Sylvia Borunda Firth has been sworn in as the new president of the State Bar of Texas! Host Rocky Dhir welcomes Sylvia to discuss her hopes for the presidency, particularly her passion for diversity and inclusion. As the first Hispanic woman and first person from El Paso to ascend to the presidency, Sylvia discusses her unique campaign path, the importance of these “firsts” and the progress they represent, and then also zeros in on two specific issues: her hopes to tackle the problem of “legal deserts” in the state, and her thoughts on McDonald et al v. Sorrels et al and why a mandatory state bar is good for Texas lawyers.
Sylvia Borunda Firth is a solo practitioner in El Paso, Texas and State Bar of Texas President for 2021-22.
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Intro:°Welcome to the State Bar of Texas podcast your monthly source for conversations and curated content to improve your law practice with your host, Rocky Dhir.
Rocky Dhir:°Hi and welcome to the State Bar of Texas podcast every year in June the State Bar hosts the State Bar annual meeting. Personally, I love the annual meeting. It’s a chance to catch up with lawyers from all over the state, make some new friends, and attend fascinating CLE presentations. The highlight for me personally is the opportunity to hang out with our superlative State Bar staff. Seriously, if you haven’t spent any time with them, they are just amazing, committed people, with frankly, next level skills.
One of the people who gets to work with that staff, and see them up close and in action is the president of the State Bar of Texas. And every year at the annual meeting, we celebrate the passing of the baton to a new president. In 2020. the State Bar was compelled to adapt to the COVID-19 pandemic, which was then still in its first few months of existence. You might recall, that we had our annual meeting on demand entirely virtual. It was quite a feat, and I’m very proud of our State Bar for putting that on.
This year 2021 our annual meeting was still virtual, but in a nod to the gradual reopening of our State. Sylvia Borunda Firth was sworn into office in person at the Supreme Court of Texas building as a 2021-2022 president of the State Bar of Texas. The ceremony which was broadcasted over the internet took place on June°18, 2021 officiated by Justice Rebecca Huddle.
Sylvia’s presidency marks a couple of firsts; she’s the first Hispanic woman to ascend to the presidency, but here’s something interesting, she’s also our first president from El Paso, where she has her own solo law firm. Sylvia has seen myriad sides to the practice of law having been general counsel to American garment finishers and served the City of El Paso in various roles culminating in her becoming the city attorney for El Paso. Her bar work is too long to list in this podcast, but suffice it to say that, Sylvia served on the State Bar Board of Directors from 2014 to 2018. Served as a multi-year member of the Texas bar college, and past president of the Texas City Attorneys Association. I could go on that’s just a sampling. She’s also a longhorn having graduated from UT Law in 1984.
So, let’s stop it with the intros, and meet our new State Bar president, president Sylvia Borunda Firth, welcome.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Thank you Rocky, and thank you for that very kind introduction. I’m thrilled to be here with you today.
Rocky Dhir:°No, absolutely. Absolutely. So, it’s been an interesting year and a half here in the State of Texas and all over the country in the world, but honestly, what I want to talk to you about first was, how shocked I am that we’ve never had a State Bar president from El Paso. I mean, how could that be? How is that possible? Do you think that’s important, and why?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Well, it hasn’t been for lack of trying. Some great El Paso lawyers –
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°— have tried before, and in fact, I have the benefit of the fact that my colleague says, Cezy Collins ran two years ago. So, I was able to build on the momentum that she put in place. So, you know, we all stand on the shoulders of others, and so, I give Cezy a lot of credit for the you know, trailblazing she did to get me where I am.
But I think, it it’s important to note that, El Paso is a very unique city, and we are very, very, far away from the center of government in the State of Texas. Our legal community is small. There’s only about 1300 lawyers in our district 17, which goes not on just El Paso proper, but out into far west Texas. So, there are very few of us, and you consider you know, and look at Houston there’s over 26,000 lawyers, and so, you have 1300. Even if ever absolutely everybody in El Paso votes for you, it’s just a blip on the screen. So, we have to get out, and get our message out to the other parts of this the state.
