Rocky Dhir welcomes Laura Gibson and Trey Apffel to hear all about what to expect at the June 22 & 23 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting 2023. They talk through the “CLE on steroids” programs, making the most of your conference experience, and later highlight each of the scheduled keynote speakers. What can lawyers learn from a filmmaker? Tune in for insights on Daytripper creator Chet Garner’s session centered around his exploration of the great state of Texas. Rocky, Laura and Trey also discuss the drama surrounding controversial speaker Attorney General William Barr.
Register now! Online registration closes Sunday, June 18, 2023.
Laura Gibson was the 2022/23 President of the State Bar of Texas and is a member of Dentons’ Litigation and Dispute Resolution practice and the Managing Partner of the Houston office.
E.A. “Trey” Apffel III became executive director of the State Bar of Texas in December 2017.
Special thanks to our
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 State Bar of Texas Podcast. For the longest time I yearn to meet the listener of this podcast. I knew it wasn’t my mom, so I was just mostly morbidly curious to know who’s checking in. So imagine my delight when I learned that there are actually more than one of you. Kidding aside, guys, I do love it when I get to meet you all in person. One of the best places to do that honestly is the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting. For those who don’t know, it takes place every year in June in a rotating set of cities. This year, we’ll be in Austin, at the amazing JW Marriott. I can’t wait. The annual meeting, it’s a chance to meet other lawyers, see exactly why we have the best state bar in the country. Get a glimpse into what our leadership is cooking up.
By the way, speaking of leadership, I have two of our APEX leaders here with me today. We have Laura Gibson. She is the 2022 – 2023 president of the State Bar of Texas. W have Trey Apffel. He’s a past president of the State Bar and currently serves as the State Bar’s executive director. These guys are heavy-hitters; they’ve been nice enough to join us today. Guys, I’ve got to take a moment here. I love bragging about our state bar. I really do, and it’s not just because I host this podcast. I will tell you, honestly, you guys remember COVID, when it all started and courts were in the dark?
Rocky Dhir: Oh, man! We’re all remembering, right? Well, some of you might remember how our courts here in Texas were online in record time. Every single court in the State of Texas. All the state courts were online and we were the first state to do that. We have an amazing leadership, and now that the pandemic at least appears to be behind us, or is close to behind us, I’m excited to see what lay ahead. So guys, let’s welcome Laura and Trey. Guys, thank you for being here.
Laura Gibson: No, thank you for having us.
Trey Apffel: Rocky, glad to be here. Thank you very much.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely! So, Laura, let’s start with you, not just because ladies first, but because you’re the president. I mean, it’s fun to have you here. First of all, congratulations. You’ve had a very successful presidential term. I know you’ve had a certain set of initiatives and focuses for your presidential year. I know a lot of past presidents, they’ve kind of focused their initiatives largely outward. You know, serving underprivileged groups, increasing access to justice, educating the public, things like that, and I know you’ve been doing a lot of that, but you’ve also done something maybe a little bit unique and that you’ve concentrated a large chunk of your attention inward. The grievance process, succession planning, attorney wellness. Talk to us about the why. Why did you hone in on those issues, and tell us a little bit about what has happened over the course of your presidential term that has addressed those issues.
Laura Gibson: Well, Rocky, you know, I had the privilege of serving as the chair of the Board of the State Bar from 2018 to 2019, and during that time, it was brought to my attention that a number of our lawyers were dying, disappearing or becoming disabled. That really concerned me, and I looked into that with the help of the State Bar, especially on how that impacted lawyers and their ability to do their job and represent their clients. Then when the pandemic hit, and that was such a hard time for all of us, I knew that our lawyers were even under more stress at that time. So I thought, what better year than this year to focus inward on our members and our mental health and getting our houses right so that we could be better lawyers for our clients and for the public.
Rocky Dhir: Was that a tough decision to kind of focus on those initiatives as opposed to doing — because the outward-facing stuff, at least on the surface, it sounds a bit sexier, you know? You made a tough decision to sort of focus on ourselves as a community. Was that a tough decision or was it obvious to you, when you said about it?
