Lawyers Contribute Pro Bono Hours After Sutherland Springs Shooting

by Angela Morris (Texas Lawyer, November 2018)

“I was processing the totality of it. I saw right then and there we were going to have family law issues, probate issues,” Wilson County Attorney Tom Caldwell recalled. “When I came home that night, I was so shook up by it, I told my wife I would handle them all. She said, ‘No, you are not.’”

Next, he called for help from his friend, Tom Keyser, a past president of the San Antonio Bar Association, who put Caldwell in touch with SABA’s Community Justice Program, which assists low-income people with civil legal matters.

That connection set a plan in motion that eventually attracted 100 lawyers from the San Antonio community who pledged to volunteer to help victims, survivors and their families with legal issues that arose from the tragic shooting. SABA’s Sutherland Springs initiative has already called upon half of those 100 volunteer attorneys, helping with matters large and small—from answering a client’s question over the phone, to taking on full representation. All of the lawyers gave their services free of charge, and volunteer attorneys are still standing by today to help survivors and victims’ families with legal issues that spring up later.

For Breast-Pumping Lawyer Moms, Accommodations Often Fall Short

by Angela Morris (Law.com, Oct. 31, 2018, Link or download PDF)

The old saying, “Don’t crying over spilled milk,” doesn’t apply when you’re a nursing lawyer-mom, using a toilet as a table while pumping your breast milk during your practice group’s annual retreat.

Utilizing the bathroom as a makeshift baby-food kitchen wasn’t labor and employment litigator Elise Elam’s first choice. She recalled she was relegated to the loo only after staff in the retreat facility offered up a room with a non-closing door that left a gap where she could see the speaker talking to all her colleagues. The toilet stall was private, at least. After she finished pumping and started to gather her gear, that’s when it happened: Elam’s milk spilled all over the toilet and floor. She acknowledges—she cried.

“It was stressful,” explained Elam, staff attorney at Frost Brown Todd in Cincinnati.

Like many nursing lawyer-moms, Elam is happy with her law firm’s breastfeeding accommodations—she has a private office and closes her door with a do-not-disturb sign when she expresses her milk—yet she continues facing struggles when depositions, hearings or legal conferences take her away from home base for extended periods of time. Courthouses have emerged as a primary problem area for nursing lawyers who need a private place, and time, to pump milk for their babies.

One group advocating on behalf of breastfeeding attorneys is MothersEsquire, a Facebook group with 3,000 lawyer-moms spread around the nation, which created a breastfeeding accommodations advisory committee in early 2017.

Are law firms committed to disability diversity? A handful of firms have taken action

As the nation in October celebrates National Disability Employment Awareness Month, statistics show that the legal profession as a whole either isn’t doing its fair share to recruit, retain and advance attorneys with disabilities, or it has failed to be inclusive enough for disabled lawyers to feel comfortable disclosing their impairments. Many law firms state generally that they’re welcoming to people with disabilities, but only a handful have put their words into meaningful action. … This article published in the ABA Journal on Oct. 24. Click here to read the story, or you can download a PDF here.

Women-Owned Law Firms Surge Amid Gender Disparity in the Profession

Work-life balance is often pegged as the reason women leave traditional law firms. But for the growing number of women establishing their own firms, their departure is often rooted more deeply in gender inequality in the profession than in raising children or having more free time. “If women were feeling valued, were getting properly rewarded for their efforts, were getting their fair share and it wasn’t a constant struggle to get your origination credit, and feel you are part of the team—then you would stay,” said Nicole Galli, who in 2017 co-founded a trade association, Women Owned Law, which has already grown to 200 members. Also growing in membership is the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council, which doles out the prestigious Women’s Business Enterprise certification. It currently certifies 300 law firms, and just 11 percent of those law firms have held their certifications for 10 years or more. A full 50 percent of them just earned certification within the past five years. Among the 300 WBE-certified law firms, 16 percent were newly founded within the past five years, according to council spokeswoman Jessica Carlson. Originally published on law.com on Oct. 9, 2018. Download a PDF.

Texas Immigration Law Professors Take Action to Help Reunite Families Seeking Asylum

Law students were on summer break when outrage erupted nationwide over the Trump administration’s practice of separating immigrant parents and children who crossed the country’s southern border.

But summer didn’t stop Texas immigration law professors from taking action, and in the coming school year, they’re planning opportunities for law students in their schools’ immigration clinics to help reunited families seek asylum or fight deportation.

