TBJ April 2023
Texas Young Lawyers Association Election 2023
The Texas Bar Journal asked 2023-2024 Texas Young Lawyers Association president-elect candidates Cali Franks and Hisham Masri to share their perspectives on issues facing young lawyers in the state. For biographical information on the candidates, go to texasbar.com/elections or see p. 172 of the March issue. Vote online or by paper ballot from April 3 to May 2, 2023. The deadline to cast ballots is 5 p.m. CDT May 2, 2023.
Why do you want to serve as president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association?
FRANKS: My vision is to have a meaningful impact on young lawyers through programming that celebrates our roots, showcases the talents of young lawyers, and prepares the next generation for success. I want to do this by 1) creating programming (CLEs and non-CLEs) for young lawyers by young lawyers highlighting diverse careers within the legal profession; 2) supporting local affiliates by loosening grant requirements and increasing marketing from the State Bar of Texas; 3) approaching mental health and well-being by utilizing the resources and insight of first-responders and veterans; and 4) creating a better understanding where we are in diversity, equity, and inclusion.
From my speech therapy group in elementary school to my law school cohort—and finally, TYLA—I have learned that we cannot go through life, especially in the field of law, alone. I want to continue the legacy of fostering uncommon leaders throughout Texas. As the president of TYLA, I hope to reflect on, highlight, showcase, and improve upon the experiences of young lawyers in Texas and impact the future of our profession.
MASRI: I want to help make our profession and communities better for all of us. As the son of immigrants who was the first in his family to become a lawyer, I chose the practice of law to help others. I do so every day as an active practicing employment lawyer who advises clients about people’s very livelihood—their jobs—and as TYLA’s vice president by working on service projects that help lawyers and the public.
TYLA, as the “public service arm” of the State Bar of Texas, can improve the lives of all people. Now, as a father who imagines a better world for his children, I wish to serve as TYLA president to create meaningful change by improving diversity and equity in our profession, courts, and the public. We can do so by teaching the public about implicit bias before they make decisions grounded in stereotypes, providing our lawyers with the tools to interrupt their biases when making decisions, strengthening our local affiliates with more tools and resources, and inspiring high school and undergraduate students to pursue a legal career.
What are the three most important issues facing young lawyers in Texas, and what role should TYLA play in addressing them?
FRANKS: Unique life experiences. Certain shared experiences and difficulties come with being a lawyer. However, each lawyer has unique life experiences, passions, goals, and obstacles. I plan to use TYLA’s position to highlight the various paths taken by young lawyers to obtain their J.D. and showcase the diverse career paths.
Understanding DEI. Diversity, equity, and inclusion are (and should be) at the forefront of our profession. By partnering with a leading statistician to create a survey built on industry best practices, we will assess the current DEI landscape in Texas and identify opportunities for improvement.
Local young lawyer organizations. I discovered my love for bar service at my local young lawyer affiliate. I plan to uplift, promote, and support local lawyer organizations by loosening grant requirements and increasing investment in marketing resources. TYLA can and should provide more comprehensive support for young lawyer organizations.
MASRI: Opportunity. Talent is universal but opportunity is not. Texas has great lawyers that are not given opportunities based on decisions about the person’s law school, name, or other trait, and sometimes made subconsciously. Lawyers must better understand implicit bias so that we can have meaningful access to mentorships, jobs, and promotions.
Mentorship. Young lawyers need more mentorship, which means career and practice advice. TYLA can help provide career advice by illuminating and explaining the lives of successful lawyers, such as managing partners and general counsels, and provide practice advice through tips about the real practice, such as how to take depositions.
Wellness. Young lawyers face numerous strenuous demands, such as high student loan debt, learning the profession, demanding clients, getting married, having children, developing business, and involvement in the community, and need more effective outlets. TYLA can help by partnering with local affiliates for more local wellness activities around Texas.
You have served the profession in a number of capacities at a number of levels. Which of these experiences has best prepared you to lead TYLA?
FRANKS: My experiences volunteering and leading with empathy have prepared me to be a more compassionate leader and have equipped me with the skills necessary to serve young lawyers. In my position as managing director of programming for the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, I have had the opportunity to practice and develop my leadership skills on a regular basis while keeping the needs of over 100,000 members at the forefront. By interacting with people from different backgrounds and situations, I have learned to put myself in their shoes and understand their perspectives and needs. This has prepared me to be a more effective leader so that I can better connect with, understand, and serve the needs of young lawyers.
MASRI: Simply, all of them. Each of my roles has focused on working together with others to make our profession and communities a better place for all of us. I am privileged to have served in local, state, and national leadership as an active member of my local bar association, TYLA, and the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. I am also a second-career lawyer that has worked in solo, small, and national law firms and now works in-house. Each role had its own challenges, such as doing the work, setting expectations, meeting deadlines, encouraging collaboration, delegating responsibilities, motivating others to work together, and triaging problems or managing groups. I have taken time to build meaningful relationships with the best lawyers anywhere, I have learned to listen first, and I have prepared to lead TYLA as its president to accomplish something better together.
If a college student sought your advice on whether to pursue a legal career, how would you answer?
FRANKS: The decision to pursue a legal career is not one to take lightly; however, it is one with unlimited possibilities. I would advise anyone thinking of law school not to restrict themselves to becoming an attorney but rather to follow their passion within the field of law. During law school, keep an open mind and be aware of the various ways in which you can utilize your J.D. to make a positive impact, whether through traditional legal practice or other means. The valuable education you will receive in law school will give you unlimited opportunities to explore your passions and leave your mark—you are too unique and valuable to limit yourself!
MASRI: As a volunteer teen court judge, all my sessions include an offer to answer any questions to any aspiring students about pursuing a legal career. I was involved in this same teen court program as a teenager, and it encouraged me to pursue a legal education. As such, I feel it is now my responsibility to give back to the community in this way.
When I am volunteer judging, I am often asked this question and I always provide the same answer: pursuing a legal career is an incredible privilege that you may love, as I do, but tell me why you want to be a lawyer, as it is not for everyone. Pursuing a legal career requires a significant amount of money, time, energy, and effort. So, before making the decision, I offer discussing the pursuit, the profession, and how they can achieve their goals if they are motivated.
How do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
FRANKS: Because everyone’s personal and professional lives look different, it is imperative not to compare yourself to others. I’m not skirting the question in an effort not to share my secrets—if I had a solution to work-life balance, this is where I would link to my best-selling book—but instead to reinforce that balance looks different to everyone. For me, my semblance of balance is directly tied to my passions. I put energy into things I am passionate about. I start with a list of my passions, and when I am asked to volunteer or be involved in something, I check the list before commenting or passing on an opportunity. This check and balance allows me to focus on things important to me. With that said, I don’t want this answer to serve as another opportunity for young lawyers to compare themselves—we do that enough already.
MASRI: It is imperative to be kind, patient, and transparent about your commitments and expectations with your family and work. Above all else, it is about setting reasonable boundaries and respecting those boundaries. I have had many instances where my personal life was more demanding, such as when I married the love of my life, Victoria, or the birth of my children, Celine and Jude. At other times, my professional life was more demanding, such as when I was preparing for trial, filing a temporary restraining order, or needing to respond to new changes during the early stages of COVID-19. In every scenario, effectively communicating your commitments, setting boundaries, and making time for your own wellness all contribute to finding that balance.TBJ