Texas Law School Grad Gets Appointment from President of the United States

Last week, President Barack Obama announced his intent to appoint several individuals to the President’s third Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships.

Among them was Rabbi Steve Gutow, President of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs and a recipient of both a B.A. and J.D. from the University of Texas.  Rabbi Gutow also served as Adjunct Professor of Law at the St. Louis University Law School up until 2004. The Whitehouse noted that he has helped lead the “Fighting Poverty with Faith” interfaith initiatives since 2008 and the anti-hunger Seder events at the U.S. Capitol since 2009.  From 2008 to 2009, Rabbi Gutow served as Chair of the Save Darfur Coalition, and currently serves as executive committee member of its successor organization, United to End Genocide.  He is the founding executive director of the National Jewish Democratic Council, which was founded in 1990.  Rabbi Gutow has served as a member of the Board of Faith in Public Life from 2010 to 2013.  He currently serves as Chair of the Board of the National Religious Partnership for the Environment and has served on its executive committee since 2012.

The President’s Advisory Council on Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships brings together religious and secular leaders as well as scholars and experts in fields related to the work of faith-based and neighborhood organizations.The charge for this Council focuses on steps the government should take to reduce poverty and inequality and create opportunity for all, including changes in policies, programs, and practices that affect the delivery of services by faith-based and community organizations and the needs of low-income and other underserved persons.


Austin Bar Foundation Receives Grant from Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation to Expand Free Legal Clinics for Veterans

The Austin Bar Foundation received a $127,800 grant from the Texas Equal Access to Justice Foundation.  This grant is for a two-year period and will allow the Austin Bar to hire a part-time attorney to expand the Veterans Free Legal Advice Clinic in Travis County, and to start clinics in Bastrop, Blanco, Burnet, Caldwell, Gillespie, Hays, and Williamson counties.10653537_10152859467538990_1898819128704717451_n

The Austin Bar Foundation has been sponsoring the clinic in Travis County for over five years at the Austin VA Outpatient Clinic.  Approximately 2,065 veterans have received assistance at the clinics since they began. On average, Austin Bar attorneys assist 30 veterans at each clinic, held ten times a year on the second Monday of each month.  The grant will help the Foundation to meet the greater needs of veterans both in and outside of Travis County.  While the veteran population has decreased on a national level, Texas has seen an increase. There are over 130,000 veterans in Travis County and those counties in which the legal clinics will be expanded.

According to the National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics:

  • The poverty rates for veterans is increasing;
  • The poverty rates for disabled veterans is rising faster than that of non-disabled veterans;
  • The poverty rate for veterans receiving Service-Connected Disability is much lower and shows the importance of those benefits in assisting veterans in avoiding poverty; and
  • The veteran population is also seeing increases in the number of female and minority veterans.

The goal of the clinics is to provide high-quality legal assistance to low income veterans and their families to remove the barriers that keep veterans at or below the poverty level. The assistance will come in the form of free legal advice clinics and pro bono representation. The Texas Access to Justice Foundation provides support to this program, along with the Austin Bar Foundation. The Austin Bar will partner with other local Bar Associations, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion Posts, and Veterans Services Offices in each county, taking cases and giving advice in all areas including Family Law, Landlord Tenant, Probate, Bankruptcy, and Veterans Benefits.

Attorney Douglas Lawrence has been hired to oversee the expansion of the Veterans Free Legal Advice Clinics.  Lawrence is a graduate of Indiana University and the University of Akron Law School. He is originally from Indiana and began practicing law in Cleveland, Ohio, representing the homeless in all manner of civil and criminal cases.  After moving to Texas, he continued in public service, working at non-profit agencies representing children along with the poor and the elderly.  For the past 10 years, he was lead attorney with Volunteer Legal Services, where he supervised countless legal clinics, helping low-income families with a broad range of legal issues.

According to Lawrence, “We will go where the veterans are.  We’ll set up clinics, give advice and take cases.  We will meet face to face with every veteran who needs legal assistance.  We’ll do whatever we can to help.”

The next Veterans Free Legal Advice Clinic will be held on Monday, November 9 from 1:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Austin VA Outpatient Clinic. For more information, visit www.austinbar.org/event/free-legal-advice-clinic-veterans-12.