Laura Gibson: I felt like it was warranted under those circumstances. You know, I’d like to say that lawyers are like cobbler’s children with no shoes, and I always say to people, secure your own oxygen mask first. So, if we as a bar are not securing our own oxygen mask first, how can we be expected to help our clients? So, it just seemed to me it was paramount that we focus on our lawyers and their needs, and I think it’s resonated with a lot of our lawyers. Hopefully COVID kind of gave us a reset and one silver lining from it may be that people are more likely to be honest about the stresses they’re going through as they practice law.
Rocky Dhir: Two of the initiatives that you’ve talked about, and I know they’re CLEs that are currently available on the Texas Bar CLE site.
One of your initiatives was about the grievance process, helping lawyer better understand how the grievance process works. Then you’ve also spent a lot of time on attorney wellness and mental health. Do you see a connection there? What I mean by that is you know, is our grievance process too burdensome, too onerous? Do we as lawyers, do we maybe need to go easy on ourselves when it comes to some of these obligations, or how do you kind of thread that needle, you know, the grievance process when juxtaposed with attorney wellness?
Laura Gibson: Well I think our grievance process is very fair and equitable, and I think there’s a misconception that our grievance system which is one of our core responsibilities as a self-regulated entity to regulate our own is out to get our lawyers, and nothing could be further from the truth. What we’ve learned is that lawyers who are having issues with their performance on behalf of their clients are likely to be suffering from their own mental health issues that is keeping them from performing at their optimum levels. So to me, attorney wellness and the grievance system go hand in hand, because I’ve heard from so many lawyers who have gotten a grievance in the mail and they just shut down. They can’t represent themselves because they hate being accused of not doing a great job and there’s nothing wrong. If you get a grievance, just respond to it. Treat it like you would treat your client’s business. So, I think they go hand in hand and they’re both critical at this juncture in our profession.
Rocky Dhir: Laura, I always enjoy talking with you and you’re always so insightful. I don’t want to forget about Trey. Trey has been sitting here patiently. So, Trey, listen, as executive director, from your perch, walk us through some of the changes that we, lawyers can expect in our State Bar as a result of Laura’s initiatives and her leadership.
Trey Apffel: Well, thank you, Rocky, and let me just say congratulations to Laura on a tremendous year. She’s made a difference. She has reached a tremendous number of our lawyers with these three initiatives. For example, in terms of her initiative, what every lawyer should know about the attorney grievance system, there have been almost 14,000 people who attend the online class, lawyers. Then with regard to her succession planning initiative, Don’t Wait, Designate, she has reached almost 10,000 online registration opportunities for lawyers. Then lastly, her wellness initiative of just ask how must we stop minding our own business, there have been almost 25,000 lawyers who have reached out to witness and view this program. So she’s making a difference. She’s reaching our members. Our members are seeing something that the State Bar is offering that is beneficial to them, beneficial to them in their own lives but it’s also beneficial in terms of them being able to improve the quality of the legal service that they provide to their clients.
Rocky Dhir: Do you think, Trey, that there’s a danger that maybe once Laura is no longer president, or maybe in another two, three years, people forget about these issues. What is the State Bar’s plan for sort of keeping these issues? Succession planning, attorney wellness and the grievance process, keeping those top of mind so that we don’t just forget about it in future years.
Trey Apffel: Great question, Rocky. Those issues are not going to go away. Those opportunities to meet our lawyers are not going to go away. We need to stay engaged with our membership with regard to attorney wellness, and certainly, with regard to explaining to our lawyers and educating our lawyers on the ins and outs so to speak of our grievance system. Just like President Gibson said, our system is a fair and equitable one. It’s just that when lawyers are in law school, they’re not taught in-depth about our grievance system or how it operates or what you should do. I remember, as a young lawyer myself many, many years ago now, when a lawyer in my firm got a grievance, I thought, “What is that?” I just didn’t know. So I think we’re doing a much better job educating our lawyers, and I can tell you the state bar is going to remain committed and engaged in all three of these initiatives moving forward.