I mean if you think about it, and this is like El Paso is actually closer to the State capitals of New Mexico —
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°–and Arizona, then we are to Austin.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, we’re out here, it’s far place to be, but I’m proud to represent El Paso, and I do think it’s important because El Paso is where I was born and raised, and it’s a very special community. I think because we are a truly bi-national community, and right on the border with Mexico, and New Mexico, and we have a huge military presence. So, people come and go. It’s a really a multicultural, very tolerant community. And so, I’m really proud, I’m really proud to represent El°Paso, and be able to open the door a little bit to the rest of the States and come and see about us.
Rocky Dhir:°I’m still cracking up when you said, when you said, “We’re District 17.” I mean, I’m getting this Katniss Everdeen vibe now. I’m thinking, “Oh, my gosh. Hunger games.” You know, Sylvia is the winner of the hunger games.” Okay, and yeah. So, you know, but note, I mean tell us a little bit about because I’m ashamed to say I’ve never been to El Paso. Now, that I’m talking to, you know,
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Wow.
Rocky Dhir:°And it’s funny. It’s always been on my list of places I’d like to visit. I just never had an occasion. So, you know tell us what it’s like to practice there, and why do you think it is? It’s a significant city in Texas.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°It is.
Rocky Dhir:°But why is it so hard for us to kind of bring El Paso into the fold, and how do we fix this?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°It’s just the geography. I mean, when I when I started my campaign, and I drove east you know, because nobody gets to say there from west Texas if I’m in the room, —
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°– because you can’t get any further west. So, I drove vast expanses to get to the next you know, looking for the lawyers along the way, and it’s just different. A lot of people will say that El Paso is much more like New Mexico in our culture than we are the rest of Texas. I think it’s true. And then like I said, they take great pride in being independent when I was campaigning, and I went out to the trans-Pecos area, and I said, “I’d like to come and speak to the local bar association.” And they say, “We don’t meet. We never meet.”
Rocky Dhir:°Oh, really? Okay.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°I was like, what? When we need something, we reached out to each. But they did, they gathered for me, and it was a social function, but they did gather. It was a trek for them to come in, and so, I think that’s it. I do believe that it did help me you know, and there’s the silver lining to everything, was when we switched over and were campaigning virtually, and more reliant on internet et cetera. I think that actually did help. I think that helped me to finally eek by my win. As you recall, I only won by 37 votes.
Rocky Dhir:°Sure, sure. Well, hey you know, look, a win is a win, and you know, I know that that you’re the first Hispanic woman to assume office, which again, I didn’t know. I remember when you won, the first thing that popped in my head was not, “Oh, this is a Hispanic woman.” I thought, “Okay, this is our new president-elect for the State Bar of Texas.”
But before we talk about that, let’s talk about your other work in diversity, and inclusion. So, as president-elect, you had appointed a task force to look into these issues of diversity and inclusion, and they came up with a report in June of 2021. Tell us about why you appointed a task force, and what is their June 2021 report telling us to do?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Well, before I talk about the report, I really do want to thank the members of that task force. There were 15 of them, and I’m grateful to the Board for approving them, because normally, the president-elect doesn’t get to start their work until they’re actually —
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°–they don’t get to start a project. So, I had the benefit of a few months lead, which has yielded this great report. I’m really impressed by the work that was done by the task force. So, there’s 15 members; they were each from the affinity committees, and sections of the bar. They got to appoint whomever they wanted, and then I held back five positions just to look around, and see who wasn’t at the table. And filled in with five more. They have worked really hard. And the report that they did is stellar. And it’s very expansive in what they examined. They broke into committees, and did a lot of deep dives.
But it wasn’t the first time this has been done. So, it was not an original idea; in 2007, then president-elect, Martha Dickey, and Eduardo Rodriguez, the one of the only other, and remember there’s only three Hispanic presidents. So, Eduardo was president, and with Martha, they requested a task force report.
So, what we did first was, we took that one, and said, “Let’s see where the snapshot of where we’ve been, what hasn’t been finished that should have been finished, and move forward from there.” We found a lot of progress, but we found still that we have a long way to go.
