Tomorrow, a subcommittee of the State Bar of Texas will interview six lawyers and choose two nominees to recommend to run for 2013 State Bar president-elect.
Additionally, Steve Fischer, a State Bar board member, has gathered nearly 4,900 lawyers’ signatures to run for president-elect as a petition candidate, only the second in history.
The six potential nominees are Trey Apffel of the Apffel Law Firm in League City; McKinney family law solo Susan Fisher; Larry Hicks of Hicks & Llamas in El Paso; John Sloan of Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher & Perry in Longview; Ray Thomas of Kittleman Thomas & Gonzales in McAllen; and Charles M. "Charlie" Wilson III of Goranson Bain in Plano.
“By the time someone gets to this stage, any one of these individuals would meet the standards of character, integrity and respect as a professional to represent the State Bar. It’s more the issue of: What is their vision? What do they think we can do to better serve the lawyers of the state and the public? Some great ideas come out of these interviews,” says State Bar past president Bob Black, co-chairman of the Nominations and Elections Subcommittee.
Black says his subcommittee started with a long list of lawyers’ names and narrowed it down to just over 30 people who the subcommittee believed would be available for the job, did a good job when serving in a past State Bar or local bar position, and would represent the legal profession well. Black and his co-chairwoman, Beverly Godbey, called each of the lawyers on that list, and eight expressed an interest in being president-elect; in the end, six agreed to move forward to the interview stage.
Black says he’s personally looking for two nominees who are energetic, compassionate, love working with people “from all walks of life,” revere the legal profession, have a sense of humor and perspective, and can work constructively with the judiciary and the Legislature.
Just after the interviews, the subcommittee plans to choose two nominees. In January, the Bar’s board of directors will vote to approve them as candidates. The candidate who wins election will serve one year each as president-elect, president and then past president.
Texas Lawyer emailed the six potential nominees and Fischer the question, “What are the reasons you think you should be president of the State Bar?” Here are their answers, edited for style and length.
League City solo
Family and personal injury law
Law degree from Baylor University School of Law in 1981
“I am honored to be considered as a nominee for the State Bar President position. I believe I would be an excellent resident of the Texas State Bar because of my wealth of experience, my passion for practicing law, my practical knowledge and leadership skills. I have previously served on the board of directors, the Commission for Lawyer Discipline, and the Bar Foundation. I have been active in local bar activities over the years and have realized great satisfaction through that involvement. I come from a rich tradition of lawyers and legal service over the years. My father was a 50-year lawyer, my uncle has practiced for almost that long, and I have one brother and five brothers-in-law who are lawyers. The legal profession has given me an opportunity to meet many lawyers throughout the state and experience many different views regarding our profession. I feel this gives me a good understanding of what our members want, need and expect from a unified bar. I believe I am capable of implementing and overseeing those programs that best serve the legal profession. I look forward to the opportunity to represent the lawyers of the State of Texas and provide leadership in improving the services of the State Bar that affect lawyers in their everyday practice.”
Family, criminal and civil law
Law degree from Indiana University School of Law in 1977
“I'm independent and will be nominated by well over 5,000 attorneys in all areas of practice and parts of the state. . . . I've actually spoken with and listened to thousands of attorneys at CLE events and courthouses around the state. My accomplishments for attorneys include: Facebook and other networking sites for litigators, family lawyers, probate, estate as well as property lawyers. I currently chair the survey subcommittee working on affordable health insurance, and we will soon have a free CLE webinar/survey with policies hopefully available at the end of next year. I have proposals to make the Online Law Library much more affordable, as few subscribe to it at current prices, as well as working on Casemaker improvements. I have a wide range of practice: everything from securities, to family law, litigation, and criminal law, and I've practiced all over the state. . . . I've served the Bar on several committees before I was elected director and authored several Texas Bar Journal articles, mostly on attorney demographics (including May 2012) before being appointed to the TBJ board of editors. I want a more transparent, supportive and open Bar rather than another title to pad my résumé. I spoke out and campaigned against the Bar rules referendum in 2010-11. The Bar presidents should instead speak out against attacks on our jury system (“Tort Reform”) . . . .”
