UT Law School To Expand Pro Bono Program after $1 million Gift

A recent $1 million gift to The University of Texas School of Law from Richard and Virginia “Ginni” Mithoff of Houston will support the school’s Pro Bono Program. The gift brings the Mithoffs’ total contributions to the program to $2 million.

By participating in the Pro Bono Program, students increase access to justice and build their professional skills by assisting individuals and communities in need.The program will be renamed the Richard and Ginni Mithoff Pro Bono Program to acknowledge the donors who first supported it with an initial $1 million gift at its founding five years ago.

The Mithoffs’ recent donation will increase the endowment for the program.Richard Mithoff earned his J.D. from the School of Law in 1971.

“Richard Mithoff is one of the greatest lawyers in America, and he and his wife, Ginni, are two of the state’s most dedicated and generous philanthropists,” said Ward Farnsworth, dean of the School of Law. “We are deeply fortunate to have their support of our Pro Bono Program; the endowment they are creating to support its work will make an important difference in the lives of thousands of people for many years to come. Having the Mithoff name on the program does honor to their commitments and will be a constant source of pride and inspiration for everyone here at the Law School.”

Since 2009, the Pro Bono Program has grown to include full-time staffers and student scholars. It engages an increasing number of students, faculty members and alumni each year in pro bono work and offers service projects and legal clinics that help hundreds of people across the state.The expanded endowment for the program will allow it to serve more low-income clients, involve more students and instill in School of Law graduates a commitment to pro bono work that will continue throughout their careers.

The Pro Bono Program is a project of the school’s William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law. As a former law clerk for U.S. District Judge William Wayne Justice, Mithoff was also an early supporter of the Justice Center.

“The Pro Bono Program at the Texas School of Law is one of the finest pro bono programs in the country,” Richard Mithoff said. “Ginni and I are honored to be a part of this program, which not only provides outstanding training to our law students and future lawyers, but also provides very valuable legal assistance to those most in need. We are very proud of the overwhelming participation by students and faculty.”

Before graduating from the School of Law, Richard Mithoff received his bachelor of business administration from UT Austin. In 1974 he went into practice with legendary trial attorney and 1952 School of Law alumnus Joe Jamail. In 2005, he established the Mithoff Law Firm, which is focused on general civil litigation.He currently serves on the University of Texas Law School Foundation and has endowed a series of scholarships at his alma mater, including a Presidential Scholarship in law for educationally, socially and culturally disadvantaged students.Ginni Mithoff received her B.S. in elementary education from UT Austin and serves on the University of Texas Development Board and the University of Texas Health Science Center Development Board.

“I’m delighted the UT law school’s Pro Bono Program is being named for Richard and Ginni Mithoff,” said University of Texas at Austin President Bill Powers, who is also a former dean of the School of Law. “Increasing access to justice by serving those in need is an important value we need to instill in every UT law student. Through the Mithoffs’ generosity, we can now do that even better.”

Central Texas Attorney Writes About Emerging Lawsuits Involving Disposal of the Body

Brad Wiewel of the the Wiewel Law Firm recently blogged about emerging litigation involving disposal of the body:

If someone does not leave directions about how he or she wants to be buried or cremated after passing away, things can become problematic when family members disagree about what to do.

A recent case in Florida concerned the remains of a 23-year-old man who was killed by a drunk driver. The man was not married and did not have children. This left his parents as his sole heirs and his parents were divorced. The two disagreed over what to do with his ashes.

The father wanted to divide the ashes between the two of them, while the mother disagreed with that on religious grounds. Because they could not agree, they ended up in court.

To read the full story of this unusual litigation, click over to an article in Wealth Management titled “May He Rest in Pieces?.” The article has the entire story of the litigation, the legal theories the parents relied on, and why the court decided as it did.

Ultimately, the mother won in this case.

This case highlights two important issues. The first is that you should make the disposition of your remains part of your broader overall estate plan. That did not happen in this case because the deceased did not have an estate plan, not even a will.

This is another important issue and a common problem. Younger people think they have many years left to create an estate plan. However, as this case shows, you never know when you might have a life-ending accident. Without an estate plan, you very well could leave family members to argue over something as basic and fundamental as what to do with your remains.

Regardless of how old you are, make sure that you have made your wishes known and make sure that you consult an experienced estate planning attorney. You can never know when it will be too late to do either.

Reference: Wealth Management (September 24, 2014) “May He Rest in Pieces?

LMA Austin City Group Hosts Lunch Program on (Be)Cause Marketing

The Austin City Group of the Legal Marketing Association will host a lunch program on (Be)Cause Marketing on October 21 at The Law Office of Baker Botts on 98 San Jacinto Blvd.

The luncheon, which begins with a registration at 11:30, is $20 for LMA members, and $40 for guests.

The topic will be (Be)Cause Marketing, an exploration of Philanthropy, Charity, Corporate Social Responsibility, Cause Marketing and understanding subtle differences and similarities.  In today’s competitive marketplace, companies are finding creative ways to add value for their clients/customers and do social good at the same time.

