WHY DO YOU WANT TO SERVE AS PRESIDENT OF THE STATE BAR OF TEXAS? Howry: I want to be president of the State Bar of Texas to play a role in addressing the challenges that most lawyers face on a daily basis. I understand and appreciate those challenges. For 10 years, I practiced with two large firms in Austin. For the past 20 years, I have owned and managed a small firm of seven lawyers. I feel it is an honor to be a Texas lawyer. I was born in Texas, raised in Texas, and educated in Texas. The State Bar, through its programs and services, does many great things now. It can do more. It should do more. I want to serve as your president and use my experience, energy, and judgment to help ensure that the State Bar makes a positive impact in your life and practice. Stevenson: My record of service is extensive. But I didn’t get involved in bar work with the idea of becoming a bar leader—much less of running for president- elect. Instead I was drawn by the work the bar was doing and its results. How it helps—and can further help—Texas lawyers. I want to be president for the same reason I became involved in the first place: There is so much more authentic good that can and must be done. As State Bar Board chair, I helped implement the private insurance exchange that’s assisting thousands of Texas lawyers. I want to lead our State Bar to identify more benefits, especially in the areas of enhanced technology and CLE. My legislative experience uniquely qualifies me for the bar’s upcoming Sunset review. We must demonstrate to the Legislature that Texas attorneys have met the high standards of self-governance. I am committed to furthering our profession’s core imperatives: pro bono, diversity, and professionalism. I see no distinction between benefiting our profession and benefiting all Texas attorneys. Safeguarding our profession safeguards our livelihoods and our ability to practice law. We’re roped like mountaineers to the welfare of the profession we swore to serve. IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES FACING THE LEGAL PROFESSION AND WHAT ROLE DO YOU BELIEVE THE STATE BAR SHOULD PLAY IN ADDRESSING THEM? Howry: Sunset review. This will be a critical time for the State Bar and it is important that the bar’s president be experienced and comfortable with the legislative process. I have lived and practiced in Austin for 30 years and have been involved in the legislative process for much of my career. Make the State Bar more relevant for Texas lawyers. There are many lawyers in this state who see no benefit in being a member of the State Bar of Texas and we must consider what can be done to address this apparent disconnect between the benefits of bar membership and everyday practice. Improve member services and benefits. Enhancing insurance benefits, CLE, and employment-related services is a particular priority. I served as chair of the Insurance/ Member Benefits Subcommittee, and I feel strongly that the bar must make its benefits programs robust, accessible, broad-based, and attractive economically. Stevenson: Erosion of opportunity. The bar must be vigilant in protecting the public and its lawyers against the unauthorized practice of law and the growing commoditization of the unique skills we offer our clients. The bar must expand its career counseling and job placement services. Threat to independence. The bar must advance an effective Sunset review strategy with a convincing message on why we must continue to be allowed to regulate ourselves and not be exposed to additional fees and taxes. I have taken clients through Sunset, given testimony, drafted legislation, and have extensive legislative experience. Attack on profession. When our profession is attacked, each of us is attacked. The bar must redouble its efforts to educate the public regarding what lawyers do to provide legal aid, serve their communities, and promote justice. And it must seek out new ways to demonstrate its commitment to professionalism and diversity. YOU HAVE SERVED THE PROFESSION IN A NUMBER OF CAPACITIES AT A NUMBER OF LEVELS. WHICH OF THESE EXPERIENCES HAS BEST PREPARED YOU TO LEAD THE STATE BAR OF TEXAS? Howry: A lawyer. The first decade of my practice was spent with large firms, and for the past 20 years, I have owned and managed a firm of seven lawyers. I can relate to the majority of Texas lawyers whether they practice with large firms or small boutiques. Member of the State Bar Board. I was an active participant in the General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Section and in numerous committees, where I served as chair or adviser for several, including the Affordable Legal Services and the Insurance/Member Benefits subcommittees. This experience enabled me to understand what the State Bar does well and realize that there is room to improve, expand, and innovate. Attorney with legislative process experience. I have been involved in numerous sessions of the Texas Legislature and understand first-hand the challenges the State Bar will have as it enters the Sunset review process in 2017. Stevenson: Chair of the State Bar Board. Serving as chair provided unmatched preparation for service as president. As a member of the bar’s leadership, I became fully familiar with its committees, sections, programs, and governance. I worked closely with four presidents, each highly effective in his or her own way. There were sharply divergent views on the board—just as within the bar itself. Those differences caused us to more fully examine issues and thus reach decisions more reliably beneficial to all Texas lawyers. Those differences also required me to lead our meetings in an efficient and civil manner, while allowing all points of view to be expressed. My colleagues— regardless of their particular viewpoints—told me my service was fair and effective. Dallas Bar president. I led that bar association to greater unity and cohesion in a divisive period. Again, I was acknowledged as a fair and effective consensus-builder. WHAT CAN THE