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From the editorial pages of Texas Lawyer. You must be a law.com/tx subscriber to access Commentary. To register for a free 30-day trial, click here.

Time to Play Procedure-mon Have you seen the latest craze for kids, known as Yu-gi-oh? It’s an extremely complicated game where participants duel each other via cards from their decks, each individual card having defense and attack attributes of its own. Is some Japanese media conglomerate making big money plagiarizing the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure? Go read Rule 120a. See if it’s any less complicated to make a correct special appearance than it is to play a full Yu-gi-oh duel. I think we’re on to something here. IOLTA’s Final Fate IOLTA programs exist in all 50 states and are a principle source of funds for civil legal services to low-income citizens. The Texas IOLTA program, like the programs in the other states, operates by pooling client funds that are too small individually to earn much interest into aggregated, larger accounts that earn interest. In 1995, the Washington Legal Foundation, a public-interest group, sued the Texas IOLTA program. An overview of where the case stands. Bowling for Killers The final score: death penalty 2; states’ rights 0. U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is a staunch advocate of states’ rights — except when deference to the states threatens something he’s more fervent about, like the death penalty. The sniper sweepstakes recently conducted by the Department of Justice proves that when the AG’s devotion to states’ rights collides with his passion for the death penalty, the latter prevails. Ashcroft is more interested in being our chief executioner than its chief lawyer. Questions About Objections One of the more enduring courtroom mysteries to laypeople is the question of when objections can be made. An experienced client probably grasps that there is some method to the madness of courtroom procedure, including the making of objections. To the less experienced client, the art of the objection is as baffling as some anthropological study of why some middle-aged lawyers are attracted to red cars that go fast. For a Firm to Succeed It Needs Some Culture One of the significant differences between successful firms today and tomorrow and “the other” firms is the effectiveness and adaptability of management. Your firm’s most valuable asset is the people. The overall value of this asset is contingent upon attracting, developing, motivating and retaining the good people. Aside from recruiting wisely, numerous surveys tell us firm culture is the most significant factor in achieving these goals. U.S. Attorney’s Office Changes With the Times Although Matt Orwig, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Texas, has the same responsibility as his predecessors for representing the United States in civil litigation and in the prosecution of criminal cases, six months into his term he is confronting a unique issue the office hasn’t faced before. Godzilla’s Way The close juxtaposition of a Godzilla-related program with anti-lawyer pre-election campaign advertisements has Tom Alleman thinking: If everyone thinks of attorneys in the same fiery breath as Godzilla anyway, why not go with it? Presenting “Godzilla vs. the MegaFirm” — possibly coming soon to a theater near you. Furrh’s Fellowship Will Benefit Legal Services Paul Furrh, president and chief executive officer of Lone Star Legal Aid, recently was selected to participate in the Drucker Foundation, Frances Hesselbein Community Innovation Fellows Program. It is a yearlong program that supports the professional development of social-sector leaders who have demonstrated leadership and entrepreneurial ability. What qualified Furrh for this selection? The short answer is that Furrh survived the process that reduced 10 legal service programs in Texas to three. The War to Fund All Wars We’re losing the war. Worse, our top general warned us that we’re losing. Worse still, the administration ordered the general to “zip it.” No, Paul Coggins is not talking about the war on terrorism, the war on drugs, or even the newly minted war on Wall Street weasels. He’s talking about a front we’re conceding to the enemy. We’re getting our bottom lines royally kicked by tax cheats. Judges Are Human, Too After his client finally learned to deal with the fact that their opposing counsel was “evil,” Jim McCormack thought that she would be battle-hardened at trial time and that nothing much would perturb her. After a hearing before a judge, he was revealed to be wrong again. There’s nothing like a bad ruling from a court to shake a client’s confidence. The Best Judges Money Can Buy? The hearings on Texas Supreme Court Justice Priscilla Owen have again highlighted a number of shortcomings in how this country selects its judges. The principal issues that led to the defeat of the nomination eclipsed another problem that affects judicial selection in many areas of the country — the election of judges and the influence that money can have on those elections. Media for a Merger When it comes to firm merger media, most firms still do not get it quite right. Successful merger media starts with early and honest planning. It communicates why your clients and prospects should care. And it’s rolled out over time. Introducing the TomCard The scariest part of the year is upon us — and it ain’t Halloween. Yes, folks, it’s the time of year when