Dallas Bar Association

Honoring the Profession

by Barry Sorrels

As we settle in to 2011, I will use this column to recognize and celebrate the achievements of our members whose extraordinary efforts lead to the successful execution of our programs, to inform you about upcoming events of interest, and, sometimes, to raise awareness and ask for additional contributions on behalf of upcoming programs.

High School Mock Trial Competition

On March 4 and 5, the Dallas Bar will host the Texas High School Mock Trial Competition.. United States District Judge Barbara Lynn will once again preside over the championship round. Thank you, Judge Lynn, for the time you take to judge this program. Your presence lends an air of authenticity and circumstance to this momentous event in the lives of the young men and women who make it to the final round. I have served as a scoring judge in the past for this event, and I can tell you firsthand that the skill, courage, and preparation these students display in the competition is really quite astounding.

The final round is the culmination of a tremendous effort by the Dallas Bar’s Mock Trial Committee, which is co-chaired again this year by the Honorable Lana Myers andSteve Gwinn. Justice Myers and Mr. Gwinn are very passionate about this program, and they put on a great competition. We are lucky to have them, and I cannot thank them enough for the contribution this particular program adds to the Dallas Bar. Each year, Mr. Gwinn and Justice Myers, along with the lawyers who make up their committee, write a “case” for the students.  They organize and administer the Dallas ISD competition (Chaired by Scott Sellhoff), the Region 10 competition (Chaired by Prater Monning), and the State Championship competition (Chaired by Steven Russell). During this six-week period, the students, who participate as lawyers and witnesses, work together within their teams and try the “case” from both sides. The trials are held at the George Allen Courthouse in the actual courtrooms. The students are judged by our members who have volunteered their evenings and weekends. 

For many of these students, this competition is their first experience with the judicial system and the first time they have interacted with lawyers. Those of you who contribute your time by judging and coaching are in a special position as ambassadors of the profession to introduce, encourage, and influence these young men and women as they learn about the practice of law. The lawyers and judges who give up their time, and, in some cases, their courtrooms give the experience richness and meaning, making it memorable for the competitors. For these reasons it is very popular with the students, and we could not pull this event off without the help of literally hundreds of our members. Thank you all for your generosity. To volunteer to judge one of the rounds of the competition, please contact Amy Smith at asmith@dallasbar.org.

Criminal Appeals and Post-Conviction Writs Seminar

On March 18, the Dallas Bar Association, through the Criminal Law Section chaired by Gary Udashen and the CLE Committee chaired by Diane Sumoski and Robert Udashen, will hold an all-day seminar on appellate practice in criminal law. What makes this seminar special is both the competency of its directors and the subject matter it will cover.

Gary Udashenof Sorrels Udashen & Anton is of the most highly respected and successful appellate lawyers in the state. In preparation for this seminar, he has assembled a team of presenters which includes Appellate Division Chief of the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, Mike Casillas, Appellate Division Chief of the Dallas County Public Defender’s office, Kathi Drew, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Supervising Attorney of Post-Conviction Writs, Michael Stauffacher, Dallas Court of Appeals Justices Kerry FitzGerald, Molly Francis, and Lana Myers, and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Judge Mike Keasler.

Although seminars which cover criminal law are not uncommon, a seminar with a primary focus on criminal appellate practice is rare. The opportunity to attend such a well-conceived, well-presented CLE in our hometown should not be overlooked by the membership. Because of the balanced presentation and the nature of the event, I hope to see lawyers and judges from all sides and levels of the criminal law practice, as well as any lawyer with an interest in the subject matter, at the Belo Mansion on March 18. For more information about this program and to RSVP contact Gary Udashen at (214) 468-8100 or Cynthia Garza at (214) 653-3600.

Summer Law Intern Program

As with the High School Mock Trial Competition, the Dallas Bar has a long history of working hand-in-hand with the Dallas ISD to provide opportunities for students to be introduced to the practice of law. The Summer Law Intern Program is one of the longest standing programs reflecting that alliance.

This year, the Summer Law Intern Program is chaired by Ryan McFarlin and Erin Peirce, who are doing a great job and have ambitious dreams for the program. They will oversee the process by which incoming high school seniors are matched with law firms and lawyers for four- or eight-week summer internships (June 13 – July 8 and July 11 – August 5). Their goal for this year is to match 60 students with internships, and they need your help.

The application process for these students is rigorous and administered through the cooperation of the Dallas Bar and high school guidance counselors. The students must complete an application, submit letters of recommendation and a writing sample, and participate in an interview with Dallas Bar attorneys. It is the goal of the program to place at least one student from each school with a law office. Of those students who are ultimately chosen for internships, a panel of attorneys and counselors meets to match them with the law office which they feel will provide the best fit. What this means is that firms and lawyers who agree to participate and take on a summer law intern will receive a student at the top of his or her class who has successfully navigated an incredibly selective application process. Of course, if you are interested in providing an internship to a student and you would like to be involved at this stage, you are absolutely welcome to participate in interviewing prospective students or choosing which student will be matched to your office.

These students work for $8 an hour. They are excited for the opportunity, they are incredibly capable, and they are ready and willing to do any work you would ask them to do. As you might imagine, past participants in the program often talk about their proficiency (if not superiority) in the area of internet research. There is also a “feel-good” element of this program for you as you develop a mentoring relationship with the student, teach him or her about the law, and model what it means to be a lawyer.

The program also allows for lawyers and firms to sponsor these internships without actually accepting an intern. If you would like to contribute to the program but do not have a place for one of these students in your office, you can donate money to help pay for a student who can then be placed with a non-profit legal organization and provide them much needed assistance.

The Summer Law Intern Program will complete the interview process in the end of March, and will begin to match interns to offices in early April, so this would be the ideal time for you to agree to participate as a sponsor or employer, but the program will continue accepting employers and sponsors up to the summer. If you would like to participate, please contact Amy Smith at asmith@dallasbar.org.

Thank you

The more time I spend at the Belo, visiting committees and sections, and talking to members who are doing exceptional work, the more I continued to be amazed by the great things our lawyers are doing. Thank you for your work and for your commitment to the practice and to our community.

Back to top