More than 40 attorneys and members of the public turned out Monday in Lubbock to learn about proposed changes to the Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct at the first of nine public education hearings to be held around the state this week and next.

Roland Johnson, State Bar of Texas immediate past president, provided background information on the issue and served as moderator during a Q&A session. Tom Watkins, chair of the Texas Supreme Court Task Force convened to study the issue, answered questions from those in attendance. Members of the State Bar Board of Directors Becky Baskin Ferguson of Midland and Kyle Lewis of Dumas participated, as well. Click here to listen to the transcript.

A sampling of comments and questions:

  • A lawyer who served on the State Bar committee charged with studying the proposed rules changes remarked that “some of the best legal minds in ethics and professional responsibility have spent thousands of hours of work…on the arduous process, trying to get it [the rules] as close to perfect as possible.”
  • Another attorney voiced a concern regarding whether “confidential” was defined too broadly. Many concerns raised had to do with definitions and interpretations.
  • A representative of a newly formed group, Texas Coalition on Lawyer Accountability, stressed the importance that the public interest be heard. She posed questions related to confidentiality, informed consent, and issues related to arbitration.
  • A question was posed about “prior contact with client or prospective client” as it relates to clients asking questions on lawyers’ websites, raising the issue of posting rules language to attorneys’ websites.
  • A number of questions were raised around the issue of prohibited sexual relations, including a request to define “sexual relations” and addressing expenses in addition to fees in proposed rule 1.13. Said Watkins in response to one such question, “We’re not trying to regulate sexual conduct with this rule; we’re trying to ensure adequate representation and protection for the client.”

Watkins and Kennon Peterson, Supreme Court rules attorney, responded to a wide range of questions, provided clarification, and offered insight on the process and task at hand.

Rule 3.05 concerning “ex parte communications” drew questions surrounding “pending” and “anticipated” matters, and the intent of state agency decision makers.

Tuesday’s hearing will take place in El Paso. Want to know more or voice your opinion? Click here to see the schedule (pdf) for the remaining hearings. Participating lawyers will earn 0.5 hours ethics credit for attending the hearings. The bar is deeply committed to protecting the public and wants to hear from citizens, too. Click here to post a comment.

The State Bar Board of Directors will take up the issue at its Oct. 1 meeting and make a recommendation to the Texas Supreme Court by Oct. 6.

Click here for MP3 audio of the Lubbock hearing