president’s message By Bill Kroger Baker Botts L.L.P.
HBA Engagement During The Annus Horribilis
The Houston Lawyer
y term as President of the Houston Bar Association was bookended by COVID-19, beginning with the city mostly shut down and ending with its reopening after massive vaccination efforts. Along the way, we also experienced the collapse of oil and gas prices, the murder of George Floyd, the death of Justice Ginsberg and appointment of Justice Barrett, the 2020 Presidential election ending with a riot and a new President, and Winter Storm Uri. The HBA responded to these challenges with creativity, hard work, and persistence. We had one of the most impactful years in the 150year history of the HBA. Here are some of the HBA’s major accomplishments during the 2020-2021 annus horribilis: • Courthouse Closures and Reopening. Became the essential lifeline to lawyers and judges seeking to stay abreast of changes in courthouse procedures for hearings, trials, and other proceedings, both at the historic courthouses and the NRG Arena. Provided countless videos, webinars, and other resources on the HBA website, and feedback to the Harris County courts on the new procedures. • Harvest Celebration. Raised $869,000 for pro bono legal services from our Harvest Campaign, the largest sum raised in HBA history, despite not having an event to offer. • Legal Education. Offered 731 webinars and videos to HBA members and non-members, for 1,114 hours of MCLE credit and 250.75 hours of ethics credit. • Bench Bar Conferences. Held two virtual bench/bar conferences: Criminal/Appellate in October with 228 attendees, and Civil/Appellate with 364 attendees. Every Harris County judge participated. Raised $30,000, with the spring conference being the largest Bench Bar Conference in HBA history. • LegalLine. Went virtual, and reinvented its intake and advice practices. 514 volunteers provided free legal advice to 2,554 citizens. • Habitat for Humanity. On track for building two Habitat for Humanity homes this fall. • 36th Annual Eikenburg 8K Law Week Fun Run. Runners from California, Colorado, New Jersey, DC, Virginia, Florida, and cities across Texas participated in the virtual run. The HBA raised $73,625 for The Center for Pursuit, the fourth largest donation in HBA Fun Run history. • Golf Tournament. Held two golf tournaments, raising $46,000 for the Houston Bar Foundation, which supports pro bono legal services through Houston Volunteer Lawyers. • Lawyers for Literacy. Raised over $14,000 for new books and 20 fully-stocked Little Free Libraries located in underserved communities. Also, read to over 15,600 elementary students virtually for HBA Constitution Day. • The Houston Lawyer Podcast. Started first podcast, discussing im6 May/June 2021
portant topics raised in each issue of The Houston Lawyer. Most Podcasts are accredited for CLE. • The Houston Lawyer. Produced historical issue for the HBA’s 150th Anniversary, recognizing the accomplishments of the many women and men, from all backgrounds and ethnicities, who helped transform the city. The Houston Lawyer also produced important editions and articles on race, equality, and justice; the importance of ADR during a pandemic; and changes in energy and environmental law. • COVID-19 Houston Legal Task Force. Formed group for local bar associations, law schools, and other organizations to discuss, coordinate, and work together on issues such as law student employment; the bar exam; diversity, equity and inclusion; poll watching; and jury pools. • Metro-Bar Presidents Meetings. Set up monthly meetings with other metro bar associations in Dallas, San Antonio, Tarrant County, and Austin. Allowed coordination across the state and sharing of programing, best ideas, and practices. • Judicial Investitures. Newly-elected Harris County judges were not able to have traditional in-person investitures. Created video profiles for newly-elected judges, giving them the opportunity to introduce themselves and discuss their plans for the year ahead. • Implicit Bias Task Force. In response to the murder of George Floyd, formed a working group comprised of local judges and lawyers, which developed multiple implicit bias education programs. More than 900 attorneys attended the programs, including all attorneys in the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and Public Defender’s Office. • Renaming of Harris County Law Library. Supported renaming of Law Library in honor of civil rights attorney Robert W. Hainsworth. Was approved by unanimous vote by the Harris County Commissioners Court. • Blood Drives. Helped arrange 31 blood drives for Houston blood banks, which were prevented from holding traditional blood drives, resulting in 896 blood donations, and saving up to 2,688 lives. • AIDs Outreach. 75 law firms, law departments, organizations, and individuals participated in the 24th annual HBA AIDS Outreach Adopt-a-Family Project, the largest project to date. Helped 108 families, including 156 adults and 229 children. • Election. Provided 40 volunteer poll workers to help ensure fair and safe voting during elections. Houston elections took place without major incident. • Campaign to End Homelessness and Hunger. 130 HBA volunteers participated in seven volunteer events at the Houston Food Bank (HFB) and its community partner locations. Also held a holiday gift drive for 600 homeless veterans living in shelters and raised