Have the Recent Court Changes Affected the Quality of Texas Trial Lawyers?

Premise: Texas was one of the most talented groups of trial lawyers (plaintiffs and defense) in the country.

Over the last 20 years, there have been significant changes to the Texas tort laws. Most of those changes are viewed as anti-consumer or anti-plaintiff. The resulting effect on contingency fee lawyers has been generally described as a "reduction of business." As a result, both "small" personal injury cases and "large" personal injury cases are being handled by fewer and fewer lawyers, and often many "small" cases cannot find a lawyer to represent them. I believe these changes will alter the legal landscape in our state - but not in the way you may think.

These reforms have caused a different result - less jury trials. Historically, young lawyers learned how to be great lawyers through the trial of many small cases. In these small cases, lawyers commonly made mistakes "from which they learned" and polished their skills as orators in the courtroom. The larger Texas law firms often hired law students who graduated at the top of their class and with this practical experience, were able to develop smart young trial lawyers who became skilled advocates in front of judges and juries. Today, however, with less jury trials, this training model for defense firms doesn't work and those lawyers who become plaintiff's lawyers, either through conversion from a defense firm or straight into the practicing of plaintiff's law, also find it difficult to obtain the requisite experience to become seasoned advocates.

It is my belief with less advocates being developed on both sides of the docket, the State Bar of Texas and the citizens of Texas will suffer. Without a turnaround in our litigation practice - as a result of legislative changes, judicial holdings, and "tort reform" rhetoric - Texas will turn from a state with currently one of the largest collection of outstanding courtroom advocates into one where the exceptional advocate is difficult to locate.

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  • 2016-2017 Equal Access to Justice Champion

    The Equal Access to Justice Champions Program was started by the Houston Bar Association in 2006, to help ensure placement of Houston Volunteer Lawyers cases with pro bono volunteers. Originally, firms were tiered according to size, and firms within each tier committed to accept a certain number of pro bono cases from HVL each year for five years.

  • The National Trial Lawyers | Top 100 Trial Lawyers

    The National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 is an invitation-only organization composed of the premier trial lawyers from each state or region who meet stringent qualifications as civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense trial lawyers. Selection is based on a thorough multi-phase objective and uniformly applied process which includes peer nominations combined with third-party research.

  • Million Dollar Advocates Forum

    Established in 1993, the Million Dollar Advocates Forum (which includes the Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum) is one of the most prestigious groups of trial lawyers in the United States. Membership is limited to attorneys who have won million and multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements. There are over 4000 members throughout the country. Fewer than 1% of U.S. lawyers are members.

  • Recognized by Best Lawyers America | Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz | 2017

    Recognition by Best Lawyers is based entirely on peer review. Their methodology is designed to capture, as accurately as possible, the consensus opinion of leading lawyers about the professional abilities of their colleagues within the same geographical area and legal practice area.

  • Lead Counsel Rated

    In order to earn the Lead Counsel Rating, an attorney must not only demonstrate significant legal experience, but must also receive multiple peer recommendations advocating his or her ability. This is a key component in the screening process.

  • Texas Super Lawyers | Texas Monthly

    Each year, Super Lawyers recognizes the top lawyers in Texas via a patented multiphase selection process involving peer nomination, independent research and peer evaluation. The Texas lawyers who receive the highest point totals during this selection process are further recognized in Texas Super Lawyers Top Lists.

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