Greetings from Austin. Last night I attended the Texas General Counsel Forum’s 2022 Magna Stella Awards at the Fairmont Hotel, where an impressive bunch of in-house lawyers were honored for their outstanding legal work for their companies and their communities. After years of pandemic-induced isolation killed the conference circuit, it was great to see old friends and meet new ones. It appears that all kinds of industries beyond legal are just as eager to re-connect in-person in Austin this week. As one conference attendee told me last night over drinks at the speakeasy after-party, rooms at the W were going for $4,000 a night.
If you simply want to drop $4k somewhere, consider doing so on a nonprofit instead of a hotel room.
If you need nonprofit inspo, check out the below items. Consider donating your money or time to your local science museum, faith-based senior care organization, or a foundation that’s dedicated to combatting bullying by supporting families in crisis, like a few attorneys below.
The Magna Stella Awards was just one ceremony of many that have occurred recently. See below for more Texas lawyers who were honored this past week for their commendable commitment to pro bono.
Lastly, be sure to check out a note at the bottom from our founder, Mark Curriden, who thanks three law firms and one chief legal officer, who provided substantial early support for this new pro bono, public service and diversity beat. Without them, this beat (and this column) would not have been possible.
The Latest Charitable Happenings
— The Texas Bar Foundation has awarded a $30,000 grant to the San Antonio Legal Services Association to underwrite costs tied to SALSA’s Don’t Bully Me Project, a pro bono services program launched by David’s Legacy Foundation after “David’s Law” was passed in 2017. The project aims to combat bullying by providing legal support for minors and their families through civil actions such as sending cease-and-desist letters to the parents of the bullies on the family in crisis’ behalf. The grant will support the project’s efforts to streamline the intake process and provide a technological infrastructure to facilitate statewide collaboration between legal aid and pro bono entities across Texas.
— Racing to get some more CLE credits before the year ends? Stumped on how to incorporate more pro bono work into your practice? Texas Access to Justice and the State Bar of Texas Pro Bono Workgroup have your back. On Dec. 6, they are co-sponsoring double-feature virtual panel discussions with law firm and corporate counsel pro bono veterans. The speakers for the first panel — Sylvia Mayer of Mayer Law, Kate Barry of Kirkland & Ellis, Scott Young of Toyota North America and Sarah Teachout of Trinity Industries — will discuss best pro bono practices and how to overcome obstacles in pro bono. The second panel will feature American Airlines General Counsel Priya Aiyar and Jones Day partner Evan Singer will focus on how American and Jones Day successfully implemented a pro bono project that brings success to survivors of human trafficking. AT&T General Counsel David McAtee, II will moderate both panels and Texas Supreme Court Justice Brett Busby will make introductions.
You can register here: www.tinyurl.com/probonosummit. The Dec. 6 program is from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. CT. The panels will count toward two hours of CLE ethics credit. The MCLE number is 17417016. Questions? Email Fiona Awe: email@example.com.
— Arcosa Chief Legal Officer Bryan Stevenson will receive Dallas Baptist University’s 2022 Distinguished Alumnus Award on Nov. 19 during homecoming weekend for his contributions and efforts for the university. DBU chose to recognize Stevenson for being an “outstanding example of a Christian servant leader and alumni” and his efforts to help raise the visibility of DBU, connecting many of his circles of influence to the university. Before joining Arcosa — where Stevenson oversees the company’s legal, compliance, EHS, public affairs and ESG departments — he worked at Trinity Industries as a vice president and associate general counsel. He also previously was general counsel and associate general counsel for U.S. Auto Parts Network and Blockbuster, respectively.
— A few public service developments from the Dallas office of Weil, Gotshal & Manges:
* Partner and Texas litigation practice leader Paul Genender was recently appointed to the board of The Legacy Senior Communities, a Jewish-sponsored nonprofit that provides a continuum of care to seniors and their families, offering compassion for preserving dignity, while embracing Jewish values and upholding the highest standards of excellence. It is the parent company of three Plano area senior care facilities: a life care community, a rental retirement community and a home health and hospice agency.
* Partner Liz Ryan has joined the board at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. The Perot plays a vital role in preparing the next generation of STEM innovators and workers, supporting schools and educators and delivering an exceptional museum through state-of-the-art exhibits and education programming.
*On Oct. 28, the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program honored Weil with the Gold Award, which honors law firms with 50 to 100 Dallas attorneys for their pro bono service. The award was presented during DVAP’s annual Pro Bono Awards Celebration. Perkins Coie and Holland & Knight also received the Gold Award.