STATE BAR AND INDIVIDUAL LAWYERS DO TO ENSURE ACCESS TO JUSTICE FOR TEXANS, ONE OF THE STATE BAR’S CORE MISSIONS? Howry: Ensuring access to the justice system for all Texans, regardless of wealth or position in life, is one of the most critical issues we face as a bar. We must continue to materially support and build upon several programs already in place, such as the Texas Access to Justice Commission, local bar associations and their pro bono efforts, and our legal aid clinics—both rural and urban. As in other areas that I have mentioned, innovation in access to justice is a must, particularly as it relates to the use of technology to reach and serve citizens in more remote areas. New programs, such as the Care Campaign that Immediate Past President Lisa M. Tatum led, should continue to be developed to help mentor, train, and incentivize pro bono volunteers. Finally, all of this takes money, and we must continue to work tirelessly to increase funding for legal service providers. Stevenson: My most recent work for equal access is to serve on the State Bar’s Pro Bono Workgroup led by former Presidents Roland Johnson and Terry Tottenham. I head a subgroup charged with learning from the local bars and legal-aid providers how the State Bar can support their efforts. These fully voluntary partnerships could yield great benefits to the underserved. The State Bar should explore additional ways to provide benefits to lawyers who take time from their practices to provide pro bono services, expanding on initiatives like offering free CLE in return for taking a case. Having led several countywide legal aid campaigns, I also think fundraising can be better coordinated and enhanced. WHAT SHOULD THE BAR DO TO GUIDE AND PREPARE THE NEXT GENERATION OF LAWYERS? Howry: The job of mentoring young lawyers is a responsibility that we should all accept, particularly in this environment where it is difficult for law school graduates to find jobs. The State Bar must play a role in assisting recent graduates to find footing in the workplace. Continuing the After the Bar Exam and Transition to Practice programs created by former bar President Roland Johnson is critical. We must partner with TYLA to continue efforts to educate young lawyers. The Ten Minute Mentor is an excellent program and one example of the great work done by TYLA. We must continue to expand LeadershipSBOT. This brilliant program provides leadership training to an ethnically and geographically diverse group of attorneys. We have good programs in place. We need to educate our members so that more will volunteer as mentors. Many times all we have to do is ask, and I don’t mind asking. Stevenson: Many law school graduates are finding themselves in jobs that lack the opportunity, training, and role models they need to be the lawyers we need them to be. Our law schools’ growing curricular emphasis on practical skills will help, as can the State Bar’s and TYLA’s superb CLE and other resources. Still, our profession’s most critical tenets are learned by seeing them lived out. A mentor-less generation of lawyers would impoverish our profession. I worked with Justice Douglas Lang of the 5th Court of Appeals to develop the bar’s Transition to Law Practice program that mentors beginning lawyers on professionalism and instructs them with targeted CLE. It has been implemented statewide. Resources like this are critical. Every generation of lawyers stands on its predecessors’ shoulders. We can never repay that, only pass it along. Because their challenges are so great, the bar must stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our beginning lawyers. HOW DO YOU THINK THE STATE BAR IS DOING AT POLICING THE PROFESSION? WHAT COULD THE STATE BAR DO TO BETTER EDUCATE THE PUBLIC ABOUT THE LAWYER DISCIPLINE SYSTEM AND HOW IT WORKS? Howry: The State Bar does a good job in administering the disciplinary process. I believe that the centralization of the grievance process in the Office of Chief Disciplinary Counsel has been positive. The State Bar must remain vigilant in this process. Our members and the public expect that we will police our membership. All grievances should be timely and thoroughly examined. Since the Michael Morton case, prosecutorial misconduct has been further evaluated and modified. This is appropriate. At the same time, the bar must be aware of the potential for destroying a reputation based upon untrue or unfair allegations. So there has to be a balance between ensuring that the public and our members have faith in the system while at the same time ensuring that careers are not irreparably damaged. Stevenson: Chief Disciplinary Counsel Linda Acevedo, her staff, the Commission for Lawyer Discipline, and the roughly 400 individuals serving on grievance committees around the state are extremely capable and do a great job. Still, many Texas lawyers believe the bar is “out to get them” when it oversees lawyer discipline. I’ve spoken at several CLE programs that included presentations by bar staff on how the system works, as well as the common malpractice traps and how to avoid them. The bar should seek more opportunities to convey this information. We’re all on the same team. The bar must work hard both to prevent malpractice and to punish it. The bar’s Client Security Fund reimburses clients for losses caused by lawyer misconduct. I’ve worked with the CSF and helped raise the per-client cap to $40,000. We should further evaluate that cap—especially against those of other states—and further publicize the CSF. HOW IMPORTANT ARE YOUR COMMUNITY ACTIVITIES TO BALANCING YOUR LIFE AS A LAWYER? WHICH HAS IMPACTED YOU THE MOST? Howry: Balance is hard to achieve, but it is obviously important. From a mental health standpoint, it is critical that we find a service project to become involved in so that we can then bring perspective to our work. I choose to spend time with a local youth sports organization, West Austin Youth Association. WAYA serves more than 5,000 kids in Austin and provides