Law professors all over Texas jumped into action at various levels to help immigrant families the government separated.

Link.

PDF: texas-immigration-law-professors-take-action-to-help-reunite-families-seeking-asylum

‘Extreme Part-Time’ Lawyer-Moms Flock to Freelance Firms

After having her second child, Southern California litigator Erin Giglia worked part-time for law firm Snell & Wilmer, but fellow associate Laurie Rowen had different plans for work when her baby girl was born 16 days after Giglia’s daughter.

Rowen always knew she wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, while continuing to do legal work on an extremely part-time basis. It took nearly a year for Giglia to jump on board, but when she did, the pair co-founded Montage Legal Group, a new legal business model especially attractive to women.

Montage and firms like it have proven a good match for all sorts of lawyers who want to set their own work terms, but they have become particularly popular with lawyer moms who want to dramatically reduce their hours after they give birth, but who also want to stay in the legal game. The part-time experience at these kinds of firms also eases the transition back into the profession full time, if they choose to, when their children get older.

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PDF: extreme-part-time-lawyer-moms-flock-to-freelance-firms

This One MtGox Creditor Might Recover $61 Million Dollars – or Some Other Amount of Dollars or Possibly No Dollars

This article first published on Popula.com on July 12, 2018. It is available for reprints.

PDF: this-one-mtgox-creditor-might-recover-61-million-dollars

“You can open the champagne now.”

Joyful celebration lit up online groups for creditors of the bankrupt MtGox exchange on June 22, when a Japanese court decided to move the company into “civil rehabilitation,” a new legal process that promises to deliver a windfall of bitcoin for creditors.

It’s spectacular news for the 24,750 approved MtGox creditors, because based on today’s bitcoin value they will end up with more money that they actually had at the time MtGox went into bankruptcy. The original bankruptcy proceeding, by law, would have paid creditors just $483 per bitcoin—the value when MtGox went bankrupt in 2014. Under civil rehabilitation, they will receive bitcoins, which are now trading at around $6,000 each, plus their share of whatever cash remains in the MtGox estate. While they missed out on the peak price of almost $19,000 last December, this is still more moolah than they ever dreamed back in 2014.

“This is the best news in this case since years,” wrote one man on the MtGox Creditors Telegram group, just after someone posted the MtGox trustee’s June 22 announcement that the Tokyo District Court approved MtGox’s move.

But a more tempered response came from Josh Jones, CEO and founder of Bitcoin Builder Inc., whose claim towers at 43,768 bitcoins—though he’s quick to point out some belongs to him, and some to his site’s users. Jones’s group is the second-largest MtGox creditor, right behind New Zealand’s bankrupt Bitcoinica exchange with 64,673 bitcoins.

Continue reading This One MtGox Creditor Might Recover $61 Million Dollars – or Some Other Amount of Dollars or Possibly No Dollars

Mark Your Calendars: June 26 Is Banner Day for LGBT Rights at SCOTUS

It’s poetic coincidence that the biggest U.S. Supreme Court rulings in the LGBT civil rights movement bore the date June 26, said high court litigator Paul Smith, who argued the landmark case that laid the foundation for same-sex marriage equality.

In Lawrence v. Texas, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested in Lawrence’s Houston home for alleged “deviant sexual intercourse” that violated the Texas criminal sodomy statute. Fifteen years ago on June 26, 2003, the high court ruled in Lawrence that criminal sodomy statutes were unconstitutional. It paved the way for the high court on the same date—June 26—nine years later in Windsor v. United States to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act’s definitions of “marriage” and “spouse” as limited to opposite-sex couples. And in 2015, again on June 26, the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide in Obergefell v. Hodges.

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PDF: mark-your-calendars-june-26-is-banner-day-for-lgbt-rights-at-scotus

Ben Crump Champions the Wrongfully Convicted in New TV Show

Civil rights lawyer Ben Crump is well-known nationally for representing families of unarmed black people killed by police, like Michael Brown and Stephon Clark, in wrongful death and police brutality cases.

In his latest role, he’s the host of “Evidence of Innocence,” a new show on TV One about wrongful convictions with episodes running on Mondays in June.

Crump, president and founder of Ben Crump Law in Tallahassee and Los Angeles, narrates the stories and interviews the four wrongfully convicted African-Americans who are featured in the show. As the survivors—and the defense lawyers and investigators who won their clients’ freedom—sit under studio lights telling their stories, actors and actresses re-enact the drama, with intense music in the background.

