State Bar Director Spotlight October 2021

Andrés E. “Andy” Almanzán

Interview by Eric Quitugua

Photo courtesy of Andrés E. Almanzán

El Paso
Position: Chief Executive Officer/Vice President/Shareholder, Mounce, Green, Myers, Safi, Paxson & Galatzan
Board Member: At-Large Director since 2019

I was gradually persuaded to become a lawyer by the late Hon. Weldon S. Copeland, an El Paso County court judge and real estate practitioner who originally hired me for my first job at 16, mowing lawns and pulling weeds at his rental properties.
Years later, Judge Copeland promoted me from my yardwork job to a runner in his office during my summers in college. He not only convinced me to go to law school, but he also encouraged me to apply for a 2L summer clerkship at the Mounce, Green, Myers firm in El Paso, where I would go on to clerk, be hired as an associate, matriculate to shareholder and CEO, and am commencing the 25th year of my law practice as a civil defense trial lawyer.

I am a third-generation public-school-educated bilingual Mexican-American native El Pasoan, humbly raised by an elementary school teacher-administrator and Air Force veteran father and a realtor-escrow officer mother.
No one in my Almanzán or Luna family was a lawyer. The closest connection my family had to the legal profession was when my grandfather, Eugenio Almanzán, a Mexican immigrant and World War II Army veteran, sold newspapers at the steps of the El Paso County Court House. For me, two generations later, becoming the first lawyer in my family would honor my parents’ and grandparents’ sacrifices, as this profession would grant me invaluable opportunities to employ their virtues, values, ethics, and commitment to serve my community and I would endeavor in earnest to try and become an example for other Mexican-Americans and people of color to pursue their respective dreams, education, and career goals. ¡Sí, se puede! In pursuing these goals, I have been blessed with several “aha!” moments of accomplishment, from becoming a shareholder at my law firm, later a board director and vice president, and just this past year, the chief executive officer of my firm whose roots date back to 1904 (accomplishments that I would have never achieved without the support, training, and mentorship of all my law partners).

I am most proud of serving on the Ad Hoc Committee to nominate At-Large Directors
alongside incredibly dedicated directors and staff to achieve our objectives of encouraging diverse candidates to apply, interviewing them, and recommending finalists for appointment by the State Bar president. I am very proud to have been associated with the exceptional appointments of the board’s latest rock stars, David N. Calvillo and Kelly-Ann F. Clarke, as our two newest at-large directors over the past two years of my service on the board. This year I have the honor of serving as the chair of this committee and it will be my privilege to help keep this pipeline of diverse, qualified, and formidable candidates and unique and inclusive perspectives flowing on our board.

To truly perform our duties as directors,
we must serve selflessly as genuine ambassadors/agents of our constituents’ concerns, needs, and preferences. We must listen with empathy and open minds and work to educate ourselves to obtain a thorough understanding of these issues so we will be able to advocate their requests and pursue policies and actions which accurately reflect the opinions, ideas, and voices of all our members, especially the under-represented.

One of the toughest challenges in being a director is
knowing and abiding by our limitations on pursuing advocacy of certain policies and taking certain action in response to sensitive situations. To achieve our goals of justly addressing issues of inequity, injustice, and systemic racism in the profession, we must do so in a manner that preserves our long-standing privilege to operate as a self-governing mandatory State Bar. We must maintain integrity, esteem, and regard for the legal profession without running afoul of the parameters set forth in our mission statement and our legislatively-established and Supreme Court-based authority under which we operate to regulate the practice of law and improve the quality of legal services.

The bar has taken significant strides toward identifying and attempting to tackle, address, and eradicate systemic racism and sexism in the profession,
such as by President Sylvia Borunda Firth’s creation of and leadership on her task force to specifically contemplate and advance solutions to these issues. Likewise, the Office of Minority Affairs and the bar’s several sections and committees who are dedicated to the proposition of advancing the goals of diversity and inclusion and equal justice under the law have carried the baton even further. Furthermore, from the standpoint of improving attorney mental health and well-being, especially as these issues became even more prevalent as a result of the pandemic, the bar’s Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program has been monumentally impactful with more outreach, response, and participation in assisting members who are afflicted with depression, anxiety, and substance use and dependence.

We must refocus and dedicate ourselves to achieving two of the most significant tenets of our Mission Statement:
(1) assuring that all citizens in Texas are granted equal access to justice, and (2) promoting diversity in the administration of justice and in the practice of law. When we “raise the bar”and achieve these two priorities, our remaining objectives fall into place as well.TBJ


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