DBA State Bar President’s Update
by Bob Black
Every day, Texas lawyers are hard at work to protect the rights of their fellow Texans. We also work hard to give back to our communities and schools by volunteering and serving in leadership roles. One of my goals during the year ahead is to foster greater awareness of our service to our profession and our communities and to educate the public on the central role of lawyers in our democratic society.
The Dallas Bar Association has a long tradition of service and education to both its members and the public. Prime examples are found in the accolades the DBA received at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting in San Antonio in June. The DBA was recognized with the Stars of Texas Bars Star of Achievement for its Mock Voir Dire Project, as well as a sweep in the newsletter category for Headnotes, including the award for Best Overall Newsletter. Congratulations on these well-deserved honors.
Making the Case
There are numerous examples of how our members of our profession are serving their communities or providing pro bono work for those in need of legal assistance—from helping towns recover from natural disasters to bringing new families together through adoption days and ensuring veterans receive the benefits they deserve. Lawyers are doers so we may not spend a lot of time talking about our commitment to public service, but we need to.
The State Bar of Texas has created an online portal—www.texasbar.com/makingthecase—that contains resources to help you lead a conversation with a community group about the role of lawyers and the judicial system in our society. This website includes ideas for speaking to community groups, tools to help you with your presentation and inspirational profiles and videos about trailblazing Texas lawyers who have contributed to the legal landscape of our state and nation.
The State Bar has also produced We Are Lawyers, a wonderful video that showcases the impact lawyers have had on our society. Visit www.texasbar.com/makingthecase to learn more and to receive a copy of We Are Lawyers.
In a related initiative, we plan to collaborate with the Texas Bar Historical Foundation and the Texas Supreme Court Task Force on Historic Document Preservation to preserve many historic legal documents in danger of being lost and to help tell their stories. We, as a profession, have much to learn from our rich legal history, but it is my belief that there is much the public can learn about our beloved profession as well. It may take time to open minds, but it is a challenge worth undertaking.
Civics education is critical to fostering engaged citizens who understand our democracy and the liberties it protects. Ensuring our students receive a comprehensive groundwork in civics is essential to producing the next generation of responsible, engaged citizens. To accomplish this, we need to connect with students via technology in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner.
We must also ensure that Texas teachers have a full array of educational resources available to help them prepare our children for the future. This is especially important as our teachers work with the new Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) standards, which took effect August 1. These are the first new standards in 13 years.
To that end, I have been working with the State Bar’s Law-Related Education department on Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! Civics Resources for Texas Students and Teachers, an interactive web-based project to assist Texas teachers and students in preparing for the new TEKS standards in social studies. Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! focuses on landmark court decisions that middle and high school students must know to be successful per the new TEKS standards. The website includes links to case summaries, videos and curriculum materials and strategies for teachers.
An accompanying toolkit is available with information on the new TEKS standards that relate to court decisions, as well as a sample case summary, sample teaching strategies, a list of online resources for students and teachers, and other curriculum ideas from the Law-Related Education department.
In addition, the State Bar has also produced a series of videos featuring five seminal U.S. Supreme Court cases that Texas students are required to study. The videos, which include interviews with leading Constitutional scholars, are available on the Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! website, as well as in DVD format. The website and DVD also include video introductions from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson, both strong advocates for strengthening civics education in our schools. For more information on this exciting project, visit www.texasbar.com.