Court Guidance and Closures | Free Lawyer Resources/Webinars | Free Legal Resources for the Public | SBOT Response Measures | Disciplinary System Cancellations/Delays | 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.
The State Bar is in phase two of a four-phase reopening plan. Most 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.
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
Court Guidance and Closures
Supreme Court of Texas current emergency orders
Emergency Order 37 — Issued 4/28/21
Renews the Texas Eviction Diversion Program, a statewide rental assistance program intended to avoid evictions for tenants behind on rent. Among other items, the order allows an eviction proceeding to be abated by agreement for 60 days, requires courts to provide tenants with information about the program, and makes court records for participants confidential while eviction cases are delayed.
Emergency Order 38 — Issued 5/26/21
Permits courts to modify or suspend deadlines and procedures through August 1; encourages courts to continue to use reasonable efforts to hold proceedings remotely; permits all courts to hold in-person proceedings, including jury trials, after certain actions, including adoption of minimum standard health protocols and an in-person schedule; permits courts to hold virtual jury proceedings in certain cases with technology provided to certain prospective jurors; extends the possession and access to a child provisions from previous orders; extends the ability for an attorney professional disciplinary or disability proceeding to conduct proceedings remotely.
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: email@example.com. 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.
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:
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.
How Lawyers Can Recover from Survival Mode — MCLE Credit: .75 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 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.
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.
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:
March – granted a 60-day extension with a final deadline of May 31.
April - granted a 60-day extension with a final deadline of June 30.
May – granted a 60-day extension with a final deadline of July 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 email@example.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:
The State Bar is in phase two of a four-phase reopening plan. Most 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 June 30, 2021 will be held online via a webcast format. Details will be provided upon registration. Beginning in July, TexasBarCLE is resuming some in-person, live CLE events. In order to make these events safe for everyone, the State Bar of Texas and the host hotels will be following CDC safety guidelines. Click here for the details.
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.
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.