Lindsay Stafford Mader 2016-05-28 19:44:38
How the president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association ran from “the real world” to find a happy (and nerdy) home in the law. When Sam Houston graduated from New Mexico State University, he was like most other 20-somethings: He didn’t know what he wanted to do. But Ho “All my friends were going off to work in cubicle villages in Denver and Phoenix and Dallas. I thought, Why not keep going to school? Maybe some day I could have a job with a window and a door as opposed to a cube in some weird corporate jungle. I wasn’t ready to go into the automaton world.” So, because he had liked his business law classes during undergrad, the native of the Southwest with a “rather Texan name” decided to move to San Antonio to attend St. Mary’s University School of Law. Maybe he got lucky or maybe he’s more intuitive than he realizes, but Houston ended up choosing the career that perfectly fits his personality. While clerking for now-retired 14th Court of Appeals Justice Harvey Hudson after law school, Houston learned that appellate work involved a lot of research and writing, two favorite activities for the self-professed Bluebook fanatic. Thirteen years later, he is an attorney with Houston Dunn, a two-person civil appellate boutique firm in San Antonio. “I have no other skills,” Houston said, only half joking. “I don’t have any earthly idea what else I would do.” At the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting on June 17, Houston will be sworn in as president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association. He plans to use his term as president to increase diverse enrollment at law schools, develop a Sexual Assault Victim Rights Guide, and build upon TYLA’s client and transition-to-practice resources. Houston recently talked with the Texas Bar Journal about his formative years, career, and plans for his term as TYLA president. Mexico and then went to high school and college in Las Cruces. What was it like growing up in the Southwest? I was never in my life in a classroom with a bunch of white faces. Diversity is the norm. New Mexico is not the easiest place to live because it’s poor and you’re always trying to overcome challenges. But I think I came out of it enriched and with a more open view of the world. What was it like to be the first person in your family to go to college? It really wasn’t a big thing. I was going to go—it was sort of a foregone conclusion. Most of the angst associated with going to college was how to pay for it. My dream was to go to Vanderbilt or Pepperdine, and I was accepted, but it was just going to be too expensive. I remember having this blowout fight with my parents—Why are you trying to crush my dreams? But in retrospect, it was a smart decision. Who is your legal role model and what impresses you most about him or her? Bill Ford, a partner in Ford Murray in San Antonio, has been a boss, mentor, and friend to me for over a decade. Bill is a great leader. He looks for ways to build his team up, and when confronted with difficult issues, he looks for solutions rather than to assign blame. I am sure if you asked anyone about him, people would say that he is true to his word. What lesson or experience has most impacted the way you practice? Reputation is everything, and your word is your bond. We should all try to choose the hard right over the easy wrong, even though the latter can sometimes be very tempting. How is appellate law unique, and what do you love most about it? Appellate lawyers are by and large procedural specialists. My practice has exposed me to a broad spectrum of substantive legal areas. My partner and I joke that we wake upon a new planet almost every day. You have time to think and craft arguments and look for the answer. Sometimes there isn’t an answer so you’re trying to guide the court by saying, “This is where we think the law is going.” And it’s probably one of the least confrontational subsets of the litigation experience, and I’m not a very confrontational person. If I never take a deposition again, I’m going to die a happy, happy man. What is the biggest challenge and the biggest reward of working in a small firm? The biggest challenge is trying to manage workload. Given our size, we sometimes do not have the bodies to throw at projects, especially if we are contacted at the last minute. But, while it can sometimes be stressful, I would not trade the independence and control. Name your three absolute favorite things to do on the weekend. My wife and I love checking out new restaurants, which is a great thing to do in San Antonio. Brunch is an absolute must. We balance our caloric intake with running and biking. Movies are also a must. But we do not get to the theater that often these days. My toddler daughter is not interested in sitting for 15 minutes, much less two hours. Why have you chosen campus sexual assault to be one of your primary focuses as TYLA president? The topic of sexual assault is important and has been getting increasing attention in the media. In line with TYLA’s goal to educate the public about the legal system and legal rights, I thought that we really needed to tackle the issue and provide some much-needed resources. What do you think the legal profession will look like 50 years from now? Change is certain. Who knows how we are going to practice law in the future. Technological advances will continue to alter how we do our legal work and how legal services are delivered to clients. Describe yourself in five words. Well, I need seven: cautiously optimistic nerd who loves to laugh.
Published by State Bar of Texas. View All Articles.
This page can be found at http://mydigimag.rrd.com/article/Behind+the+Scenes/2497555/306771/article.html.