committees, cabals, cliques and co-conspirators at firms of every size and shape take our very fiscal lives in their clutching, stingy, foul hands and determine the factors that will make up our compensation. How can you achieve your highest compensation level in spite of those clients that refuse to pay their bills in a timely manner? Tom Alleman’s taking a cue from phone cards. Torres Leads TEAJF Through Tumultuous Times The majority of state support for legal services for low-income citizens comes through the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation, and Betty Balli Torres is the executive director of the foundation. Her job presents a series of new and potentially major problems, but Torres is well prepared for her task. Deconstructing Opposing Counsel Any lawyer worth his or her salt can tell tales of opposing counsel who thought that the legal profession was his or her personal vehicle for reliving and avenging his or her childhood wrongs and slights. The apologists for this sort of bad lawyering like to argue that the legal profession “ain’t no ice cream social.” Nonetheless, when and how do we explain our opposing counsel to our clients? Courts Get Wise to Harmful Secret Settlements Under secret settlement agreements, Ford was allowed to keep putting allegedly defective Firestone tires on its SUVs. Under secret settlements, thousands of complaints against Metabolife were suppressed. Under secret settlements, drug companies made billions while hiding research data. In all three cases, people died. Now momentum seems to be building against the indiscriminate use of secrecy agreements — judges are falling out of love with court-approved secret settlements because of public safety issues. Lawyers in a League of Their Own Dinosaurs that we are, we lawyers wait until our kids are 24 or 25 before we try to get our hooks into them. Sure a high schooler here and there may have taken “Introduction to Criminal Justice,” but we basically don’t try to teach our kids even the basics of getting along in the legal world until their cerebral cortex and general instincts have fused into place. It’s about time we lawyers wake up to what everybody else figured out about 30 years ag The younger they start, the better they’ll be. Hankinson Prepares to Pass Legal Services Torch Providing civil legal service to the poor is like moving a boulder with a twig. But from time to time progress is made, thanks to individual insight and commitment. Texas Supreme Court Justice Deborah Hankinson has moved the fulcrum and created greater leverage for lawyers to provide civil legal services for low-income citizens. Her decision to step down from the court to return to private practice in Dallas at the end of this term provides an appropriate opportunity to reflect on how she moved the fulcrum. AG Candidates, Campaign Money and Loyalty What do you think would happen to a lawyer if he received hundreds of thousands of dollars that personally benefited his business from the opposing litigant in a case and the lawyer did not disclose that to his client? It is difficult to believe that any prudent lawyer would engage in such an obvious conflict of interest. Yet Texas allows this practice to occur all the time with the state’s highest lawyer — the Texas attorney general — who represents the state and public interest. What Would a Guy Do? Sometimes the details of a woman’s life can be overwhelming. Handling the details of all our various lives — work, kids, home, marriage, social life, business development, community work, CLE, etc. — requires a juggling act fit for a three-ring circus. Sometimes it can become too much. But does this mean that you need to sacrifice a rewarding career for other priorities? Not necessarily — you may just need to summon the nerve to ask for an alternate path. The Year of the Rats If U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft has his way, spying will be open to the masses. We will have white-collar, blue-collar and no-collar spies. Spies in all shapes and sizes. Everyone will be eligible to eavesdrop — postal workers, truck drivers, plumbers, utility company employees and lawyers. Well, maybe not lawyers. I spy. You spy. We all spy on each other. At least, that was the master plan behind the TIPS program, as originally hatched by the DOJ. An American Lawyer in Dubai Two days before the attacks on America, Vinson & Elkins’ associate S. Scott Gaille of Houston accepted a job in the Middle East with a branch office of a large California-based energy company. Then came Sept. 11, 2001. Now, one year later, Gaille has written his thoughts before and after the attacks. A Little Genuine Empathy Goes a Long Way What is a lawyer’s obligation to a client who is giving a deposition for the first time? It helps to have some empathy — often one of the chinks in the legal profession’s armor. A good many lawyers (and many good lawyers) are smart folks, but have lousy bedside manner in dealing with and helping clients. Jim McCormack discusses the importance of being reassuring. Human Rights Is a Two-Way Street Mexico’s President Vicente Fox stunned the Bush Administration and Gov. Rick Perry when he canceled his trip to Texas after Perry spurned Fox’s written and verbal requests to stay the execution of Mexican national Javier Su�rez Medina. Perry could have granted a 30-day stay, but he rejected Fox, and Su�rez was executed as planned. Other countries are asking hard questions about our commitment to human rights if we don’t apply those standards