Happy Halloween. I didn’t mean to trick you by not running P.S. on Friday, but I’m hoping this belated edition will be worth the wait with extra treats you’ll enjoy reading about.
I’ve been covering diversity in the Texas legal profession for a year now, and I’ve got to say, I often feel spooked about the current state of our Texas legal market demographics. We’ve been collecting partnership promotion data and despite the herculean efforts I know many of you are putting in to advance lawyers of color, the progress is slow. So slow that I’d bet the number of lawyers of color promoted to partner are about the same as they were when I was born almost 34 Decembers ago — and no better than the national average.
But after meeting and learning from many TMCP members last week, I feel hopeful again — especially after hearing from so many diverse attorney panelists in high-up leadership positions at law firms and corporate legal departments speak of their experiences. It’s easy to see that their empathetic, approachable leadership styles will make a lasting impact on the next generation of Texas business lawyers.
Take the LGBTQ+ community, for example. It was awe-inspiring to learn more about some LGBTQ+ general counsel (including one of a major professional sports team and one of a publicly traded corporation) and managing partners who are unapologetically out at work, and wholeheartedly embraced for it. In one sense, it shouldn’t have to be awe-inspiring because it should just be normalized, no questions asked. But in another sense, it’s not lost on me how recent gay marriage was legalized, how LGBTQ-targeted hate crimes still occur every day, how the prospect of coming out is still terrifying and unfathomable for so many.
(Side note, if you haven’t seen it already and like scary shows, I highly recommend starting American Horror Story: NYC tonight during trick-or-treater duty. It’s set in New York City in the 1980s and follows a series of characters as they navigate the unnerving murders of gay men by a serial killer. Metaphorically and literally, it skillfully illustrates the stigma of being out at a time and place in history when the AIDS epidemic raged on. I won’t give away too much, but beyond the suspense of the murder mystery keeping me on the edge of my seat, the love story between one gay couple was beautiful and, contrary to their fate, made me ponder about my mortality on a deeper level and — as someone who doesn’t want kids and knows that, statistically speaking, women tend to outlive their husbands — feel afraid for the first time about the possibility of dying a horribly painful death alone, not in the arms of my significant other.)
Equally inspiring at last week’s conference were the honorees of the TMCP Awards announced during Thursday’s luncheon.
Samsung C&T America in-house counsel Hanna Kim took home the TMCP Rising Star Award, which honors an attorney who has made strides early in their practice of promoting DEI.
The TMCP Trailblazer of the Year Award went to Sakina Rasheed Foster, managing partner of Haynes Boone’s Dallas office. The award recognizes an outside counsel who has bolstered DEI through hiring, retention and mentoring of ethnic minority, women and LGBTQ+ attorneys; partnering with diverse-owned law firms; or bar and community involvement.
ExxonMobil managing counsel Kimberly Cunningham received the TMCP Corporate Counsel of the Year Award, which honors an in-house lawyer who opens doors for diverse attorneys by promoting diversity at their company, consistently hiring diverse outside counsel to handle their legal work or participating in mentoring or volunteering efforts that foster diversity in the legal profession.
The TMCP Lifetime Achievement Award went to Juanita Harris, assistant vice president and senior legal counsel of human resources at DIRECTV. The award recognizes an attorney who has practiced law for at least 20 years and has demonstrated extraordinary support and advocacy for the advancement of attorneys from underrepresented groups throughout their career.
If your firm has not been involved with TMCP yet, I highly recommend that you look into it. The conference is an initiative of the State Bar of Texas’ Office of Minority Affairs, which was formed in 1991. TMCP, which came along in 1993, attracts more than 500 attendees every year, and beyond the CLE credit, it offers unique business development opportunities.
Included in the conference programming are Counsel Connections — 15-minute, introductory, one-on-one meetings that pair law firm attorneys and in-house lawyers throughout the conference. Corporate legal departments that participated in this year’s Counsel Connections include American Airlines, CenterPoint Energy, H-E-B, McKesson, Southwest Airlines, Keurig Dr Pepper, Shell, Toyota Financial Services and many more.
Before the opening reception Wednesday, conference attendees had the opportunity to network through a mini golf tournament, a spa day, or by participating in a pipeline initiative aimed at elementary and law students.
Bravo to co-chairs Shannon Quadros of Quadros Migl & Crosby, Marcus Brown of United Airlines and the dozens of attorneys on the TMCP 2023 Steering Committee for spearheading such a terrific event. There’s a lot going on in the legal and political climate for DEI that’s keeping lawyers up at night, but the work by you all at least fends off some of these bloodsucking DEI vampires through the brightness you emanate.
— On Oct. 21, Texas A&M University School of Law held its third-annual Alumni Legacy Awards reception honoring seven alums. The event, which is hosted by the Texas A&M Law alumni board, recognizes outstanding alumni for their individual achievements, contributions to their professions, service to their communities and loyalty to the law school.