Laura Gibson: And Rocky, if I might, the Law Practice Management Committee has been working all year. You know, it’s hard, and until you’ve sat in this seat, you don’t really understand how these initiatives work, but there’s only so much that the president can do on his or her own so we need our committees and our sections to help implement some of these. I’m delighted that the Law Practice Management Committee has spent most of this bar year focusing on how they can make succession planning easier.
I recorded a message when I was in Austin last week that will be unveiled right around the time of the Annual Meeting, and on June 21 we’ll be celebrating Designate Your Custodian Day, we thought it would be perfect. John(ph), Meredith(ph) and Houston(ph) came up with the idea because Wednesday, June 21 is the longest day of the year. So what better day for us as lawyers who are well known for our procrastination to designate June 21 as the day to designate your custodian attorney so that your files can be returned to your clients. If something, God forbid, happens to you, so that your families don’t have to have that responsibility, because there is just simply no way that the bar can step in and handle a lawyer’s file if something happens to her and she hasn’t designated a custodian attorney. So to your listeners, if you’re a solo practitioner lawyer and you haven’t designated a custodian, you can do it in about the same amount of time it takes for you to check in and get your boarding pass on Southwest Airlines. So there is no excuse not to designate a custodian, and just watch out for the unveiling of the toolkit that the Law Practice Management Committee will be unveiling in the month of June.
Rocky Dhir: Well, and actually, to the listeners, you can also check it out on past episodes of the State Bar Podcast, because we’ve actually talked about the succession planning. There’s an online tool that you can use for it. There’s also protections in place for the succeeding lawyer, the one that you designate, so that that way, they don’t get stuck with any thorny issues in the event that they’re just simply trying to pass your files along.
Laura Gibson: And essentially, yeah, they are provided the same protections that a court-appointed custodian gets. That means that they are not liable except in case of gross negligence or intentional misconduct. So your self-designated custodian is protected and we have our Member Benefits Group looking into the development of an insurance policy that could possibly provide some compensation to your custodian for the services that they render. So hopefully, that will be our next tool that we can unveil.
Rocky Dhir: Okay! Now, I assume, Trey, Laura, you guys must be both eagerly anticipating the annual meeting and getting to see everybody and do that. We’re going to talk about that in just a second, but of course, we need to hear from one of our sponsors. So guys, stay tuned. When we come back, we’re going to talk about this annual meeting. You don’t want to miss it because there’s something a little spicy going on at this year’s annual meeting. So, stay tuned. We’ll be right back
Register now for the 2023 State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting. Join us June 22nd to 23rd at the JW Marriott in Austin for two full days of continuing legal education and a chance to network with fellow legal professionals. Use the opportunity to visit our specialized lineup of exhibitors and discover innovative ways to advance your legal practice. You can still register even though the annual meeting is right around the corner. Visit texasbar.com/annualmeeting and register today.
So I don’t know about you, but I’m always curious about great client relationships and what they all have in common. So, I thought I would ask the man himself, Joshua Lenon, Lawyer in Residence at Clio about that very question. So Joshua, client relationships, tell us about it.
Joshua Lenon: Thanks, Rocky. Yeah, in our latest Legal Trends Report we found the one thing that led to great client relationships was cloud-based software.
Rocky Dhir: Cloud-based. No kidding? Okay.
Joshua Lenon: Yeah. Law firms using cloud-based legal practice management software were 43% more likely to have good relationships with their clients, and that actually led to positive reviews and increased the firm’s profile and hire ability.
Rocky Dhir: All right. Well, look, it’s interesting but I want to learn more. Where do I go for this?
Joshua Lenon: Oh, it’s part of our Legal Trends Report. It’s available for free at Clio.com/trends. That’s Clio, we spell it C-L-I-O.com/trends.