Rocky Dhir:°Now, if I could just kind of interject a quick question for clarification. Let’s talk for a second about and I’m using air quotes, and I know for those listening they can’t see it, but I’m doing these really impressive air quotes with my fingers. But what is the problem that we’re talking about with diversity and inclusion? Is it about the number of diverse lawyers? Is it about the diversity, and inclusion inside law firm management? Is there another problem? Is it all of the above? I mean can you kind of frame for us what the issue is?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Sure. I think, it’s a little bit all of the above.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, the lawyer’s community is not reflective of the population that we serve. There are still not enough lawyers from diverse backgrounds or that are a practicing law. It’s changing, and there are law schools’ admissions are changing. So, that’s one piece. There’s also the question of as you’ve already alluded to, in leadership at the State Bar. It’s gotten much better.
When I first got involved, there was still a lot of need for diversity around the table, it has gotten better, and then within the law firms, it’s like, what’s happening? When Martha Dickey posed the question it’s like, “What’s happening to the women?” How come there are not more equity partners in the big firms, and so there’s there are a lot of issues, which is why, the report is very interesting, because you can take it in any one of those directions.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°And so, we talk about a pipeline to create more diverse lawyers. We talk about how we support them when they’re already practicing, and then we talk about creating a pipeline to State Board leadership as well. So, that it’s not that rare to see a woman Hispanic as the president. And I will tell you, the historical thing that just happened at the last election is, this the first time you have back-to-back women.
Rocky Dhir:°That’s all that I remember.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, with my friend, Laura Gibson won, so this is the first time. So, you can have two women back-to-back the State Bar president, when there’s only been — I’m the seventh of 141 State Bar presidents. I’m just the seventh woman. So, we’re making progress. It’s slow, but we’re getting there. Do you think we’re going to get to a point when we stop talking about identity, you know? Stop saying, “Oh, well we’ve got a woman or we got two women or we got people of color or what have you?”
Rocky Dhir:°Do you foresee you know, in our lifetimes, we’re going to get to a point where, “Okay, somebody becomes State Bar president, and it doesn’t matter their gender, their color, their background, anything like that, or do you think, we still have a long runway before we reach that goal?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°You know what, I think, I’m very hopeful, and optimistic, and I will tell you why. All you have to do is look at the Texas Young Lawyers Association, —
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°– and look at their leadership and now, you begin to see more different. To them it’s not a big deal. It’s just like, a generational thing, and I really do think it’s not going to matter much in the near future.
Rocky Dhir:°That means, you and I have to make enough money to retire, and then the young lawyers can take over.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Get out of the way.
Rocky Dhir:°I get it. I’m with you I understand what you’re telling me. So, tell us if you would, and I made you digress, but the task force; what were their recommendations?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, there’s a lot of them, and I would commend any of the listeners to look at my presidential page –
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°–because we’ll post it there.
Rocky Dhir:°Oh, good. Okay.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, that you can see, because we’re we are clearly not going to finish all of the things that have been recommended, but we’ll leave it there for Laura, and next to keep chipping away at it, and working on it. But some of the highlights were just– and this is more general than just DEI.
They made suggestions about improving the way that we communicate to lawyers and communicate information.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°They talked about creating incentives for lawyers who voluntarily undertake to study, and educate themselves with regard to DEI matters.
They talked they labeled it diversifying the Texas Bar Journal, and there were multiple suggestions in there about actually featuring a monthly story that either featured one of a diverse lawyer, or was a topic of interest to women or LGBTQ lawyers or just making sure that they’re seeing themselves in the bar journal.
There’s a proposed revision to the Texas lawyer’s creed, which is very interesting and we’ll take some work if we undertake that, and then they actually recommended the creation of a permanent DEI oversight committee, which is actually, I think, the task force is piloting that, because when the board had questions about issues that are affecting diverse lawyers, now you had already a group in place that’s very diverse in nature to say, “What do you think about this? Make a recommendation to the Board.” And we’ve used the task force in that way already.
The Board at our meeting last week authorized the extension of the task force into my presidential year and ultimately, what we’re hoping is, the office of minority affairs, and that’s another recommendation is, relabeling that, and to be of a broader attention. I mean in fact, that’s going to be the next hard thing we have to do is, try to pick the ones that we’re going to focus on, and work on for my presidential year.
