Court Guidance and Closures  |  Governor’s Executive Orders  |  Free Lawyer Resources/Webinars  |  Free Legal Resources for the Public  |  SBOT Response Measures  |  SBOT Event Cancellations/Delays  |  Disciplinary System Cancellations/Delays  |  SBOT Committees/Sections  |  Texas Bar Exam  |  COVID-19 Pro Bono Efforts  |  State/Federal Health Resources

State Bar of Texas Response to Coronavirus Pandemic

Person working on laptop

The thoughts of all State Bar of Texas leaders and employees are with everyone affected by the coronavirus pandemic. We are assessing the needs of Texas lawyers and the public and will continue to seek solutions to issues that arise in the coming months.

In an effort to minimize the potential spread of the virus, State Bar employees are working remotely, and State Bar offices are temporarily closed to visitors. The State Bar remains fully operational providing services to our members.

Also, the State Bar of Texas is canceling, postponing, or going online with live events in line with guidance from health officials.

In this difficult time with so many of us, our friends, peers, and colleagues experiencing hardship caused by the pandemic, it’s imperative that we show kindness, compassion, and civility in our practice of law. Many of us have businesses to keep afloat, while others have family to care for, so it’s now more important than ever that we practice the courtesy and cooperation spelled out in the civility oath new Texas lawyers take and in the Texas Lawyer’s Creed we all follow.

We will continue to keep you informed of the State Bar’s response by email, social media, and this web page. You can also sign up for the State Bar’s Daily News Briefing at texasbar.com/dailynews to receive the latest legal news updates in your inbox every weekday morning.

Sincerely,
Trey Apffel, Executive Director

Court Guidance and Closures

Supreme Court of Texas current emergency orders

Office of Court Administration Guidance

  • Court Procedures: The Office of Court Administration (OCA) has released guidance on court procedures for the coronavirus. You can read them here.

  • Live-Streaming Proceedings: The OCA is providing judges the ability to stream and host court proceedings via Zoom and YouTube. Only State of Texas Judges are eligible for access to the OCA-provided Zoom accounts. To request access or inquire about a previous request please contact: zoomhelp@txcourts.gov. For more information and an OCA list of resources including Zoom 101, setup help, meeting controls, and other tips, go here. For a list of court YouTube channels, click here.

  • Methods of Document Service: The OCA also advises that because of uncertainty regarding the feasibility of accessing documents delivered by mail, commercial delivery service, fax, or such other similar methods during the COVID-19 pandemic—particularly as shelter-in-place orders take effect and large numbers of people are working from home—email service should be used, whenever feasible, as an additional or alternative method of service. Courts are also advised to use email as an additional or alternative method of notifying parties of orders, judgments, and the like, when possible.

  • Chapter 81 Hearings: The Texas judiciary is preparing for the possibility of needing to hold hearings under Chapter 81, Health and Safety Code (quarantine). One of the provisions of the law requires the appointment of an attorney to represent the person who is subject to the quarantine if the person does not already have an attorney. To facilitate expediency, the Office of Court Administration is gathering the names and contact information of attorneys who are willing or interested in serving as appointed counsel in these cases. If you are interested and willing to serve as appointed counsel, please fill out this form.

Governor’s Executive Orders

Governor Greg Abbott issued executive order GA-29 on July 2 requiring Texans in counties with 20 or more positive COVID-19 cases to wear a face covering over the nose and mouth in public places, with few exceptions. The governor issued a proclamation that same day giving mayors and county judges the ability to impose restrictions on outdoor gatherings of more than 10 people.

The opentexas.gov webpage provides guidance and checklists for Texas businesses during the pandemic.

Find all of the governor’s executive orders here.

Free Lawyer Resources and Webinars

The State Bar is currently offering 5.5 hours of free CLE on the TexasBarCLE website, including recent webcasts related to the coronavirus:

  • 10 Tips for Lawyer Well-Being During COVID-19 — MCLE Credit: .5 hours. Accreditation for this course expires on May 31, 2021. You must complete the course and report your MCLE hours prior to this date to receive credit. Register here to watch the course for free.