to ourselves. Ribs — They Do a Lawyer’s Body Good Tom Alleman gets to thinking about patterns involving lawyers and food. It seems that in the good old days, reserving the proper restaurant while on the road with peers and partners could be as important to a career as one’s performance on a case. Back then, lawyers ate. And ate. And ate. Nowadays, according to Alleman, lawyers don’t eat. And they are cranky. Sweet Tales of Perfect Pro Bono At its core, pro bono work is valuable because it helps preserve human dignity. To be sure, lawyers have a special professional obligation to help ensure that our legal system protects each citizen regardless of means. But what makes pro bono appealing, to lawyers and the public, is its human face, as revealed by individual cases. Three cheers for the lawyers who have undertaken to help in the following instances. Keeping Your Password Safe and Unbreakable For some computer users, the term “password management” means writing your password on a sticky note and posting it on your monitor. That sort of behavior causes network administrators to lose sleep and managers to worry about the security of vital data. Besides keeping passwords out of sight, users can improve security through other means. Even when passwords are protected, security still can be compromised by crackers determined to break into a system. Fortunately, several software programs and Web sites offer help. Lights! Cameras! Arrests! Paul Coggins turns the spotlight on the recent flurry of white-collar defendants’ high-profile “perp walks.” Examining the political versus the practical reasons for picking up suspects, rather than allowing them to surrender, he argues that parading defendants before TV cameras smacks of desperation by an administration overeager to prove it will crack down on corporate crime. No Prescription for Litigationitis It’s a condition marked by persistent night sweats and loss of sleep. Menopause? No. It’s the disease that manifests itself at the prospect of suit against the makers of a wildly popular prescription medication. This recent outbreak began on July 9 when the Women’s Health Initiative issued a report linking long-term use of the hormone replacement drug Prempro to a slight increased risk of heart disease, stroke and some types of breast cancer. Help Those in Danger From Family Violence Every time you read the newspaper or turn on the television, there’s a story about family violence. As lawyers, violence between family members is an issue at the forefront of our collective legal conscience. While great legislative and law enforcement strides continue in the war against family violence, the problem remains a disease endemic to our society, whose victims span every socio-economic echelon. There’s one way in which lawyers can help. In Search of an Honest Pro Bono Policy We often tell our associates that some pro bono work is considered the same as regular billable work, meaning they will be credited when considered for partnership. However, this doesn’t always hold true — there appear to be two sets of rules regarding pro bono work. Holly English examines these often hypocritical situations — using the prospect of doing pro bono work as a recruiting tool, only to discount it later. Defense Strategies for Companies Behind the Eight Ball Now that the suits against WorldCom have begun, Tom Alleman outlined some possible defense strategies for the WorldCom board and others behind the eight ball, just to show that their money wouldn’t be wasted if they happened to hire a certain Dallas attorney (guess who?) to represent them. Key among his plans: claim that “Jenna Bush was our CFO.” And Then There Were Three When 2002 began, nine legal aid programs served Texas; when 2002 ends, three legal aid programs will serve Texas. Of course, it may be that the more things change, the more they stay the same. For many years, certain members of Congress have been unhappy with the Legal Services Corp. (LSC), the federally funded not-for-profit organization that supports legal services for low-income citizens in Texas and throughout the United States. For Really Big Disc Storage, Consider DVD-ROM Prices continue to drop on devices that can record on DVD-ROM discs — the souped-up version of the familiar CD-ROM — making the format more practical for everyday office use. DVD format offers one great advantage over the simple CD-R format that many computer users take for granted: capacity. CDs hold about 650 MB of data, while standard DVDs have a capacity of 4.7 gigabytes, or more than seven times as much data. Serenity Now Mike McCurley, of McCurley, Kinser, McCurley & Nelson, tries to create a calming atmosphere for his often frazzled clients. His office features a small waterfall, homey furniture and the inviting feeling of being in a friend’s family room. “It creates a relaxing atmosphere,” McCurley says of the water sculpture — a very important asset for the office of a lawyer who practices matrimonial law. Keeping Up With the Joneses Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the political waters — Vice President Cheney finds himself the target of a civil suit pertaining to conduct before his official duties. The prospect of a sitting vice president being forced to deal with a civil litigation may evoke a sense of d�j� vu. After all, it wasn’t long ago that a civil case brought by Paula Jones against then-President Clinton mushroomed into a political brushfire that consumed a nation. Forget the Past — Women Have to Move