Drenner Group PC Announces New Partner

The Drenner Group PC has announced the hire of a new partner to lead its new transactional division.

The partner, Greta Goldsby, has more than 13 years of experience representing entrepreneurial and institutional clients in connection with real estate and real estate finance transactions.greta_2

She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, French, and European Studies from the University of Arkansas in 1998. She received a Doctorate of Jurisprudence from the Southern Methodist University, Dedman School of Law in 2001.

UT Law CLE to Host Car Crash Seminar

The University of Texas School of Law CLE division will host a Car Crash Seminar Thursday and Friday at Radisson Hotel and Suites in downtown Austin.

The Seminar is described as “the ULTIMATE program for practitioners of all experience levels. In-depth fundamentals take you from initial client contact through trial or settlement. Come away with the definitive set of resource materials including sample forms.

 2015 program highlights:

  • An update on current legislative issues and outcomes affecting personal injury attorneys
  • An overview of Texas auto policies, truck wrecks, auto-product liability claims, damages, and more
  • Practical tips and strategies for plaintiff and defense counsel including managing client expectations, negotiating with the insurance adjuster, guidance on questioning the treating doctors, financially affordable ways to try cases, the most effective ways to use technology in the courtroom, and more
  • Explore the role distracted driving plays in a collision
  • Learn the ever-changing rules regarding Medicare, Medicaid, ERISA, worker’s comp, hospital liens, state and local employees and disability plans
  • Discover practical ways to find happiness as a lawyer in this demanding and stressful profession

To register, visit https://utcle.org/conferences/CW15

 

Austin Attorney Selected to The Robert W. Calvert American Inn of Court

Thompson & Knight LLP has announced that John P. Vacalis has been selected as a member of The Robert W. Calvert American Inn of Court. His service will begin in August 2015.

Vacalis is a Partner in Thompson & Knight’s Trial Practice Group in the firm’s Austin office. His practice focuses on complex business, mortgage banking, oil and gas, and commercial litigation matters. In addition to his involvement with The Robert W. Calvert American Inn of Court, Vacalis is an active member of the Dell Children’s Trust.

The American Inns of Court is an association of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals from all levels and backgrounds who share a passion for professional excellence. Through regular meetings, members are able to build and strengthen professional relationships; discuss fundamental concerns about professionalism and pressing legal issues of the day; share experiences and advice; exhort the utmost passion and dedication for the law; provide mentoring opportunities; and advance the highest levels of integrity, ethics, and civility. For more information, visithttp://home.innsofcourt.org/about-us.aspx.

K&L Gates Announces Hire of Partner in Austin Office

K&L Gates has announced that Brian Gates has joined the firm’s Austin office as a partner in its labor, employment & workplace safety practice.

Graham has been recognized for his expertise in obtaining visas, permanent residency, and citizenship for athletes, entertainers, executives, healthcare professionals, investors, religious workers, information technology workers, professors, and researchers.Graham_Brian

He regularly advises corporations on immigration compliance issues and developing long-term immigration strategies. In addition, he counsels immigrant investors and developers on the EB-5 immigrant investor program. He works alongside tax and estate planning attorneys to counsel high net worth individuals on comprehensive immigration planning.

Graham received his undergraduate degree from the University of Texas at Austin as well as his JD from the university’s School of Law.

Embracing Your Employee Handbook Is a Good Idea for Austin Attorneys

(Editor’s Note: What follows are some salient thoughts from Austin-based B2 Management & Consulting.)

Many employers have a tendency to shy away from handbooks for various reasons. However, instead of being intimidated by handbooks, employers should be embracing them.

Here are five good reasons why you should have and embrace your employee handbook:

  1. Handbooks Set Employee Expectations.        

Handbooks allow you to clearly set forth everything from job responsibilities to disciplinary procedures, thus keeping employee expectations consistent with the employer.  Experience teaches us that employees are willing to accept almost anything associated with their work if they know about it before it becomes a problem.