We caught up with Crump, a former National Bar Association president, to ask about his role in the show, how it’s affected him personally and the larger impact he hopes to see from it. Here are his answers, edited for clarity and brevity.

Link.

PDF: ben-crump-champions-the-wrongfully-convicted-in-new-tv-show

Do journalists deserve some blame for America’s mass shootings?

The reporter who won this year’s Pulitzer Prize for feature writing initially thought she was in Charleston, South Carolina, to chronicle the lives of nine church-goers who died in 2015 when a stranger with a Glock murdered them while they were praying.

The names, mug shots and one paragraph each about the lives of those nine victims did make it into Rachel Kaadzi Ghansah’s story, “A Most American Terrorist: The Making of Dylann Roof,” published in GQ in September 2017.

But the rest of her over 12,000-word story told the tale of their killer instead. Ghansah spared nothing in tracking down intimate details of the shooter’s life, coming from his childhood friends, elementary school principal, church minister, co-workers, teenage pals and more. The reporter went back to his birth, telling of the isolation of his school years as a low-income white boy, can’t-get-out-of-bed depression, rancid racism, incessant preparations for killing African-American parishioners and his death sentence for a federal hate crime conviction.

It’s an incredible work of journalism, but also an example of the type of mass shooting coverage that’s maddening to advocates who, for years, have tried to little avail to persuade the media to stop publishing the names and images of mass shooters.

This article first published in Quill Magazine in June. It’s available for reprints. Contact me for details.

Continue reading Do journalists deserve some blame for America’s mass shootings?

At Elite Law Reviews, Diversity Efforts May Be Paying Off

In the past few years, some of the country’s most elite law reviews have elected students of color as editors-in-chief, a signal that yearslong diversity efforts might finally be paying off.

Historically speaking, law reviews have struggled to represent students of color and women equally among their editors—jobs that can open doors to prestigious judicial clerkships and Big Law employment. It’s been even harder for underrepresented students to win the coveted editor-in-chief role, as statistically, leadership posts at law reviews have overrepresented white male law students.

Are the times changing?

Link.

PDF: At Elite Law Reviews, Diversity Efforts May Be Paying Off _ National Law Journal

Women Lawyers Join #MeToo Movement with Hashtag of Their Own

The legal profession’s own #MeToo movement is playing out on Twitter.

Under the hashtag #LadyLawyerDiaries, the discussion over the last year has evolved to tackle serious and pervasive issues surrounding women in the law. It’s become a movement that enables female attorneys to speak out collectively about gender bias and sexual harassment in the legal profession.

We talked with Greenberg Traurig partner Kendyl Hanks of Austin, one woman—along with Goodwin associate Jaime Santos of Washington, D.C.—among a core group of about 15 female attorneys who have joined forces to tweet as one under the @LadyLawyerDiaryhandle. The group ranges in age from 20 to 40, coming from diverse legal backgrounds—law clerks, court staff attorneys, law firm associates and partners, law professors, in-house counsel.

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PDF: Women Lawyers Join #MeToo Movement with Hashtag of Their Own _ Law

How the Justice System Severely Failed One of its Own

Part of the horror of what happened to Suzanne Wooten is the realization that if the justice system failed so miserably for her, it could happen to anyone.

Wooten lived a nightmare: Winning an election by a landslide to unseat an incumbent judge, only to be allegedly targeted by political rivals, wrongfully convicted of nine felonies, cast down from her district court bench and stripped of her license to practice law.

Finally after six years living the bad dream, Wooten this year found complete redemption in May when a court acquitted her of all charges, declared her actually innocent, and she got back her law license in June.

Some things, Wooten will never get back. She used to believe if she paid her taxes, followed the speed limit, refused to drink and drive, or followed election campaign laws, she would be safe and wouldn’t get in legal trouble.

“The biggest horror is taking away from me and my family the sense of security we have,” Wooten said. “When something like this happens to you, my sense of being safe even just walking down the street—it’s gone, it’s destroyed.”

Wrongful conviction stories always loom large in the public consciousness because of the deep-seated need to believe that the justice system will get it right—convict the guilty, exonerate the innocent. When things go terribly wrong, people struggle to find some reason, so that they won’t have to believe that a wrongful conviction could happen to them, too.

How did the system fail Suzanne Wooten?