a location for youths to enjoy sports, activities, and community. I have served as president of this organization and currently serve on its board. I also enjoy teaching at the University of Texas School of Law in its Advocacy program. I have served as an adjunct faculty member for several years and have realized that I learn at least as much from teaching and mentoring as the students get from my instruction. Stevenson: Church is vitally important. I teach the adult class and am an elder. For years I was a weekly server and Bible study leader at a homeless shelter. I serve my college and received its Medal for Eminent Service. I am president of an “incubator”/performance facility for small- to mid-sized arts groups. I serve on a council at Austin College and a local chamber of commerce board. An Eagle Scout, I remain grateful to that program and was an assistant scoutmaster for eight years. In addition to providing perspective and balance, I delight in my children embracing many of these same institutions. I’ve participated in my son’s Eagle ceremony, the elder ordinations of two children, and the swearingin for my attorney daughter; I’ve placed my alma mater’s diploma in my daughter’s hand at her graduation. If there are words to describe those experiences, I’ve yet to learn them. DESCRIBE YOUR MOST SATISFYING LEGAL EXPERIENCE. Howry: For several years, I have served as co-chair of the Austin Bar Association’s Veterans Project Committee. I have attended many of the legal clinics that the Austin Bar hosts at our local VA. I am blown away every time I go. These great citizens have given so much of their lives to defend our country. When they come to the clinic they are typically devastated by the hand that life has dealt them. They have real problems— you can see it in their faces even before they begin to speak. They need help and they need it now. To be able to spend time with them, to be a listening ear, and to hopefully help in some small way with the challenge life is presenting is extremely fulfilling. Stevenson: My pro bono client was sold a burial policy for her son. When he died tragically, the insurer refused to pay due a defect caused by the rogue agent who had sold the product. It offered only to return her premiums, which would not cover the costs she’d incurred. To have that heaped on the heartbreak of losing a child seemed totally unacceptable. After several telephone calls and letters from me, the insurer paid fully, and the client reported back that her entire congregation thanked God for my help at next Sunday’s service. This was no mighty feat of advocacy and probably what any actual plaintiff’s lawyer could have done in his or her sleep. But it highlighted for me many of the things I love about being a lawyer—especially our capacity to use our skills to achieve honest and irreducible good. WHAT CAN THE STATE BAR DO TO PROMOTE DIVERSITY WITHIN THE LEGAL PROFESSION? Howry: The promotion of diversity is one of the core missions of the State Bar of Texas. Diversity works. We are a more effective bar when we are a diverse bar: culturally, economically, and geographically. The ability to have diverse viewpoints within the State Bar enhances the experience for all. The State Bar must continue to support programs that enhance diversity. Programs such as the Texas Minority Counsel Program and Texas Minority Attorney Program have assisted many women and minority lawyers. LeadershipSBOT has also provided opportunities for minority lawyers to experience leadership positions within the State Bar and beyond. I will continue to look for opportunities to open doors for minority lawyers in Texas. Stevenson: This is the issue that first drew me to bar work. As the firm’s hiring partner in the early 1990s, I was asked to help the Dallas Bar draft its Policy for Minority Hiring, Retention and Promotion that remains in place today. Very satisfying, but if our efforts focus only on law school students and graduates, they are doomed to fail. The people who most need to hear from us have at that point already given up and dropped out. I later was asked to start a legal internship program in which hundreds of disadvantaged high school students have participated; it won awards from the State Bar and the Dallas Independent School District. Next, I led two different law-in-theschools programs and now help advance an email mentoring program for at-risk youth. The State Bar must play its role in this kind of outreach. WHAT DO YOU DO FOR FUN? Howry: I enjoy time spent with my family. Like many of you, I tend to spend too much time at the office. When I can get away to the Ozark Mountains and float the Buffalo River or fish in the White River with my wife and children, I am most happy. I also enjoy bay fishing in Port Aransas or Port O’Connor and riding my bike through the Texas Hill Country. Sampling Texas craft beers is also a hobby I have come to enjoy. Stevenson: I attend many cultural events—several by choice. My wife, Helen, loves going to the symphony, and when we married 35 years ago, I was notified that I loved going, too. Family gatherings with our now-grown kids are my greatest joy but are too infrequent. Still, I converse daily with my children by email, text, and Google Hangout. They are excessively witty, and most of what’s said resembles a taunt. When the kids were young, we were avid campers, but the allure of sleeping on the ground dimmed with age. Helen and I still enjoy traveling, but preferably to places with beds and flush toilets. I enjoy painting, and sometimes people can actually identify the subject of one of my works, given a sufficient number of guesses and very direct hints. I also am committed to regular exercise— at least in principle. Vote online or by paper ballot from April 1 to April 30, 2015. The deadline to cast ballots is April 30, 2015, at 5 p.m. CST. For biographical information, go to texasbar.com/elections or see p. 198 of the March issue.
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