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By:  C. Barrett Thomas, TYLA President

I admit it.  I was enticed into the practice of law by the legal movies and TV shows I watched growing up.  I was enamored by the nice clothes, fancy cars, and wealth of the lawyers I watched.  I dreamed of a big salary and the opportunity to argue important cases before the highest courts in the land.  I may have even pondered whether I was more like Alan Shore, Atticus Finch, or Lt. Daniel Kaffee.

Turns out, I’m probably none of the above.  As I sit here writing this article, I am struck by the dramatic difference between the lifestyle I thought I would be living and the one I actually do.  For starters, I have hand sanitizer on my desk because some of the clients that come through my door aren’t the cleanest people I have ever met.  I never saw THAT in the movies or television!  Not all my clients look like, smell like, or act like models, or even good people sometimes.  In addition, I share an office to keep expenses reasonable.  I represent court-appointed criminal defendants, indigent family clients, and I’ve probably even represented some clients that didn’t like me in order to carry a healthy bottom line.  As it turns out, unlike the movies, I actually have to maintain more than one client and have to work on more than one case every day to make a living.  Clients don’t just pour in with credit cards in hand because I opened the doors either.  I don’t drive a BMW, a Mercedes, or a Bentley, and sadly it is me driving – not a professional driver that opens the door for me everywhere.  I don’t drink expensive champagne or smoke cigars on the rooftop of a fancy building at night.  Thanks Boston Legal!

Yet, I am so blessed!  I make a comfortable wage.  My wife and I drive newish, safe vehicles that rarely give us trouble.  My children don’t worry about whether they will eat or not.  I am respected in my community due to my career.  People care about my opinion simply because of my degree and experience.  I ultimately do find plenty of clients and work to make a living.  I have the capability to change my clients’ lives for the better, forever, every day.  I help people make critical decisions about their family, their freedom, their future, and sometimes about life and death.  I go to work knowing that I am shaping lives and the future through my work whether or not I ever step foot in front of the Supreme Court.  How many people in other professions can say those things?

For most of us, the life we are living is not exactly what we thought it would be when we dreamed of going to law school.  It may not be quite as polished or as adventurous as we assumed it would be.  Yet, if we take a really good look at it, none of us can deny how blessed we are.  It is a great time to be a lawyer.  It is an even better time to be a Texas Young Lawyer!  The Texas population is growing.  Business is profiting.  The number of newly licensed lawyers is actually shrinking.  The average salary for attorneys is well above the national average for other careers.  There are opportunities everywhere.  We have been given so much through our education and profession that so many people never get to experience.  It is certainly time to be thankful and to give back, and that is exactly what TYLA intends to do again this year.

In the coming year TYLA will work to assist lawyers dealing with mental health issues by updating and re-releasing an existing TYLA project, Breaking the Silence.   We will assist Texas educators by giving them the opportunity to shadow and participate in the legal process through a teacher externship program.  We will attempt to bring new perspective to law enforcement and minority communities by planning and hosting town-hall style meetings between local law enforcement and local minority and civil rights leaders.  We will attempt to provide a voice for some of the most marginalized members of our communities. With an emphasis on homeless youth, we will develop and implement a project aimed at alleviating some of the underlying legal problems that keep the homeless from getting their feet back on the ground.  Finally, we will publish an educational video to teach new prosecutors and defense attorneys ways to reduce their chances of contributing to a wrongful conviction. 

These are just some of the great projects we have planned at TYLA.  I hope you will join me and your fellow young lawyers on this journey to give back.  There are ways for everyone to participate.  There are projects that require help from people in different geographic regions and practice areas.  There are projects for people who are outgoing and those who are more introverted.  There are projects for trial attorneys, appellate attorneys, and even judges.  In closing, I simply ask that you realize that the life may not be what you thought … but it sure is good.   More importantly, I ask that you realize it could be a whole lot better than you ever dreamed if you use your unique blessings to say thanks, give back, and possibly bring someone up with you.

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.

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