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PDF: How the Justice System Severely Failed One of its Own _ Texas Lawyer

Handling Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey didn’t significantly impact most law students and law professors of Houston’s three law schools—South Texas, the University of Houston Law Center, and Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law. But students and professors who lost everything have struggled to get back on track, and they could face long-term impacts as they slowly and painstakingly work to recover.

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PDF: Handling Hurricane Harvey _ Texas Lawyer

At Law Schools, Rowdy Protests Provide Teachable Moments

Since February, when violent protests canceled a speech by provocative writer Milo Yiannopoulos at the University of California, Berkeley, colleges and universities nationwide have faced criticism for caving to opposition by canceling events.

Law schools have not escaped the clashes. The nationwide free-speech-on-campus debate took root at three law schools this fall as protesters opposed speakers or events, prompting widely different responses from schools.

Those reactions from law school administrators provide examples of best and worst practices in the free-speech realm, and they come at a time when First Amendment advocates say it’s more important than ever for law schools to be role models in upholding free speech.

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PDF: At Law Schools, Rowdy Protests Provide Teachable Moments _ Law

Call Her the Constable of Cryptocurrency

Once upon a time there was a hero who took down the corrupt French Maid, who had manipulated and stolen from the Dread Pirate Roberts on The Silk Road.

It sounds like the plot line of a swashbuckler movie, but actually, it’s part of the tale of Kathryn Haun’s rise as a federal prosecutor who helped lay the groundwork for the government to capture cryptocurrency criminals.

Right now, the value of just one bitcoin is hovering around $5,000, leading to rampant media coverage, pushing digital currency lexicon into the mainstream. But wide adoption depends much on the safety and security of the new technology, which is often compared to the Wild West.

Haun, first as a federal prosecutor and now as a bespoke legal consultant for emerging technology companies, has contributed much to beefing up security in the industry. In the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, she was the first digital currency coordinator. She handled cases that taught prosecutors to work through challenges in convicting cryptocurrency criminals, and sent loud-and-clear messages to digital currency companies to increase financial safeguards.

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PDF: Call Her the Constable of Cryptocurrency

 

‘Mother of Animal Law’ Parlayed Her Passion Into a Profession

One of Joyce Tischler’s earliest memories as a child was bringing home an injured bird to nurse back to health. That passion to help animals propelled her to a career with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which she has led for more than three decades.

“It wasn’t a career path when I started down it—there was no animal law,” said Tischler, 63. “We invented it.”

People who know Tischler use words like “pioneer” and “visionary” to describe her. Tischler said she can’t remember who first called her “the Mother of Animal Law,” but the title stuck. Tischler’s peers say it’s an apt moniker for the lawyer who may have penned the first legal article about animal rights, “Rights for Nonhuman Animals: A Guardianship Model for Dogs and Cats,” while still in law school.

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PDF: ‘Mother of Animal Law_ Parlayed Her Passion Into a Profession _ Law

Pumping and Practicing: A Delicate Balance for Breastfeeding Lawyers

Working mothers who nurse must express their breast milk—a process that takes about 20 minutes—every two to three hours to supply food for their babies and cue their bodies to continue making enough milk. For lawyer moms, who often practice at the whim of client demands, it’s a huge challenge to keep a set schedule to pump their milk, especially in a profession in which when they often can’t control times for meetings, breaks and court appearances.

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PDF: Pumping and Practicing_ A Delicate Balance for Breastfeeding Lawyers _ Law

As Austin’s Legal Market Explodes, Firms Rush In

This article originally published in Texas Lawyer magazine on April 4.

When John Gilluly started practicing law in Austin in 1998, the city’s legal market lived and breathed real estate, government and practices surrounding those areas.

But everything was changing.

The growth of the city’s technology sector in the dot-com boom of the late 1990s was attracting West Coast firms that wanted to expand in Austin, recalled Gilluly, who then was an associate in the Austin office of the West coast firm of Gray Cary Ware & Freidenrich, a predecessor of DLA Piper.

Then everything changed again.

The dot-com bust of the early 2000s dashed the hopes of some of the firms, which closed their doors, causing partners to scurry to other firms. Gray Cary remained, although it shrank its size, said Gilluly, now managing partner in the Texas offices of DLA Piper in Austin.

Since then, he said Austin’s legal market—and his firm—have grown steadily.

