DBA State Bar President’s Update
by Terry Tottenham
As my year as State Bar President comes to an end, I want to thank you for the opportunity to serve our profession. I am especially proud of the successes our initiatives and programs have achieved this year, and my hope is that they continue to benefit lawyers and the public for years to come.
Practicing Law and Wellness
“I believe there is no more important topic to be considered by the Bar than the mental health of its members.” So wrote a fellow lawyer to me recently. Considering the high-pressure nature of our profession—attorneys are ranked No. 1 on the list of most-depressed occupations—I felt it was imperative to increase the focus on lawyer health and wellness. Under Berry Crowley’s able leadership, we have been able to build awareness of the resources and recovery strategies available to those struggling with mental health or substance abuse problems through our wellness initiative.
Texas lawyers are fortunate to have a wonderful resource in the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (TLAP). Since 1989, TLAP has provided crisis counseling and referrals for lawyers, judges, and law students facing substance abuse disorders or mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety and stress. Funded solely by the State Bar, TLAP offers free and confidential support, accessible 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. TLAP services include access to specially trained staff members, individual assistance, employer consultation, peer intervention, law school outreach, referral sources and more.
TLAP also introduced a new video this year, Practicing Law and Wellness: Modern Strategies for Lawyers Dealing with Anxiety, Addiction, and Depression, to provide practical solutions and resources for lawyers wanting to reduce stress and anxiety and to achieve a better work/life balance. In addition, TLAP had the opportunity to make ethics presentations on wellness solutions at more than 50 advanced CLE courses this year. As a result, TLAP reports a significant increase in calls from lawyers and judges referencing the wellness initiative.
I am also pleased to report that both applications and contributions have increased to the Pat Sheeran and Michael J. Crowley Memorial Trust, which provides financial assistance to colleagues struggling to get back on their feet from substance abuse or mental health disorders. If you would like to help your fellow lawyers in need, I encourage you to contact TLAP Director Ann Foster at (800) 343-8527 for more information or to make a donation.
For more information about TLAP’s services or to obtain a copy Practicing Law and Wellness, you can call the TLAP office at (800) 343-8527 or visit www.texasbar.com/tlap. There is also a toll-free hotline for judges seeking assistance for themselves or other judges at (800) 219-6474.
Many Texas lawyers may be facing other struggles, such as searching for a job or trying to build a law practice in a sluggish economy. For lawyers who are unemployed or underemployed, TexasBarCLE offers a free monthly webcast series, “Practice Tips in Good Times and Bad.” Each one-hour webcast provides practical advice on ways to build and maintain a law practice, job search techniques, or how to improve networking skills. To learn more or to register for a webcast, visit www.texasbarcle.com.
Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans
Since the launch of Texas Lawyers for Texas Veterans last summer, more than 30 local bar associations have organized pro bono veterans legal clinics, with regular clinics established in all major metropolitan areas. The Dallas Bar Association and Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program have been at the forefront of this initiative, providing monthly clinics at the Dallas VA Medical Center. These clinics wouldn’t be possible without the many dedicated volunteer attorneys who give their time and expertise to help our military veterans receive the legal services they need. Additionally, the Texas Young Lawyers Association, led by President Jennifer Evans Morris of Dallas, produced two invaluable pamphlets that provide resources for veterans seeking help and lawyers who are assisting veterans. The pamphlets are available through the State Bar’s Public Information Office by calling (800) 204-2222, ext. 1800.
For the second year in a row, the Texas Access to Justice Commission dedicated funds raised at its gala to benefit civil legal services for low-income Texas veterans and their families. This year’s gala, held in Austin on April 26, raised $377,950, more than $100,000 over last year’s total.
Make your plans to attend this year’s State Bar Annual Meeting in San Antonio on June 23-24. We’ve got an exciting event planned for you, with two days of interesting speakers, a full slate of ethics courses, and more than 40 participating State Bar Sections.
Our featured speakers include former Navy SEAL and Medal of Honor recipient Mike Thornton, who will speak on his time as a Navy SEAL and how those experiences relate to the legal profession and our lives today, and noted historians and authors Douglas Brinkley, Edmund Morris and H.W. Brands.
I hope you will check out all the Annual Meeting has to offer, from premium CLE to fellowship with friends and colleagues. To register online or for more information, visit www.texasbar.com/annualmeeting.