Rocky Dhir:°Wow, and it’s it and that year goes by very quickly, —
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Very quickly.
Rocky Dhir:°–I imagined. So, now let’s go back to the firsts, right? So, we talked about you being the first El Pasoine for lack of a better term. Actually, what do you guys call yourselves now?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah, El Pasoine.
Rocky Dhir:° El Pasoine. Okay, good,
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah, El Pasoine .
Rocky Dhir:°Okay, good. I like it. We got it right, the first time. That never happens with me by the way. I never get anything right the first time you can just ask my wife. But you being the first Hispanic woman to become State Bar president, are you comfortable with people mentioning that about you or do we need to talk about that? How important is that first?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Well, you know I already I’ve had, and okay, what we need to kind of go back to my career if you will in in State Bar service. So, I came to the bar as what we used to call minority directors, —
Rocky Dhir:°Right. I remember minority. Yeah, I remember.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°–and we’re at large, but minority directors.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°–and when I went into my interview for that, I asked them to set aside the fact that I was a Hispanic woman. I said, because I’m here, yes that’s part of my reality. I said, “but I’m also here because,” and I did say, because I’m from El Paso and El Paso is underrepresented in State Bar leadership on committees, and everywhere else you see, but also, because I’m a government lawyer. And government lawyers are also underrepresented in leadership. And so, I think the combination of all of that was what garnered me the position at least, Tatum was the president that appointed me.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°–But I do think it’s important, because I do believe. No, I know this, I know this for a fact, because I’ve been told this by younger lawyers already law students who have said, “Wow, I see you up there, and I think I can be that.” I think we shouldn’t underestimate the power of people seeing somebody who looks like them in a leadership role, or has you know, this common culture with them. Whatever it is, and I do think it’s important. I’m very comfortable with it. I don’t think that’s the reason I got the position.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°And so, I think that just icing on the cake.
Rocky Dhir:°But then, you know, so like you were talking about how younger lawyers see you, and they maybe see you reflecting their future selves, but who did you see, because if there were no Hispanic women at State Bar leadership, when you were taking on these positions early on, who did you look to or did you go up particularly to blaze a path for others? How did you get yourself into the mindset to kind of get into Bar leadership?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, it’s interesting because I had spent my volunteerism as a lawyer in other places, because remember I’m a government lawyer.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°And you read about that. I was the president of the Texas City Attorney’s Association. So, I was not real active with the State Bar. In large part, because I did believe the State Bars for those other people in Dallas, and Houston, and those giant towers, and every time I saw them, it was you know these big firm men from you know, made this their career. I didn’t really pay much attention to the State Bar, but then I started hearing rumblings of like, “The State Bar is not relevant.” And just rumblings around me and so, I started paying a little more attention.
I saw in the Bar Journal that the solicitation for minority directors, and I wondered about it, and I spoke to a friend here in El Paso who was really the only lawyer that I knew well who had been involved in State Bar service. I said, what is this minority director? And are they serious? Do they really want somebody like me at the table? And he said, “You would do this? You would be willing to?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he sponsored me, and then by then, Lisa Tatum, who is the last woman to be the State Bar president was the State Bar president. So, now I have somebody there who’s you know blazing the trail. So, you know, she picked me and put me there, and then about that time, and I think, that Lisa’s being there brought more people to the table, and willing to put your name into consideration, because it seems more likely because now you’ve seen other women. I will tell you that last week, so you know how the State Bar meeting works. We have the one meeting on Wednesday is the old administration, —
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°–and then on Thursday it’s the new. So, I had lawyers who were in the room say, “It was startling that on Wednesday, you were the only woman sitting up at the big table.” And then then here came Thursday, and then Laura was next to me, and then Santos Vargas, who’s our new chair of the Board who’s a Hispanic from San Antonio is that there’s like, “Oh, look what a difference one election made.” And then this reverse was true, when I was looking out at the directors, it was also more diverse too. So, we’re making lots of progress.