The sSpeakers:

  • Riley Gerber, Marketing Director for Reed & Scardino and Executive Director at Boneshaker Project
  • Sara Rodell, Founder and Entrepreneur at Loop & Tie
  • Maggie Miller, Co-founder, The Digital Union

To RSVP, click here: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1XPFotXEZOQeZTD_nt0N2HP_oOKrJk1k8aIDWsTCK0S4/viewform

The Law Offices of Alex R. Hernandez Jr. Adds Attorney to Austin Office

The Law Offices of Alex R. Hernandez Jr. PLLC has added Rachel Hernandez to its Austin office.

With four years of experience working as a family violence prosecutor with the Travis County Attorney’s office, Hernandez brings unique experience to a job.in which she will represent the firm as a family law counselor in the Austin, Round Rock and Georgetown areas.

She graduated Cum Laude from St. Edward’s University in Austin in 1994 and graduated from the University Of Texas School Of Law in 1998. Hernandez is the sister of Alex R. Hernandez Jr., the founder.

McGinnis Lochridge Adds Associate to Austin Office

McGinnis Lochridge has announced that Kayla Carrick has joined the firm as part of the Litigation Team.

Kayla received her B.A. from The University of North Carolina in 2009 and her J.D. from Carrick_Kayla_LIThe University of Texas School of Law in 2013 where she served as Chief Notes Editor for The Review of Litigation.

She completed her clerkship with Justice Brown of the Supreme Court of Texas and the Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals and has also worked as a judicial Intern for U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks, Western District of Texas.

Paralegals File Lawsuit Against Law Firm with Offices in Austin over ‘Unpaid Overtime’

Paralegals Sarah Garza and Roberta Riley have filed suit against Thomas J. Henry Injury Attorneys for “unpaid overtime wages.” The case has been filed in the United States District Court for the Western District of Texas.

The plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleges that the personal injury law firm of Thomas J. Henry failed to pay Garza, Riley, and others overtime in accordance with the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The plaintiffs’ collective action seeks to recover unpaid overtime wages owed to Garza and Riley, as well as other current and former employees.  Thomas J. Henry Injury has offices in Austin, Corpus Christi, Houston and San Antonio.

Garza, Riley, and other paralegals “regularly worked many hours in excess of forty hours per week, but were not compensated for this overtime, despite being legally entitled to time-and-a-half payment.” The plaintiffs’ lawsuit alleges that the law firm’s failure to pay overtime wages was committed knowingly and willfully – and that many other workers employed by Thomas J. Henry have also not received fair overtime wages over the last three years. Paralegals currently with the firm or whom the firm employed at any time in the past three years may also be considered part of the class action suit according to the filing.

Garza and Riley are represented by Alfonso Kennard, Jr., AJ Rodriguez, and Amanda C. Hernandez of Kennard Law. According to Kennard, “All employees deserve to be fairly compensated for their hard work. A failure to pay overtime wages in accordance with the law is unacceptable, regardless of who you are.”


The Loewy Law Firm Steps Up to the Plate with Major Donation to Capital Area of Texas Food Bank

The Loewy Law Firm recently pledged $15,000 to the Capital Area of Texas Food Bank.

The firm issued the following statement:

“Our firm has been blessed with amazing clients and friends who help us succeed each day. We do not take this for granted. We are committed to giving back to the community.

“The CAFB’s mission is vital, yet often overlooked. Many community members in Austin are forced to make daily decisions about food: if I want my child to eat, will I have to go hungry today?

“CAFB provides food and grocery products, nutrition education, and social services outreach to 300,000 people each year. We hope that this donation will sustain these efforts and make sure that no one is hungry this Thanksgiving.

“We encourage you to consider volunteering or donating in support of CAFB. It is vitally important to our community’s success that our friends, clients, family members, and neighbors are taken care of.”

Munsch Hardt, Harrison Bettis McFarland Join Forces to ‘Propel Strategic Growth in Texas’

Munsch Hardt Kopf & Harr, P.C. (Munsch Hardt) and Harrison Bettis McFarland LLP (Harrison Bettis) announced earlier this week that they will be joining forces “to enhance services and capabilities available to clients,” effective Nov. 1, 2014.

The addition of eight Harrison Bettis attorneys to Munsch Hardt’s Houston office is the latest development in Munsch Hardt’s “aggressive plan for strategic growth.” With these eight experienced business litigation attorneys, Munsch Hardt will now be comprised of more than 125 attorneys in three Texas offices – Dallas, Houston and Austin.

Munsch Hardt offers a full-service, commercial legal platform, with practice areas that include admiralty and maritime, business litigation, corporate, energy, environmental, finance, health care, immigration, labor and employment, real estate, restructuring and others. With the Harrison Bettis litigators on board, Munsch Hardt “will bolster its business litigation and products liability practices with greater depth in industries such as oil and gas, construction, manufacturing, transportation, waste management, medical device and insurance coverage.”