Law degree from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Calif. in 1994
"Many attorneys in Texas feel that the [State Bar of Texas] is irrelevant to their small law firm or solo practices. I want to serve as president of the State Bar to bring to the office my experience as a family law practitioner who has practiced in a small town and who understands the struggles faced by solo practitioners. I am committed to doing the work that the job requires to continue to make progress with the issues facing the members of the State Bar and members of the public."
President and managing shareholder in Hicks & Llamas in El Paso
Medical-malpractice defense, employment, personal injury law
Law degree from Texas Tech University School of Law in 1981
“I would be honored to represent the lawyers of Texas. An important goal is to help educate the public about the rule of law in our society and the attorneys’ role in the process. Such education to the public will assist in a corollary goal, which is to improve public perception of attorneys. I want to encourage professionalism and civility among lawyers, to help dispel negative notions many have of lawyers and promote honor in the profession. I believe that I have the leadership and communication skills to enable me to shepherd the many good programs already in place, and to be an effective ambassador for and to Texas lawyers.”
Partner in Sloan, Bagley, Hatcher & Perry in Longview
Personal injury law
Law degree from Baylor University School of Law in 1980
“I believe that I can be an effective spokesperson for the needs of the Bar members. I have always had a very keen interest in protecting the viability and integrity of our profession. I believe that the State Bar does an effective job of policing its members, and I want to continue to seek to an even-handed, fair approach to disciplinary matters as they affect our members, always keeping in mind our obligation to the public interest. I want the State Bar to continue and expand upon some of its recent excellent work in promoting education about child abuse. I would like to see the expansion of the State Bar’s activities be in the assurance of children’s basic constitutional protections when dealing with Child Protective Services and our legal system. I want to continue to assure that there is access to justice for those less fortunate in our society. I want to continue the improvement of our system of legal education to afford quality education easily accessible to all of our members.”
Managing partner in Kittleman Thomas & Gonzales in McAllen
Complex civil litigation
Law degree from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law in 1988
“A general decline in our quality of life is a worrisome issue for the legal profession. Poor economic conditions exacerbate the struggles we already have trying to keep up with the rising cost of practicing law. Too many lawyers are unemployed or underemployed. Too many lawyers cannot afford to pay their bills. Too many lawyers are stressed beyond the breaking point. The State Bar has many programs targeting these issues, but we can build on these prior efforts by focusing on areas that improve our quality of life. Instilling values such as a duty to serve, finding ways to reignite the passion and excitement for our profession, helping lawyers help themselves with wellness programs, renewing efforts to restore and reward civility in our law practice and discourse, using the State Bar's purchasing power to reduce the cost of practicing law, and improving delivery of the many practice tools and management resources available through the State Bar, especially to solo and small firms, will contribute to improving the quality of life for lawyers while re-energizing our profession. Without raising Bar dues since 1990, the State Bar has developed new programs and expanded services each year. The challenge is to continue this trend. Rather than being viewed as an oppressive Big Brother, the State Bar should be thought of as a virtual partner by every Texas lawyer, striving to provide lawyers with high quality, useful products and services at little or no cost. How about an “App” for easy access to State Bar programs, tools and resources? Above all, we must recognize that our law license is a privilege, not a right — a privilege that comes with a responsibility to serve. The obligation to serve transcends all religions and all politics. Working together for the common good, and especially for those who need special assistance, preserves the rule of law, promotes the efficient administration of justice, and unites us as a noble profession fully capable of responsible self-governance. I believe Texas lawyers share these enduring values. If called to serve as president-elect of the State Bar of Texas, I will do so with an open mind and a servant's heart.
Charles M. "Charlie" Wilson III
Of counsel, Goranson Bain in Plano
Family, personal injury and civil trial law
Law degree from the University of Texas at Austin School of Law in 1974
“I think the greatest challenge facing the State Bar of Texas is one of remaining relevant — both to its members and to the people of this state. I think we can only remain relevant by the continuous process of evaluating the needs of the public, of lawyers and of the legal system itself and then improving or strengthening or correcting or inventing our programs and approaches to respond to those evolving needs. I believe in the commitment of our profession to service — service to the public and service to the system of justice. My 30-plus year history of service and leadership in the State Bar’s CLE, the Bar Foundation, the College of the State Bar, the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and the grievance committee reflects the depth and sincerity of my commitment to these efforts. The State Bar of Texas has many things to be rightfully proud of, and our true responsibility is to never rest on these laurels, but to instead build upon them.”
-- Angela Morris