Greenberg Traurig Adds Three to Real Estate Team in Austin

The international law firm of Greenberg Traurig, LLP has added three real estate attorneys to its Austin office. Carey Gunn Venditti, a native Austinite and a graduate of The University of Texas, who has nearly 20 years of experience joined as a shareholder, and Emily Jung and Jennifer Cook Purcell joined as associates. All three lawyers were previously with Winstead. Venditti joins her former colleague, Joshua Bernstein, a real estate shareholder in Greenberg Traurig’s Austin office.

Venditti focuses her practice on legal matters related to the development, build-out and administration of master planned community, mixed-use, commercial, residential, and condominium projects including various public-private partnerships. In representing developers of and investors in such projects, she assists with various phases of the development, including, acquisition, disposition, master development agreements, ground leases, marketing and sales, leasing, post-closing agreements, restrictive covenants, master governance structuring, community formation documents, easement, license and title issues, compliance with municipal ordinances or other government or agency regulations, planned unit developments, planned development districts and issues arising during the platting process. In addition, Venditti handles other key aspects of long term build-out or administration of multi-phased projects. Venditti received her Liberal Arts degree from The University of Texas at Austin and her law degree from the Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law.

Emily Jung focuses her practice on real estate transactions related to the structuring and development of commercial, residential, mixed-use and condominium projects, including legal issues related to acquisition, title review, sales and marketing, community formation documents, easements, licenses, purchase agreements, disclosures, governance, and build-out and administration of such projects. Jung is a Central Texas native who received her B.B.A. from the Business Honors Program of The University of Texas at Austin and her J.D. from Pepperdine University School of Law.

Jennifer Cook Purcell focuses her practice on the representation of corporate clients in land use and real estate development, including the formation and governance of condominium/property owners’ associations. Cook Purcell is a graduate of the Plan II Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin, and she received her J.D from the University of Houston Law Center. Cook Purcell is experienced representing clients in numerous transactions involving the acquisition, sale, development, and leasing of commercial and residential developments.

Husch Blackwell Partner Selected for Two Professional Appointments

Austin-based Hal Katz, a partner within Husch Blackwell’s Healthcare, Life Sciences and Education strategic business unit has been appointed to the Council of the ABA Health Law Section, and elected Treasurer of the Texas Bar Health Law Section.Hal

Katz is board certified in health law, with a concentration in general corporate and transactional areas, such as the purchase and sale of businesses, mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructurings, joint ventures, management arrangements, managed care and healthcare matters.  He is regularly asked by industry leaders to lecture on corporate, transactional and regulatory issues.

“It’s a privilege to serve within these two outstanding organizations.  They both provide a great service to their members, and I am committed to furthering the missions of both the ABA Health Law Section and the Texas Bar Health Law Section, “said Katz.

The Health Law Section is the voice of the national health law bar within the ABA.  Numbering more than 10,000 members across the United States, the Section represents clients in all segments of the healthcare industry.

The Health Law Section of the Texas State Bar is dedicated to supporting health law practitioners across the state and around the country in every practice setting.

Bracewell Expands Environmental Team with Four New Partners

Bracewell & Giuliani LLP has announced that four partners are joining its environment and natural resources practice. Sara M. Burgin, Kevin Collins, Matt Paulson, and Whit Swift, formerly of Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, will work primarily from Bracewell’s Austin office, joining the firm’s environmental team anchored in Austin, Houston and Washington, D.C.

The combined team have deep experience in air, water, wetlands, and waste issues, as well as contested case proceedings, strategic permitting assistance, infrastructure development, government investigations, enforcement defense, and crisis response, according to the firm.DSC_2181

Sara M. Burgin – advises industrial and municipal clients on water quality, including permitting, compliance and enforcement matters relating to industrial and storm water discharges; surface water and ground water rights; water contracts; Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasures requirements and applicability; Clean Water Act jurisdictional issues; and dredge and fill permitting.

Kevin Collins – is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney and advises clients on a wide range of workplace safety and environmental issues. He has experience responding to major industrial accidents and conducting internal investigations in the energy and chemical sectors.