Rocky Dhir:°So, let’s switch gears for a second because I want to make sure we also get to some of your some of your agenda items during your year as president. On June 17, 2021, the day before you actually officially became president, you talked about legal deserts. I have to admit, when I heard about it, I thought, “Wow, that’s just one from legal desserts, and that might actually sound pretty cool. Like, I wonder what lawyers would eat for desserts, if we became chefs?
But when my mind got back to the task at hand, I was like, all right, legal deserts. Tell us what that means, and how do you plan to address it in the short time you have? I mean, a year goes by fast.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Right so as I mentioned before when I started my campaign, I started in my backyard. So, I went to Alpine and Marfa, and all those areas out here in far west Texas, and at that social function I talked to you about.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°I was told, there’s a shortage of lawyers out here, and we need more lawyers out here, and we don’t really know how to go about getting them here, but we’re kind of putting it at your door. You’re here saying, “you want our vote, what are you going to do about it?”
Rocky Dhir:°I’ve never heard that, in the big cities, we never hear, “We need more lawyers?” I mean, that’s —
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Well, then it gets even better, because then I kept driving and I got to Odessa, Midland, and I’m now there with the lawyers. In those areas are big firms, you know, the firms of any size.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°And they say to me, “We need more lawyers.”
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°And I said, “What do you mean?” They say, “Well, right now when the economy is booming, all the lawyers out here are engaged working in oil and gas for petroleum, but there’s nobody out there doing what I guess, the term is, “main street lawyer” kind of stuff, you know?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°If you need a divorce, you need a will, they’re buy your house, set up a partnership, there are very few lawyers out there, and people are having to travel distance to get that, or wait weeks, and in some cases, if you think about some of those family law situations, that’s dangerous for people to have to wait.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Well, then I have a you know, so there’s more. And then a friend of mine, who is a district attorney, in the 106 that covers a vast area out in west Texas, he tells me he’s having trouble recruiting lawyers to come work in the DA’s office. Oh, and by the way, the federal public defender out there tells me, “I can’t get lawyers out here to come work out here.” And on top of that, when I have criminal appointment, when the judges have criminal appointments to make, there’s nobody to give them to.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, we have an access to justice issue out here. So, it’s like, “Wow, that was you know, that was –
Rocky Dhir:°It’s surprising.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah, and you go out there, and you ask people, “What do you need? How can I help you?” And then you get the answer like, “wow, that’s a tough one.” I don’t really don’t know how we tackle that. But even then, even I was just very early in my campaign, I talked to Trey Apffel, the executive director of the Bar.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°And I said, “Trey, I keep hearing this in different places, so put a pin in that, because if I’m lucky enough to win, I’m going to want to talk about, and if I’m not lucky enough to win, I still want to talk about it.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°And we need to, we got some issues out in the remote areas of the State. Well, it wasn’t just far west Texas; if you went up into the panhandle, if you went far east, if you went on the southern border, there’s other pockets like that. And I talked about it enough that, and he was like, “Give me your ideas. Tell me.”
So, you know, Dallas they actually have the main street lawyer program, where they’re trying to cultivate, and support the lawyers that will do the work that most the average citizen needs.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°And you know not pay the big law firm hourly fees. This is just somebody you just need somebody to look over your deed or write your will or whatever. They’re fostering them under that program.
Rocky Dhir:°Sure. Absolutely.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Which, okay. So, I was like, “That’s interesting.” But I think I talked about it enough to enough people that, then all of a sudden, I got a phone call from a fellow at the Deason Center at the SMU Law School, and the SMU Law School is piloting a program they call, Star, and Star stands for Small, Tribal And Rural communities. And it’s a justice program that they’ve modeled after other states. And part of it is, kind of, it has the flavor of like, I don’t know, if you’re old enough to remember. But remember the movie, the tv show, Northern Exposure?
Rocky Dhir:°Oh, yes. I am. I resemble that remark. Yes.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°I don’t know if you’re old enough that.
