Patricia Busa Mc Connico 2015-06-01 21:10:38
FOR NEARLY A DECADE, A YELLOW RIBBON WOULD GREET ALLAN K. DUBOIS AS HE OPENED HIS OFFICE DOOR AT LANG, LADON, GREEN, COGHLAN & FISHER. A litigator who represented surgeons, hospitals, transportation companies, and manufacturers of breast implants among other clients, DuBois spent many hours poring over documents, taking depositions, and preparing for trials. He burned his fair share of midnight oil, relishing in the challenges each case presented. But in another lifetime, DuBois’s hard work and high-stress job had begun to eat away at his soul, and the only way he could make himself feel better was to drink. Back then, he didn’t think he had a problem. He would say everything was fine. That yellow ribbon proved otherwise, a subtle reminder of his past and his subsequent road to recovery. Today, some 25 years after going sober, DuBois is very candid—and vocal—about his alcohol dependency and how his wife, Pam, and others helped turn his life around. And in the upcoming year as president of the State Bar of Texas, he wants to draw attention to the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, which provides confidential help for lawyers, law students, and judges who are struggling with substance abuse or mental health issues. In fact, plans are in the works for an inspirational video that features people sharing their positive experiences with TLAP. “Where you have credibility is what you know,” said DuBois, as we chatted on a Thursday morning in his San Antonio corner office, where he works as a solo practitioner. “I know about these things. I know what it is like to go through that, to get help, to be mentored and have people give you healthy strategies and work with you on a one-on-one confidential basis.” After celebrating a Christmas bonus one night in 1990, DuBois drove his car off U.S. Highway 281 and hit a vehicle abandoned on the side of the road. He was not injured badly enough to be hospitalized, but DuBois got a DWI. Despite that horrifying incident, he did not stop drinking, which sparked Pam to enlist the family doctor and seemingly protective senior partners at his firm to intervene. DuBois was medically placed in a weeklong detox regimen, then transferred to Villa Rosa Hospital treatment center for its 28-day inpatient program. During that time, DuBois and the other patients in his group went on a field trip to Club 12, a recovery meeting venue, where he bumped into a friend from his young lawyer days. “I was wearing a sweatsuit with a hospital band on my arm,” DuBois told me. “I was pretty embarrassed.” That friend, Tom Keyser, introduced DuBois to Texas Lawyers Concerned for Lawyers, a group that helps attorneys with substance abuse problems get back on their feet. “Our friendship and respect for one another has spiraled upward ever since that ‘God wink’ encounter at Club 12,” said Keyser, who is now president of the San Antonio Bar Association. “Allan’s commitment to his recovery program, family, and law firm has been unprecedented.” DuBois credits his recovery not only to the support he received from Pam but also many colleagues, family friends, and organizations such as TLAP and TLCL. This is why he wants others who may be in a bad spot like he was years ago to know there is hope—and help. “That shaped me. I was able to go back to my firm. They were walking on eggshells and I was too. They had a big plant with a big yellow ribbon tied to it,” DuBois said. “All of them— the secretaries, the staff— made it good. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it on the outside. And there they were—a bunch of TLCL volunteer lawyers. I found that they were also great mentors.” In addition to spreading the word about TLAP, DuBois helped secure an additional $250,000 from the State Bar of Texas budget to be added to the Patrick Sheeran & Michael J. Crowley Memorial Trust, which helps pay health care providers assisting attorneys who have substance abuse problems or mental health issues and are unable to afford lifesaving treatments. His goal is to double that amount, and to that end, the Texas Center for Legal Ethics and the Texas Bar College have each contributed $30,000. While DuBois confessed that he’s not sure how he will raise the remaining funds (he said he’s not shy about simply asking for donations), there’s no uncertainty about his dedication to the mission of TLAP and the Sheeran- Crowley Trust. Or to the profession of law. As he sat in the leather chair in his office talking about his career and the more than 120 cases he has tried, DuBois mentioned numerous times words such as “service,” “responsibility,” “preparation,” and “integrity.” These are traits that were instilled in him when he was a child, growing up in a military family, and he has strived to live by them, as evidenced by his active role in the community and leadership positions in organizations such as TLCL (2007-2008 president), the Texas Bar Foundation (2012-2014 trustee), the San Antonio Bar Association (2007-2008 president), and the State Bar Board of Directors (2009-2012). DuBois was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin, while his father, who was a lieutenant in the Army, was stationed in Europe. Eight short months later, DuBois, who had been diagnosed with testicular cancer, underwent a successful surgery to remove a malignant growth. Both of his parents were at the hospital by his side. DuBois’s father was about to be discharged but came to the realization that the Army, which had paid for his travel expenses and his son’s medical bills, might be a better place to work than his old job as a bookkeeper. And so he embarked on a military career that lasted more than 30 years and led to his selection as an investigator of the My Lai