Rocky Dhir: Well, folks, we are back and as we’ve been talking about, we’ve got our State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting coming up June 22nd and 23rd at the JW Marriott in Austin. This is going to be a fantastic meeting. But, Trey, I remember at this time last year we had a very similar conversation to this one and I had asked you whether — the 2022 annual meeting, that one was in Houston, whether we’re going to be fully “back to normal.” For a lot of our listeners, you might remember 2020 and 2021 were both virtual annual meeting. In 2022, we were finally back in person, and the question was, are we going to be fully back to normal? Your answer was, “Yes, but…” and there were a series of precautions and things that were going to be in place to, again, keep everybody safe and healthy.
In your view, are we fully back to “normal” this year in Austin, or do we still have vestiges of the pandemic still following us around?
Trey Apffel: I am happy to report, Rocky, that we are fully back to normal.
Rocky Dhir: Bam!
Trey Apffel: Yeah, it’s wonderful. It’s just fantastic. We all remember the virtual annual meetings of the past and my gosh, I hope no one ever has to experience another annual meeting like that. But I am here to announce the gloves are off, no pun intended, and we’re looking forward to a great annual meeting.
Rocky Dhir: And I have to give a shout out to all the planners for our virtual annual meetings. I mean, it was a Herculean task, and man, did the State Bar deliver on both of those. But he has to have it fully back to normal. Laura, I think you might be our first fully post-pandemic president at this point because you had a pretty normal annual meeting to usher in your presidency, and now you’ve had a very back-to-normal kind of year with the back-to-normal annual meeting. I take it that’s not lost on you. That must be a pretty special feeling.
Laura Gibson: Oh, absolutely. You know, I really felt for my predecessors who didn’t get the opportunity to meet the lawyers in the State of Texas and perform the functions that they were responsible for in an in-person capacity. While our annual meeting last year, our attendance was significantly down. It was robust enough that it felt like a normal annual meeting, and this this year’s annual meeting will be even better. So, I’ve been very gratified that I have had some sense of normalcy as the current president of the State Bar of Texas.
Rocky Dhir: I knew last year was a little down when the ice cream came out, and I was actually able to get my hands on one of the ice cream sandwiches, because those go first. This is going to be fun. I’m looking forward to seeing everybody. So, look, I looked through the program and we’ve got some really phenomenal keynote speakers, including an arguably controversial one, but let’s start with the easy ones. So, Bench Bar Breakfast, we have Justice Debra Lehrmann and Timothy Berg. So, Laura, why don’t you tell us about this? What are they going to be talking about and why should folks be attending the Bench Bar Breakfast?
Laura Gibson: Well, let me first talk about why you should be attending the annual meeting if I might, because before I got involved in bar leadership, I remember people saying, “You should attend the annual meeting,” and I thought, “Why? What goes on in an annual meeting?” I don’t think we, as a bar have done as good of a job as we can, although we’ve tried mightily to let people know that this is basically like a normal CLE but on steroids, because it essentially can get your full year worth of CLE in two days. We have different tracks so you can pick and choose. So a lot of our mistake, if you’re a family law lawyer, you probably go to the Advanced Family Law session, if you’re a real estate, you go to the real estate. These have those tracks. So each of our sections has planned a robust and really great CLE program. But if you want to be more well-rounded or maybe expand to a different area of the law, you can check out other areas, pick and choose, à la carte, so it gives you more flexibility. Then on top of that, you see more lawyers than you will see any other time of the year, and the ability —
Rocky Dhir: That’s a good thing, right, seeing more lawyers?
Laura Gibson: Absolutely.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, okay, good.
Laura Gibson: Well, in the sense that you want to talk to people who don’t do what you do and remind them that you’re out there. I mean, after three years of the pandemic, we all kind of need to remind one another, “Hey, I’m still active. I’m still practicing. I’m still accepting new clients. Hey, I’d like to refer business to you.” So this is the perfect opportunity to do this at a really low cost and with great extras that you will not find in a typical CLE. So, let me say that about the annual meeting first.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely! I can tell you from my experience, it’s always fun to see folks and to — and yeah, you get to connect with people you don’t normally see in your city. So come on out, folks. Don’t be shy and don’t stay home. So let’s talk about this Bench Bar Breakfast though, because this looked pretty interesting when we’ve got Justice Lehrmann and Timothy Berg. What are they going to be talking about and what’s going to make this a special Bench Bar Breakfast?