  • Practicing Law in the Shadow of COVID-19 — MCLE Credit: 1 hour. Accreditation for this course expires on February, 28, 2021. You must complete the course and report your hours prior to this date to receive credit. Go here to watch the course.

  • Benefits and Challenges of Invoking Force Majeure Clauses in the Age of the Coronavirus — MCLE Credit: 1 hour. Accreditation for this course expires on February, 28, 2021. You must complete the course and report your hours prior to this date to receive credit. Go here to watch the course.

  • For attorneys in financial need who require additional CLE, TexasBarCLE scholarships are available for online classes. Remember, in Texas it is permissible for lawyers to complete all 15 hours of required continuing legal education through online learning. There is no in-person CLE requirement.

“Bankruptcy in a Box” Pro Bono CLE
The state’s three major legal aid programs — Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid — are offering a three-hour online CLE course designed to help attorneys learn about Chapter 7 bankruptcies while helping others. The course is offered free of charge to each attorney who commits to take two Chapter 7 bankruptcy cases from one of the three legal aid providers during the next two years. The providers are expecting a surge of bankruptcy cases as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information and to sign up for the CLE, email probonodirector@lanwt.org.

Family Law Essentials Pro Bono CLE
Attorneys living within a 100-mile radius of Beaumont, Waco, Laredo, El Paso, Weatherford, or Lubbock and who are willing to pick up two pro bono cases from the state’s legal aid providers are eligible for a 4.5-hour online CLE on “Family Law Essentials” free of charge.

The CLE—Family Law Essentials: Giving Back to Your Community—is made possible by the State Bar’s Legal Access Division, the Pro Bono Committee of the Family Law Section, Legal Aid of NorthWest Texas, Lone Star Legal Aid, and Texas RioGrande Legal Aid. It is offered free of charge to attorneys who are willing to take two pro bono cases from one of the legal aid providers listed within one year of the date of the course. Those who take on four pro bono cases will get a complimentary one-year subscription to the Texas Family Law Practice Manual Online. The deadline to sign up and complete the course is June 30. For more information or to register, email Meredith Warren, program coordinator in the Legal Access Division, at meredith.warren@texasbar.com.

Zoom and Videoconferencing Resources

Please go here for a list of resources related to Zoom, YouTube, and videoconferencing.

Law Practice Management Resources

The State Bar of Texas Law Practice Management Committee has gathered experts from the legal community to host webinars and provide other valuable resources meant to aid attorneys in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. View the committee’s resources here.

Tech Bytes videos: The State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology worked with TexasBarCLE to create a series of short videos about technology-related topics, from legal ethics to cybersecurity.

Texas Law App Scholarships Available

The State Bar of Texas Computer and Technology Section is offering scholarships to anyone for whom section membership cost is a hardship during the pandemic or to lawyers whose practice involves a significant amount of pro bono work.

The section’s app is designed to deliver Texas laws to users’ fingertips. It allows the user to download more than 62 civil codes and statutes to any device or web browser. It is keyword searchable and provides links to other code sections. Users also have the ability to print and create PDFs of the content.

To learn more about the app and its content, go here. To be considered for a scholarship code, email Chris Krupa-Downs at chris@weekslawfirm.com, Shawn Tuma at stuma@spencerfane.com, or Mark I. Unger at miunger@gmail.com

Upgraded Case Research Service at Reduced Cost

re:SearchTX is providing access to its premium features at 50% of the usual $30 per month fee. re:SearchTX is a web-based platform that allows registered users access to an online repository of court case information powered by the Texas e-filing database. The basic service is free to all registered users through a partnership with the state. The premium upgrade is being offered at $15 per month or $100 per year.