  1. Handbooks Help Limit Legal Liability.

Court cases have made it clear, for example, that employers without a sexual harassment policy and reporting procedure lose key legal defenses that are otherwise available under the law.  And employers have greater difficulty defending themselves in everything from unemployment hearings to discrimination actions when there are no written policies available for review.

  1. Discipline Is More Uniform With A Handbook. 

A written disciplinary procedure means that employers and employees alike know what to expect when a rule is violated.  One of the biggest causes of losing unemployment hearings and discrimination actions is treating similar situations in a dissimilar manner.  A handbook can eliminate this problem.

  1. A Handbook Communicates Important Information.  

Management often wastes a lot of time answering the same questions over and over.  Handbooks that include a recap of benefits, work times, dress codes, time off, and other “everyday” issues saves the time and energy of management personnel.

  1. Handbooks Allow Employers To Make Many Key Decisions Ahead Of Time. 

Policy decisions concerning everything from dress codes, social media use, to personal internet blogs, to privacy concerns in the workplace can all be carefully thought out, discussed, and decided upon before an issue actually arises.  This means that long range implications and other, more subtle, matters can be part of management’s decision-making process.  Such matters are not always at the forefront when an incident happens and a decision must be made quickly.

Texas Supreme Court Boosts Corporate Confidentiality Protections

The mammoth international law firm of Jones Day recently posted some analysis about the Texas Supreme Court’s decision involving corporate confidentiality protections:

“The Texas Supreme Court (“Court”) issued two recent opinions that may provide private companies with a greater ability to protect their confidential information in Texas even when dealing with public entities. The Court held that Section 552.104 of the Texas Public Information Act (“PIA”), which exempts from public disclosure information ‘that, if released, would give advantage to a competitor or bidder,’ applies not only to governmental bodies conducting competitive bidding but to private parties as well. Boeing Co. v. Paxton, No. 12-1007, 2015 Tex. LEXIS 583 (Tex. June 19, 2015). The Texas Attorney General and state courts historically concluded that private parties lacked standing to assert this exception in connection with a PIA request. In Boeing, however, the Court reversed this trend, finding that the statutory provision on its face does not limit the exemption to the government, and also clarified that a private party has standing to directly assert this exception, as opposed to relying on a governmental body to assert it.

“To further this point, one week later, in Greater Houston Partnership v. Paxton, No. 13-0745, 2015 Tex. LEXIS 614 (Tex. June 26, 2015), the Court held that the Greater Houston Partnership, a private entity operating like a chamber of commerce, was not a ‘governmental body’ subject to public disclosure of its private business affairs under the PIA. Similar to theBoeing opinion, the Court based its decision on the PIA’s ‘plain and unambiguous language.’

“Both Boeing and Greater Houston show that even in light of the PIA’s liberal construction mandate and overarching goal of increasing governmental transparency,Texas courts may now be willing to protect the confidentiality interests of private parties and curb the sweeping reach of the PIA by focusing on the text of the statute. This Commentary focuses on the Boeingcase and how it may offer private companies a new tool to protect their confidential information.”

To read the full blog post, visit http://www.jonesday.com/files/Publication/ca10038c-17f1-4ed6-9263-07b103aca4d3/Presentation/PublicationAttachment/45aedcbe-821c-43be-b70b-2523293688b9/Texas%20Supreme%20Court%20Boosts.pdf

LMA Hosts Smart Marketing Talk at Luncheon Today

The Austin City Group of the Legal Marketing Association will host a luncheon that addresses “Smart Marketing and Maximizing Your Impact Through Communications, Events and Branded Products” at The Law Office of Graves, Dougherty, Hearon & Moody at 401 Congress Ave.

Registration begins at 11:30 a.m., with the program and lunch starting at 12.

Giving the talk is Jennifer Stevens, the founder and president of JHL Company, Rocca  and Austin Best Events.  With nearly 20 years of experience in strategic communications, public relations, event planning, and fundraising, Jennifer has provided expertise and guidance to dozens of nonprofits, foundations, government entities, associations, and corporations.

The program fee is $20 for LMA Members, ALA Members & Sponsors, and $40 for Guests.

