Editor’s note: The following column also appears in the December 2017 issue of the Texas Bar Journal.

As I write this column, I’m busy winding down my 35-year practice as a Galveston County trial lawyer. By the time you receive this issue of the Texas Bar Journal, I will have assumed the job as executive director of the State Bar of Texas. I am humbled and honored that the Board of Directors chose me for this position, and I look forward to working with the board, President Tom Vick, President-elect Joe K. Longley, Board Chair Rehan Alimohammad, our staff, and each of you to further the State Bar’s mission.

As I transition from volunteer leader to staff member, I think back on my first Texas Bar Journal column as president of the bar in 2014-2015. In it, I called for a “year of inclusion” to deepen engagement with our members and ensure our bar remained strong and prepared to meet tomorrow’s challenges. That was my commitment then, and that is my commitment today and going forward.

One way I’m demonstrating that commitment is by bringing back this Executive Director’s Page, which was a regular feature in the Bar Journal in the 1990s. I will use this space to update you on developments at the Texas Law Center and as a forum to answer your questions.

As president, one of my top priorities was improving and increasing our communications. The idea was not just to talk to you about what the State Bar does, although we accomplish many great things for many people. I also wanted to hear from you, our members, especially from segments of our profession who say the State Bar doesn’t understand your problems or represent your interests. Working together with our board and staff, we made progress toward this goal and took concrete steps to make your membership more valuable.

We redesigned texasbar.com to make it more user-friendly and adaptable to mobile devices. We continued the free CLE series for solo and small firm practitioners that started under 2013-2014 President Lisa M. Tatum and is still going strong today. We launched a significant new member benefit—free online legal research through Fastcase, making us the first and only state to provide lawyers with free access to both Casemaker and Fastcase (which have a combined value of about $2,000 per year). We also expanded the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange.

The State Bar has continued to advance under the leadership of Presidents Allan K. DuBois, Frank Stevenson, and Tom Vick—as I am confident it will under President-elect Longley next year and those who follow him as president. Today, the State Bar of Texas is a national leader in many areas, including lawyers’ assistance programs, young lawyer associations, and efforts to encourage pro bono services to military veterans and the general public. Our success comes on the shoulders of our volunteers, including the board, section and committee leaders, CLE speakers, and countless others who donate their time and work tirelessly for the bar. If you’re not currently volunteering for the State Bar, consider doing so. Give me a call and we’ll find an opportunity for you.

Still, with all our success, we can always do better. In my new role as manager of the State Bar’s day-to-day operations, I will work to make sure we are as efficient, transparent, and fiscally responsible as we can be.

If you have questions, I will answer them. If you bring criticism, I will meet it with a listening ear and an open mind. If you don’t like what we’re doing and there’s a better way to do it, I will consider the alternatives.

Simply put, I’m working for you. And it’s time to get to work.

Trey Apffel

Executive Director, State Bar of Texas
(512) 427-1500
@ApffelT on Twitter