Rocky Dhir:°Oh, yes. I am, yes absolutely.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, it has that element to it, except that, it’s not only placing a lawyer there, it’s like bringing them there when they’re still in law school, giving them an externship, having the legal community build a support around them, —
Rocky Dhir:°Got it.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°– so that, they’re not out there, and hopefully, it’ll take root. The bigger programs in other States have student loan forgiveness attached to it. There’s a lot. So, I’m still studying that, and I’m still working and State Bar staff is working with me to see how it’s appropriate for the State Bar to engage in something like that, but I’m very encouraged by both those programs: the Dallas Main Street lawyer program, and then this Star program, and then using Txoji, which already exists, Frank Stephenson.
Rocky Dhir:°Frank Stephenson, absolutely.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah. So, a lot of using Txoji to kind of introduce that for the rural areas as well. Again technology, I think is going to lead the way. I think if we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, there’s a lot of things that we never imagined that we would do remotely, that we can do very well remotely.
Rocky Dhir:°In some cases better than doing it in person.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Now, I will tell you that some of those rural, those legal deserts, they lack broadband capability too. So, that’s a whole other issue.
Rocky Dhir:°Yeah, that may be well beyond our scope as lawyers. We kind of have to work with the technology that’s in place.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Right.
Rocky Dhir:°Let’s talk about the McDonald versus Sorrel’s lawsuit, and for those that are unfamiliar, you know, it might help if you can kind of tell us a little bit about the issues in that case. But it basically, boils down to whether we have a volunteer State Bar or whether we have a mandatory State Bar. And as I understand it, your position is, it needs to be a mandatory State Bar. So, if you could kind of walk us through where we are on that lawsuit, and tell us why you support a mandatory Bar
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Sure.
Rocky Dhir:°It might help us understand the rest of your position on that.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Sure. So, right now, we’re waiting for a decision out of the Fifth Circuit. The arguments were done, I believe in March. And so, we’re waiting for Fifth Circuit ruling with regard to the constitutionality of a mandatory Bar.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°We feel very strong that there’s decades of precedent that will support the continuation of the mandatory Bar, but more than that, I think, it’s important for us to get the buy-in from the lawyers, not just – okay, this is the way it exists, but to understand why we think it’s important.
Rocky Dhir:°And so, why is it? Yeah, please tell us? Yeah.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah, I’ll tell you, because it’s unique for us to have the ability to self-govern in Texas. Doctors don’t have that ability, dentists don’t have it, architects, CPAs, they’re all regulated by State agencies, if you will. And we get the right to do it ourselves. And to the degree, and we think, we do it better. We think that lawyers understand the way lawyers practice law better than an agency or a Board maybe just appointed by the governor.
I mean just if you would try to imagine if you will, what would this look like if tomorrow it was to is to disappear. It’s not that the lawyers will be allowed to exist without regulation. Somebody else will take up the responsibility, and it certainly won’t be anything we have control over like, we do now, and it may not be something that that we like.
So, yes, our system can always be improved, but we would like, to trust lawyers to do it rather than political appointees. I think that, you know, it’s important we get to vote on our leadership. We talked about that already. We get to vote on our own disciplinary rules, which we just did. We had in the midst of the pandemic, look how much work got done by the State bar.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°We had the rules of approval, which by the way, the Supreme Court has already approved as well. Those rules will become effective first of July.
Rocky Dhir:°It’s official.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Well, it’s official now. And we get to vote on Firth: ° the amount of our dues, which is important to the what people and if you follow social media like I do, and had to do it for my campaign, and that’s the way we communicate now,
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°People will talk about you know, “What do I get for my dues?” And if you think are dues are not that cumbersome. If you think, they range from $68 a year for the lawyers that are licensed less than 3 years, and the maximum is $235 a year, for those that are licensed more. And then remember you age out, after you get to a certain age, you don’t even have to pay dues, because of the sound fiscal management of the State Bar, we haven’t had dues increase in 30 years. 1991 was the last time. So, I think we’re doing a good job self-governing, and I think, it’s important for lawyers to accept that fact, and be supportive of it as well.