 

 

Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs Expands into Austin, Hires Former Head of TCEQ Litigation Section

Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs, PC, the Houston-based law firm at the center of securing the largest environmental settlement award in history for the state of New Jersey, is expanding its footprint and has opened an office in Austin.

John Riley, who has been practicing law for more than three decades and is known for handling complex high-profile environmental permit and enforcement matters before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the United States Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere, will lead the Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs Austin office at 1115 San Jacinto Blvd., just one block east of the State Capitol. Riley is the former head of the TCEQ’s litigation section and, with almost 15 years of governmental service, has a deep understanding of environmental regulatory requirements and agency process.

“The expansion into Austin is a natural evolution of our firm and John’s deep legal experience in environmental matters enhances our ability to serve clients across the U.S.,” said Bill Jackson, a founding partner at Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs and one of the firm’s leading attorneys.

Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs was lead counsel for the State of New Jersey in its decade-long litigation battle concerning the dioxin contamination of the Passaic River, which was recently settled for $355 million in costs and damages, including $67.5 million in restoration projects, and up to an additional $400 million in remediation costs. It represents the largest settlement of its kind in the history of the State of New Jersey. Based in part on this record-setting result,Texas Lawyer selected Jackson Gilmour & Dobbs as the 2015 “Specialty Litigation Group of the Year” in the environmental litigation category for Texas.

Riley was previously a partner at Vinson & Elkins LLP and, most recently, Bracewell & Giuliani LLP. He was the director of the Litigation Division at the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission (now TCEQ) from September 1994 to March 1998 and in that role was responsible for the development and implementation of the Texas Environmental, Health and Safety Audit Privilege Law and other legislation, rulemaking, and policy development affecting the enforcement of environmental laws in Texas. Drawing on his early career experience as a prosecutor in Brooklyn, NY, Riley also oversaw the TCEQ environmental crimes investigation unit and assisted in the development of that unit in its early stages.

Rounding out his Texas governmental experience, Riley also served as the Deputy Commissioner for Energy Resources, Administrative Law Judge and Director of Audit Hearings with the Texas General Land Office (GLO) in the 1986 to 1989 timeframe, where he focused on auditing and collecting royalties from primarily oil and gas production on State lands for the benefit of the Permanent School Fund.  Bracketing his service at the GLO, Riley was a Senior Trial Assistant District Attorney in the homicide bureau of the Kings County District Attorney’s Office in Brooklyn

Travis County Civil and Family Courts Complex Campaign Update and Cost Comparisons

From the Austin Bar:

The Community for Civil and Family Courthouse PAC filed a bi-annual finance report and the numbers were made public yesterday.  The PAC, led by Directors Shannon Ratliff, Mike McKetta and Steve McConnico, has raised a total of $134,439.89 since January. Ratliff serves as Treasurer, and runs the PAC along with President Janet McCullar and Secretary Ryan Botkin.  The campaign to educate and encourage Travis County voters on November’s $291.6 bond to build a new Civil and Family Courts Complex is well underway.  A county-appointed Community Focus Committee is conducting public outreach presentations about the project to numerous community and civic groups and many more are planned for the coming months.  To arrange for a presentation, or to learn more, visit www.traviscountytx.gov/cfcc.

Polling firm Tulchin Research conducted an initial voter survey in May and came to the following conclusions:

“Our poll finds the measure is currently backed by a majority of voters (54%) and is well-positioned to pass…Based on a basic description of the bond measure, 54% of voters say they would vote for the measure if the election were held today while 40% indicate they would vote against it.  But in a simulated engaged campaign in which respondents hear arguments both in favor of and in opposition to the measure, support grows significantly.  After messaging from both sides, voters favor the measure by a 28-point margin, with more than six in ten voters (61%) supporting it to just a third (33%) opposed.”

To see the full poll report, click here.

The Travis County Commissioners and the Community Focus Committee have been working on this project for over ten years. Originally priced at $350 million, the project has been studied, trimmed and refined to $291.6 million – the lowest possible price for a building with the unique security and design needs of a Courts Complex.  It has been designed to provide safe, secure and accessible access to justice for the citizens of Travis County, not only today, but for many years into the future.  Travis County is one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, and the Commissioners are looking ahead and laying the groundwork for a solid infrastructure for its citizens, not only for today, but for many tomorrows to come.

