Voting by acclamation on May 7, a State Bar of Texas committee recommended that the bar board of directors elect Ross Fischer, a former attorney in the bar’s Office of Disciplinary Counsel, as its general counsel.
The General Counsel Search Committee selected Fischer, a partner in The Gober Group in Austin, from a field of three finalists. The other two finalists are Martha Dickie, a partner in Almanza, Blackburn, Dickie & Mitchell, and Michael Shaunessy, a partner in McGinnis Lochridge.
Fischer, a 1997 graduate of the University of Texas School of Law, has represented cities and counties, both as in-house counsel and as a contract general counsel and was an attorney in the San Antonio office of the disciplinary counsel from January 2005 to October 2006. He was appointed a commissioner of the Texas Ethics Commission in 2005 by then-Gov. Rick Perry and served as the commission’s chairman from December 2009 to December 2010. In his practice, Fischer focuses on legislative and campaign law, professional ethics and governmental integrity matters.
Locke Lord Dallas partner Frank Stevenson, co-chair of the search committee, said the committee recommended Fischer by acclamation because “the committee felt that it was important to step forward and speak altogether in one voice.”
The bar began searching for a general counsel for the bar board at the request of President-Elect Joe Longley, an Austin solo practitioner.
Longley had advocated for a full-time general counsel, which he said is a statutory office under the State Bar Act, rather than an attorney acting under contract. He explained his position in a recent text message:
“The person elected serves the BOD as its lawyer—and solely at the pleasure of the board. My view is that to fulfill that person’s fiduciary duties to the board, that person should be a full-time employee of the SBOT with no other distractions from other clients or law firms,” he said.
State Bar President Tom Vick, a partner in Weatherford-based Vick Carney, said he and Longley, when they first discussed the issue, had agreed that there should be a general counsel to the bar board and a general counsel for the bar. John Sirman handles the bar’s daily in-house counsel needs as a SBOT full-time employee.
The request for proposals for the board’s new general counsel position called for an attorney who would be under contract to respond to the bar board’s needs.
“Frankly, we don’t need a full-time general counsel sitting in the bar office at 1414 Colorado, because we have counsel in-house to do that. … What we really need is a general counsel as we need one,” Vick said.
That would result in less expense to the State Bar, he noted.
Commenting on the search committee’s recommendation, Fischer said, “I am flattered with the committee’s confidence in me and look forward to getting to work.”
The State Bar board will consider the committee’s recommendation at its June 20 meeting in Houston.