Rocky Dhir:°Thank you for the for the detail on that, so we can kind of get our arms around it. I want to play make believe for just a second. I want to imagine, and maybe this won’t be make-believe, maybe this could actually happen. So, imagine there’s going to be a movie on your life, and you’re going to be played for present purposes, you’re going to be played by Michael J. Fox, and I’m going to tell you why, because he’s going to move back in time to UT graduation 1984. What would Michael’s portrayal of Sylvia say to the 1984 sylvia about the path that lay ahead? And more importantly, would you make any changes and disrupt the space-time continuum?
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Well, you know, it’s interesting that you asked that question because I’ve already been thinking about what I will say to law students. My calendar is already filling up with invitations to speak at orientations. And so, I’ve already been thinking like, “What do you say to them? What can you impart to them?”
Number one, I would I would say to them, to not be so rigid in or I’ll say this to myself, I mean, because you went over like, my career, and kind of all the different things that I’ve done in my career, and I would have never, well, with the exception of one job, which is the job that I always wanted. I would have never anticipated the other things.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°So, it’s like, be open to opportunities. The practice of law is very exciting, and diverse, and don’t miss out on an opportunity just because you’ve set your sights on this one dream job that you have, and you other opportunities may be coming around you, and you don’t even realize these great opportunities. So don’t be so set in your ways, be flexible. I’d also would say, if you find yourself in a place where you’re not happy, if you’ve gone and a made a career choice that’s making you less than happy or is unfulfilling or don’t be afraid to make a change. Don’t be afraid to, it is scary, and I’ve been there.
Rocky Dhir:°It really is, yes.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°It really is very scary, because you have this security of what you know, and you’re looking at the unknown or even just stubbornness. In my case I have overstayed a job just out of stubbornness because I was like, “I’m not going to be beat by these people. They will not break me.”
Rocky Dhir:°I’m working for them out of spite.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah, but why? You know, life is too short. You only have one life, and don’t measure your success by other people. Just because other people –
Rocky Dhir:°That’s a hard one. Especially, when you look around, you know, and you see, all the humble bragging that happens online.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah, exactly.
Rocky Dhir:°And you think, “Oh, what am I doing wrong?”
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah, I’m not in my private jet flying somewhere to, yeah exactly.”
Rocky Dhir:°Well, speak for yourself.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°But I’m just that. I think, I mean, everybody measures success in different ways, and that’s okay, that’s as it should be. You know, it’s like, if you’re happy working from your home because your toddlers are in the other room, and you know they’re there, and you’re not making as much money as you could if you were downtown at the big firm, but you’re happy, that’s all that you need to be worried about, and you’re doing a good job at what you do. And that would be, what I would say, to Sylvia Borunda who was you know, which by the way, was I think she’s never going to come home to El Paso. I’m leaving. I’m never going somewhere else.
Rocky Dhir:°And now, here you are.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Yeah, here I am, and very proud to be here.
Rocky Dhir:°We could talk about this all day because there’s a lot here, but we are we are running short of time. And again, this was a real pleasure. So, president Sylvia Borunda Firth, I want to thank you for joining us, and of course, thank you for your Bar service not only what you’ve done, but what lay ahead, and the best of luck with your presidency. I’m looking forward to this.
Sylvia Borunda Firth:°Thank you. I’m looking for it feels real. The fact, we were able to gather last week for the Board meeting as you said, we lawyer live on the energy of other people. So, it was great to be around the others. I’m looking forward to a very busy– the first-year directors are coming in, are full of energy, and ready to go, and the second-year directors, God, bless them, who never got to have an in-person meeting their whole first year are full of energy, and revitalized. So, we got two classes of directors that are ready to work, and I think, we have plenty. We’ve got a laundry list of things to do, and I’m looking forward to it. I’m really energized, and looking forward to working hard to make El Paso proud for their first president, and to just do a good job.
Rocky Dhir:°I think there’s a lot riding on you, and I think, you’re going to come through with flying colors. So again, thank you for joining us today. And of course, I want to thank you for tuning in, and listening. And I want to encourage you of course, to continue to stay safe, and be well.
Rocky Dhir:°If you like what you heard today, please rate and review us in Apple podcasts, Google podcast, or your favorite podcast app. Until next time, remember life’s a journey folks. I’m Rocky Dhir, signing off.
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Podcast transcription by Tech-Synergy.com