Matt Paulson – represents companies in environmental matters including strategic permitting, enforcement and compliance, investigations, litigation, and crisis response. He advises on federal and state environmental law issues arising under the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the National Environmental Policy Act

Whit Swift – advises industrial companies on state and federal air quality permitting and regulations, such as Title V operating permits and New Source Review permitting. He represents clients in environmental litigation and contested case proceedings before the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings.

Bracewell & Giuliani’s environment and natural resources practice is an adviser to energy, power and industrial clients.

Meeting of Austin Managing Partners Forum Set for Thursday

The second meeting of the newly formed “Austin Managing Partners Forum” will take place on Thursday, September 24, 2015, at Husch Blackwell. The Forum, an initiative developed by the Austin Chapter of the Association of Legal Administrators, was created to provide networking and educational opportunities for managing partners from diverse practices and to offer a sense of increased community among Austin law firms.

The guest speaker at the September 24 meeting will be Brenda Barnes, CPA, Managing Principal of B2 Management & Consulting. Her presentation, “Partner Succession Planning – Is Your Firm Prepared?” will guide attendees through the elements of creating a strong succession plan.

Each meeting features a different speaker and discussion topic. The last session covered law firm employment issues.

“The goal of last November’s inaugural event was to create a relaxed, informal environment of like-minded professionals that allowed us to network and discuss the myriad issues managing partners face,” said Michael Slack, Managing Partner of Slack & Davis. “We plan on continuing that discussion and providing managing partners with the tools and skills necessary to resolve these issues.”

Date: Thursday, September 24, 2015
Time: 5:00 p.m. – 6:30 p.m. Drinks and light hors d’oeuvres will be provided.
Location: Husch Blackwell, 111 Congress Avenue, Suite 1400, Austin, Texas 78701.

If you are interested in attending, please RSVP to Teresa Ferguson, 512-795-8686 or tferguson@slackdavis.com.

New Firm Focuses on Meeting the Legal Needs of Doctors

Austinite Amanda Hill has launched a new law firm, www.hillhealthlaw.com, that provides outsourced general counsel work to healthcare groups, including help with audits, peer review, contracts and daily legal issues that come up in a practice.Amanda

Hill said her firm places a special emphasis on meeting the legal needs of doctors, a profession that is highly vulnerable to costly mistakes. “One slipup on an audit, security breach, or a business deal and they can lose everything,” Hill said.

She added that the industry “is highly regulated, highly audited, and a highly risky thing to tackle without help.  I’ve found that physician practices use a variety of different attorneys depending on the issue at hand. But there’s not a lot of coordination, and it’s very reactive.”

To counteract that, Hill created a different business model.  Instead of just hourly billing, Hill Law offers a flat-rate service for physician practices as well as federally qualified heath centers (FQHCs).

“The traditional law firm encourages attorneys to bill, bill, bill, and it creates an environment where the attorney isn’t part of the team,” Hill said.  She wanted to change that dynamic, making herself part of the group, where providers could call about a variety of issues and have a clear expectation of cost from month to month.

“There are so many issues a physician practice faces on a daily basis,” Hill said.  “From firing a key staff member to billing and coding concerns, there’s always something that pops up where having a health lawyer on their side is a real plus.”

LMA to Host Luncheon on ‘Data and Analytics that In-House Counsel are Watching and Why You Care’

The Austin City Group of the Legal Marketing Association will host a luncheon/workshop on “Data and Analytics that In-House Counsel are Watching and Why You Care” at the law firm of Scott Douglass & McConnico at 303 Colorado Street, Suite 2400 on Tuesday.

The speaker for the luncheon, which begins with registration at 11:30 and the talk at 12, will be Patrick Fuller, the President & CEO of the Deductive Intelligence Group. LMA members can attend for $20, while guests can pay $40.

The program, which will demonstrate “ways in-house legal departments and law firms are using quantitative analysis to manage their costs, evaluate their law firms, and run their legal department in a more efficient and effective manner” is described as follows:

“With law firm billings continuing to have a significant impact on clients’ bottom lines, corporate legal departments are embracing data analytics to better understand and manage their spend, changing the conversation about cost-management, metrics, and value.