Relevant podcasts, Texas Bar Journal and bar blog articles

Estate Planning Execution

Estate Planning Resources: Bill Pargaman, a past chair of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas, has prepared a preliminary guide to alternative methods of execution of estate planning documents under existing law, which our members may find helpful. The guide is posted under "COVID-19 Resources" on this page

Notary Public via Videoconference:
 On April 8, Governor Greg Abbott suspended certain statutes concerning appearance before a notary public to execute a self-proved will, durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, directive to physician, or an oath of an executor, administrator, or guardian. The suspensions allow for appearance before a notary public via videoconference, avoiding the need for in-person appearance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the notice of suspension of statues here.

Free Planning Forms for Emergency Responders:
 The Dallas Bar Association has created a webpage offering basic planning forms for police, fire, and medical personnel. Forms on the webpage include: planning forms for your signature; summaries of the forms; additional lawyer video explanations; and an article explaining how to successfully complete and execute the forms. The forms can be printed, completed, and signed to put affairs in order as needed. Go to dallasbar.org/COVIDFirstResponders for more information.

Bankruptcy Law Section COVID Resources

The State Bar of Texas Bankruptcy Law Section has collected a page of legal resources that may be helpful during the pandemic. View the list here.

Family Law Resources

  • As a free service to members, the Family Law Section of the State Bar of Texas is providing access to new emergency procedure forms in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more and download them here.

  • The Supreme Court of Texas Permanent Judicial Commission for Children, Youth and Families has published this resource letter of best practices during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • Texas Bar Blog article: COVID-19 and family law: What every attorney needs to know, by Aimee Key and Lindsey Obenhaus

Well-being Resources

Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program professionals have created a web page full of resources to assist the many attorneys, law students, and families who may be isolated and struggling with a mental health issue or needing recovery support. Review the resources available at texasbar.com/tlaphelps/remote-well-being.

The Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program confidentially helps lawyers, judges, and law students who are concerned for themselves or a colleague with regard to general well-being, mental health, or substance use issues. TLAP provides support and referrals, peer assistance programs, and much more. TLAP can be reached 24 hours a day by calling 800-343-TLAP (8527) or texting TLAP to 555888. Additional resources are available at tlaphelps.org.

The ABA Coronavirus (COVID-19) Task Force

The American Bar Association has created this webpage intended as a national source of information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the delivery of legal services. It includes resources on remote service delivery, court access and rules changes, legal needs, public benefits programs, and pro bono mobilization. 

Paid Leave Regulations

The U.S. Department of Labor announced new action this week regarding how workers and employers can benefit from the protections and relief offered through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The department’s Wage and Hour Division posted a temporary rule issuing regulations pursuant to the new law, effective April 1. FFCRA will reimburse U.S. private employers that have fewer than 500 employees with tax credits for the cost of providing employees with paid leave taken for specified reasons related to COVID-19. Learn more here.

Free Legal Resources for the Public

The State Bar is proud to join in partnership with legal aid, access to justice, and volunteer organizations around the state to help Texans with civil legal problems resulting from the pandemic. Please see this page of legal resources: texasbar.com/covidhelp.

SBOT Response Measures

MCLE Deadlines Extended

We understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has made it difficult for some attorneys to complete their MCLE requirements on time. In response, the State Bar of Texas MCLE Department granted several extensions to attorneys beginning with those who had compliance dates in November 2019. Below are the current compliance deadlines.

Attorneys with compliance deadlines in:

  • May — granted a 90-day extension with a final deadline of August 31.

  • June — granted a 60-day extension with a current deadline of August 31.

  • July — granted 60-day extension with a current deadline of September 30.

The MCLE department continues to review compliance deadlines due to the pandemic. Please contact the MCLE Department at 800-204-2222, ext. 1806, or mcle@texasbar.com if you have questions about the extensions or MCLE compliance requirements.

Adjustments to State Bar Operations 

The State Bar of Texas has taken the following steps out of our commitment to keep the health and safety of our members, employees, and the general public at the forefront of our actions in this rapidly changing situation: 

  • In an effort to minimize the potential spread of the coronavirus, State Bar employees are working remotely, and State Bar offices are temporarily closed to visitors. The State Bar remains fully operational providing services to our members.

