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Posted on: Apr 3, 2020

The Houston Bar Association has launched its monthly online Houston Bar Bulletin to serve members with timely, interactive communication about events and activities, CLE, sections, networking, professional development, volunteer opportunities, and other member benefits.

You will receive an email each month giving you a direct link to the newsletter. The Houston Bar Bulletin also will be posted on the homepage of the HBA website, and you can read the newsletter on your desktop or mobile devices.

Click here or below to read the April 2020 issue.

 

 

You will be able to print the Houston Bar Bulletin on your office or home printer, if you prefer a paper copy.

To zoom in on a page in the electronic reader, click on the magnifying glass icon in the toolbar above the page, or double-click anywhere on the page and use the + and – buttons in the bottom left corner to adjust zoom.

Members will still receive the e-Bulletin every Monday; the CLE Update every Wednesday; the bimonthly print magazine, The Houston Lawyer; and special emails highlighting upcoming events or important information. The monthly online Houston Bar Bulletin will join that lineup to give you more in-depth information on HBA activities for the coming month, as well as photos and recaps of events.

If you have questions about the Houston Bar Bulletin, please contact Associate Executive Director Tara Shockley, taras@hba.org, or Web Manager Carly Wood, carlyw@hba.org, or call (713) 759-1133. The deadline to submit information for next month’s Bulletin is Monday, April 20.

Posted on: Mar 30, 2020

LegalLine
LegalLine is an HBA service where attorneys volunteer to give legal advice to members of the public over the phone at no cost. We are hosting virtual LegalLine sessions in April and May. To sign up as a volunteer, please fill out this form, or contact Ashley Gagnon Steininger at ashleyg@hba.org.

If you are seeking legal advice, please use this form.

Houston Volunteer Lawyers
HVL will be conducting legal advice clinics remotely. We are seeking volunteer attorneys to call HVL applicants and provide legal advice and counsel over the phone on Friday afternoons from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. If you're interested in volunteering for a Friday clinic, please email probono@hvlp.org.

Take a case and help someone in our community who is seeking legal representation on HVL's waiting list. To find a pro bono case that is right for you, use HVL's Pro Bono Portal. Search a live list of cases; sort by law type; immediately download the documents you need; access legal resource materials, including digital forms; and contact the staff attorney mentor assigned to your case. If you have any questions, please email probono@hvlp.org or call (713) 275-0140.

Community Partners

The HBA supports the following community service organizations each year. If you are looking to support the community in some manner, please consider these wonderful organizations.

  • The Houston Food Bank is working hard to respond to the needs of our community during this crisis. You can help feed hungry families in Houston by donating to the HBA Food From the Bar Campaign at tinyurl.com/hbafood20.
  • Communities In Schools of Houston empowers over 100,000 local students annually to stay in school and to succeed in adulthood. To continue providing services while school campuses are closed – including one-on-one teleconferences with struggling students and emergency supplies for families affected by job loss – CIS is accepting donations online. Click here to make a donation or learn more about their emergency needs and programs during COVID-19. Learn more about CIS’s mission and impact at cishouston.org
  • The HAY Center provides emergency supplies and residential and educational resources for current and former foster youth in the Houston area. The HAY Center is asking for monetary donations only via their PayPal account at this time. Click here to donate. Your gift will allow the HAY Center to continue their work by providing a meal to a youth who is hungry, purchasing emergency items and providing rental assistance to youth who have lost their jobs. Visit haycenter.org to learn more about their great work.
  • The Center for Pursuit provides residential, employment, and healthcare services for adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Houston. The Center for Pursuit is asking for the community to “snap out of the pandemic fears with gingersnaps” by purchasing their gingersnaps and cheesesnaps. They were one of the many HLSR vendors who lost their revenue with the sudden closure of the event due to COVID-19. Go to www.gingersnapsetc.org to learn about their delicious gingersnaps that were inspired by First Lady Barbara Bush and how to order them direct to your home. Visit thecenterforpursuit.org to learn more about this organization.
  • Avenue 360’s Omega House Hospice is an eight-bed home environment where people living with HIV/AIDS can live with dignity. This facility offers palliative medical care as well as psycho social and bereavement services for the dying and their loved ones. You can support their needs by shopping from their Amazon wishlist at tinyurl.com/OmegaList20.

Posted on: Mar 28, 2020

The Houston Bar Association has joined other Texas bar associations in signing a letter of support for increased funding for the Legal Services Corporation, to assist low-income Texans who face tough circumstances, including seniors, veterans, persons with disabilities and survivors of domestic violence. Currently, only 10 percent of the civil legal needs of low-income Texans are being met. These needs will be compounded by legal issues related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition, the HBA has joined other Texas bar associations in signing a letter to Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Nathan Hecht, supporting the Court’s order to place a moratorium on most residential evictions until April 19, and urging an extension of the order for at least an additional 30 days.

