by Michael K. Hurst
“You know, it was just so interesting to me that a ride could make me so frightened, so scared, so sick, so excited, and so thrilled all together! Some didn't like it. They went on the merry-go-round. That just goes around. Nothing. I like the roller coaster. You get more out of it.” –Grandma from the 1980s movie, Parenthood
And what a ride it has been. The Dallas Bar in 2018, like every other year since I have been practicing law, has led the way in many innovative initiatives. That is what we do—and that is what you did this year.
Starting with the Pro Bono Endowment, with critical efforts from Alicia Hernandez, Michelle Alden, Kate Morris, Dan Kelly, Paul Stafford, Philip Bush, and others, the DBA has created a template for all communities to lead in expansion and security of legal representation of our indigent neighbors in civil matters for generations. With the support this year of many of our corporate citizens, individuals, and the Dallas Bar Foundation, the Endowment is $1,040,184 strong, with plans to grow to many times that number. Please stay tuned for more and see the mockup (click here) of the monument that that will honor current and future donors of $50,000 or more, as well as some of the others who provided financial leadership for the Endowment.
Not only do lawyers have the opportunities and I suggest, obligations, to use our law licenses to lead, advocate, and serve the public, volunteering has been shown to make us healthier and happier. We worked hard this year to open the eyes and hearts of lawyers to advocate and lead against injustices such as domestic violence, human trafficking, disparate opportunities for education and careers in inner-city communities, childcare for the homeless seeking employment, abusive teen relationships, and depression/mental illness in teens and young adults.
Our outreach was directed by Chalon Clark and Rocio Garcia Espinoza as the community liaisons I appointed this year to lead these efforts and to partner with Genesis, New Friends New Life, the One Love Foundation, the All Stars Project, Vogel Alcove, and the Grant Halliburton Foundation.
We are leading the way to empower high-performing women attorneys and to equalize their opportunities through the ABA award-winning program, DBA WE LEAD, under the leadership of Shonn Brown and Ophelia Camina.
Our leaders are continuing the critically important conversations about race, ethnicity, heritage, sexual orientation, profiling, and acceptance though our Diversity Summit chaired this year by Rhonda Hunter, with a hall of fame cast of community and bar leaders, judges, and corporate counsel. These influential folks are responsible for not only facilitating panels about inclusion in our profession, but also for interactive discussions amongst hundreds of people present and via live stream.
Lawyers are also the professionals most equipped to lead and serve at the core of our government, including to protect our rule of law, our three-branch system, and our coveted civil jury trials. Perhaps our lawyers can help reverse the trend of divisive and tiresome partisanship and re-instill statesmanship.
I am warmed to have witnessed so many members of the judiciary and bar providing this leadership through our “Saving our Civil Jury Trial” series of programs, chaired by Judge Martin Hoffman and Aaron Tobin, and the creation of a mechanism to provide young civil litigators the opportunity to try jury trials at the criminal courthouse. Thank you to Judge Tina Yoo Clinton, Jennifer Ryback, and the inspiration from Judge Reed O’Connor.
Our local and state judiciary, attorneys, and corporate counsel again outdid themselves by taking statewide our award winning “Day of Civility.” I worked with Pat Long and Justice Doug Lang to create this program a couple of years ago, and this year it was chaired by Tricia DeLeon and Shereen El Domeiri. A proclamation was signed by the entire Texas Supreme Court and Court of Criminal Appeals, and the Day was observed by many other bar associations across the state, along with a couple of hundred attorneys in Dallas and an equal number across the state via live stream.
We lost some of our legal community’s esteemed attorneys this year, and we lost some colleagues way too early in their lives—maybe something could have been done; maybe something can be done going forward.
While one of our Country’s greatest leaders, Abraham Lincoln, suffered from serious bouts of depression that lasted anywhere from hours to months, he knew that they always came to an end. Amongst Lincoln’s greatest attributes of leadership was exposing his vulnerabilities to others. One of his many documented quotes in this regard is: “Remember in the depth and even the agony of despondency, that very shortly you are to feel well again.”
I want to thank and commend the courage of Terry Bentley Hill and Kelly Rentzel and others for sharing their respective personal stories of tragedy and mental illness. They have been amongst the greatest advocates for removing the stigma of mental health issues and are helping many and inspiring many more, including me.
Working with hundreds of lawyers this year that are focused on using their law licenses to effectuate change, I have great optimism that the next Louise Raggios, L.A. Bedfords, Morris Harrells, and Jim Colemans are among us. I also think in working with many young superstar lawyers in the 11,700 membership of the DBA, there are very possibly the next Abraham Lincolns, Thurgood Marshalls, Louis Brandeises, and Ruth Bader Ginsburgs in our midst.
Speaking of great leadership, none of this gets done without the second to none DBA Staff, led by my friend, Alicia Hernandez. If I provided the definition of leadership in the dictionary, you would see selfless, steadfast, charitable, caring, and gets things done next to a picture of Alicia. I could not have more admiration and respect for someone than I do for Alicia.
Jane, Jake, and Sophia, as well as my mother, Dr. Adele Hurst, and my father, Micky Hurst, provided support, motivation, and inspiration to me in different and profound ways.
As for me, while endeavoring to keep my fire burning for leadership and service, I am very excited to double down on being the best lawyer possible for my clients and my tremendous colleagues and partners at the venerable Lynn Pinker Cox & Hurst. I am relieved to hand the reigns to my longtime friend, Laura Benitez Geisler, who herself is a great leader. I am reminded of Robert Frost:
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference
Life does not have roadmaps or guarantees, and 2018 was not easy for many people. The roller coaster is indeed not a smooth ride and has its peaks and valleys. But being DBA President has been a lifetime opportunity to work with you and for you. Thank you for the privilege.