Logging On/Swearing In

The Texas Bar Exam’s top scorer is inducted into the bar via Zoom.

Interview by Eric Quitugua


ABOVE: Case Towslee, the Texas Bar Exam’s top scorer, was sworn in as a Texas attorney by Texas Supreme Court Justice Brett Busby via Zoom on April 27, 2020. At his side are his wife, Traci, and daughter, Caroline, at their home in Spring. Photo courtesy of Case Towslee.

Each May, the New Lawyer Induction Ceremony welcomes the state’s newest attorneys to the profession. The usual scene: Seats fill up at the Frank Erwin Center in Austin as friends and family file in to witness the exact moment their loved ones begin their new careers. The rumble of the crowd quiets as stage lights go up. All rise as the justices of the Texas Supreme Court and judges of the Court of Criminal Appeals make their way to their seats. The attorneys, who’ve recently passed the Texas Bar Exam, look on, ready to be sworn in by the chief justice of the Supreme Court.

But in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, that ceremony was canceled. Instead of a 16,000-plus capacity arena, the venue for many inductions was home. Attorneys were given the option to be sworn in remotely by an authorized person—a judge, retired judge, clerk, or notary—before or after receiving their law license from the State Bar of Texas in the mail. Case Towslee, a recent graduate of South Texas College of Law Houston and the bar exam’s top scorer, spoke with the Texas Bar Journal about his experience earning the top honor and being sworn in by Justice Brett Busby via Zoom.

 

When you passed the Texas Bar Exam, did you already have a job lined up?
Yes, I was offered a job with Locke Lord last July when I completed the summer associate program. I accepted the job offer on the spot because of the firm’s great culture and the relationships I developed during my time there. The firm was a great fit for me because of the quality of work and the firm’s commitment to supporting young attorneys and their families.

 

How did you connect with them?
I initially connected with the firm through the on-campus interview program at South Texas College of Law Houston. I had heard great things about Locke Lord from my classmate/study partner, Zachary Horne, who had summered there previously. Zac and I studied together through law school and during bar prep. Zac ended up getting the third highest score on the bar this February. We are both associates at Locke Lord now.

 

What area of law do you focus on?
I am a corporate associate in the firm’s energy practice group. I was a petroleum landman prior to attending law school, so the transition was a natural one.

 

How has your practice been impacted by COVID-19 so far?
Like many attorneys during the early stages of this pandemic, my workday began in my home office. Prior to COVID-19, Locke Lord committed to Zac and me starting on March 30. The firm honored its commitment and allowed us to begin our careers from home. I will be forever grateful for that because having the firm’s support during these unprecedented times has been one less concern weighing on my family.

 

When did you find out you passed the exam with the highest score?
I found out I passed the bar exam around 8:30 a.m. on Friday, April 24. I had been checking for updates that morning knowing the results were imminent. I knew my score would normally be in contention for one of the highest, but at that moment, the relief of passing was my main focus. I didn’t know I had received the highest score until Texas Supreme Court Justice Brett Busby called me that afternoon.

 

What was your experience prepping for and taking the test?
Prepping for the bar exam was a long process. I started studying one day after taking my last law school final in December 2019. I stuck with my bar prep program the entire time, and I felt well prepared when I took the exam in February. I think the best advice I received was to treat bar prep like a full-time job, and that’s exactly what I did. I studied every day from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., and I ended my evenings with practice questions covering MBE topics. South Texas College of Law also has a great bar prep program led by Assistant Dean Lisa Yarrow.

 

Were there any surprises?
I think finding out I was the highest scorer and my study partner was the third highest scorer was definitely a surprise. It was a great day for both of us, and it’s an accomplishment we will always be proud of.

 

What were your original plans for what would have been the ceremony at the Frank Erwin Center? Were you excited about coming to Austin?
I believe any time you get to be in the same room with the chief justice and other justices from the Texas Supreme Court is an honor. I planned on attending the ceremony even before I earned the highest score. The event is a great opportunity for recent bar passers, and I was looking forward to celebrating the accomplishment with my family.

 

What did you plan to say in your speech? When did you find out the ceremony wasn’t happening and you’d instead be sworn in through Zoom? What was your reaction?
I found out in the initial call with Justice Busby that I wouldn’t be giving the traditional speech in Austin. It would have been an honor, and I would have certainly cherished the experience. While I was disappointed that the event was canceled due to COVID-19, I am certainly understanding of the current situation the world is facing. Being the first group of lawyers sworn in by Zoom is also unique. If I had given the speech, it would have sounded more like an Oscar award speech because of the countless friends and family I have to thank for supporting me during my journey through law school.

 

What was it like being sworn in by Justice Busby on Zoom?
It was surreal; over the preceding days we had discussed the event over the phone, but once the call started, the magnitude of earning the high score began to set in.

 

Did he impart any wisdom?
Justice Busby stressed the service aspect of being a lawyer, and how it’s my duty as an attorney to help those in need. He also touched on the importance of distinguishing myself as an attorney who is ethical, trustworthy, and one who adheres to the law.

 

What did you say during the Zoom call?
I expressed gratitude for the opportunity to be sworn in by Justice Busby even though it was by means of a Zoom call. Justice Busby went above and beyond to make sure my experience was special, and I can’t thank him enough for his commitment to new attorneys.

 

What do you want the other lawyers who took the exam at the same time to know?
I want those who took the bar exam with me to know how great of an accomplishment passing the bar is by itself. Ultimately, achieving the top score doesn’t matter because we are all equals. Whether they passed by one point or 100 points, we all have a new beginning before us, and our future is what we make it. I hope they remember to lift up and thank those who helped them reach this milestone, and they should continue to serve others with the same determination they displayed during law school and studying for the bar exam. TBJ



February 2020 Bar Exam Pass Rate Information

The table below shows the number of graduates from each accredited Texas law school who took the bar exam for the first time in February, the number that passed, and the percentage that passed.

Law School

Tested

Passed

Pass Rate

Baylor

42

37

88.10%

SMU

8

3

37.50%

South Texas

53

41

77.36%

St. Mary's

36

20

55.56%

Texas A&M

8

5

62.50%

Texas Southern

29

12

41.38%

Texas Tech

3

1

33.33%

U. of Houston

28

19

67.86%

U. of North Texas

19

8

42.11

U. of Texas

9

5

55.56%

Total

235

151

64.26%

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