi Parker, co-executive directors of the Bell County Bar, facilitated the Bell County Bar’s sponsorship role. 40 veterans received assistance.

On November 17, Prof. Bridget Fusilier held Baylor Law School’s Wills Clinic, where 25 veterans had wills and estate planning documents executed with the help of volunteer attorneys and law students. 11 more are scheduled for execution at Baylor’s December clinic.

These were two successful events as part of the Veterans Legal Initiative coalition and Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans