The mission of the State Bar of Texas Professionalism Committee is to increase professionalism and improve the development of new lawyers. The committee was revitalized in 2012 by State Bar President Buck Files, and it has striven to accomplish its mission by tackling four key subjects: mentoring, promoting professionalism through CLE and different events, providing access to good ethics speakers, and promoting the Texas Lawyer’s Creed. All of the resources and databases described below can be found at www.texasbar.com/professionalism. Just click on the relevant program or subject matter on the site for more information.
One of the key missions of the Professionalism Committee is to increase the number of mentoring resources across the state. In years past, lawyers came out of law school with a job that provided a wealth of mentoring opportunities. Whether they were practicing with a large or small firm or with the government, lawyers had a built-in support system upon which to rely.
For many lawyers today, those opportunities do not exist. More and more lawyers are choosing to hang out their own shingles. They may not know who to reach out to for general advice on the practice of law. They may not have someone willing to advise them on the importance of professionalism and the true strength of the Texas Lawyer’s Creed. Local and statewide bar associations have been laboring to find solutions to fill the gap.
Many larger jurisdictions have formal mentoring programs like the State Bar’s Transition to Practice, but the Professionalism Committee has worked to broaden the scope of these curriculums to make them more accessible to medium-sized jurisdictions. We have also spearheaded regional mentoring projects for smaller jurisdictions and created online mentoring resources for those lawyers who don’t have access to any formal mentoring program or just want a completely informal opportunity to learn.
Improving and expanding the State Bar’s Mentoring Network is the next step in our quest to make mentoring available to every lawyer in the state. The Mentoring Network provides an online list of reputable and professional lawyers across the state who are willing to share some of their precious time to gently steer new lawyers in the right direction. These mentors will be available by phone to answer general (non-case related) questions. The resources will initially be practice or geographic location related, but hopefully, the mentors will be encouraged to talk to mentees about professionalism and civility as well. The website is easy to manage and very user friendly. If you are interested in being considered for this mentoring database, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1 (800) 204-2222, ext. 1726.
Education and the Day of Civility
Members of the Professionalism Committee have traveled across the state giving CLE presentations on various topics including mentoring, advertising, the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, and other State Bar resources. The committee is also proud of its role this year in promoting the Day of Civility. Local bar associations can use the Day of Civility as an opportunity to plan an entire or partial day of ethics-related CLE that encourages civility and professionalism. Local and regional judges can join their efforts by co-signing a letter setting aside a day where lawyers are encouraged to focus on the importance of professional conduct. The Texas Supreme Court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals have called for a statewide date of April 20, 2018, for these events or observations, but bar associations can choose any date or time period. A lot more information, including a proposed calendar, frequently asked questions, sample forms, and a sample judicial letter is included on the website as part of the State Bar’s Day of Civility Guide.
Professionalism Committee members come from far-flung jurisdictions, so they have been keenly aware of different needs across the state. While larger jurisdictions and bar associations don’t have much difficulty finding good and entertaining ethics speakers, smaller jurisdictions have more limited choices. Therefore, the Professionalism Committee has created a directory of recommended speakers who are willing to travel to different areas to give ethics presentations. The website includes a statewide database of speakers, their various presentation topics, and how far they will travel from their own jurisdictions. Many presentations are already approved for CLE ethics credit. If you are interested in being considered for inclusion in the database of potential speakers, please contact email@example.com.
The Texas Lawyer’s Creed
In 1985, lawyers from across the state came together in an effort to discuss and combat “Rambo litigation” tactics they were seeing in their practices. Their efforts culminated in the creation of a document that has withstood the test of time. The Texas Lawyer’s Creed was formally adopted by the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in 1989 and then re-dedicated in 2013 in time for the 25th anniversary of the document. It speaks to the relationship between opposing lawyers, between lawyers and judges, and between a lawyer and his or her client, and it gives practical advice on how those parties should act and interact. If you haven’t read it, I would encourage you to do so and use it in your own practice. Many lawyers staple the Texas Lawyer’s Creed to their fee agreements so clients will understand the lawyer’s ethical duties and professional responsibilities to others. It has been cited in cases, referred to by judges, and proffered in court. It is definitely a document with which you should be familiar.
Civility is a cornerstone of our profession and should be stressed in our day-to-day interactions with each other and with our clients. As the Texas Supreme Court and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals eloquently stated in their preamble to the Texas Lawyer’s Creed, “We must always be mindful that the practice of law is a profession. As members of a learned art, we purse a common calling in the spirit of public service. We have a proud tradition. Throughout the history of our nation, the members of our citizenry have looked to the ranks of our profession for leadership and guidance. Let us now as a profession each rededicate ourselves to practice law so we can restore public confidence in our profession, faithfully serve our clients, and fulfill our responsibility to the legal system.” These words ring true today just as they did when written in 1989. Let us truly rededicate ourselves to professional conduct and live up to the proud tradition of the classic lawyer.
I have been so honored to serve as the chair of the State Bar Professionalism Committee and am honored to continue to serve with current Chair Suzanne Duvall. If you are interested in participating in any of the programs mentioned above or interested in getting more information about the Professionalism Committee, please contact any Professionalism Committee member, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1 (800) 204-2222, ext. 1726.
This article was originally published on the Alternative Dispute Resolution Section of the State Bar of Texas’ blog and has been edited and reprinted with permission.
Kenda Culpepper is the Rockwall County Criminal District Attorney and was the chair of the State Bar of Texas Professionalism Committee from 2012 to 2016. She can be contacted at email@example.com.