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

Pursuing Excellence in Your Legal Writing
By:  Elizabeth Beyer

Similar to the number of rules in the Bluebook for legal citations, as legal writers, we are bound by a seemingly limitless number of grammatical rules and guidelines to follow.  However, sometimes the only thing that matters is whether you’re making errors that your audience will notice.  Perhaps your Facebook grammarian friends have shared the commonly frowned-upon mistakes made in Facebook posts. (I consider the your / you’re distinction to be the number one pet peeve of Facebookers everywhere.)  While it’s good to keep those basics in mind, as professional writers, we have a more sophisticated audience – other lawyers and judges.   Let’s just put it this way: If the judge thinks you don’t know what you’re talking about, your clients may end up disappointed in the result.

But, assuming most lawyers have grasped the distinction between “your1” as opposed to “you’re2", on to grammatical issues more commonly seen in legal writing than in Facebook posts:  

1. Affected / effected.  “Affected” is most often used as part of a past-tense verb phrase (e.g., “Many people’s lives were affected by Hurricane Katrina.”).  “Effected” can be used as part of a verb phrase as well (e.g., to “effect change,”) but this use is much less common.  If you’re unsure of how to use it, it’s probably better to stick with another way to say what you want to say.  We normally use “effect” as the noun version of the first example (e.g., “The effects of Hurricane Katrina were widespread.”).

2. Split infinitives.  There is an excellent article about splitting infinitives in the September 2013 Austin Lawyer magazine by Wayne Schiess, a UT law professor, that I highly recommend everyone read.  To summarize: Split infinitives aren’t that big of a deal, so don’t make your writing awkward or ambiguous to avoid splitting an infinitive.  “To artfully write your pleadings should not be a crime.”

3. The Oxford Comma.  It’s not just a Vampire Weekend song!  The “Oxford Comma” refers to a comma that is used in a set of three items in a written list: “I am available for a hearing on Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday of next week.”  The comma after Tuesday is the comma in question, and there is debate over whether a second comma is necessary.  Because some folks are likely to see it as a mistake if you don’t use it and because it can resolve an otherwise ambiguous sentence, using it is probably the better strategy in your legal writing.

4. Passive voice.  While the “raging debate” about use of passive voice continues (mostly in my head, probably), the simple rules I use for passive voice go like this:  If you need to use it, go ahead, but if you can avoid it, using active voice results in clearer and stronger writing.  Often in legal writing, we want to structure phrases to de-emphasize who it was that actually did the thing in question (e.g., “the community bank account was depleted”… when it was your client who depleted it).  In these instances, passive voice is perfect.  But for clarity’s sake, particularly in narrative form, active voice is usually preferable.  Don’t rely on the passive voice to make your writing sound more formal.

5.   Foregoing / forgoing.  “Foregoing”  means for the usual purposes.  We use this to refer to something written above (e.g., “Subject to the foregoing objections).  “Forgoing” means  to avoid or decline to do something (e.g., “She is forgoing spousal maintenance in lieu of a higher child support amount.”).

  1To be used in possessive forms indicating ownership
  2A contraction of “you are” 

ELIZABETH BEYER is an attorney practicing exclusively Family Law at The Law Office of Becky Beaver in Austin, Texas.  She served as a managing editor of the St. Mary’s Law Journal, where her article on collaborative family law was published.  She was also 6th grade school champion speller.