  • TexasBarCLE in-person courses scheduled through September have been converted to a webcast format. All TexasBarCLE in-person courses beyond September 30 are still on the schedule at this time, but we are evaluating their status daily and will take additional steps as needed.

  • State Bar committees have been instructed to meet only by teleconference or videoconference.

  • State Bar sections are strongly encouraged to hold meetings remotely. We recommend that sections avoid air travel and out-of-state travel where possible, and that they consider canceling events where air travel or out-of-state or international travel are involved.

  • Enhanced disinfection of common areas in the Texas Law Center and regional offices continues to occur.

  • Non-essential business travel by State Bar staff is not allowed.

The State Bar’s leadership team is closely following developments related to the coronavirus, including government travel guidelines and health advisories, and will notify members of additional changes to State Bar events.

SBOT Event Cancellations and Delays

  • After careful consideration, the State Bar of Texas canceled the in-person 2020 Annual Meeting scheduled for June 25-26 in Dallas. The State Bar provided full refunds to all registrants and hotel reservations were automatically canceled. The event was replaced with the 2020 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting On Demand.

  • TexasBarCLE in-person courses scheduled through September have been converted to a webcast format. All TexasBarCLE in-person courses beyond September 30 are still on the schedule at this time, but we are evaluating their status daily and will take additional steps as needed.

The State Bar’s leadership team is closely following developments related to the coronavirus, including government travel guidelines and health advisories, and will notify members of additional changes to State Bar events.

Disciplinary System Cancellations and Delays

  • Pursuant to the Supreme Court of Texas’ 17th Emergency Order, all deadlines pertaining to the attorney disciplinary system that would have expired between March 13 and July 1 were extended to August 15. The court's 18th Emergency Order does not extend those deadlines.

  • The court’s 18th Emergency Order allows for evidentiary hearings to be conducted by Zoom video/teleconferencing; respondents must participate in those proceedings after being served with notice.

  • Investigatory hearings will continue to be conducted via Zoom video/teleconferencing.

  • No in-person meetings or hearings will be held until such time as the State Bar of Texas and the Texas Supreme Court deem it safe to do so.

  • As courts across Texas resume conducting proceedings via video/teleconferencing technology, parties and their counsel with trial settings are encouraged to contact the trial attorney in the Regional Office of the Chief Disciplinary Counsel handling their case to determine next steps.

SBOT Committees and Sections

  • State Bar committees have been instructed to meet only by teleconference or videoconference until further notice.

  • State Bar sections are strongly encouraged to hold meetings remotely. We recommend that sections avoid air travel and out-of-state travel where possible, and that they consider canceling events where air travel or out-of-state or international travel are involved.

Texas Bar Exam

The Supreme Court of Texas, in an emergency order issued on July 3, canceled the July in-person bar exam, left in place the scheduled September 9-10 in-person exam subject to guidance from public health officials, and approved an online bar exam to be October 5-6.

The Texas Board of Law Examiners, an independent agency reporting to the court, administers the bar exam. Read more about the changes here. For more information about the Board of Law Examiners, go here.

Supervised Practice Cards

In May, the Texas Supreme Court adopted new rules governing the supervised practice of law by qualified law students and qualified unlicensed law school graduates in Texas. To learn more about the Supervised Practice Cards and apply, go here.

COVID-19 Pro Bono Efforts

As part of efforts to assist Texans affected by COVID-19, the State Bar’s Legal Access Division has added a COVID-19 volunteer information page to probonotexas.org – the one-stop hub where pro bono volunteers can find mentors, resources, and more.

Visit probonotexas.org/covid for information about COVID-19 volunteer opportunities with legal aid and pro bono providers across Texas, view pandemic-related pro bono resources, and learn more about the volunteer experience.

Emergency Legal Aid Fund

The Texas Access to Justice Foundation has created an emergency legal aid fund designed to support the civil legal needs of Texans affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The foundation reports that traditional revenue sources for legal aid have dropped dramatically and officials believe a spike in the number of Texans eligible for services will mean the need will become even greater.

To learn more about the fund and donate, go here.

State and federal health resources

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