Chad Baruch

Interview by Will Korn

Photo courtesy of Chad Baruch.

Stevens Point, Wisconsin
Position: Managing shareholder in Johnston Tobey Baruch in Dallas
Board Member: District 6, place 4; Chair, 2022-2023

Honestly, I can’t remember when I didn’t want to be a lawyer—even as a young child, before even knowing what a lawyer did.
And it is particularly odd because no one in my family was a lawyer. It had a lot to do with what my father and grandparents experienced in Nazi Germany during the 1930s. As you can imagine, I grew up hearing a lot of talk at the dinner table about the rule of law, our justice system, and the role lawyers and judges play in protecting the freedom of Americans.

My practice is almost exclusively appellate law, with a focus on constitutional issues.
My career began in litigation. But after several years, a good friend of mine suggested my skill set might be more suited to appellate practice and encouraged me to make the move to that practice area. It remains some of the best advice anyone ever has given to me.

Find an area of the law that excites you—one you enjoy.

And if you can’t, try to find a different career path to use your law degree. Life is too short to work at a job you hate.

Like so many Texas lawyers, my involvement with the State Bar began through my membership in a section.

I was elected to a section council and then to the position of chair. My first visit to the bar building was for a council of chairs meeting. The exchange of ideas and discussion of issues facing our profession really interested and excited me. So, I ran for a section representative position on the board of directors. Without knowing much about it, serving on the board just seemed like an opportunity to do something good for our profession and the public. It has been a great experience.

Several years ago, I proposed to the CLE department that there should be a program on the Bill of Rights.
Regardless of whether many lawyers practice in that area—and even though it likely would not draw huge attendance—it just seemed to me that the State Bar should be offering at least one course devoted to our constitutional rights as Americans. Pat Nester and Hedy Bower enthusiastically agreed, and the State Bar has been providing this CLE annually now for more than a decade (and, indeed, one other state now has begun holding its own program patterned on the one we started here in Texas).

One of the most difficult discussions we had recently pertains to recommendations concerning whether to make certain changes to the grievance process including requiring grievances to be sworn to under penalty of perjury and heightening the burden of proof in grievance proceedings.

Many Texas lawyers provided input, with cogent analysis on both sides of these issues. It wasn’t an easy discussion, to say the least. In the end, I listened to all of the arguments about the impact of the disciplinary system on lawyers and the public. But I really hope this conversation isn’t over—the grievance process remains an important part of our right to self-governance as lawyers, and we always should be on the lookout for ways to improve it both in terms of treating lawyers fairly and ensuring public protection.

Often, directors come to the board not understanding the mission of the State Bar. We have directors who join the board believing their sole purpose is to “help lawyers.”

To be sure, I would find it odd if anyone wanted to be part of bar leadership and didn’t want to help lawyers. But that is far from our only purpose. Our mission also includes promoting the administration of justice, educating the public about the rule of law, ensuring the quality of legal services provided to the public, and ensuring diversity so that our profession mirrors the public it serves. Happily, I think it is possible to advance these worthy goals while still helping lawyers in a variety of ways.

The age of social media presents special challenges for board members.

Sometimes it can be discouraging to read statements some lawyers post about the board and the State Bar on social media platforms. Our “bar politics” too often mirror the problems that plague American politics in general: talking past each other without listening, trying to foster an “us-against-them” mentality for political gain, spreading misinformation, using hyperbolic and vitriolic language, engaging in personal attacks rather than focusing on issues, and—the most destructive of all, in my view—doubting the sincerity or good intentions of others simply because we disagree with them. We are lawyers. We simply must do better to model civility when dealing with divisive issues. Because if we don’t, who will?

Contact your district’s elected director!

Or, if the issue relates to a specific practice area, consider working through your section to raise the matter.TBJ


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