The Dallas Bar Association, Tarrant County Bar Association, San Antonio Bar Association, Austin Bar Association and El Paso Bar Association are among those also supporting these issues.

Posted on: Mar 27, 2020

In response to the community need for legal information and resources during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Houston Bar Association (HBA) is unveiling a new, weekly LegalLine process to replace its bi-monthly call-in program. Members of the public with legal questions can sign up online to have a lawyer call back with advice and additional resources to help resolve their legal issues. LegalLine in its new format will begin on April 8 and will be held every Wednesday from 5 p.m. until 8 p.m. through the end of May 2020.

For free legal advice over the phone, please click here or visit hba.org to select an available time slot, then click the “Submit and Sign Up” button to complete the registration process. Sign-ups close the day before each LegalLine date and limited slots are available.

LegalLine Dates:

  • April 8

  • April 15

  • April 22

  • April 29

  • May 6

  • May 13

  • May 20

  • May 27

The HBA serves the community by making legal resources available and easily accessible. This new LegalLine intake sign-up makes it easy for participants to get the information they need while HBA staff and local attorneys continue to work remotely due to the new coronavirus.

For more information, please call (713) 759-1133 or visit HBA.org.

Posted on: Mar 27, 2020

Practicing Law in the Time of Coronavirus: How to Conduct Effective Hearings and Remote Depositions

Presenters:

  • Beth Fein, BWA Video, will show you the basics of videoconference depositions, including exhibits, sidebars and “breakout” rooms.
  • Benny Agosto, Jr., HBA president, will discuss the ethical responsibility to comply with the Stay Home, Stay Safe order using technology to connect with clients.
  • Hon. Mike Engelhart, 151st District Court, will discuss court expectations for remote hearings, including which hearings will be held remotely and which will be postponed, what happens when a party is unable to attend remotely, and motions to quash based on video depositions.
  • Rene White Moarefi and Carolyn Ruiz Coronado, Houston Court Reporters Association, will present tips on working with court reporters for effective remote depositions.
  • Joe Lawson, deputy director of the Harris County Law Library will discuss the many resources and online services the law library offers to attorneys and the public.
  • Michael Hofrichter, executive director of Houston Volunteer Lawyers, will offer information on programs, apps and technology to help your practice thrive in difficult times.

 

Course Number: 174082167
1.5 hours MCLE, including .25 hours ethics credit
No charge to watch or self-report the credit to the State Bar of Texas. Presented as a service to the profession by the Houston Bar Association.

If you enjoy videos like these, check out the HBA's CLE-accredited video library for members at hba.org/watchCLE.

Posted on: Mar 25, 2020

Download these tips as a PDF or image!

Working from Home
When working from home, whether by choice or by a “stay in place” order, you need to project the confidence and professionalism your clients expect. Be aware of your surroundings including background noise and appearance of the physical environment for videoconferencing. Children playing, dogs barking, dishes clanging, and other common household sounds, can be very distracting. While dropped calls and static can happen anywhere, it seems to happen more often when conducting business using a cell phone at home with poor Wi-fi connection. On an ongoing basis, a client may determine that these distractions reflect poorly on the lawyer’s abilities to be attentive and to prioritize the work.  The best way to project confidence and professionalism is to look and act like you are focused, organized, and ready to work. 

A few practice tips: (1) Technology matters – test Wi-fi connections, computer cameras, speakers, microphones, and lighting; (2) audio and video, including screen sharing options, recording capabilities, and other features are not the same across all platforms; (3) identify yourself when you are speaking in large groups; (4) use the mute button when you are not speaking, but do not tune out; (5) use a quite space - be conscious of background noises and your (heavy) breathing; (6) do not carry the phone into the bathroom; and (7) remember to disconnect at the end of the call or videoconference. 

Do not procrastinate.
While many deadlines are tolled and/or extended by court order or by virtue of “social distancing,” it is better to be proactive. Use the down time to review client matters, to plan ahead, and to take care of things that have been lingering on your to do list. A lawyer’s duty of diligence, even during uncertain times, is quite appropriately stated in a Comment 7 to TDRP 1.01: “A lawyer should feel a moral or professional obligation to pursue a matter on behalf of a client with reasonable diligence and promptness despite opposition, obstruction or personal inconvenience to the lawyer.” Courthouse closures, self-quarantines, and other restrictions may be inconvenient, but are no match for a proactive lawyer.