Laura Gibson: Well, they’re really going to be substantive. So, Justice Debra Lehrmann is not only our liaison to the State Bar Board of Directors, she’s the longest-serving female justice in Texas. She’s the senior justice on the Texas Supreme Court. She served almost 35 years including her time as a trial judge in Tarrant County. She’s nationally known, she’s a former chair of the ADA Family Law section. She’s a commissioner on the Uniform Law Commission, she’s a member of the American Law Institute.
Timothy Berg who is her co-presenter is from Phoenix, Arizona. He’s a distinguished attorney handling business litigation, and he’s also a commissioner on the Arizona Uniform Laws. He works on drafting committees for projects involving uniform state laws, and it just seems the trend is with the Uniform Bar Exam, the UBE, here to stay, and the Uniform Bar Exam content being modified, this is an important issue for lawyers to know about so that we’re educated about what students are learning in law school. You know, I was surprised when I attended a meeting of the national — I guess our bar examiner boards that they’re talking about that law schools hardly teach procedure anymore because it’s becoming more of a nationwide topic, it’s uniform. So that means that if you’re a law firm and you’re recruiting a law student, you’re going to have to beef up your own training programs on Texas procedure. So if you’re a leader in any organization, it’s important for you to know how the Uniform Bar Exam is going to change and what effect that will have on how lawyers in the State of Texas are trained and what we need to do to bridge any gap in that training.
Rocky Dhir: That make sense. Okay, so this is going to be a serious topic that I think a lot of lawyers have not maybe paid much attention to. Then Friday, our general session, the luncheon, Trey, we have Chet Garner who sounds like just a fascinating guy. He’s a filmmaker. Tell us a little bit more about Chet and why should we come listen to him? What would lawyers learn from a filmmaker?
Trey Apffel: Well, not only have I seen Chet Garner on TV, on his Daytripper television show, I have met him personally. He was a presenter for us at a conference earlier in the year and he’s a captivating speaker. He is the creator, host and executive producer of the Daytripper, and that is a 13-time Emmy Award-winning Texas travel show and it airs on PBS stations across the country. He is quite an interesting individual to say the least.
Rocky Dhir: Texas travel, I thought that was just, you know, you drive on 35 between Dallas and Austin or you drive on 45 between Dallas and Houston. I guess there’s more to it than that.
Trey Apffel: There’s more to it and he goes into great detail and depth covering all parts of the state. He’s an interesting guy because he earned a degree in radio television film from the Diversity of Texas at Austin. I won’t hold that against him since I’m a Baylor man.
Rocky Dhir: Oh, okay.
Trey Apffel: But then he went on to graduate first in his class from Baylor Law School. So that’s —
Rocky Dhir: So, he’s a lawyer.
Trey Apffel: He’s a lawyer, and so he practiced law for a short period of time for about three years and he decided to follow his passions and simultaneously inspire folks to appreciate the beauty, the history, the food and the culture of our lone star state, and he does a tremendous job and he will take you on a journey, I promise.
Laura Gibson: It’s my memory that he was number one in this law school at Baylor and that he spent the first three years practicing at Norton Rose Fulbright. But I mean, Trey’s right, he’s a very entertaining speaker. He spoke to the Southern Conference of Bar Presidents when they were in our state last October. You will learn more about Texas historical and tourist trivia than you would even know existed, and as a native Texan, I learned a lot that I didn’t know about our state, and I was kind of embarrassed, but that was the case. But he is definitely a very engaging speaker.
Rocky Dhir: Okay, sold. Sold, I want to hear this now. We’re going to talk about the big kahuna, the one that’s on Thursday.
Laura Gibson: The big B, right?
Rocky Dhir: Yes, yes, the Thursday luncheon speaker. For those of you that haven’t checked out the materials and are wondering what I keep building up to, we’re going to be hearing from former Attorney General Bill Barr, and this is going to be a juicy topic with a juicy speaker. Before we get into that, let’s hear from one of our sponsors and we’re going to come back and Laura and Trey are going to talk to us about Bill Barr and what brought him to the State Bar of Texas. Stay tuned.
