2014 Pro Bono Awards Recipients Give a Voice to the Underrepresented
Super Lawyers and Rising Stars Selectees Mingle in Dallas
In our latest magazine devoted to the stories of the 2014 Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award recipients, you will read about lawyers giving back and making a difference with their exceptional pro bono efforts. This is the fourth year that Super Lawyers has had the privilege to honor and recognize attorneys, firms and organizations for their pro bono work.
You'll meet Gary Udashen, who juggles his day job in criminal defense with his role as president of the Innocence Project of Texas. He works hard to free wrongfully imprisoned inmates, and he's also challenging a history of junk sciencebased convictions. And then there's Latham & Watkins, a firm using its global reach to help Holocaust survivors receive financial reparations from the German government. An estimated 25 to 30 percent of survivors in the U.S. live below the poverty line, and since 2007, some 350 attorneys have helped nearly 450 survivors find security and dignity near the end of their lives.
When protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, after Michael Brown was killed in August 2014, Saint Louis University's legal clinics quickly responded by challenging the police's use of tear gas on protesters. SLU Law also worked to address long simmering tensions in the city by calling for amnesty for outstanding warrants for nonviolent offenses. "For many young people, these warrants act as a barrier to housing and employment," says professor Patricia Lee.
Driven by a desire to give back, attorney Troy Doucet saw a niche that Doucet & Associates could fill in Ohio, so he created a dedicated pro bono attorney position, focused primarily on eviction cases, at his small firm. "We have a tremendous ability to do good," Doucet says. "There are few professions on the planet that enable one person to effect so much change."
In the summer of 2014, Kathleen Gasparian's Louisiana community faced an influx of unaccompanied immigrant children fleeing across the border, only to face deportation. She formed an organization to assist in immigration hearings, and by the end of the first CLE, she had more than 120 lawyers involved who represented 60 clients.
When the federal government moved some 1,200 women and children to a temporary immigration detention facility in "middle of nowhere" Artesia, New Mexico in June 2014, the American Immigration Lawyers Association responded with a flood of attorneys to provide legal assistance. By the time the government closed the facility in December, AILA was able to secure the release of more than 800 people.
Congratulations to the 2014 Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award recipients, and bravo to all of the lawyers who were nominated and those of you who provide excellent and much-needed pro bono work each day.
We invite you to learn more about all eight recipients in 2014 Pro Bono Super Lawyers Digital Magazine. Do you know someone worthy of a 2015 Super Lawyers Pro Bono Award? Nominations are now open through October 30, 2015. Learn more and nominate today at SuperLawyers.com/ProBono.
An Oral History of Alabama Civil Rights and the African-American bar
Last evening, Super Lawyers and Texas Monthly teamed up to honor the attorneys selected to the 2015 Texas Super Lawyers & Rising Stars lists. The exclusive networking reception was hosted at the Rosewood Mansion on Turtle Creek, where guests were treated to cocktails and hors d'oeuvres as they networked with one another and celebrated their selections.
Many guests took a short break from socializing to get complimentary digital headshots. For those who participated, you will receive an email with your headshot approximately three weeks following the reception.
In addition to all the other festivities, there was a one-hour seminar titled "Debunking Marketing Myths to Reach Today's Legal Consumers". The guest speaker was Jim Schonrock, Vice President, Product Management & Performance at FindLaw. Jim is responsible for enhancing FindLaw's solutions that continue to deliver exceptional results and service to customers. One of his primary focus areas involves leveraging customer and marketplace knowledge so that FindLaw's customer experience consistently meets or beats expectations.
In his presentation Schonrock discussed the preconceived notions lawyers have about digital marketing and how legal consumers search online. Rather than focusing on ranking at the top of Google for specific phrases, law practices need to focus on optimizing their local profiles and expanding their social media and blog presences. However, he emphasized, successful digital marketing must always be followed by a positive client experience.
One of the other myths Schonrock debunked is the idea that traffic to your firm's website is everything. He feels many attorneys are infatuated with the wrong metrics when it comes to their online marketing performance - usually the number of site visitors in a given time period. Schonrock thinks this doesn't tell you the complete story. He insists, the more a firm relies solely on traffic as a measure of online marketing success, the more likely they are to take the wrong actions in response.
Special thanks to all our guests that came out and made the evening a resounding success. We hope you had opportunity to reconnect with former colleagues, create some new connections and maybe even learn a little something. Also, be sure to like our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to see more photos from the event.
For our 2015 Alabama Super Lawyers Magazine, we delved into civil rights and the African-American bar 60 years after the Montgomery bus boycott and 50 years after the marches from Selma. Be sure to check out our oral history about the experiences of 11 African-American attorneys who graduated law school in six different decades, including Fred Gray, who represented Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr., and U.W. Clemon, the first-ever black federal judge in Alabama.
Below you'll find excerpts of our interviews with Gray and Clemon.
Q: You were not allowed to go law school in Alabama and had to go out of state. Were you aware that this would be a barrier for you?
A: That was a generally known matter by African-Americans in the Southern states. The Southern states had come up with a plan as a part of separate-but-equal under Plessy v. Ferguson: Instead of admitting African-Americans to the historical white institutions, they would provide them with some assistance so that they could attend any other college and university where the course offered at the historical white institution was not offered at a historical black institution. All of the black institutions were aware of it, and they advised their students if they were interested in going off to graduate school or professional schools that were not offered under the traditional black schools, they could get some assistance from the state of Alabama.
Q: When you started practicing law as a young lawyer in Birmingham, what were some of the challenges?
A: As you probably know, virtually all the civil rights cases were in federal court. When I started practicing law, none of the federal judges on our bench were sensitive to civil rights issues. They were not usually hostile in an overt way, but it was very clear they didn't like the idea of a local lawyer bringing civil rights cases. The chief judge of the district, Judge Seybourn Lynne-who was a scholarly old gentleman, but of the old school-he knew every lawyer by his first name. We showed up every Friday for the monthly motion docket; the courtroom would be packed. He'd refer to each lawyer by his first name, as each case was called, but when it came to me, I was always Mr. Clemon.
We were very soon acclimated to losing the case in the district court and almost always winning in the 5th Circuit, which at that time was set in the French Quarter of New Orleans. What we did at the district court was simply to make a record.
On our website, you can also explore historic photos, audio clips and a timeline tracing Alabama's place at the forefront of civil rights history.