on to Move Ahead You’ve probably noticed the host of research lately on “relational aggression” among girls and women. Kathleen J. Wu notes that while the “mean girls” phenomenon may make for great TV, it reinforces negative stereotypes and doesn’t get women in the real world any closer to where they need to be, which is firmly ensconced in a network of professionals who refer business to each other and generally support one another’s goals. Retreat From the Firm’s Retreat The Rodent’s ruminations on that special weekend every year when lawyers pack up and travel to a resort location for the purpose of spending time with their colleagues. The annual retreat means something completely different to an associate than a partner — every move an associate makes (not to mention every drink he takes) during this outing is under close observation and can, in fact, make or break a career. As such, The Rodent offers some career advice. Martha in an Orange Jumpsuit? Never The real victim in Martha Stewart’s scandal (StewScan) is not Martha nor the investors, but the Bureau of Prisons, the BOP. If the feds bull forward with the investigation and ultimately send M on an all-expense-paid vacation, courtesy of Club Fed, it is the BOP that must house, feed, clothe and entertain her. And the BOP has reached the inescapable conclusion that it has no place fit for M. Death by Discovery A client asking a lawyer to work less. Now, that’s novel. But a client worrying about how much all that work — particularly discovery work — is costing, well, that’s easy to comprehend. To understand how we reached the point of nearly bankrupting our clients with exhaustive discovery, a small history lesson may help. An End and a Beginning Judge Robert M. Parker of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, who headquarters in Tyler, recently told his colleagues on the court that he intends to retire on Nov. 1, 2002. His retirement, together with the death of former Judge Henry Politz, who once was chief judge of the court, and the appointment to the court of Judge Edith Brown Clement, should be of significant interest — and, perhaps, concern — to the bench and bar of the 5th Circuit. Attitude, Behavior From Top Down Affect Profitability What do you do when a senior management team wants to breathe new life into an existing, well-crafted strategic plan? In this case, a traditional process may not fit. David Maister’s best-selling book “Practice What You Preach” empirically proves that effective management and behaviors drive profitability. Maister’s groundbreaking work discovered nine factors that correlate to and predict higher profit. The Next Task: Who Is Mentally Retarded? On June 20, the U.S. Supreme Court held that execution of the mentally retarded is a cruel and unusual punishment. Some folks are convinced that our courts will soon be brought to a grinding halt by a flood of petitions from death row prisoners claiming to be mentally retarded. The truth? Many states and the federal government have banned the execution of the mentally retarded — and the criminal justice systems in those places have managed to persevere. From Concept to Reality? In April 2001, the Texas Supreme Court created the Texas Access to Justice Commission and charged it “to develop and implement policy initiatives designed to expand access to and enhance the quality of justice on civil matters for low-income Texas residents.” Fourteen months has been long enough to organize, but not long enough to yield permanent results by the commission. A look at the challenge as the commission enters year two. The Lesson of Napoleonville We are strongest when we recognize our foibles. We best recognize our foibles by laughing at ourselves. Aristotle would say that we therefore are strongest when we laugh at ourselves. Henry Politz would simply incline his head, look at you with glee in his eyes and consider how he could remind you of this by a joke, practical or otherwise. Tom Alleman remembers a friend. Post-Sept. 11: More Bucks, Bodies and Bureaucracy On the surface, the world of federal law enforcement has changed radically since Sept. 11. President George W. Bush has anointed a security czar and created an entire new Cabinet-level Department of Homeland Security. Bush has ordered the FBI and CIA to talk to each other, and they are — except when both are too busy leaking to the press damaging information on the other. Savvy Firms Know Importance of On-Campus Presence During these tough economic times, legal employers need to assess their recruitment practices and make appropriate adjustments. Most firms have either implemented or considered implementing cost-cutting measures. Despite the cutbacks that have occurred, the overwhelming majority of legal employers continue their law school recruitment programs. High Court: Class Action Standards Too Strict With a decision in one case and an order declining to hear another, the U.S. Supreme Court sent a strong signal that the federal circuit courts have been improperly favoring corporate defendants in class actions by using overly strict standards. Because of the court’s actions, class members not named as plaintiffs can now more easily appeal class-action settlements that favor defendants. Lawyers’ Curious Quest to Be Nonlawyers Most lawyers seem to have the same goal in life — not to be lawyers. This is a curious thing — especially when one considers that being a lawyer is not something that happens to people involuntarily. Rather, lawyerdom is something