The 2023 honorees are:
- Andrea Loveless, the recipient of the Judge Joe Spurlock II ’60 Alumnus/Alumna of the Year Award. Loveless (’03), is the founding partner of Loveless Law Firm, a Fort Worth- and California-based firm that specializes in employment, civil rights and employment litigation;
- Flowserve Corp. employment counsel Hisham Masri (’15), the recipient of the Rising Star Award;
- Christopher J. Parvin (’03), the recipient of the Private Practice Achievement Award. Marvin is founder and managing director of The Parvin Law Group, a Dallas-based estate planning, probate and business law firm;
- Lauren Black (’09), deputy administrator of the Dallas County District Attorney’s Office and recipient of the Public/Non-Profit Sector Achievement Award;
- Immigration lawyer Rosa Maria Berdeja (’09), founder and managing member of The Law Office of Rosa Maria Berdeja. She is the recipient of the Community Impact Award;
- Peter Elgohary (’22), program manager of Shell USA’s global building standards department and recipient of the Outstanding Legal Masters Award; and
- Terry Bentley Hill (’08), recipient of the Dean Emeritus Frank W. Elliott Dean’s Advocate Award. Hill runs her own criminal defense firm in Dallas and is a major advocate for mental health — specifically, suicide prevention, due to losing two loved ones to depression. Hill’s first husband, Danny Hill, was the 47th Judicial District Attorney in the Amarillo area when he took his own life in 1995. Hill and her four daughters moved to Dallas to start over, and in 2004, Hill began law school at A&M (then Texas Wesleyan University School of Law). Two weeks into Hill’s first semester, her youngest daughter, Hallie, also took her life. Today Hill is a regular public speaker on suicide prevention and has coined the phrase “stop minding your own business,” the idea being that if you ask a loved one exhibiting signs of depression the tough questions — are they are OK or if they have thought about suicide — you could save a life. Hill’s law practice also has a heavy focus on representing clients struggling with their mental health.
Proceeds from the event benefited A&M’s new Professor Emerita Lynn Rambo Endowed Scholarship, which is awarded to students in need of financial help who embody excellence and dedication to legal education.
— The National Association of Minority and Women-Owned Law Firms (NAMWOLF) has honored Culhane Meadows with the 2023 Law Firm MVP Award. The award celebrates a firm that has showcased outstanding achievements in furthering NAMWOLF’s mission to promote diversity and inclusion by bolstering the relationship between premier minority/women-owned law firms and corporations/public entities.
Culhane Meadows is a Dallas-based law firm founded in 2013. It is the largest women-owned full-service firm in the U.S. Today, the 70-lawyer firm operates in 11 offices.
“This award recognizes our dedication to fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment and our continuous efforts in disrupting and reshaping the legal landscape through innovation and determination,” co-founder and co-managing partner Heather Haughian said in a statement.
— Throughout the month of November, the Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program will host nine virtual and in-person legal clinics providing pro bono civil legal services to low-income Dallas residents. DVAP, the pro bono arm of the Dallas Bar Association, is a partnership between the DBA and Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas. Those who wish to receive assistance through a virtual clinic should fill out this form. All virtual clinics run from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Nov. 2: DVAP, Akin and Stinson
Nov. 3 (veterans clinic): DVAP and Bradley Arant Boult Cummings
Nov. 9: DVAP, DLA Piper and Hunton Andrews Kurth
Nov. 16: DVAP, St. Mary’s University School of Law and Haynes Boone
Nov. 30: DVAP and Weil, Gotshal & Manges
Veterans Clinic: Nov. 3 at 1:30 p.m. at VA Medical Center (4500 S. Lancaster Rd, Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP, Prudential, Toyota and Winston & Strawn
South Dallas Clinic: Nov. 14 at 5 p.m. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (2922 Martin Luther King Blvd, Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP and AT&T
East Dallas Clinic: Nov. 16 at 5:30 p.m. at Grace United Methodist Church (4105 Junius at Haskell, Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP
South Dallas Clinic: Nov. 28 at 5 p.m. at Martin Luther King, Jr. Community Center (2922 Martin Luther King Blvd, Dallas). Sponsored by DVAP
— On Monday, Oct. 30, the Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Access to Justice Foundation hosted a luncheon to address the increasing need to expand access to justice for all Texans and recognize elected officials for their dedication to public service. TAJF honored several public officials with the Legislative Hero Award: Texas Sen. Judith Zaffirin (Laredo), Texas Sen. Charles Perry (Lubbock), State Rep. Jeff Leach (Plano), State Rep. Lulu Flores (Austin) and State Rep. Joe Moody (El Paso). TAJF chose these officials for their dedication to improving access to justice in the state and for their leadership during the 88th Legislature to bring a boost in additional funding to TAJF.
TAJF also honored Arnold & Itkin and the State Bar’s Hispanic Issues Section with the Access to Justice Award, which recognizes organizations that have substantially contributed to access to justice for low-income Texans.
The guest speaker was Ron Flagg, president of Legal Service Corporation, the largest nationwide funders of civil legal aid for low-income Americans. Attendees of the luncheon also got to interact with a virtual court kiosk provided by Texas Legal Services Center. The organization partners with TAJF on the project, which aims to make the civil legal process more accessible to low-income Texans. The kiosk empowers Texans to learn how to attend a virtual court hearing, upload legal documents and access online resources, and it also now includes Spanish and Vietnamese translations.
— Last week was the ABA’s Pro Bono Week, and Haynes Boone ended the national celebration receiving DVAP’s 2023 Law Firm of the Year Award for firm attorneys’ dedication to volunteering their pro bono legal services every month at DVAP’s virtual legal clinics. Attorney development specialist Belinda Seymour also received the Clinic Coordinator of the Year Award for her work growing and promoting Haynes Boone’s volunteer efforts.