The Texas Lawyers Assistance Program provides confidential help for Texas lawyers, law students and judges who have problems with substance use and mental health issues. TLAP offers 24/7 confidential support and can connect you to peers and providers for assistance. TLAP can also connect you to the Sheeran-Crowley Lawyer Wellness Trust which provides financial help to Texas lawyers, law students and judges who need treatment for substance use, depression and other mental health issues but can’t afford to pay for services. Call or text TLAP anytime at 1-800-343-8527.
Craig Williams: Today’s legal news is rarely as straightforward as the headlines that accompany them. On Lawyer 2 Lawyer we provide legal perspectives you need to better understand the current events that shape our society. Join me, Craig Williams and a wide variety of industry experts as we break down the top stories. Follow Lawyer 2 Lawyer on the Legal Talk Network or wherever you subscribe to podcasts.
Rocky Dhir: And we’re back, guys. So, I left you on a bit of a cliffhanger. We’ve got former Attorney General Bill Barr who’s going to be our Thursday keynote luncheon speaker at the annual meeting in Austin. Now, Laura, this year’s annual meeting committee made a pretty gutsy decision by choosing — and Bill Barr is a two-time former attorney general both for George Bush 41, as well as for President Donald Trump. Now, walk us through the thought process, if you would, of — I mean knowing that this is going to be a lightning rod or a potential lightning rod-type of topic, walk us through what led to the decision to bring Mr. Barr as our keynote.
Laura Gibson: Well, first of all, you know, our Annual Meeting Committee is a volunteer committee and they do a great job. Leslie Dippel and Randy Howry out of Austin are our co-chairs of the annual meeting this year. They assembled a diverse committee. They worked through the planning of this meeting, like they always do. They had a robust and healthy discussion about Bill bar and the consensus was that while people didn’t all agree with General Barr, that he certainly is a historical figure. As you say, he held positions in two different cabinets, as attorney general, and he’s only one of two people to ever have served as attorney general in non-consecutive administrations. He’s held positions also in the Reagan Administration, he’s held a position with the US Justice Department and with the CIA. Whether we agree with his views or his opinions on politics or governance in general, we can all agree that he is an impactful person in 20th century American life, and we have heard some complaints and we have assured the people who have complained that first, no bar dues are being utilized to pay Attorney General Barr his speaker fee, number one. Number two, we are going to have you, Rocky Dhir as our moderator.
Rocky Dhir: That’s the other bad news, folks. Yes.
Laura Gibson: No, that’s a good news because we are not giving Attorney General Barr a lectern and a free rein to say whatever he chooses. We are moderating this by having specific questions that will be posed to Attorney General Barr where we have sought impact from our sections. Sorry, we had sought input from our sections and asked them to submit questions to you as moderator that we will review and decide which are appropriate to ask of Attorney General Barr. As lawyers, we defend basic rights, and one of those basic rights is the freedom of speech. You know, it’s easy and comfortable to defend the right to free speech when we agree with the speaker, but it’s essential to the rule of law that we defend speakers with whom we don’t agree. This is not the first time that the State Bar of Texas has had a divisive personality speak to the bar. But I think that whatever your beliefs are you will be interested in what Attorney General Barr has to say. I welcome you to attend and to the extent you want to submit questions, send them our way, and let’s see if we can work them into the program.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely.
Laura Gibson: The polarized times are the one when we’re in danger of losing our rights because we’re so disagreeable with one another. But that’s where we as lawyers owe it to the rule of law to recognize that the right of freedom of speech should be honored and it’s being honored here.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely. And in all fairness, and yes, President Laura, thank you for giving the shout out to me as the moderator for that discussion. I will let everybody know that Attorney General Barr has made it clear, the fireside chat format where it’s an interviewer and it’s a moderated discussion, he’s all for it and is all in. So, you know, it’s not like he’s trying to hide behind the lectern either. So we have a very good and very compelling speaker. You know, Trey, I’d like to know, you know, when the annual meeting is over, Laura gets the best job in the house and that is immediate past president once that’s over. You as executive director will probably be left with whatever — if people are upset in any way, you’ll be the one that’s probably facing a lot of those complaints and a lot of that feedback.