we do to ourselves. Self-abuse? Perhaps, but that’s a topic for another article. The fact that most lawyers strive to become nonlawyers is even curiouser if you consider that quite a bit of time and effort, not to mention pain, go into becoming a lawyer. Managing Expectations: The Perry Mason Syndrome I have referred to some attorney-client relationships as suffering from “Perry Mason” syndrome. Many television viewers received an interesting data fragment about the practice of law from watching Perry Mason: He handled only one case at a time. Now, in the post-Perry Mason era, television viewers have seen a parade of other television lawyers doing the same. Another example of the pernicious influence of television on our society? Texas Can’t Declare Success Just Yet Each year the American Bar Association recognizes exemplary work in providing legal services. This year, the Harrison Tweed Award was given to the State Bar of Texas, a high mark indeed, and one reflective of twin achievements. Those achievements — which come from breakthrough developments in indigent criminal defense and work done to support civil legal services through the Texas Access to Justice Commission — are only the beginning. FAQs About Document Retention and Destruction Summer is upon us and that means the arrival of summer associates, eager to get into the routine of free Starbucks and catered meals. But if you’ve been paying careful attention to the new arrivals, you’ve undoubtedly noticed a subtle shift in attitude in this post-Enron world — newbies debating whether it was safe or even legal to throw out the remains of their chicken marsala. It was obvious that United States v. Arthur Andersenhad changed the way they thought. A Primer on Prison Avoidance There’s nothing — well, almost nothing — more important to the average CEO than avoiding prison, and there’s nothing like a good corporate compliance program to keep the big guy (or gal) out of the big house. In the age of Enron, with everyone running for cover, it’s past time to dust off the trusty compliance program at the workplace and see if it still fits the bill. BOLE Doesn’t Appreciate Haste or a Bad Memory The Texas Board of Law Examiners tells you that you fail to meet the standards of good moral character and fitness. Is all hope lost in the discretionary purview of the board? Most applicants for admission to the State Bar of Texas will tell you their greatest fear is that they will not do well on the bar examination or, horror of horrors, fail some part of the examination. However, there are those applicants who will tell you there is a worst-scene scenari The Board of Law Examiners (BOLE) informs you that you fail to meet the standards of good moral character and fitness, and therefore you are not eligible to take the bar examination. Great and Not-So-Great Expectations The lawyer as professional guesser? Well, of course. Guessing about case values is as old as the profession. The difference between us and those old-timers who used to guess how much someone weighed at the county fair is not as great as you might think. Professionals — lawyers, doctors and even accountants — are expert guessers when it comes to working from a mix of facts and assumptions. Genome Patents: Bad Rap Undeserved Much has been written regarding President Bush’s plan for federal funding of stem cell research. While some curbs on gene patents might be warranted, patenting genes is no more problematic than patenting other chemical compounds. Creativity Leads to a New Way to Fund Pro Bono Webster’s Desk Dictionary defines punishment as “a penalty inflicted for an offense or fault.” While we normally think of punishment in the criminal context, punitive damages in civil suits comprise an additional punishment available in our legal system — compensation designed as often to assuage the insult as to punish the offender. These punitive damages have provided at least one Texas lawyer with a vehicle for funding pro bono. If You Build It, They Will Come Boom or bust, there’s one constant question I hear from young lawyers: What’s the best way to develop business? And the answer is always the same: Whatever works best for you. I know, that’s like your mom telling you, “Honey, just be yourself and the boys (or girls) will notice.” But just as mom’s advice turned out to be right, so is mine. ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy Doesn’t Make the Grade Is the cure worse than the illness? Some of the ridiculous outcomes in our public school districts makes one wonder. I am grousing about “zero tolerance” in our schools these days, i.e., zero tolerance as applied to weapons and drugs in particular. The latest example of a Bedford high school student fortunately had a reasonable outcome, but that is not always the case. The junior at L.D. Bell High School in the Hurst-Euless-Bedford school district now must truly believe the old saw that “no good deed goes unpunished.” Community Policing or Profiling? The U.S. Department of Justice is floating a test balloon to gauge public reaction to a proposal that would allow local police departments to enforce federal immigration laws. Don’t settle for shooting down that balloon. Blast it out of the sky. Reality Check Key Ingredient in Attorney-Client Relationships No doubt some clients think of lawyers as “paid mourners.” You want tears for the deceased? Well, some lawyers can cry you a river. You want an absolute partisan “yes person?” “Fine, as long you are paying my hourly,” some lawyers