TYLA Officers


Rebekah Steely Brooker, President


Dustin M. Howell, Chair


Sam Houston, Vice President


Baili B. Rhodes, Secretary


John W. Shaw, Treasurer


C. Barrett Thomas, President-elect


Priscilla D. Camacho, Chair-elect


Kristy Blanchard, Immediate Past President

TYLA Directors


Amanda A. Abraham, District 1


Sharesa Y. Alexander, Minority At-Large Director


Raymond J. Baeza, District 14

    Aaron J. Burke, District 5, Place 1

Aaron T. Capps, District 5, Place 2


D. Lance Currie, District 5, Place 3


Laura W. Docker, District 10, Place 1

    Andrew Dornburg, District 21
    John W. Ellis, District 8, Place 2
    Zeke Fortenberry, District 4

Bill Gardner, District 5, Place 4


Morgan L. Gaskin, District 6, Place 5

    Nick Guinn, District 18, Place 1

Adam C. Harden, District 6, Place 6


Amber L. James, District 17


Curtis W. Lucas, District 9

    Rudolph K. Metayer, District 8, Palce 1

Laura Pratt, District 3

    Sally Pretorius, District 8, Place 2

Baili B. Rhodes, District 2


Alex B. Roberts, District 6, Place 3

    Eduardo Romero, District 19
    Michelle P. Scheffler, District 6, Place 2

John W. Shaw, District 10, Place 2

    Nicole Soussan, District 6, Place 4
    L. Brook Stuntebeck, District 11

C. Barrett Thomas, District 15

    Judge Amanda N. Torres, Minority At-Large Director

Shannon Steel White, District 12

    Brandy Wingate Voss, District 13
    Veronica S. Wolfe, District 18, Place 2

Baylor Wortham, District 7

    Alex Yarbrough, District 16


Justice Paul W. Green, Supreme Court Liaison


Jenny Smith, Access To Justice Liaison


Brandon Crisp, ABA YLD District 25 Representative


Travis Patterson, ABA/YLD District 26 Representative


Assistant Dean Jill Nikirk, Law School Liaison


Belashia Wallace, Law Student Liaison


TYLA Office

Tracy Brown, Director of Administration
Bree Trevino, Project Coordinator

Michelle Palacios, Office Manager
General Questions: tyla@texasbar.com

Mailing Address

P.O. Box 12487, Capitol Station
Austin, Texas 78711-2487
(800) 204-2222 ext. 1529
FAX: (512) 427-4117

Street Address

1414 Colorado, 4th Floor
Austin, Texas 78701
(512) 427-1529


Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.





























































Tips For Young Lawyers

Tips For Young Lawyers

At Risk Youth: Identifying, Intervening, and Responding
By: Suma Ananthaswamy and Kavita Desai, Children at Risk

As lawyers, we are often called upon to represent children in an ad litem or court-appointed capacity. Frequently, these children have had some interaction with child protective services or the juvenile justice system and may be in foster care. It is important to keep several considerations in mind when working with this population and to recognize the unique position we as attorneys have to identify, intervene, and respond to these issues.

Mental Health

Seventy percent of children in the juvenile-justice system have at least one mental disorder, and the juvenile justice system in Texas serves as the largest provider of mental health services for youth across the state. Juvenile facilities often lack the necessary resources to provide appropriate treatment, resulting in a pronounced gap in treatment for youth in need.

1. Recognize children at risk for mental illness

Many children who end up in the juvenile-justice system have undiagnosed mental-health issues. Children in foster care, in particular, have undergone family trauma and disruption and are likely to need counseling services. Those with special education needs require enrollment in appropriate educational programs. As a child’s attorney, be aware of this possibility and be prepared to explore your client’s personal and medical history as part of providing holistic representation. You may also consider assisting parents or children in navigating the complex process of enrolling in special education services.

2. Be knowledgeable about community resources and services

Specialty courts are available throughout the state for youth with mental illness and offer an alternative to the traditional juvenile justice system, instead utilizing a wraparound model to connect youth and families to community services and boasting a low recidivism rate. In addition, resources like the statewide Communities in Schools program are available to make referrals for students needing assistance.

3. Advocate for your clients and for increased services

As a lawyer, identifying children who may need mental-health services and connecting them to appropriate services can be the key to helping them avoid self-harm or incarceration. Furthermore, helping children access appropriate special-education programs can ensure that they succeed in school and have the opportunity to lead independent and fulfilling lives as adults.

School Dropout

Only 71.6% of Texas youth will graduate high school in four years. Children who do not finish high school are severely limited in their future economic potential and face a greater risk of incarceration. Early identification and intervention is key to keep children on track for graduation. As a lawyer, your intervention may be crucial to keep children from dropping out of school.

1. Be aware of the risk factors for school drop-outs

Involvement in the juvenile-justice system increases the risk that children will drop out of school.  Foster youth are also at a greater risk of failing to graduate, especially when their school year is disrupted due to a change in living situations. Other risk factors include being held back a grade, failing a core class, becoming a parent, having limited English proficiency, or residing in a placement facility.

2. Know the programs available to provide support services to students

Various programs are available to provide students with mentors, after-school programs, access to health care, food programs, counseling services, career development, and community-service activities. All are designed to empower children to succeed in school. An example of this is AIM Truancy Solutions, which offers a unique mentoring and monitoring program in communities in Texas, designed to keep students in school.

3. Advocate for alternatives to the juvenile justice system for school misbehavior

Consider advocating for alternatives to Class C tickets for school discipline. Truancy-prevention programs, peer mediation, in-school youth-court programs, parent involvement, and training for school-based police officers have been proven more successful at keeping youth in school and reducing student misbehavior. 

Sex Trafficking

Each year, an estimated 100,000 children are at risk of commercial sex exploitation. A majority of these children are runaway and homeless youth that are approached by a pimp or trafficker and lured into prostitution. Many programs, including the Texas Young Lawyers Association’s Slavery Out of the Shadows series , have brought awareness to this issue, but it is still difficult to recognize.

1. Recognize signs of human trafficking, or those at risk of this crime, in your cases with children.

Identifying victims and those at risk of trafficking is difficult. Children often do not self-identify as victims as a result of the manipulation, control, and physical and emotional abuse. Additionally, children may not seek help for fear of being arrested. Some indicators that a child may be a victim of sex trafficking include unexplainable injuries, inconsistencies with recounting events, sexually explicit behavior, and loyalty towards a pimp or trafficker. Be prepared to look into these concerns if they come up in your case.

2. Be knowledgeable about community resources and refer your clients for services.

Seek out the advice and assistance of experts—those with experience working with these children, who can provide counseling or shelter facilities, and who can direct you to the appropriate law-enforcement agency. These services are vital for your client’s recovery and will help educate you on the complexities of human trafficking, ultimately allowing you to represent your client in a comprehensive manner.

Children at Risk has developed a state-wide Anti-Human Trafficking Resource Database with information on service providers and law enforcement agencies working in this area. The database is available to the public on our website.

3. Advocate for diversion programs within your community.

Diversionary courts for minors arrested for prostitution have seen some early success. Rather than being convicted and being sent to a juvenile-detention facility, these programs give minors access to rehabilitation, including counseling and life skills classes. Minors who complete the program avoid a conviction for prostitution.

Children at Risk is a research and advocacy organization dedicated to improving the quality of life of Texas's children through strategic research, legal action, public-policy analysis, community education, and collaboration. The organization focuses on issues related to the whole child, including education, human trafficking, juvenile justice, mental health, and food insecurity. For more information, please visit www.childrenatrisk.org.