So, what would you say to those who say something like, “You know, Bill Barr doesn’t deserve to be given a platform in light of his record.” What would be your response to that as executive director of the State Bar of Texas?
Trey Apffel: Rocky, I can tell you that part of the State Bar’s mission statement and our purpose under the statute that creates us is to provide forums for the healthy discussion of issues relating to and pertaining to the rule of law. I can think of no better opportunity for us to do just that by inviting Attorney General Barr to our meeting and have him share with us his thoughts on having served two presidents as attorney general over the course of time. Maybe we can all learn something. So, I think it’s an opportunity for us to have good healthy discussion so that our profession and perhaps, our nation can continue to grow in the right direction. Whatever that right direction may mean to different people, we have to move in that direction, the right direction for everybody.
Rocky Dhir: Absolutely. Just for my part and I agree with both of you on this, if there’s anybody who can take on and hear, and listen to, and digest, and analyze an opposing viewpoint, it’s us. We’re the lawyers, we’re the ones that are trained to do that. So, you know, this is a good exercise, I think, for all of us, whether you agree with Attorney General Barr, whether you disagree with him or whether it’s — it’s a mixed bag, folks. Come on out and listen to what he has to say, and then there’s going to be plenty of interesting dinnertime discussion on Thursday night. If you don’t, in fact — for whatever reason, if you don’t make it out to the president’s party that night, you’ll have plenty to talk about with all of your cohorts and all the new friends you make at the State Bar of Texas Annual Meeting. I did notice on the program we’ve got some phenomenal programming this year. We’ve got the Adaptable Lawyer track, we’ve got all of the committees who just got some stellar programming. So Trey, we’ll start with you, is there anything in particular that you’re kind of looking forward to? I don’t mean to put that in terms of, you know, do you have a favorite, but is there something you’re excited about and that you’re interested in going in and checking out.
Trey Apffel: Not from the CLE standpoint, although the CLE program will be just fantastic. My favorite event of the entire meeting is always the 50-year lawyer recognition where the State Bar honors our 50-year lawyers, and this year it will be those lawyers licensed in Texas in 1973. So, we will hold a reception for them and then recognition of them during the general session luncheon on Friday. This year, we have 1,175 lawyers who are reaching this milestone.
Rocky Dhir: Wow!
Trey Apffel: And we have 109 of them who have confirmed that they will be in attendance at the luncheon with their families and guests, and it’s just going to be a tremendous celebration. Just a matter of personal privilege, both my father and my uncle were 50-year lawyers. When I go have an opportunity to speak to our 50-year lawyers at the annual meeting, I tell them my personal story in connection to that 50-year lawyer mark. So, congratulations to all of our 50-year lawyers.
Rocky Dhir: How scary is it that to me, 1973 doesn’t seem that long ago. It’s like, that’s 50 years. Laura, how about you? What are you looking forward to in terms of programming that’s going to take place at the annual meeting?
Laura Gibson: We talked about Bill Barr being the speaker at the Thursday luncheon, but we didn’t talk about the fact that the Thursday luncheon is called the Local Bar Leaders Luncheon. And before we get to the speaker, we have the recognition of, you know, the lifeblood of our bar, which is the local volunteers doing good work in our community, and we get to see the great things they’ve accomplished this year and honor them for that work. So that’s a big component of the Thursday luncheon as well, and then I’m really excited about Friday, June 23. You know, while I got the benefit of being the first non-COVID president, I got 13 days added on. So I serve not just 365, but 378 because I was sworn in on June 10 and I’m going out on June 23. So they’ve added a two-week period to my term, so I am delighted to be passing the gavel to Cindy Tisdale who will be the 143rd president of the State Bar of Texas and the ninth woman to hold that role. I know she’s just going to do an excellent job and I look forward to hearing about her platform and supporting her so that next year, ’23 – ’24 we have a great year again.