would say. Attorney Jim McCormack offers some thoughts on the key ingredients for an effective attorney-client relationship. Real Culprit in Yates Case Is the System Andrea Yates killed all five of her children by drowning — an act of horror that shocked the entire world. It was one of those news items that made you stop; it made you think of your own kids. As time passed we learned more about the person we thought was a beast. We learned about post-postpartum depression, psychosis and schizophrenia. We learned that unchecked and untreated mental illness can have deadly results. We learned of other women afflicted with the same or similar illnesses who have not been charged with capital murder. Preserve Legal History: Save the Shelf Dogs You’ve got to love a country where in one glorious seven-day period, we have the privilege of watching noted media has-beens — Todd Bridges, Vanilla Ice, Tonya Harding and Paula Jones — duke it out on national TV for fun, prizes and ratings, seeing WrestleMania Umpteen on Pay-Per-View, and taking in the NCAA Basketball Tournament, which pretty well made it impossible to find an associate at most big firms unless you opened a branch office in a sports bar. Austin Powers v. James Bond After vanquishing a rogue’s gallery of dastardly villains — Dr. Evil, Mini-Me, Fat Bastard, Number 2 and Scott Evil — Austin Powers faces the gravest threat to his groovy gig — suits with no sense of humor. Drilex Provided a Kinder, Gentler Settlement Credit Process In Utts v. Shorts, a majority of the Texas Supreme Court invents an unnecessarily complex procedure to apply Chapter 33 of the Civil Practice and Remedies Code, the statute governing the allocation of settlement credits. Uttswas left pending before the court for nearly three years. On Feb. 28, 2002, the court ended the ordeal with a divided opinion. Under the holding of the Uttsmajority, in factual settings where Uttsapplies, defendants are going to be put to great expense to enforce the rights afforded them under Chapter 33. You’ve Got Some Explaining to Do Columnist Jim McCormack weighs in on the dangers of detail when invoicing clients. By way of example, McCormack provides an illustrative discourse between lawyer and client, and argues that in Congress, no one questions why a new aircraft carrier costs $20 billion, but everyone knows a hammer shouldn’t cost $500. Don’t Let Anger Lead to Inappropriate Response In light of recent events, some in Congress and the media have recently called for modifications to the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act, and some changes may be warranted. In crafting an adequate and well-reasoned response, however, we must not allow our anger at Enron’s egregious conduct to have unintended, negative consequences. Lawyers Deserve Their Rightful Place in the TV Ratings Today’s lawyer TV shows just don’t give us the plot lines of a robust TV genre. On “The Practice,” one character learns that his physician client has misdiagnosed a cute little tyke’s aneurysm and takes it upon himself to run out and tell the plaintiffs, thereby breaching every privilege known to law. Tom Alleman offers a few new takes on ratings-crazy courtroom dramas. Letters to the Editor 4th Court of Appeals Chief Justice Phil Hardberger responds to a report in Texas Lawyer which stated he had left the bench and returned to private practice. Like Mark Twain once said on rumors of his death, reports of Hardberger’s retirement have been “greatly exaggerated.” Victims of Dallas’ War on Sheetrock Reporters can be a royal pain in the ass. For public servants, a reporter is bad news waiting to happen. A reporter will probe, prod, plead, pester and then pounce on every flub. He will portray the beleaguered bureaucrat in a bad light. He will mangle a politician’s pithy phrase. Oh yeah, and one last thing — a reporter can be your only protection against a criminal justice system gone mad. The only buffer between you and the slammer. Your last shot at freedom. The Ins and Outs of Invoices Never had a client carp about the level of factual detail on your invoices? Good. But that’s not actually the test of how good or bad your invoice entries are. Clients are entitled to have the opportunity to understand what you do for them when you charge them. Wake Up and Smell the Law Firm Ads I finally saw one of those nationwide TV ads that Brobeck, Phleger & Harrison has been running lately. Sam, my 6-year-old son, and I were out on the couch the other morning trying to decide what he wanted for breakfast when the ad flashed by. Sam wanted to turn to “Ed, Edd and Eddy” on Cartoon Network, his current morning favorite, but I vetoed that idea and made him watch the commercial. In retrospect — and I’m sorry to have to say this to everyone at the firm who voted in favor of this advertising “coup” — Sam probably was right. Feds Must Answer Four Questions One hundred and sixty-eight days — that’s the record for the longest jailing of a writer for contempt in U.S. history. Cub crime writer Vanessa Leggett holds that record, and odds are that she will break her own record in 2002. Leggett recently was sprung from a Houston jail not because the federal government withdrew its grand jury subpoena for her notes of interviews with confidential sources and not because she relented and produced those notes. She was released because the grand jury that issued the subpoena expired. Attorneys Need to Retain This Information Lawyers have a passionate love affair with retainers — for some