PRESIDENT’S PAGE February 2022
Opening Our Toolbox in the Face of Omicron
Unfortunately, after my cheerful and optimistic message went to print last month, we learned about the omicron variant. The latest surge of the virus is a stark reminder that recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic is not yet within our reach. As courts scale back their activities out of health and safety concerns, many lawyers, especially solo practitioners, continue struggling.
Since the pandemic started, State Bar leadership has worked hard to be sensitive to the challenges lawyers are facing and responsive to the needs articulated. The board approved the creation of a task force designed to help Texas courts resume criminal proceedings. A second workgroup was created to identify areas where the bar can continue or expand efforts to help members who are facing challenges in ways that are consistent with the bar’s statutory mandates. Here are some resources that may be of assistance:
Free CLE Offerings—TexasBarCLE is offering 4.25 hours of free CLE courses on topics ranging from social media evidence to invoking force majeure clauses during the pandemic to spotting and preventing suicide and depression among lawyers. Check the “free online classes” category at texasbarcle.com periodically to see new offerings.
CLE Scholarships—Scholarships are available for any Texas-licensed lawyer who may need financial assistance to complete their minimum continuing legal education requirement. The form to apply can be found at texasbarcle.com/scholarship.
COVID-19 Resources—The State Bar maintains texasbar.com/coronavirus, where members can find links to recent Texas Supreme Court orders, Office of Court Administration guidance, and other resources. If you would like to have Supreme Court orders emailed directly to you, sign up at www.txcourts.gov/supreme.
Disaster Resources—The deadly freeze during Winter Storm Uri occurred one year ago this month, and we know disasters such as hurricanes, fires, and floods are indiscriminate. The State Bar developed texasbar.com/attorneyresources to provide lawyers with disaster-planning and recovery tools. The page also provides resources to help with succession and contingency planning, such as designating a custodian for a practice in case of an emergency. The page also outlines the bar’s SOLACE program, which gives you the opportunity to seek help or to help your fellow attorneys in times of need.
Career Center—The State Bar’s Career Center allows lawyers to search available job openings. Learn more at texasbar.com/careercenter.
Ethics Helpline—The toll-free Ethics Helpline (800-532-3947) is available to Texas lawyers who may be unsure about ethical obligations in specific circumstances.
Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program—TLAP provides confidential help to lawyers, law students, and judges coping with substance use and other mental health issues. TLAP offers a “Support Toolbox” of online resources at texasbar.com/tlapsupporttoolbox. Help is also available anytime by calling or texting TLAP at 800-343-TLAP (8527).
Member Benefits and Services—As a State Bar member, you can take advantage of discounts and services available from companies offering office, travel, technology, finance, and other products. You can also participate in the Texas Bar Private Insurance Exchange. Learn more at texasbar.com/benefits.
Texas Bar Practice—The State Bar’s texasbarpractice.com website collects resources that help lawyers manage and sustain healthy law practices. There, you can access free instructional videos, technology resources, informative articles, and Texas Bar Books, an online store that offers print and digital reference materials and practice manuals.
We will continue to monitor the situation and to adjust as necessary to help lawyers weather what I sincerely hope is the last wave of the pandemic. Please know that you are all in my thoughts and prayers. My heart goes out to each one of you who are having a hard time emotionally, physically, and financially. Now, more than ever, we need to remember to be kind and support one another. The practice of law is difficult under the best of circumstances. A little professional courtesy can go a long way to help lighten the load for those who are feeling overwhelmed, so please be generous when you have the opportunity.
Sylvia Borunda Firth
State Bar of Texas
Sylvia Borunda Firth can be reached by email at email@example.com..TBJ