2011 Pathfinders Inspire Us All!
It was standing room only at Carmelo’s on January 19th when TCWLA honored the outstanding 2011 Pathfinders. Laura Fowler, founder of The Fowler Law Firm PC, preeminent oil and gas litigator from Scott, Doug- lass & McConnico, L.L.P, Becky Miller, the Honorable Lora Livingston, and for- mer Texas Supreme Court Justice, Har- riet O’Neill did not disappoint. Each shared heartfelt career stories and advice with a wonderful sense of humor.
From Your President Amanda Taylor
“What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow.” –President Obama, 2011 State of the Union.
In the month of February, we are inundated with thoughts and images of love. Commonly, we share these with our significant others, our kids, and even our pets (I say as Wrigley tries desperately to lick my cheek while I type). But what about sharing a little love with our fellow attorneys or, gasp, opposing counsel?! Don’t get me wrong; I am not proposing that we swing by each other’s offices to drop handmade valentines into paper-heart covered boxes. But what about an attempt at civility?
In the wake of last month’s tragedy in Tucson, the concept of “civility” has been brought to the forefront of our nation’s collective conscious. We have heard our President speak of it, and last month at our Pathfinder’s Lunch- eon we heard our amazing winners (The Honor- able Judge Lora Livingston, Becky Miller, Laura Fowler, and The Honorable Justice
Harriett O’Neill, ret.) emphasize the importance of practicing civility to be successful in the practice of law. As women lawyers, we often find our- selves in the tough position of not wanting to be too agreeable and there- fore labeled a pushover, but also not wanting to be too aggressive and therefore labeled as the B -word. These labels might not be fair, but they exist, so we must find a way to maneuver them. My hope is that striving for “civility” will strike the balance we are aiming for: earning the respect of others by presenting ourselves as confident, smart, and prepared, while being respectful of all others in the room. As Judge Livingston re- minded us, let’s keep our disputes about the legal issues at hand and not the personal attributes of opposing counsel or client. That’s not a message to write in a valentine, but it is one we should all take to heart.
Here’s another way to extend your “attorney love” this month: Nominate a well-deserving woman attorney in Travis County for one of our 9 attorney awards to be presented on May 4 at our Annual Grants & Awards luncheon. The deadline for nominations is February 21. You can find the nomination form in this newsletter. It is quick and simple to complete and email back to me. Now, that’s a way to say, “Happy Valentine’s Day” to a woman lawyer who has earned your respect!
In closing, I look forward to seeing you all this month at our Judicial Reception on February 9. This is a great opportunity to mingle with the fine members of our judiciary in the most civil of atmospheres: Green Pastures, with live piano, free wine, and food!
Spread the love,
2010-2011 Board President
Austin Lawyers Support Group
What: A confidential monthly education and support group for lawyers, judges and law students seeking help or support while healing from depression, addiction, job stress, anxiety and other mental health issues.
When: Every last Thursday of the month from 12:00 to 1:00 PM
Where: 816 Congress, in the “Longhorn Room”, Room 320. Free Parking under the building. Enter the parking area from 9th street.
Format: 30 minute speaker – an expert from the mental health field 30 minute peer support – lawyers supporting lawyers
Contact:TLAP support is from Cameron Vann, J.D. Cameron.firstname.lastname@example.org , (512) 427-1453 or (800) 343-8527.
NO SEX WITH CLIENTS: Lawyers’ 16 year debate finally comes to a vote
By Susan G. Morrison
I would like to say this is the vote I’ve been wait- ing for since 1994 when the Texas Women Lawyers Association pro- posed a resolution to the State Bar to adopt a professional rule prohibiting lawyers from having sex with their clients. This request was voted down because the language was “too broad”, so it did not appear on that state- wide referendum ballot. The Bar Board of Directors’ voted to send it to committee for more specific language to be drafted.
Now, sixteen years later after much debate, the no sex with clients prohibition appears as Proposition D along with two other issues (Rule 1.14 diminished capacity and Rule 1.17 prospective clients) for lawyers across the state to vote. Rather than al- low lawyers to take a clear stand on this moral issue, the “no sex rule” is bound to two other revisions, holding it hostage and denying the public a clear vision of what standard our profession holds itself regarding those who victimize their own clients. Proposed Rule 1.13 [Texas Disciplinary Rules of Professional Conduct] reads as follows:
A lawyer shall not condition the representation of a client or prospective client, or the quality of such representation, on having any person engage in sexual relations with the lawyer.
A lawyer shall not solicit or accept sexual relations as payment of fees or expenses.
A lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client that the lawyer is personally representing unless the lawyer and client are married to each other, or are engaged in an ongoing consensual sexual relation- ship that began be- fore representation.
By contrast, the American Bar Association Model Rule simply states that “[a] lawyer shall not have sexual relations with a client” unless they had a preexist- ing consensual sexual relationship. Every profession in our nation, from doctors to massage therapists, have an ethical rule prohibiting sex with clients because of the imbalance of power in these situations. Attorneys who represent lawyers in malpractice suits have mounted a massive email campaign against all the proposed rules. There are always arguments that you should have made the language more precise, less specific, or it is too broad. However, the most important thing is to get a rule adopted that prohibits sex with clients. I’m voting for Proposition D and urge you to vote “yes” on Proposition D too. The deadline for ballots is February 17th. This vote has been a long time coming, it is not the language I prefer, but it’s better than nothing. Right now, lawyers who exchange legal services for sex tell prosecutors, “Hey, there is no rule against that.” At least with the passage of this rule, the prosecutors have a clear standard to use for disciplining a rogue lawyer. If we don’t regulate ourselves, the Texas Legislature may do it for us!
Susan G. Morrison has served as past president of Texas Women Lawyers Association and the Travis County Women Lawyers Assoc. She currently serves on the District 9 Grievance Committee. Versions of this article have been published in the Austin-American Statesman and other statewide periodicals.