good reasons as well as bad. As with fees, some of our brethren set their retainers based more on their egos, rather than on their needs. Attorney columnist Jim McCormak describes some retainer scenarios and suggests that “the fee agreement practically screams big ego and sometimes whispers little reputation and even smaller ability.” The Buck Stops Somewhere There is perhaps no other time when directors are more concerned about personal liability for their decisions on behalf of corporations than when the companies begin to experience financial problems. A review of the case law concerning liability of officers and directors of faltering companies demonstrates that this heightened concern is justified. There’s Nothing Unlawful About Clerk Bonuses Most major national law firms give signing bonuses to junior attorneys who once served as law clerks to state or federal judges or justices — including justices of the Texas Supreme Court. Recently, a handful of organizations and individuals have alleged that this practice, at least as applied to the Texas high court, violates state law, and contend that a Dec. 14 advisory opinion of the Texas Ethics Commission supports their position. You Are What You Bill Remember last year at this time when just about all associates were burned out on their work, had way too much to do and not enough time to get all their work done? At the end of 2000, the question was not whether annual billable hour goals would be met, but rather how much they would be exceeded. There were no talks of layoffs. Instead, conversations revolved around which firm was paying the most money and the size of year-end bonuses. Instead of thoughts of carving up the holiday turkey or ham, partners were busy carving up firm profits. Ashcroft Plays Fast and Loose With ‘Lesser’ Amendments Back when Wyatt Earp was cleaning up Dodge City, legend has it that he imposed a gun-free zone. To tame the Wild West hellhole, Earp and his deputies stopped cowboys at the city limits, confiscated their guns before they hit the saloons and returned the firearms to the hooligans on their way out of town. Back then Charlton Heston must have been too busy breaking into films to enforce the ranch hands’ Second Amendment rights. Heston or no Heston, the Second Amendment is bulletproof as long as U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is in charge. Let the Judicial System Do Its Job If a recent study is correct, two-thirds of Americans support President George W. Bush’s administration’s decision to convene military courts to try noncitizens accused of terrorist activities. Of course, what the poll-takers did not ask — but is surely certain — is that 100 percent of respondents, if personally faced with detention, interrogation and arrest, and then forced without right of appeal to defend against accusations leveled against them, would see things differently. Make Sure Clients Understand Charges for Legal Work There’s more than one way to skin a cat when it comes to billing, as attorney Jim McCormack has discovered. As a profession, he explains, we don’t explain our billing practices to our clients — leading to some interesting interpretations of blended and hourly rates. Insurers Brace Themselves in the Wake of Sept. 11 Insurance companies face a number of challenges in the wake of Sept. 11. The sheer number of claims involving personal injuries and property damage are staggering. Many insurance companies estimate their exposure on risks arising out of Sept. 11 at or above the $1 billion mark. With these significant losses, litigation over insurance coverage issues is inevitable and, in fact, already has begun. Just in Time for Christmas Just in time for the Christmas gift-buying season, Tom Alleman takes a poke at gift-giving for the lawyer who has everything: “I always choke when it comes to deciding what to buy. I never know what to send. Should I buy “700 Business Secrets of the Taliban” for some clients and “Charlie Ponzi: Exploring the Pyramids” for the others?” Let’s Talk About Money These “getting to know you” sessions with my client were getting tedious. First meeting: My client wants to talk about my “fiduciary duty” to her. Second meeting: We had to define the “scope of representation” as part of our contract. But today she was coming into the office to talk about something I cared about: fees. Talk Is Cheap, Listening Sells Despite the intellectual and social rigors you’ve endured in your profession, you still may feel uncomfortable in a face-to-face business development setting. You’re not alone. For many attorneys, this is new territory. And worse than that, it’s sales. Of course, the natural reflex is to do what most attorneys do when they feel uncomfortable: talk. Bioterrorism: Life and Legal Changes The days unfolding after Sept. 11 have put us face-to-face with the terrorism we had ample reason to anticipate but avoided preparing for. Politicians prefer to avoid hard choices, and in Washington, D.C., the “squeaky wheel” theory always is in full play. In 1992, we considered whether to destroy the world’s existing smallpox, which was kept isolated in the Soviet Union and the United States. Scientists had polar recommendations. The decision was made to leave the samples in isolation in both countries, but we did not know the extent of the development of biological weapons in the Soviet Union. By 1999, China, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Libya, North Korea, Syria and Taiwan possessed biological weapons — including