Harriet Miers Selected for DBA Professionalism Award
by Vincent J. Allen
Harriet Miers is the 2012 recipient of the Morris Harrell Professionalism Award. The Dallas Bar Association and the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism present this award annually to the “attorney who best exemplifies, by conduct and character, truly professional traits who others seek to emulate and who all in the bar admire.” Miers will receive the award at the DBA’s Annual Meeting on Friday, November 2, 2012, at the Belo Mansion.
Miers is a 2005 recipient of the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and Professionalism’s Sandra Day O’Connor Award for Professional Excellence. Over the course of her storied carrier, she has been an example of leadership and professionalism that men and women alike should seek to emulate.
“Through her service to the bar, the profession and the Nation, Harriet Miers epitomizes professionalism on many levels,” said DBA President Paul K. Stafford. “She is a mentor, a role model and a local treasure that we have been fortunate to share with the country as a whole.”
Although Miers is now one of the nation’s best known lawyers, she had originally planned to become a teacher when she enrolled at Southern Methodist University. She went to work during her freshman year to pay for her own education when illness struck her family. Miers tutored underprivileged high school students as an undergraduate. She earned her degree in math in 1967, but decided to enter law school after receiving inspiration from an attorney who had helped organize her family’s financial affairs.
Upon receiving her law degree from SMU in 1970, Miers clerked for U.S. District Judge Joe E. Estes in the Northern District of Texas until 1972 when she was hired by Dallas’s Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely. Not only was she the first woman hired by the firm, but she became the first woman to be the firm’s managing partner in 1996. At that time, the firm was known as Locke, Purnell, Boren, Laney & Neely and had about 200 lawyers. Miers was the first woman to lead a Texas firm of that size. Following this promotion, the National Law Journalnamed her as one of the “Fifty Most Influential Women Lawyers in America” in 1998.
But before she became managing partner of her firm, Miers had already begun blazing a trail for other women to follow. She served as the first woman president of the Dallas Bar Association in 1985. The annual variety show Bar None was established during her term as DBA President along with the Judicial Investiture Committee. Six years later Miers became the first woman to be elected president of the State Bar of Texas. Even while acting as president of the State Bar, she remained committed to the service of her community, logging 125 hours of pro-bono work for Catholic Charities of Dallas.
In the late 1990s, Miers helped create and fund the Raggio Endowed Lecture Series at SMU, named after women’s rights pioneer, the late Louise B. Raggio. Raggio was a mentor to Miers while she attended law school and later Raggio became a close advisor to Miers when she ran for president of the State Bar of Texas.
SMU gave Miers the 2002 Distinguished Alumni Award, the highest honor the University can bestow on a former student. She has also received the SMU School of Law Distinguished Alumni Award and numerous civic honors, including the State Bar of Texas Women in Law Award.
Miers was part of George W. Bush’s transition team when he was elected governor of Texas. She built a reputation for fairness and honesty as she dealt with scandal in the Texas Lottery Commission. The Dallas Morning News praised Miers for preserving the integrity of the operation.
When Bush was elected to the presidency, Miers moved to Washington in 2001 to join his White House staff and ultimately served as White House Counsel. Miers received the Department of Justice Edmund J. Randolph Award for her “dedicated service to justice, the President, and the United States of America.” She also received the Agency Seal Medal awarded by the Central Intelligence Agency.
In 2007, Miers returned to private practice at Locke Lord where she is a member of the Litigation and Public Policy sections. She splits her time between the firm’s Dallas, Austin and Washington, D.C. offices.
Vincent J. Allen is co-chair of the Publications Committee and is a partner at Carstens & Cahoon, LLP where he specializes in intellectual property law. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.