State Bar Director Spotlight

Diane St. Yves

Interview by Eric Quitugua

Photo courtesy of Diane St. Yves

Toledo, Ohio
Position: Owner/Manager, Law Office of Diane St. Yves in Houston
Board Member: District 4, Place 1 since 2019

When I was in first grade, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up and my immediate response was “lawyer.”
There are no lawyers in my family and most of my exposure was to trades such as body shop repair and mechanics. Our family was not wealthy and my four siblings and parents lived in a small house. Education was primary to my parents and I excelled.

Along the way, I knew that college would be a struggle, if not impossible, for my family. Yet, I persisted.

After high school, there was no opportunity to attend college so I enlisted in the U.S. Army Military Intelligence Corps. I attended the Defense Language Institute at the Presidio of Monterey in California twice, learning French and Russian. My four-year enlistment included assignments at Goodfellow Air Force Base and West Fort Hood in Texas; the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Maryland; and then back to Fort Hood. After I separated from the Army, I began working in the legal field. I married a career solider/helicopter pilot and we have two beautiful children. I remained working as a legal assistant in Central Texas, working in general practice firms; however, most of my experience and focus was in family law. In 1994, I was part of the first group of paralegals to become certified in family law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. Shortly after that, I was elected to serve on the State Bar of Texas Paralegal Division Board of Directors. I served until I began law school in 2003.

Working full-time, raising two children as a single parent, and attending night school to obtain my undergraduate degree through the University of Houston and then my law degree through the University of Houston Law Center was challenging.
The result was that my children understand the power of determination, responsibility, accountability, and hard work. My daughter, Kimberly Chojnacki, is an associate attorney at Baker Donelson and my son, Kyle McQuire, is a geophysicist with an MBA and works as an investment banker at Credit Suisse in Houston.

After serving on the board of the Paralegal Division, I realized that service work is extremely important to the profession.

Having also been in recovery from alcoholism for 24-plus years, the main tenet in my life is service work. Both have given me the opportunity to serve on the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program Committee, actively contributing ideas and being available to those in the profession who suffer from mental illness, addiction, depression, and any other sort of emotionally challenging issues. I have intentionally made myself available to others in the profession when they struggle with addiction and depression. This is the core of my service to the community and the profession. Those solo practitioners who are sitting in their offices or working remotely are challenged to stay relevant in their own lives and manage deadlines, family, financial issues, and the general stress of being a lawyer. They need a safe place to go, and I hope to provide that to them on a continuing basis.

My work on the various committees of the bar has made me aware of the amount of work that the bar does and needs to do and the process that needs to happen to get results.

Reaching out to members and letting them know the process will help educate and enlighten. They are the people who we serve. We owe them transparency and honesty, and above all, we should treat each member equally. George Floyd’s death brought racial justice issues to the forefront nationally, and last summer the bar board discussed diversity issues at regular and special board meetings after controversial comments by President Larry McDougal. This dialogue needs to keep its momentum. I have and will continue to work with various individuals and groups that include people of color to encourage participation and ask how I can make a difference individually and what can we do collectively to gain the much-needed diversity so bar leadership reflects its membership. Not only must we continue to keep the conversations open and honest, we must continue to act and move forward on the issue of diversity and inclusion along with reaching out to attorneys who may be in the midst of a mental health crisis and supporting and encouraging them to seek treatment.

In my almost two years on the board, I have participated in

expanding member benefits, supporting and disseminating information on TLAP and encouraging others in our profession to seek treatment and counseling, and have made efforts to improve the bar’s focus on diversity and inclusion issues and keep that conversation going. The State Bar of Texas staff members are some of the most hardworking and dedicated individuals and I support them every day. Those who are serving and those who have served have always stepped up to the plate to help me push forward ideals or improvements.

Most importantly, I give credit to my mother who never gave up on me,

always pushing me forward and never letting me lose or forget my dream of being a lawyer. She helped mold me into the woman I am today, and I know that she is looking down at me smiling.TBJ


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