possibly smallpox. San Antonio Solo Shares Office With the Otherworld Roger Stephens may be a San Antonio solo, but he’s never alone in his office. It’s haunted �- or so it seems. In 1998, Stephens bought the building that serves as his home and office. When he purchased the two-story structure, which sits in the historic Lavaca neighborhood south of downtown, it needed work, so he enlisted the San Antonio Conservation Society to help with the renovations. And that’s when it all began. You Want Ethics With That? Tom Alleman is reaching the end of his CLE reporting period, and it seems, the end of his rope. With a desk piled high with offers for classes that run the gamut, he has a few choice words and some “must-see CLE.” Simple Words Can Save a Life As public policy director of a statewide domestic violence organization, Bree Buchanan sees some of the worst examples of abuse imaginable: murders, rapes, child abuse and murder-suicides. As horrifying as these crimes may be, Buchanan points out that lawyers are uniquely qualified to help prevent them, by using their status and influence in advising clients who may be victims or abusers. With Change in Economy Comes Change in Dress The business casual backlash, it seems, has begun. No, there has not been any across-the-board rescinding of the business casual policies that in recent years have taken over the workplace. But at least one major firm, Philadelphia’s Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, has told its workers to watch out, lest they find themselves back in pantyhose and pinstripes. Cloning Around at the Firm As human cloning technology develops, so does the debate on whether it should continue or be banned. While scientists, medical experts, ethicists and politicians are in the forefront of this issue, cloning also is a crucial issue to lawyers. Lawyers’ primary interest in cloning is not, as one might expect, based on any legal ethics concerns or even the potential litigation that may result from application of the technology. Instead, attorneys’ concerns have to do with something more basic — the way we practice law. Heroes Take the High Road in Troubling Times Heroism takes many forms. Mention the word hero now, and we think of police officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel. They’re action heroes, willing to die for us. We have so many bold figures flashing across TV screens today that we are in danger of hero overload, of devaluing the true measure of these remarkable men and women. We also are in danger of overlooking quieter, less visual examples of heroism, the hidden heroes. The Calm Before the Next Judicial Election Storm Although it is not much to brag about, Texas judicial elections in the early 1980s were at the forefront of judicial elective politics nationwide. Texas was the first state that started to move from judicial elections that were sleepy, low-key affairs to hotly contested, expensive campaigns. Legislators Must Look to the Past Before Changing Immigration Laws Following the recent terrorist attacks on the nation, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Congress are expected (and have promised) to take swift action designed to prevent such attacks, and to facilitate the identification, detention and prosecution of terrorists. Certainly the American public wants action. Hopefully, however, our leaders and lawmakers will respond with reasoned and measured action. Where immigration laws are concerned, our legislative response has not always been “measured.” Criminal Justice System Fails Those With Mental Disabilities Two recent federal government reports should give us pause about how inadequately our criminal justice system deals with people with mental disabilities. In July, the Bureau of Justice Statistics reported in “Mental Health Treatment in State Prisons” that about 16 percent of all inmates in state prisons are identified as mentally ill. According to the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, 5.4 percent of American adults have a serious mental illness. The Department of Justice report also found that only 79 percent of those who are mentally ill received therapy or counseling. Don’t Take the Declining Economy Lying Down Were you one of those who said, “I knew this booming economy wasn’t going to last indefinitely”? Economic uncertainties are triggered by such events as undulating stock markets and deteriorating economies here and abroad. These and other events are signaling changes that again will hit the legal profession, as well as those who rely on the services of firms. Government’s Divestiture Decision Comes Down to Good Lawyering In yet another unusual twist in its long-running antitrust case against Microsoft, the U.S. Antitrust Division announced on Sept. 6 that it no longer would seek divestiture of the software giant. At the same time, it announced that it no longer would pursue its claim that Microsoft had illegally “tied” its Windows operating system to its Explorer browser. Denying Access to Jurors Hurts More Than Helps The struggle between the public’s right to know what happens in high-profile suits and the courts’ desire to protect the privacy of those who serve on juries is a long-standing, and at times palpable, source of tension in the judicial system. While this conflict traditionally has arisen in criminal cases, today’s mass tort suits generate the type of local and national interest necessary to raise concern. �

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