December 20, 2018 The Chair’s Corner

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

By Melanie Bragg

This issue of the award-winning GPSolo magazine is all about “The Law and the Internet.” We all know that the Internet drastically changed the way we practice law, and since the advent of e-mail all the processes of communication have undergone radical transformation. We went from the old days of typing a letter on carbon paper, putting it into the mail, and getting a response, to finally having mag cards to store things, to the advent of the fax machine in the 1980s, to the Blackberry pager that e-mailed. Soon there was e-discovery and e-filing, and each day things continue to change. In this issue you will learn about all the aspects of the law relating to the Internet that are undergoing transformation. You will learn about our ethical duty to review, study, and implement the new rules about the new privacy protections, and about ways to protect our clients’ data. The content of this issue is a treasure trove of information.

Above: Jim Priester, Chris Edmunds, Tom Carr, and Melanie Bragg at the 1987 ABA Affiliate Outreach-National Public Service Conference; from Houston Lawyer, January/ February 1988 (25:4), courtesy of the Houston Bar Association. Below: Melanie Bragg, Judge Julius Ness “Jay” Richardson, Jennifer Pinckney, Tommy D. Preston Jr., and Sheila Willis at the 2018 YLD & GPSolo Fall Conference: Tradition Meets Innovation.

As I returned from our joint meeting with the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (YLD) this past weekend, I was happy to get my first GPSolo meeting as Chair under my belt. Because the Division’s 2018–2019 Bar Year theme, Tradition Meets Innovation, was also the theme of the joint meeting, we included content that fit within the parameters of innovation and tradition. For me, the meeting was very important from a personal standpoint. I started my work in the American Bar Association at the YLD. I went to my first YLD meeting in 1986 in Montreal as a representative from the Houston Young Lawyers Association and was blown away by the high level of activity. I was very excited to be a part of something bigger than myself.

I promised in one of my first columns to tell you a little bit about how I came to be Chair of this Division. I think many of us who become involved in bar work and become “bar association junkies” are social people who like to do good things for others. Public service just comes naturally to most of us who do this work for a sustained period of time. When I started law school, I landed the position of Law Student Division representative for the State Bar of Texas. I decided to do a program at the State Bar of Texas annual meeting and called it something like “Placement Opportunities for Law Students,” and I invited the President of the State Bar of Texas, Terry Scarborough. My higher-ups were incredulous. But guess what? He came! The rest was history. That law school program became the genesis of what was for many years the biggest placement program for law students, the Texas Job Fair.

When I transferred to the University of Houston Law Center from South Texas College of Law in 1980, I was asked to be the Law Student Director on the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) Board of Directors. I was one of the only women in the group, and that experience led to my involvement in the Houston Young Lawyers Association (HYLA), where I became the first woman President in 1990–1991. At the same time, I was active on the Juvenile Justice Committee of the YLD and doing national programs for children. On the TYLA board I did a national teen drunk-driving video that was distributed to other states. During the 1980s I was very active in bar association work on the local (HYLA), state (TYLA), and national (ABA/YLD) levels. It was a joyful and busy time of my life, and I was able to lead many initiatives that are near and dear to my heart.

When I “aged out” of the YLD, I got on the YLD Fellows Board, where I created the Fellows newsletter, the Fellows Fodder. It was a wonderful experience, and I am still on that board today. Because some of my friends from the YLD—including William T. Hogan III and Dwight L. Smith—were involved in GPSolo, I landed a one-year term on the GPSolo Long Range Planning Committee the year Bill Hogan was Chair. I attended the Book Publications Board meeting and found my home in the Division (it was a Section then). For the next several years I worked on books and found my place on Council, then chaired the Book Publications Board and began the climb on the ladder to Chair of the Division.

My years as a young lawyer were very special to me, and it was there that I learned many of my leadership skills I use today—organization, public speaking, and networking, to name a few. The old photo in this article is from the January/February 1988 Houston Lawyer magazine; it was taken at an ABA event I attended during my work on the HYLA Courthouse Visitation Committee. My years leading up to becoming your Chair have also been very fulfilling, and I think they have enhanced my skills as a lawyer, businesswoman, and published author.

For these reasons, having a joint meeting with the YLD and partnering with Tommy D. Preston Jr., the YLD Chair, has been a big highlight of my year as GPSolo Chair so far. We got to do so many new and innovative things, such as having Jack Canfield, the co-creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and author of The Success Principles, with us for our Difference Makers Awards Luncheon and also for a program on “Effortless Marketing: Putting Your Unique Qualities to Work.” We had an informational and heartwarming event at the Mother Emanuel AME Church about the shooting of nine people there in 2015. And our Innovative Trial CLE sessions led by Budget Director Alan O. Olson and Matthew A. Moeller were a big hit. And special thanks go to event sponsor Thomson Reuters for all their successful programs.

It was a complete “full circle” of my career, made even more special because the person who appointed me as Director for her year as Chair of the YLD is Judy Perry Martinez, President-Elect of the ABA. The fact that Judy was at the meeting and a part of the panel “Introduction to Legal Innovation” with the founder of Avvo, Mark Britton, as the opening plenary session made the whole experience even more precious to me. A further surprise was seeing Bill and Sue Hogan with their daughter, Kelly, who had just graduated from law school. Bill said he wanted to come to one of my meetings. My first appointment was under William C. Hubbard as Vice Chair of Juvenile Justice when Bill Hogan was Chair. William Hubbard was on the Mother Emanuel panel. And having Wilson A. Schooley, an old YLD friend and active member of GPSolo and current Chair of the ABA Civil Rights and Social Justice Section, at the meeting just rounded it all out. Here we are 30 years later and still friends, still doing things for the law.

When I saw that old photo, then thought of all the new memories we made this past week with the YLD, I realized that even with all of the changes, new developments, and advances in technology and process in our profession, things really are still the same. We still like to get together and talk about law. We still like to do charity projects for the public we serve. And we still help each other, support each other, and enjoy the great advantages we have serving as lawyers in the ABA. And I am still that young lawyer at heart who loves to share my knowledge and ideas with lawyers and the public, who loves to learn and grow, and even though I am much older now, the newness of the law and the practice are still as exciting to me as they have ever been.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Enjoy this issue of GPSolo magazine and be sure to join us for our exciting upcoming meetings. At the 2019 ABA Midyear Meeting, January 24 to 27 in Las Vegas, Nevada, our program “Innovate Your Practice for Success” will feature a full day of free CLE by our amazing published authors. At the 2019 Litigation & GPSolo CLE Conference, May 1 to 4 in New York City, we are teaming up with the ABA Section of Litigation for a big joint meeting with invaluable programming. I hope to see you there!

Melanie Bragg is Chair of the GPSolo Division. She is the principal of Bragg Law PC, a general civil firm in Houston, Texas.

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