Massacre. “The Army wanted an officer of integrity whose reputation was aboveboard to lead a thorough investigation,” DuBois said. The lessons DuBois learned about discipline, respect, and leadership while growing up as the oldest of nine children stuck with him as he and his family moved from Germany to Georgia and Japan to Texas. They landed in San Antonio, where DuBois, an Eagle Scout who had a passion for reading, attended Central Catholic High School. Central Catholic was a college preparatory school, and it was there that DuBois met his future wife, Pamela Anne Blakey, whose father was the base commander at Randolph Air Force Base. They ran in different circles—Pam was a cheerleader, DuBois an ROTC cadet—but during the summers, DuBois lifeguarded at the pool at the Fort Sam Houston Officers Club where Pam and her mother often visited. Another lifeguard at the club, Jon Wisser, befriended DuBois and they would play touch football and tennis in their spare time. According to Wisser, those were carefree days, when the boys talked about pretty girls and no one knew about the benefits of sunscreen. The two became roommates in college at the University of Texas at Austin, where they were both members of the Army ROTC. “Allan was very active and involved, whereas the only reason I was in ROTC was because my father would not pay for any of my college if I was not in ROTC,” said Wisser, who is now a senior district court judge of Travis County and credits DuBois for suggesting he attend law school. Indeed, DuBois took his ROTC training earnestly, and he was promoted to cadet colonel and corps commander. His relationship with Pam also began to flourish at UT, where DuBois studied English and Pam majored in accounting, and the couple got engaged during their senior year. Within 10 days, DuBois graduated from college, married Pam, and got commissioned in the regular Army. DuBois always thought he would be an Army officer like his father, even while attending law school on the Army Excess Leave Program. At the University of Texas School of Law, DuBois earned moot court honors and was a member of the Order of the Barristers. By this time, the couple had two sons, and Pam was working full time to support the family while completing her own degree. After graduating in 1970, DuBois attended the Army Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School as a captain and was assigned as a briefing attorney at the Army Court of Military Review in Washington, D.C. He then served as an appellate defense counsel and branch chief in the U.S. Army Judiciary for several years. While he enjoyed his time in D.C., handling appeals regarding soldiers in everything from murder to desertion cases, DuBois wanted to get back to Texas and took a job in San Antonio with Lang, Ladon, Green, Coghlan & Fisher. DuBois came into his own under the mentorship of senior partner Paul Green, who had hired him. As we talked about his early days at the firm, DuBois began to run through some of his memorable cases and the lessons he learned from Green. “No one client, no matter how big or how important to your economic well-being, is worth sacrificing your personal integrity and reputation,” DuBois told me in an almost whispered voice. “Every action you take or don’t take, every decision you make on behalf of a client is your reputation.” An avid hunter and family man who enjoyed spending his free time at his four children’s sporting events, DuBois became known for his integrity and his prowess in the courtroom. His natural instinct to teach others led to mentoring new associates. “Allan took me to my first deposition, and he was the first lawyer who let me actively participate in a trial, a wrongful death lawsuit,” said Laura Cavaretta, now a partner in Cavaretta, Katona & Leighner in San Antonio. “He is honest and trustworthy. He taught me that these traits are of utmost importance and that you should always treat people with dignity and respect.” To DuBois, mentoring is still important and directly ties to his focus on aging lawyer issues. More than 7,500 active members of the State Bar are over the age of 70, and DuBois wants to re-engage this population through mentoring programs with young lawyers. “A lot of solos don’t have a succession plan,” he said. “What’s going to happen to their clients?” DuBois told me that he sees young lawyers learning from seasoned veterans and vice versa. He also envisions elder lawyers—and all lawyers—using their talents by taking advantage of more pro bono opportunities. As he talked about a recent trip to Washington, D.C., to learn more about legal aid, his voice became emphatic and he began to lean over his desk, his purple tie still neatly intact inside his perfectly pressed blue suit. “Think of what we could do with almost 100,000 lawyers if they took just one case.” DuBois crossed his hands and put them on the table, his burnt-orange UT Law ring noticeably visible. I could tell by looking out the windows that the sun had shifted and our time was coming to a close. He showed me a photograph of his 12 grandchildren, three of whom, along with their mother, are living with Pam and him in the house next door to the home where they raised their own kids. He told me that he and Pam play tennis every week—or at least they used to until his duties as president-elect had them crisscrossing the state visiting lawyers and serving the bar. And he said he was looking forward to an upcoming 5th Circuit judicial conference where members of TLAP and other lawyer assistance programs were going to make a presentation on how to recognize an impaired attorney. As we walked out of his office, I couldn’t help but notice that there was no sign of a yellow ribbon on his door.
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