All eight Harrison Bettis attorneys, James M. Bettis, Jr., Mark Deaton, Clifford L. Harrison, D. Mitchell McFarland, Paul D. Sculley, Carrie Schadle, Stephan Selinidis and B. Lee Wertz, Jr., will join Munsch Hardt, effective Nov. 1. They will be based in Munsch Hardt’s Houston office in historic Pennzoil Place, where the firm relocated earlier this year.

PIB Law Expands Into the Southwest with Opening of San Antonio Office

PIB Law has expanded to the Southwest with the opening of a new office in San Antonio, Texas. The opening of PIB Law’s San Antonio office marks the firm’s sixth office since opening its doors in February 2011. The firm also has offices in Boston, Chicago, New Jersey, New York City and Philadelphia.

Michael B. Goldberg, former senior in-house counsel for the Consumer Lending Group of Wells Fargo & Company and a one-time shareholder at Cox & Smith, has been named Managing Partner of the firm’s newest office, which is located in the Bank of America Plaza at 300 Convent Street, San Antonio.

“San Antonio provides PIB Law the opportunity to have an immediate role in the future of the city and in the region. It’s meaningful for us to become a leader in the local community, to serve the growing economy of San Antonio and to partner with clients on growing business needs and initiatives,” said Michael Goldberg. “We are also excited about tapping into the immense regional talent base to staff and grow its Texas presence.”

PIB Law is a multi-service national law firm that focuses on all aspects of financial services litigation and regulatory matters confronting businesses nationwide. The firm represents an array of corporate clients, ranging from Fortune 500 companies, national banks, retailers, reinsurers, mortgage lenders and financial services companies.

Central Texas Family of Soccer Player Struck by Lightning Sues

The central Texas family of a young soccer player struck by lightning has sued the sports facility where the injury occurred and two youth soccer association for not meeting the industry standard of having lightning detection equipment in place. The suit was filed in Travis County District Court.

Roger and Jadwiga Hermann, parents of Alex Hermann, have named the Field of Dreams (a facility owned by the Lake Travis Youth Association), the South Texas Soccer Association and the Capital Area Youth Soccer Association as defendants.lightning

Herrman, a 4th grader, was warming up for a game on August 26 with his teammates. It reportedly wasn’t raining when a lightning bolt came out of the sky and struck Herrman and two other players. Herrman was reportedly struck in the stomach. CPR was administered immediately by a bystander. All three players were taken to Dell Children’s Medical Center.

“Alex Hermann, sustained severe and permanent damages when all of the Defendants failed to comply with the basic safety principles on weather safety when lightning is in the area, specifically when children are participating in sports (soccer) on an open field,” according to the lawsuit filed on behalf of the Herrman by attorney Mark Levin. He added that the defendants were negligent for “failing to designate a weather monitor,” and “failing to warn of a dangerous condition.”

“As a result, Minor Plaintiff, Alex Hermann, was hit by lightning and is now unable to speak, hear, talk or move.”

Elaborating on this, Levin told a local television station, KXAN, in early September that Hermann is in “a semi-vegetative state.” Since then, “Pray for Alex” Facebook page has revealed modest improvement. The plaintiffs are seeking at least $10 million to cover current medical expenses and future treatment for Alex.

Levin told the station that be believes “a figure of $10 million is not an outrageous figure when you look at a young man like this who is going to need around the clock care for the next possibly 20 years. You can tell from his hospital bill being $500,000 in two weeks what his medical care is going to be like over his lifetime, and that’s all got to come out the parents pocket whatever doesn’t come out of insurance.”

Another local television station, KEYE, sought and received a response from the Lake Travis Youth Association, one of the defendants”

“First and foremost, LTYA Board members and Association members, along with the entire community, feel tremendous sympathy for Alex’s family. We understand that there is a lawsuit filed against LTYA concerning the recent lightning accident. We have not yet been served the lawsuit. Upon receipt of the lawsuit we would not be able to comment on any pending litigation. Our thoughts and prayers remain with Alex and his family.”

Meanwhile, Glenn Smith, the former vice president of LTYA, was quoted as saying that lightning detectors were uncommon among area youth sports leagues.

“Hardly anybody has lightning detectors, and nobody knows the accuracy of them at this point,” he told the Lake Travis View. “I called a bunch of youth league offices and they don’t have them. It’s a $60,000 investment and we don’t even know much about them.”

He told the local paper that the association’s typical practice is to remove young athletes from their fields as soon as lightning is seen in the sky.

Attorney Levin, meanwhile, challenged that aapproach.

“If you look at the weather, we’ve got a news article that said there was a huge storm cell in the area right when this thing happened,” he said. “If you look at industry standards or (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) standards, lightning can strike a minimum of 10 miles and further. If they’re saying it was six miles away, the kids should not be on the field. This is the science of lightning strikes.”