— Speaking of DVAP’s Pro Bono Awards Celebration, here were the other winners also honored on Oct. 28:
Lawyer of the Year: Tanner Hartnett of The Hartnett Law Firm
Law firm of the Year: Hunton Andrews Kurth
Hartman Judicial Pro Bono Service Award: Hon. David Lopez
Pro Bono Appreciation Award: Kristi Kastl of Kastle Law
Ken Fuller Outstanding Mentor Award: Alisa Richman
Outstanding Support Volunteer of the Year: Valerie Hollingsworth of Hunton Andrews Kurth
Outstanding Community Partner: The Senior Source
Outstanding Corporate Pro Bono Coordinator of the Year: Wendy Wilkerson of Texas Instruments
Outstanding Pro Bono Coordinator of the Year: David Taubenfeld of Haynes and Boone
Outstanding Sole Practitioner: Sharon Campbell
Outstanding Eviction Clinic Attorney: Jake Torres of Vinson & Elkins
Outstanding Virtual Clinic Sponsor: Haynes and Boone
Outstanding Virtual Clinic Attorneys: Ted Huffman and Charles Truslow of Hunton Andrews Kurth
Outstanding Virtual Veterans Clinic Sponsor: Bradley Arant Boult Cummings
Outstanding Law School Coordinator: Laura Burstein of SMU Dedman School of Law
Silver Award for Pro Bono Service: Kirkland & Ellis, Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld and Baker Botts
— And finally, a note from Texas Lawbook founder Mark Curriden:
The idea of creating a full-time pro bono, public service and diversity writer position surfaced three years ago as The Texas Lawbook prepared for its 10th anniversary. The goal has been to do something big, something important, something that will significantly influence the legal profession in Texas.
The Lawbook officially launched the new beat this week in an announcement. This weekly column on public service, appropriately titled “P.S.,” is one of the products of the new position. The column’s author, Natalie Posgate, is the journalist named to lead the coverage of pro bono, public service and diversity.
But there was a lot of work over the past two years that went into the formation and launch. And several corporate legal departments, lawyers, law firms and general counsel supported this effort to make it a reality.
To start, there are three law firms – Kirkland & Ellis, Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and Norton Rose Fulbright – and one in-house counsel that have been critical to the creation of the position.
Chris Luna, T-Mobile vice president of legal, has been a zealous advocate of the new pro bono, public service and diversity writer position. Luna is active in so many causes and initiatives that help the Texas legal community, including the Hispanic Bar Association Foundation and its efforts to raise money for Latino students interested in studying law. Luna is the co-chair of the Texas Lawbook Foundation.
To financially support the full-time pro bono, public service and diversity reporter position, the decision was made to create a nonprofit to raise the money necessary and to help promote the position. Six lawyers in the Dallas office of Gibson Dunn volunteered.
Led by corporate law partner Jeff Chapman, Gibson Dunn lawyers did all the legal work to create the Texas Lawbook Foundation and to get the IRS to approve the organization as a tax-exempt foundation under Section 501(c)(3).
Chapman put together a great team that included partner Michael Cannon and associates Collin Metcalf, Pooja Patel and Jonathan Sapp. And they received extraordinary support from paralegal Donna McClurkin-Fletcher.
With the Texas Lawbook Foundation formed, there were necessary expenses, including the official hiring of Natalie Posgate as the lead reporter. To launch the position, the law firm Kirkland & Ellis stepped forward.
Led by Houston partner Andrew Calder, Kirkland made a direct financial donation that covered several major expenses, including the development of the foundation’s website and the first couple months of staffing.
The contributions by Kirkland and Gibson Dunn make them our two largest supporters of the foundation and the new pro bono, public service and diversity writer position.
The Texas Lawbook also thanks Norton Rose Fulbright for its large contribution. Norton Rose Fulbright, which has tremendous history of pro bono work in Texas, was the first law firm to step forward and make a contribution supporting the new position.
This week, Posgate authored multiple articles about pro bono and diversity, including profiles of the legal departments at Mary Kay and Hewlett Packard Enterprises who won awards Thursday night from the Texas General Counsel Forum for their achievements in pro bono and diversity.
Without the contributions of Kirkland, Gibson Dunn and Norton Rose Fulbright, those articles would not have been published. Nor would this P.S. column.
To learn more about making a contribution to the Texas Lawbook Foundation, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.