“Other firms’ lawyers have either transitioned to become aligned with the business economy in Austin by working with tech companies or other growth companies,” Gilluly said. “Now, unlike the early ’90s when I started, you have a reasonably robust market of lawyers who have worked in this area for a long time now—over 15 years. Across the board, the firms for the most part have grown.”

By every marker, the economy in Austin is booming—spurring startups and business relocations, creating impressive numbers of jobs and flooding the city with new residents. The growth has also boosted the legal market—and law firms are reacting by opening new offices or expanding existing operations.

Download a PDF to read the rest of the article.

Courts Prepare for Unaccompanied Minor Cases

This story originally published in Texas Lawyer on Feb. 12, 2015.

The “flood” of unaccompanied Central and South American children entering the U.S. last year has only trickled into Texas courts so far, although some experts are watching for a bigger rush further downstream.

Federal courts have jurisdiction over immigration, but state courts play a role in some unaccompanied minor cases. As the so-called surge of unaccompanied children dominated the headlines last summer, David Slayton, administrative director of the Texas Office of Court Administration, said he was afraid that state courts might get hit with thousands of cases at once.

“If that does happen, that will tax the system,” Slayton said, adding, “At this point, we are seeing them trickle into the system, and we believe if they continue in that fashion, we are probably able to handle it with existing judicial resources.”

Continue reading Courts Prepare for Unaccompanied Minor Cases

Baby Lawyers: How to Manage Your Career Before You Have A Job

For the vast majority of the Lone Star State’s baby lawyers, November is an important month to decide which path to take toward their future careers.

Although a minority of Texas law graduates have already accepted job offers from big law firms, there’s a different timeline for new lawyers looking to land jobs in small and midsize law firms, government agencies and the public-interest sector. Many legal employers wait until bar exam results come out in November to extend job offers to recent graduates. For current students who participated in on-campus interviews in October, many summer job offers will begin rolling in this month.

With a lot on the line, Texas Lawyer reached out to assistant deans of career services at three law schools spread across Texas to get their advice about how grads should tackle this important and stressful time, making the best decision about their future careers. Here are the top five tips for starting on the career path.

Read the rest of this story on Texas Lawyer.

 

With the rise of cryptocurrency, estate lawyers caution that it shouldn’t be treated like any other asset

by Angela Morris (ABA Journal, November 2018) As the cryptocurrency craze spreads, the mainstream public is investing in bitcoin and other digital currencies. With dollar signs in their eyes, they might not think about what happens to their cryptocurrency when they die. Cryptocurrency, such as bitcoin or Ethereum’s ether, could vanish into thin air unless estate-planning lawyers spur their crypto-loving clients to make inheritance plans. But there are traps for estate-planning attorneys to watch for in order to ensure that heirs will have access to a client’s cryptocurrency after death, while making sure the client won’t be giving up the keys to the castle prematurely. “This is a whole new area for estate-planning lawyers,” says Pamela Morgan, an attorney and author who founded Empowered Law and trains lawyers about cryptocurrency and blockchain technology. “It’s an opportunity to grow your client base­—to attract new people who never thought about this before.” Read this story at ABAJournal.com.

Could 80 percent of cases be resolved through online dispute resolution?

Perhaps in five to seven years, as Colin Rule sees it, half of U.S. citizens who file court cases will have access to online dispute resolution software walking them step by step through their matters, resolving up to 80 percent of cases. Rule, a nonlawyer mediator, is vice president for online dispute resolution at Tyler Technologies. In this episode of the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels Podcast, Rule speaks with Angela Morris about the possibilities–and pitfalls–for this technology. Listen to the podcast here.

Two-year J.D. programs for foreign students are spiking

The number of law schools offering a two-year J.D. program for international lawyers has grown steadily over the past eight years, and observers expect the trend to continue. “I just think people are seeing there’s a market for it. They see there’s demand. From our perspective, the other impetus behind this is it really adds to a richer experience in the classroom,” said Amanda Wolfe, director of global programs at The University of Arizona, James E. Rogers College of Law in Tucson. “We put a premium on an international experience here.” Wolfe said Arizona Law had the nation’s first two-year J.D. for international lawyers, and each year since its launch in 2010, she’s noticed other schools launching their own programs. Both Wolfe and Andrew Horsfall, assistant dean of international programs at Syracuse University College of Law in New York, which launched its two-year J.D. for foreign attorneys in 2015, said they expect more such offerings. This article first published in The International Jurist on Oct. 16, 2018. Download a PDF.