Attorney at Law Magazine Dallas Publisher P.J Hines sat down with Jason Franklin to discuss the Dallas Trail Lawyers Association.
AALM: What is the main mission of your association?
Franklin: The mission of Dallas Trial Lawyers Association is to empower and support Dallas trial lawyers in achieving justice for those who have been harmed.
AALM: What is the traditional demographic of your members? Young? Solo practitioners?
Franklin: A large number of our members are solo practitioners or practice in small firms. We are a plaintiffs association, so to be eligible for membership one must not regularly and consistently represent insurance companies, insurance plans, corporations, utility companies and/or defendants in actions filed by individuals seeking damages for personal injuries, or represent lienholders or holders of contractual reimbursement/subrogation interests which seek recovery or reimbursement in personal injury cases, or affiliate with a firm who represents such clients on a regular or consistent basis.
AALM: Do you partner with any other associations in the local community?
Franklin: DTLA frequently partners with and supports our sister associations such as the Dallas Hispanic Bar, Dallas Asian American Bar, Dallas Women Lawyers Association, Dallas LGBT Bar and JL Turner.
AALM: What is the association’s main focus in the coming year?
Franklin: During the legislative session, we are working to support Texas Trial Lawyers Association in protecting the Seventh Amendment right to trial by jury and people’s ability to obtain counsel through contingency fees. Contingency fees serve a vital importance to our democracy by allowing access to a justice system that would otherwise only be accessible to the wealthiest among us. Unfortunately, there are efforts underway to severely limit an injured person’s or consumer’s ability to seek redress through the courts by imposing caps and other rules that would make it financially difficult if not impossible for an attorney to accept a case on a contingency fee basis. This would profoundly harm our civil justice system and would disproportionally affect the most vulnerable among us.
Another focus of DTLA in the coming year is on diversity. In my mind, the long-term legitimacy of our profession demands that it more accurately mirror the communities that we serve. We want the best and brightest from all walks of life, colors, creeds and orientations to be honored members of our profession. A competent, ethical and diverse bar will strengthen our profession, our communities and our country.
AALM: Does the association offer any mentorship opportunities?
Franklin: Absolutely. DTLA is privileged to count among our members some of the finest trial lawyers in the country. Not only does DTLA have a mentorship program that pairs mentee lawyers who have practiced for less than six years with an experienced individual mentor, but there are valuable networking tools that are exclusively for our members that puts the power and experience of all of these great trial lawyers at their fingertips, allowing them to ask questions, discuss case strategies, and gather information critical to their practice.
AALM: How would you encourage a young lawyer to become involved in their legal community?
Franklin: Find your passion and pursue it. If your practice area is your passion, then join a relevant legal association and show up to things – you will not only make valuable business connections but if you’re not careful you will make some lifelong friends too. If your practice area doesn’t particularly light your fire then find a way to volunteer or look for pro bono opportunities in something that you’re passionate about, whatever that may be – there are opportunities out there. You will be better for it, both professionally and personally. I Promise.
AALM: How frequently does the association offer CLE events? How much do they cost?
Franklin: DTLA hosts eight membership CLE luncheons per year that are specifically designed with Dallas trial lawyers in mind. These lunch programs feature speakers that help our members navigate trending legal issues, build their practice, and sharpen their trial skills. These are highly relevant CLEs that you will not get anywhere else. The CLE lunches are only $20 and include a great meal at Pappadeaux’s.
AALM: In the past year, what CLE events seemed to be most popular?
Franklin: During this past year, we have had a number of very well-received CLEs on a variety of topics that are highly relevant to our members, including Proving UIM/UM in Trial; Lisa Blue presented Mark Lanier’s Top 10 Trial Tips; we learned about Maximizing Damages in Trial / PI Cases; an expert in digital forensics presented Digital Evidence in Trial (cell phones, extracting details from digital photos, etc.; we learned about Probate Pitfalls for PI Lawyers; Judge Eric Moyé, Judge Gena Slaughter and Justice Ada Brown spoke on Error Preservation; during another CLE we learned about human anatomy and common mechanisms of injury; Mikal Watts came to speak about his recent experiences and the current state of the criminal justice system; and our most recent CLE topic concerned the status of Texas Law as it relates to the Stowers doctrine.
AALM: Technology is always changing the face of the law. How is your association helping lawyers keep up with the changes?
Franklin: Technology is rapidly changing, not only in the face of the law but in every aspect of our lives. Often we bemoan these changes and harken back to a simpler time when we weren’t so “plugged in.” But technology is also providing us with some extremely effective tools. DTLA helps our members to not only keep up with technology but to use it to improve themselves in three primary areas – their practices, their lives and in trial. Through the use of case management software, automated accounting and organizational or time management apps, we can free up time, increase productivity and promote greater creativity. Regarding technology in the courtroom, some recent and upcoming CLEs include Persuading Generation X, Millennials and Beyond, Facebook: How do I use it in Trial? Next month, DTLA is hosting a CLE on Technology in your Practice and in the Courtroom, and in September we are working with Judge Martin Hoffman and DAYL to offer a young lawyer boot camp and Effective Technology Seminar.
AALM: What are some exciting events coming up?
Franklin: DTLA hosts several events during the year. Recently, we had our Trucks, Taps & Trial Lawyers event April 26 that is a lot of fun and many judges and their court staff attended, so it’s a great opportunity to get to know the judges and their court staff. Our summer event happening June 2 this year is the Derby Bash at Lone Star Park that DTLA co-hosts with the Tarrant County Trial Lawyers Association – it’s a great opportunity to get to know Tarrant County lawyers and judges. Lastly, we have our Annual Party in the fall – this venue changes but it is always very well attended.