“This revolution has been aided by service providers who help to illuminate the path to understanding by capturing and leveraging the massive amounts of data and intelligence derived from electronic billing. Savvy law firms are also effectively using the data to better understand what clients want, thereby strengthening client relationships.”

RSVP by visiting this link:



Proposed Changes in the Fair Labor Standards Act and What It Could Mean for Your Firm

From Austin-based B2 Management & Consulting:

On Monday, July 6, 2015, in response to a March 2014 executive order signed by President Obama, the Department of Labor (DOL) published a “Notice of Proposed Rulemaking”, which is a 60-day period for comments on the proposed changes to the current duties tests under the FLSA.

What does this mean for you and your business?  The proposed change increases the minimum salary level for exempt employees from $23,660 to $50,440.  This means that any employee currently making less than the $50,440 would be considered as nonexempt and will therefore be eligible for overtime pay.

Employees making $50,440 or more and whose job duties primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional duties as defined by the FLSA duties test, will be considered exempt from overtime pay.  The proposed rule also includes an increase in highly compensated employee (HCE) annual compensation to $122,148.  At this time the proposed rule does not include any other changes to the duties tests.

The proposed rule comment period ended on September 4th.  According to the experts, the consensus is that the proposed rule will go forward at the $50,440 minimum salary level and will become effective in early 2016.

What to do now:

As you are preparing your budget for 2016 you will want to do the following:

  1. Include additional overtime pay for those employees who will change to nonexempt because of the proposed rule.
  2. Ask your current exempt employees who will change to nonexempt because of the proposed rule to track their hours worked each week.  Have them do this for a month and then calculate the average number of hours worked.
  3. Multiply the average hours over 40 hours by one-and-a-half times their current hourly rate.
  4. Add up the overtime for all those employees and include this to your budget, or if the amount is excessive, it may be you will need to add an additional headcount.
  5. You may have some employees whose salary is close to the $50,440, or because of the additional overtime pay, you may want to give them an increase in their base pay in order to get them to the $50,440 so that they will keep their exempt status.

a.  Add up all of the salary increases and include these in your budget as well.

TRESL Set To Host Sports and Entertainent Law Symposium Friday on UT Campus

The Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports Law (TRESL) will host its annual sports and entertainment law symposium Friday at Texas Review of Entertainment & Sports at the University of Texas Law School in the Eidman Courtroom and adjacent Joe Jamail Pavilion. Registration begins at 8 a.m.

The agenda and speakers follow:

8:45-9:30 (45 min) Aggressors, Victims, and Bystanders – Addressing the domestic and sexual violence occurences in your client’s life-Panelists: Deena Kalai, Deena Kalai LLC; Holt Hackney, Hackney Publications; Bobby Perez, San Antonio Spurs

9:45-10:30 (45 min) – The Not So Good Agents, The Bad Talent Managers, and The Ugly Contracts – Dealing with mis-managers their bad decisions- Panelists: Deena Kalai, Deena Kalai LLC; Bobby Perez, San Antonio Spurs; Emilio Nicolas, Jackson Walker LLP

10:45-11:30(45 min)- Getting a Handle on Out of Hand Fans – Issues of liability for alcohol, drugs, and violence in the stands- Panelists: Holt Hackney, Hackney Publications; Bobby Perez, San Antonio Spurs; Emilio Nicolas, Jackson Walker LLP

12:00-12:45(45 min)- Keynote Speech: The Dark Side of Entertainment and Sports – Bobby Perez, San Antonio Spurs

12:45-1:45- Hour Lunch-

2:00- 2:45 (45 min)- Enhancement, Medication, and Recreation – The impact of legal and illegal drugs on your client’s talent and career- Panelists: Holt Hackney, Hackney Publications; Emilio Nicolas, Jackson Walker LLP

3:00- 3:45 (45 min)- Media, Morality, and Liability – How to balance media coverage, the ethics of your client, and the legal responsibility for your client’s actions- Panelists: Pete Reid of Pete Reid Law, PLLC; Emilio Nicolas, Jackson Walker LLP