Rocky Dhir: It’s going to three women in a row by the time her term ends. So it’s going to be another historic time for our State Bar. So, one final question before we head out, and Laura, we’ll start with you on this one. I’m just going to say it in very simple terms. Just how amazing is our State Bar staff? Can we talk about them for a second?
Laura Gibson: Oh my gosh. They are incredible. You know, Rocky, most people don’t know that Texas, because of our geographic position, Texas is a member of the Southern Conference of Bar Presidents and also the Western Conference of Bar Presidents, which means we have the opportunity to network with both of those groups. When we go to those events, everyone in the room looks at us, like Texas is it, and we couldn’t —
Rocky Dhir: Because we are.
Laura Gibson: Well, we are. I mean, I have attended other bar’s conferences, their annual meetings and while they do a good job, it is no comparison to the value that we offer for our members. When we ask those leaders in those other bars, how many of them have dues that are $235 a year, none of them have dues that are that low, but literally, Trey Apffel and his team, Lowell Brown, Ray Cantu, KaLyn Laney, Jennifer Reams(ph) and I could go on, Paul Burks has just done a phenomenal job. I’ve had a number of opportunities to record programming for our members, and they all are just incredible. They are the best of the best in the country.
Rocky Dhir: Trey, after the annual meeting, you’re either stuck with them or they’re stuck with you. We can’t figure out which way that goes. But what’s it like to work with these amazing folks?
Trey Apffel: Rocky, I’m proud to stand with these amazing folks. Each and every day, they never cease to amaze me in terms of their quest for excellence. They care not only about what they do, they care about our lawyer members, they care about protecting the public, they care about our administration of our court system. They care about the rule of law. They care about the people of Texas. They take good care of all of us. As I said, I’m very proud to be a part of our staff and lead our staff each and every day, and all the credit for a successful annual meeting goes to our staff, to our incredible leadership under President Gibson this year, and they’ve just done a fantastic job.
Rocky Dhir: Well, I can tell you from personal experience, the staff is amazing. So if for no other reason you want to go to this annual meeting and every annual meeting just to hang out with them and get to know them, they’re the unsung heroes of all these amazing work that goes on.
Laura Gibson: Well, and I was missing — not mentioning Chris Ritter as well. Chris Ritter is now our legal counsel sole in that role, and he, many of you might know, he worked as executive director of the Texas Lawyer Assistance Program for many, many years. Having a person of Chris’ intelligence and legal acuity who also has the background and knowledge of the stresses that our local lawyers go through makes him uniquely qualified to serve our members. So we couldn’t have a stronger bar than the bar we have right now.
Rocky Dhir: Well, guys, you know, I’m excited for the 2023 annual meeting. I’m always excited for the annual meeting, but this one in particular I think holds some special significance given that we are now post-COVID. So, 2023 annual meeting in Austin. Guys, be there. Laura and Trey, thank you for joining us and for your continued leadership of this Herculean state bar. Thank you both.
Laura Gibson: No, thank you. Online registrations open through June 18. So go ahead and register now.
Rocky Dhir: It’s not too late. Remember, June 22nd to 23rd 2023 in Austin. Just go to texasbar.com/annualmeeting. It’s pretty easy.
Laura Gibson: And you can actually show up in person and we’ll take you then.
Rocky Dhir: Oh, you could do that too.
Laura Gibson: Yes.
Rocky Dhir: But if you want to get in ahead of time and avoid the lines, texasbar.com/annualmeeting. There’s no excuse not to be there, right, Laura? No excuse.
Laura Gibson: None.
Rocky Dhir: And of course, I want to thank you for tuning in, guys. You guys are the lifeblood of podcasts and I want to encourage you all to stay safe and be well and I want to see you in Austin in June. If you like what you heard today, please rate and review us in Apple Podcast, Google Podcast or your favorite podcast app. Until next time. Remember, life’s a journey, folks. I’m Rocky Dhir signing off.