Communicate with your clients.
A lawyer’s duty to keep a client reasonably informed about the status of a matter under TDRP 1.03, includes notifying clients about your availability to work on cases, unexpected delays, and new deadlines. Clients do not receive the barrage of official emails and orders with updates on these important issues. Clients will appreciate updates posted on lawyer’s websites and emails with actual and remote office hours and/or offered methods of communication (e.g., telephone or videoconference). New technology and free online or cloud-based services may be helpful in the short-run, but must be carefully evaluated to confirm that client information is secure and properly safeguarded.

Succession Planning
A succession plan should be put into place that designates another competent lawyer to review client files, notify clients and courts of the original lawyer’s incapacity or death, and assess the immediate client needs. Reciprocal agreements between solo practitioners in similar practice areas can be particularly useful. While advance planning is preferable, if a lawyer becomes unwell or unable to work, clients should be notified as soon as possible and attempts should be made to find a competent lawyer to assist with the transfer of the client file. TDRP 13.01, Notice of Attorney's Cessation of Practice, provides guidance for situations involving an attorney’s unexpected passing. Clients must consent to new counsel and client confidentiality must be maintained.

A little courtesy goes a long way.
Be professional and courteous to others. Everyone is a bit dazed by what is being called the “new normal,” something that seems to be changing every hour. This is the time to be flexible, cooperative with opposing counsel, and polite to court personnel.

Minimizing Stress and Fostering a Healthier Lifestyle
Social and professional isolation; concerns about your own health and the well-being of employees, friends, and loved ones; worries about the economy and stock market; and the looming question of when is the pandemic is going to end can cause tremendous stress and anxiety. Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program is available 24/7 with confidential support and can provide simple daily wellness strategies you can implement to minimize stress and foster a healthier lifestyle. 1-800-343-TLAP (8527) or text TLAP to 555888.

 

Here are 19 things you can do to improve your ethics and professional health:

  1. Check all deadlines, confirm court procedures and closures, and carefully calculate new deadlines based on orders tolling statutes of limitations.
  2. Read recent and proposed changes to the Texas disciplinary rules (e.g., technology competence).
  3. Send well-wishes and status reports to clients.
  4. Review your “form” contract.
  5. Revise other commonly used forms.
  6. Clean up your digital and physical workspace.
  7. Back up your computer and devices.
  8. Reconcile your trust account.
  9. Explore ways to improve your work efficiency.
  10. Review your expenses with an eye towards cutting costs or increasing the value of the services (e.g., lease term, insurance, land lines, cell phones, internet providers, virtual services, etc.).
  11. Develop a business plan and marketing strategy.
  12. Update your contact list.
  13. Update your social media profile.
  14. Change your passwords.
  15. Update your will.
  16. Complete your required annual Minimum Continuing Legal Education Requirements (free online videos are available for HBA members).
  17. Volunteer for a pro bono case through Houston Volunteer Lawyers.
  18. Pay your HCAD Business Personal Property Rendition Tax.
  19. Draft a disaster/emergency preparedness plan.

 

Jennifer A. Hasley, a partner at Hasley Scarano, LLP, maintains a statewide trial and appellate practice focused almost exclusively on attorney disciplinary issues and professional liability claims She is Board Certified in Civil Trial Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization; an elected director and current treasurer of the Houston Bar Association; and chair of Houston Volunteer Lawyers.

Posted on: Mar 24, 2020

The Houston Bar Association debuts its all-new Wellness page, a special section of the HBA.org website with a focus on member attorneys’ physical and mental wellbeing in the legal profession and at home.

The page features a specially-curated collection of wellness resources in areas of Physical and Mental Health, Mindfulness, Lawyers Assisting Lawyers, Law Practice Management and Staying Well, which includes video content, member affiliate discounts, wellness tips of the week, mobile applications available for download and articles and resources.

The HBA is committed to helping our members stay healthy in mind, body and spirit. Browse the Wellness page wherever you are to find the resources to help you relax and be the healthiest you can be, both in and out of the office.

For more information and to browse invaluable content, visit HBA.org/Wellness.

Posted on: Mar 13, 2020

APRIL 1 LEGALLINE CANCELED

Decision Made In Effort to Minimize Potential Exposure to COVID-19, New Coronavirus

HOUSTON (March 13, 2020)—For the health and safety of its staff and volunteers, the Houston Bar Association (HBA) is canceling the LegalLine program scheduled for Wednesday, April 1, 2020, due to concern over COVID-19, the new coronavirus. The HBA will monitor the developing situation regarding LegalLine programs scheduled after April 1.

Posted on: Mar 5, 2020

Harris County Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards

Did your firm or corporate legal department perform exceptional pro bono legal services during 2019?
Were you or was someone you know an outstanding pro bono volunteer?

The Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards Committee is now accepting nominations!

The Harris County Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards recognize outstanding contributions to pro bono services in Harris County by law firms, corporate legal departments and individuals. A committee of local attorneys and judges will select the award recipients, and the winners will be honored at a luncheon & ceremony this spring.

Awards are given in the following categories:

  • Large firm (100+)
  • Midsize firm (20-100)
  • Small firm (1-20)
  • Corporate legal department
  • Individual (whether practicing at a firm, corporation, or solo)

Attorneys and firms become eligible through a self-nominating process or someone may nominate a firm or individual. Attorneys/firms must submit a log of their pro bono service during the calendar year 2019 to the Houston Bar Association. Deadline has been extended to 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 17, 2020! Eligibility criteria include:

  • The attorney or firm attorneys must be licensed by and in good standing with the State Bar of Texas. The attorney must primarily practice in Harris County or surrounding counties.
  • The law firm submissions must be based on pro bono work performed through the office based in Harris County or surrounding counties.
  • The attorney must not be employed by an organization that has as its primary purpose the provision of legal services to low-income residents.
  • The attorney must have provided direct pro bono legal services without any compensation for fees, expenses or otherwise.
  • In reviewing award nominees, the judges will consider the number of clients directly receiving legal services, the complexity of the legal work provided, and the number of pro bono hours provided in the year specified on the nomination form. Please include information on all categories listed on the nomination form.
  • The pro bono work may be performed through any recognized legal services provider or it may be direct legal representation on behalf of any non-profit organization that provides services to the community. Please do not include work performed for a public entity, such as a government or municipal office.

Submission form must include:

  1. Cover letter;
  2. Summary of nominee's work for the year 2019, not to exceed two pages;
  3. The nomination form, including the number of pro bono hours the firm spent on the projects described in the summary, the number of attorneys in the firm performing pro bono work during the specified year, the number of attorneys in the organization, and a total number of pro bono hours.

Click here to download the nomination form [Word document]

Submit the complete nomination packet no later than 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 17 to HBA Associate Executive Director Tara Shockley via email (taras@hba.org) or mail (Houston Bar, ATTN: Bench Bar Pro Bono Awards, 1111 Bagby Street, FLB#200, Houston, Texas 77002).

Thank you for doing pro bono!


The Justice Eugene A. Cook Professionalism Award

Justice Eugene A. Cook headshotThe Justice Eugene A. Cook Professionalism Award is presented by the Houston Bar Association to a lawyer or judge who exemplifies the highest level of professionalism and legal ethics. This award focuses on a lifetime of professionalism and is the highest honor awarded by the HBA for professionalism. The award was established in 2018 and is named in honor of Justice Cook, who was the principal architect of the Texas Lawyer’s Creed adopted in 1989 by the Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

A nominee must have demonstrated, by conduct and character, a longstanding commitment to professionalism and a record of exemplary service in the areas of professionalism, legal ethics, and legal excellence. The nominee must be a role model for younger or less experienced lawyers who makes the bar proud of the legal profession. Lawyer nominees may be from a transactional or litigation practice, and nominees must be a member of the HBA.

Send nominee's résumé and at least three, but not more than five, letters of support by 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 17, 2020 to HBA Executive Director Mindy Davidson at mindyd@hba.org.

 

The Justice Ruby Kless Sondock Award

Justice Ruby Kless Sondock headshot

The Justice Ruby Kless Sondock Award is presented by the Houston Bar Association to a woman lawyer or judge for exceptional achievement and leadership in the law. This award recognizes a record of outstanding accomplishments by a woman attorney. The award was established in 2019 and is named in honor of Justice Sondock, the first recipient, who was a trailblazer in the legal profession as the first woman to serve on the Supreme Court of Texas and the first woman District Court Judge in Harris County.

A nominee must have demonstrated, by conduct and character, a record of exceptional service as a role model, mentor, and advocate in the legal profession, and a lifelong commitment to professionalism. Nominees may be from a transactional or litigation practice, and nominees must be a member of the HBA.

Send nominee's résumé and at least three, but not more than five, letters of support by 5:00 p.m. Friday, April 17, 2020 to HBA Executive Director Mindy Davidson at mindyd@hba.org.

Posted on: Mar 4, 2020

It has come to our attention that members are receiving an email that appears to be from the HBA, requesting support for a Go Fund Me account under the subject "Save Dawson."

This is a spam email. The HBA did not, and would not, send an email soliciting funds in this manner.

You will note that the actual sender's email address is not a legitimate HBA email address. Please do not contribute to the PayPal account linked to the email, and please delete the email from your mailbox.

We apologize for any inconvenience.


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