The Local Bar Leaders Conference began with a theme of second chances. “The last time I saw Judge (Richard G. Kopf), my daughter was running off with the gavel he used to sentence me,” Shon Hopwood said during the opening luncheon. Hopwood’s first stint with the law began with a 10-year stint in federal prison after he was convicted and sentenced by Kopf in 1998 for robbing banks in Nebraska. Backed by a prison law library and a determination to find ways to reduce his sentence, Hopwood became an unlikely, go-to law expert behind bars, preparing cases for fellow inmates and being granted certiorari petitions twice by the U.S. Supreme Court. Since his release, he earned a law degree in Washington State, clerked for Judge Janice Rogers Brown at the D.C. Circuit, and is now a professor of law at Georgetown University. Hopwood’s talk at the luncheon rode on a theme of rehabilitation and redemption, calling for bar associations to consider admitting into practice people like him who have turned it around. “It’s incumbent upon lawyers to look at this differently.”

Saturday’s keynote luncheon centered on bouncing back from burnout. Mark Yarbrough, a former 20-year district attorney out of Lamb County, described his collision course of exhaustion that began with the death of his daughter, Ashley, in 2004, and coincided with a seven-year case that shoved his motivation even further down the shelf. The burnout symptoms he described were the usual: anger, apathy, exhaustion—things he tends to combat with humor and a recalibration of what is important. Yarbrough’s anti-burnout holistic system centers on faith, family, friends, exercise, escape, and loads of Adam Sandler movies, exemplified by his playing scenes from the titular character’s “happy place” in Happy Gilmore. Chubbs got his hand back and Yarbrough got his joy back, leaving behind the courts and motivating audiences like Texas lawyers.

Elsewhere at the Local Bar Leaders Conference, about 200 attorneys spent their weekend exchanging ideas for driving up membership and engagement for their own bar associations. At CLEs, they also got to hear and offer feedback on the latest in a bevy of high-priority issues such as succession planning, the need for legal clinics for veterans, and expanded legal services offered by paraprofessionals. Save the date for next year’s conference, which returns July 26-27, 2024, at the Westin Galleria in Houston.