In a regional study of similar courthouse projects across the country, the proposed $447 price per square foot of the Travis County Civil and Family Courts Complex (CCFC) is lower than the $451 price per square foot of other courthouses in our West South Central Region, which includes Austin’s Federal Courthouse and the Tarrant County Courthouse.  In addition, it is much lower than the $875 per square foot price of courthouses in the Pacific Region.  Other regions of the country range from $353 – $360 per square foot, putting the CFCC project squarely in the average range for similar courthouse projects.

Recent comparisons have been made between the cost of the CFCC and the Federal Courthouse, built in Austin in 2010.  There are several differences between these projects that are important to note. The first is the size of the buildings.  The Federal Courthouse is a 242,420 sq. foot structure with seven stories, eight courtroom and no parking garage.  It sits on a lot half the size of the proposed lot of the new CFCC at 3rd and Guadalupe.  The new CFCC will be constructed with 520,000 sq. feet, 14 stories, 33 courtrooms and a four- level underground parking garage.  The Federal Courthouse lot was purchased in 2003 and the project was funded with stimulus money during the recession of the early 2000’s.  In today’s dollars, it would cost $136,504,000 to build, making the cost per square foot $514.  The CFCC is projected to cost $447 per square foot.

The Travis County Commissioners have left no stone unturned in seeking creative funding solutions to offset the cost of the new CFCC. Because of the downtown location, they are able to pursue several cost solutions which will result in a 15 – 20% cost savings to taxpayers:

  1. Building a second tower on the lot along with the CFCC
  2. Bringing the second tower up simultaneously with the CCFC to bring construction costs down
  3. Deriving property tax from the private use of the office tower
  4. Generating revenue from parking after hours and on weekends
  5. Selling other Travis County owned central business district properties and moving them back to the private sector

 

The current Travis County Courthouse is 84 years old.  It cannot be expanded, remodeled or renovated any more to accommodate the 200,000 residents that conduct their important legal business there each year.  It is overwhelmed and unsafe.  The cost to taxpayers to fund the proposed $291.6 million bond is about $42 per year on a $325,000 home – or .0161 cents per hundred dollar value of a home.  To put that in terms all Texans can relate to, that is about $3.50, or the cost of one taco, a month.

As every family who needs a new car knows, cheap and affordable are two very different things. Everyone wants to buy a $500 car.  But does it have good brakes, seat belts, airbags or even a steering wheel at that price? Probably not.  And no one would feel secure putting their kids in it.  Travis County’s current courthouse is like an 84 year-old car.  It’s been repaired, rebuilt and overhauled as much as possible.  No amount of duct tape and bailing wire will make it work again – and every repair is costing the County money that will never be recovered.   It’s time for a new car.  One that is safe, secure, affordable and accessible to all.  The citizens of Travis County, regardless of income, deserve nothing less.

K&L Gates Bolsters Austin Office with Hiring of Immigration Partner

The Austin office of K&L Gates LLP has hired Brian Graham as a partner in its labor, employment & workplace safety practice and Global Employer Solutions offering. Graham joins K&L Gates from Strasburger & Price, LLP, where he was chair of that firm’s immigration law team and EB-5 Task Force.

Board certified in immigration & nationality law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization, Graham has extensive experience in corporate immigration and investment-based immigration for high net worth immigrants. He works with lawyers in the labor & employment, tax, estate planning, securities, and corporate law areas to develop comprehensive strategies for clients.

A former assistant district counsel for the U.S. Immigration & Naturalization Service, the firm said his arrival “further strengthens K&L Gates’ Global Employer Solutions offering — a comprehensive, cross-disciplinary team of lawyers that advises corporations and entities across numerous countries and wide-ranging jurisdictions in meeting the challenges of their global business needs — as well as the firm’s growing Austin office, which recently added environmental and administrative law practitioners Bill Moltz, Steve Morton, and Janessa Glenn from Austin’s Moltz Morton & Glenn, LLP.”