Court Guidance and Closures | Governor’s Executive Orders | COVID-19 Vaccine Information | Free Lawyer Resources/Webinars | Free Legal Resources for the Public | SBOT Response Measures | 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
The thoughts of all State Bar of Texas leaders and employees are with everyone affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
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.
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.
Trey Apffel, Executive Director
Governor’s Executive Orders
On March 2, 2021, Governor Greg Abbott issued executive order GA-34 lifting the statewide mask mandate and increasing capacity of all businesses and facilities in Texas to 100 percent.
Find all of the governor’s executive orders here.
Court Guidance and Closures
Supreme Court of Texas current emergency orders
Emergency Order 34 — Issued 1/29/2021
Mirrors federal regulations to extend protections to March 31 for certain tenants facing evictions.
Emergency Order 35 — Issued 2/11/2021
Extends until May 12 the force of pleading requirements to forestall evictions for certain tenants behind on rent.
Emergency Order 36 — Issued 3/5/21
Removes requirements that all but certain proceedings be remote but encourages remote trials and hearings and gives local presiding judges authority to require masks for participants and impose physical distances for in-person proceedings. The order also lifts the prohibition on in-person municipal and justice court proceedings but now allows those courts to hold proceedings by electronic means. It retains courts’ authority to “modify or suspend any and all deadlines and procedures” through June 1.
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.
Jury Trial Report: The Office of Court Administration submitted the following report to the Supreme Court of Texas on August 31, 2020 — Jury Trials During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Observations and recommendations.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
COVID-19 Vaccine Information
The Texas Department of State Health Services is overseeing the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines in Texas. For more information on eligibility and to learn where to get a vaccine, please go here.
Free Lawyer Resources and Webinars
The State Bar is currently offering 6 hours of free CLE on the TexasBarCLE website, including recent webcasts related to the coronavirus:
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, 2022. 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, 2022. 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
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 email@example.com.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 email@example.com, Shawn Tuma at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Mark I. Unger at email@example.com
Relevant podcasts, Texas Bar Journal and bar blog articles
COVID-19: Reopening Issues Checklist, by Kilpatrick Townsend attorneys
Texas judiciary: the new landscape of operations during COVID-19, by State Bar of Texas Podcast
Opinion: Coping with COVID-19—considerations for the “New Normal” by Paul K. Stafford
OCA: Attorneys are ‘essential’ but should work remotely if possible, by Lowell Brown
How small law firms in Texas can benefit from the $2T stimulus package, by Philip Silberman
How Texas employers should respond to COVID-19, by State Bar of Texas Podcast
Preparing for the coronavirus: how Texas employers can plan for COVID-19, by Teresa Valderrama
From inside the Italian quarantine: lawyering on lockdown, by Jason Herbert
Legal Talk Network has a growing collection of podcast episodes focused on helping attorneys navigate the COVID-19 pandemic here.
Law firms working remotely during the coronavirus shutdown, by D. Todd Smith
Working with remote employees: what you need to know, by Carron E. Nicks
Pandemically challenged: teleworking in COVID-19 and what you need to know, by Jefferson W. Fisher
Employment Law in a Pandemic, by Young Gunners, a Texas Young Lawyers Association podcast
COVID-19 and family law: What every attorney needs to know, by Aimee Key and Lindsey Obenhaus
Effective mediation during COVID-19, by Dominic L. Cruciani and Perrin B. Fourmy
Disaster planning for Texas appellate practitioners, by Kirk Cooper
Opinion: Defending the indigent during COVID-19 and beyond by Zachary Morris
Student Loans and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), by Heather Jarvis. View her web page here.
Estate Planning Execution
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 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
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
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/TLAPSupportToolbox.
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.
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 has granted extensions to attorneys beginning with those who had compliance dates in November 2019. Below are the current compliance deadlines.
Attorneys with the following birth months:
January — granted a 60-day extension with a final deadline of March 31.
February – granted a 60-day extension with a final deadline of April 30.
March – granted a 60-day extension with a final deadline of May 31.
The MCLE department continues to review compliance deadlines due to the pandemic. Please contact the MCLE Department at 800-204-2222, ext. 1806, or firstname.lastname@example.org 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 events scheduled through May 31, 2021 will be held online via a webcast format. Details will be provided upon registration.
State Bar committees and sections have been instructed to meet only by teleconference or videoconference.
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 any changes to in-person or virtual plans.
Information About Disciplinary Proceedings
Investigatory panel hearings, evidentiary trials, and hearings before the Board of Disciplinary Appeals continue to be conducted remotely via video teleconferencing.
Pursuant to current Emergency Orders issued by the Supreme Court of Texas, Respondents must participate in remote evidentiary proceedings after being served with notice.
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 continue to conduct some disciplinary proceedings remotely via video and 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 and sections have been instructed to meet only by teleconference or videoconference until further notice.
Texas Bar Exam
The Texas Board of Law Examiners is the judicial agency responsible for determining that applicants seeking to be licensed to practice law in Texas meet the qualifications set by the Texas Supreme Court.
For more information about the Board of Law Examiners and future bar exams, go here.
Supervised Practice Cards
In May 2020, 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.