For the Team
How the Texas Young Lawyers Association president harnesses energy and motivation from others to help those who need it most.
Interview by Eric Quitugua
Victor Flores with his wife, Kristal, and son, Brennan.
One conversation with Victor Flores and it’s quickly apparent he doesn’t believe in the “self-made man.” Instead, the first-generation college graduate and lawyer in a family of migrant workers credits everything he’s done in life to his team. In the military, that team includes his father, himself a veteran, who put the idea in Flores’ head to join. Next are his fellow Marines who helped him cope with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, after serving in Iraq. His time in the service pushed him to pursue more than an undergraduate degree.
The team that cultivated his interest in law begins with McAllen City Attorney Kevin Pagan, his former Sunday school teacher who set him up with an internship under the city’s municipal judge, Kathleen Henley, upon returning from Iraq and pursuing an undergraduate degree at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Then there’s Ernie Aliseda, visiting judge at the court and Judge Advocate General’s Corps officer who mentored Flores. Each was a vital part of his success in law school and encouraged his interest in the inner workings of cities and the necessary legal work.
Recently, having left the Rio Grande Valley for North Texas, Flores joined the Plano City Attorney’s Office under City Attorney Paige Mims and six other lawyers—each of whom supports his bar service and who he credits with shepherding him to becoming a better municipal lawyer.
But the most important person on his team is his wife, Kristal, who Flores says has the biggest heart of anyone he knows and encourages him to serve others. She gave him her blessing to run for Texas Young Lawyers Association president-elect so that if he won, he could use his time to continue helping many more people.
Flores now has that opportunity and will be sworn in as TYLA president at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting on June 14 in Austin. He recently spoke with the Texas Bar Journal about his plans to prioritize attorney wellness in the upcoming year for TYLA.
Above left: The 2nd Platoon usually ate Meals Ready to Eat, or MREs,
while deployed in Iraq in 2004, but on this evening, some members
enjoyed a special dinner of chicken, fresh vegetables, and pita bread
served on a sleeping cot used as a table. Above right: The Plano City
Attorney’s Office at the city council chambers.
What was it about the practice of law that drew you to
I liked the problem-solving part of it. Kevin Pagan and Judge Kathleen Henley allowed me to attend some of the city commission meetings. They allowed me to listen in on some of the in-house general counsel responsibilities of the city attorney and that started to engage me because I saw it’s more than the application of law. It’s public policy and good governance and it’s receiving problems that need to be solved under a quick timeline. I felt like, I can really do this. They encouraged me and supported me when I went off to Western Michigan University Cooley Law School. They became the base that I needed to survive in law school because I didn’t have a road map. I didn’t have other people in my family who had been to law school and could guide me.
Do any skills from your time in the military show in your law practice?
In the Marine Corps, I was a grunt—foot mobile personnel. We conducted raids and assaults and other combat-related missions. So those skills don’t really translate to a legal career, but it did teach me—with a focused purpose—to be able to adapt and overcome some dangerous and impossible tasks. The legal profession is an adversarial process. It’s riddled with challenges. You have to be able to adapt and overcome and not let the stresses of work overtake you, especially when you’re advocating for your client.
Speaking of this being an adversarial profession you’re in, can you talk about the TYLA project you’ve got planned?
It’s a passion of mine. I had a friend—a mentor of mine in Houston—who ended up taking his life. Ever since then, I look back and think, What could I have done to help prevent him from feeling that alone? One of the ways I got involved in bar service was participating in LeadershipSBOT the year Barrett Thomas was TYLA president and Allan DuBois was State Bar president. Of course, Allan’s passion was and continues to be the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program, or TLAP, and that really hooked me. I wanted to do more of that.
We go into the courtroom, into the ring, and we go at it against our opposing counsel. We advocate for our client, and the other side’s doing the same. It’s easy to get lost in the adversarial process and internalize the stresses that go on day to day. I learned from the Marine Corps and friends who experienced PTSD and still live with it that you have to talk about it—you can’t internalize it forever. My perspective is from both my military career and the legal community. It’s not a small issue; it’s an epidemic—attorneys struggling with wellness, mental health, and alcohol and substance abuse. Talking with others, including TLAP Director Chris Ritter and attorneys at the bar and locally, it’s a big issue that we need to address.
Can you talk about some of its goals and how that’ll be carried out?
If we’re going to have a lasting impact, we have to have a strong commitment to provide continued programming centered on attorney wellness. We’re creating a committee tasked with addressing wellness from law school to the point when, as an attorney or judge, you need assistance from TLAP. We’re going to provide ideas for work-life balance. We also want to provide the business perspective to the larger firms as to why it is important. We want to provide a malpractice insurance carrier’s perspective. How does an attorney wellness program translate into savings—dollars and cents—for your law firm?
How did you get involved with TYLA?
It was through LeadershipSBOT. I had the opportunity to serve as the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division liaison to TYLA, handling disaster preparedness and legal services. Then last year I was asked whether I wanted to serve possibly as TYLA president-elect and I said absolutely because I was already so involved with a lot of programming. It’s always been about service. I saw the opportunity to advocate for a project I was really passionate about. You don’t get those chances that often.
How do you spend your time off the clock?
Just hanging out with my family. They say kids change your life. That is my refuge. Hanging out with Brennan and taking him to see a Rangers game—I know he’s only 3, but he’s soaking up everything right now. We try to keep him active outdoors and go to the zoo or aquarium. It’s making those memories with my family that really re-energizes me after a long week or after traveling.TBJ