Last week, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association honored me with their first TTLA Member Spotlight. The TTLA Member Spotlight is designed to highlight lawyers in the community that have given something back. I have always felt that it is our duty as lawyers to give back to the community--whether it be donating our time, providing our services pro bono, or contributing to scholarships and charities.
For the past 25 years, the Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas (MABATx) has provided a forum and a means for lawyers to promote the social, economic, and educational advancement of the people of
The Mexican-American Bar Association of Texas (MABATx) is excited to hold its annual Law Student & Leadership Conference on Saturday, April 17, 2010 at South Texas College of Law Houston in downtown Houston. email@example.com, Jr., MABATx Conference Chair is pleased to announce the Law Student & Leadership Conference is an opportunity for law students from all over the great State of Texas to learn practical application as well as legal theory from talented legal minds. Additionally, it is an opportunity for attorneys to offer advice and support to law students, while reminiscing about their law school days. Guest speakers include nationally recognized and accomplished attorneys, as well as, District, Appellate, and Supreme Court Justices of the State of Texas.
Nearly every legal publication is doing its year-end review of how the economy has affected the law firms that earn revenue through the billable hour. The economy has slowed the ordinary rate increase that law firms normally implemented from year to year. For example, The National Law Journal's annual survey of billing rates showed that "this year's national average firm-wide billing rate, a combination of partner and associate rates, grew by 2.5% during 2009 to $372." This is relatively small increase considering that in 2008 firms reported a 4.3% increase in billable rates. In 2007, firms reported a 7.7% rate increase. The economy and the clients that hire firms based on the billable hour drove the decrease in rate growth.
I recently spoke to a group of high school seniors at the High School for Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice on the importance of jury service in our society. The "Importance of Jury Service" dialogue began when I was President of the Houston Bar Association in 2005. I am thankful the HBA has continued this informational dialogue that encourages newly qualified potential jurors to appear when they are summoned for jury duty. Many of the class members were already 18 years old (making them currently eligible for jury duty), and the rest were approaching their 18th birthday.
Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, in connection with others, is pleased to welcome to Houston a delegation of 23 judges from Ecuador as part of the Ecuador Judicial Exchange, a program designed to allow Ecuadorian judges the ability to witness the criminal justice system in the state and federal courts of Texas and the United States. The program will be held from October 22-29. Additionally, Abraham Watkins will be hosting a reception for the Ecuadorian judges on October 27th at our office located in downtown Houston.
I recently attended my first meeting of the Texas Access to Justice Commission as an official commissioner. This organization is charged with assisting low income and poor Texans who are in need of civil legal services. The effort to provide civil legal services is done both through legal service providers, as well as through pro bono attorneys. The statistics, however, are somewhat staggering:
Process Leading to January 2010 Board VoteThe State Bar Board of Directors at its January 2010 meeting will vote to recommend to the Supreme Court of Texas a.) whether Texas should require lawyers to disclose whether they have liability insurance, and b.) if disclosure is required, the preferred method of disclosure. To ensure that the Board is well informed and that information about the process, discussion, and issues considered be part of the report to the Court, the Board will collect information from both lawyers and members of the public. The process, includes public hearings, opportunities for written comments, and online information about this issue. Public hearings scheduled as of Friday, Sept. 25, include:
This past week, I attended South Texas College of Law Houston's (STCL's) Casino Night that it hosted at the Rice Hotel in downtown Houston. The event has proven to be a good fundraiser for the school and for the Advocacy Program, which is a perennial powerhouse in the world of mock trial and moot court. The event is held for the alumni and STCL provided several gaming tables where the alumni gambled for tickets that would be used later during a raffle. In addition, there was a silent auction where the alumni could make donations to the school and receive something in return. For example, items for auction included an autographed jersey of Yao Ming and a chance to throw out the first pitch at one of the Astros games. The alumni bid for the various the items and experiences, all in supporting STCL.
I recently volunteered to be on the HBA Fee Dispute Committee. Today was our first meeting for the year. Going into the meeting, I wasn't even sure what exactly I was volunteering for, but the name sounded interesting. Once I arrived, it soon became clear that the HBA has a program that not many people know about that is a wonderful service to both lawyers and clients. Believe it or not, there are times when lawyers and clients can't agree on who is owed money and how much. I know, it's shocking to think that lawyers would ever disagree with a client. In the event this ever happens to you, be aware that the HBA offers a FREE service to resolve these disputes. Members of the HBA as well as non-lawyers volunteer their time to sit as an arbitration panel over fee disputes. In order for a dispute to be eligible, both the client and the attorney must voluntarily consent to use the HBA fee dispute process. In the last 10 years, the committee has successfully arbitrated on average 15 fee disputes per year. The panel who hears the dispute consists of two attorneys and one non-attorney. But like I said before, the best part is it is free. For more information on the process, please visit the Houston Bar Association website. With so many people willing to volunteer their time, you might take advantage of it if you ever find yourself in a fee dispute.