by Andrew Jones
The Honorable Barbara M.G. Lynn, Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, has been named this year’s recipient of the Morris Harrell Professionalism Award. Presented by the Dallas Bar Association and Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism, the award honors attorneys who best exemplify, “by conduct and character,” professional traits that members of the bar emulate and admire.
Judge Barbara Lynn has led a life of barrier-breaking achievement and service. The first woman lawyer of the prestigious Dallas firm Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal, L.L.P, where she practiced for nearly 25 years, she has also served as a federal district judge since 1999.
Barbara Golden earned her bachelor’s degree with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia in 1973. There, she also became the first woman admitted to the Jefferson Literary and Debate Society, a highly prestigious school organization whose famous members include Edgar Allen Poe.
It was at the University of Virginia where Barbara Golden also met her future husband, Mike, two years her senior. Their marriage took them both to Dallas, where each attended Southern Methodist University School of Law. She recalls law school with fond memories, and she also recounts the stress of exams and living on frozen dinners. Lynn graduated first in the Class of 1976, a few years behind her husband. Both embarked on the practice of law and have been going strong ever since.
With her impeccable academic achievement, Lynn was hired as the first woman associate of Carrington Coleman Sloman & Blumenthal, L.L.P in Dallas. “We had a firm policy to never hire students right out of law school,” mentor Jim Coleman told the Dallas Morning News. “But once we saw Barbara’s résumé and once we met and interviewed her, we eliminated that policy. And it was one of the best decisions we ever made.” She was named partner in 1983—also its first woman partner, no less—and continued a successful practice, joining the firm’s executive committee less than two years after becoming partner. Lynn’s practice included defending labor and employment and legal malpractice matters, with some plaintiff-side cases as well.
Lynn was appointed to the bench of the Northern District of Texas in 1999 by President Clinton. Since then, she has presided over many high-profile cases including the criminal prosecution of Hosam Smadi, for planning a terrorist bombing of the Fountain Place Tower in downtown Dallas in 2009. Judge Lynn noted that her caseload has varied tremendously over the years, making her job very interesting, and that the proportion of criminal cases she handles has gotten steadily higher.
On the list of her priorities is taking steps to help ensure that young attorneys are afforded meaningful opportunities in the courtroom. In scheduling orders, she encourages litigation teams to commit to significant participation by young attorneys in cases, to ensure that the next generation of lawyers will enter courtrooms with experience and confidence.
Judge Lynn was appointed Chief Judge of the Northern District in 2016, which is comprised of about 20 district and magistrate judges and their staff. Through that appointment, Judge Lynn broke yet another barrier—becoming the first female chief judge in all of Texas.
Judge Lynn and her husband were described by Dallas Morning News reporter Mark Curriden as Dallas’ “legal power couple” in a 2014 article describing their respective highly successful careers. Mike is a very effective and well-known trial lawyer who began his career at Akin Gump. His successes include a massive 2014 jury verdict of more than $300 million. The Lynns enjoy spending time with their daughters and grandchildren. Judge Lynn also enjoys playing golf and a good game of Words with Friends.
Judge Lynn has served in numerous professional organizations, including as chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Litigation and of its Judicial Division, the Dallas Chapter of the International Women’s Forum, and the Committee on the Administration of the Bankruptcy System of the Judicial Conference of the United States. She is also a past president of the Patrick E. Higginbotham Inn of Court, and she currently serves as an American Inn of Court Foundation board member and secretary. She also sits on the Executive Board of the Dedman School of Law, and she is a member of the ABA Commission on the American Jury.
Judge Lynn has received many accolades over the years, including SMU Law School’s Distinguished Alumni Award for private practice and the State Bar of Texas Women and the Law Section’s Sarah T. Hughes Woman Lawyer of Achievement Award. In 2012, she was named recipient of the Dallas Bar Foundation Fellows Award.
Many congratulations to Chief Judge Barbara Lynn, who will be presented her award at the DBA’s Awards Luncheon on Tuesday, November 6 at the Belo Mansion.
Andrew M. Jones is Co-Vice Chair of the DBA Publications Committee and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.