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Executive Officer's Perspective

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Inflation & Staffing


“Pricing power is important in business. You want your business to have the flexibility to raise prices as needed, especially with regard to inflation.” “In business, all expense projections and all revenue projections must account for inflation.”

Hendrith Vanlon Smith Jr, CEO of Mayflower-Plymouth

As we start our new fiscal year, we are faced with continuing inflation. At times, staying within budget and dealing with the challenges of excessive increases across the board seems overwhelming. We see these increases on all fronts which directly affect TCDLA’s staffing, planning, and services provided to members.

An example is a shortage of paper. The Voice for the Defense Magazine’s cost to print has doubled since last fiscal year. Our printer was trying to purchase as much paper as allowed and was hit with “limited quantities.” We use several printers for our brochures and publications, and they are facing the same challenges. This is the message from another one of our vendors: “Due to paper shortages and supply chain issues, some paper stocks will not be available for the time being. Turn times will vary per job; the average turn time is 5‑7 days. Please advise if you need by certain dates, and we will do our best to accommodate.” As consumers we see these same types of challenges everywhere we see signs in the grocery store for popular items “limited quantity two – save some for your neighbor.”

Do not panic; we will still print our Voice for the Defense Magazine. We know this is a member benefit and we are not considering taking it away. We will continue to look at other printers and temporary paperweight changes to get us through this period.

Another increase in cost is food – we all have seen a rise in food at restaurants and grocery stores. Hotels are no different and are facing the same increases which are passed on to us. Often there are still shortages. Hotels who customarily provided banquet orders for events several weeks in advance are now waiting until the week before or even the day before the event. Hotel contracts that were previously signed years in advance are being put on hold in hopes that prices will decrease. Another challenge with the hotels is dealing with new staff not knowing the required layout or A/V needs. We find ourselves explaining and scheduling a pre‑conference meeting a week before the event only to find out the hotel employee we had been in communications with is no longer employed with the hotel. All of these scenarios cause additional stress for everyone involved. The hotel staffing industry no longer has the same loyalty and relationships that we’ve built over time. Most of the time the new hotel contact worries more about the bottom line than our relationship, and there is no room for negotiation. The notion of creating repeat business is no longer an incentive for the new hotel contacts. The audio‑visual companies have doubled or even tripled their prices, and hotels are using third‑party companies because they cannot find staff or have staff that is knowledgeable in A/V.

Many associations are facing these issues and looking at increasing rates; we are focused on providing education and services during these difficult times and looking at other ways to tighten our budgets without price increases to our members.

Staffing and the great resignation continue to take a toll among small and large businesses. I see some of my favorite stores in the mall or restaurants closed with a sign “no employees, come back tomorrow.” So, what is the great resignation? It started at the beginning of 2021; employees had a feel of what it was like to be at home and reevaluate everything revolving around the workforce – this resulted in employees voluntarily resigning from long‑term positions. Some reasons for resignation related to wages, increased cost of living, job dissatisfaction, options to try different fields, work remotely, safety concerns of the pandemic, personal values not aligning with position, and unwillingness to give up family/personal time for work. The days of loyalty to a company for 20+ years and hard work ethic to stay late and come in on the weekends is disappearing.

Working remotely has caused lots of influx.

Employers are no longer competing with companies in their local area – they are competing nationally due to the availability of remote work. During this time, employees and employers have had to adapt to what is needed at the moment. During the great resignation, people go back and forth to different work atmospheres to see what they prefer. Some find they need a social connection and want to come to the office. Being at home with roommates or other distractions is not successful for them. Others prefer to be in solitude or have the flexibility of a work/remote schedule. Employers find tracking the employee’s time hard, and trust is needed. Communication is also vital for tasks and deadlines. The pros and cons for both can go on and on.

TCDLA is not immune to this; putting on over 50 live seminars requires in‑person travel for all staff. In order to remain competitive, we also have to look at ways to retain our employees. Turnover is time‑consuming; training a new employee takes over a year due to all the various tasks completed routinely. Investing in employees you hope will stay takes away from the trainer’s time to complete their tasks, putting everyone behind. We do this with the understanding that it will be disastrous if we do not invest the time necessary for training in the long run. Mental health and wellness also have a considerable impact, which we must stay on top of and address.

Employers who have no option except to offer in‑ person work are faced with having to increase salaries, close business when not staffed, or close completely. Travis County Commissioners Court recently voted to raise the minimum wage to $20 for Travis County employees in hopes of retaining and hiring entry‑level staff.

In order to help us mitigate challenges and plan accordingly, we have implemented a project management task software to track and keep up with numerous deadlines. We have written procedures for every job function, task and process for each duty in the event we have someone leave. We have changed our email to outlook exchange which allows everyone to access anywhere. Staff are set up with laptops to have access remotely. After much trial and error, we have changed to a new zoom phone system that has given us much more options than a regular phone. Faxes are received via email. These are some of the things we have changed. If we can assist with any of the items mentioned above, feel free to reach out. At the end of the day, it is necessary to adapt and embrace change (which is difficult at times for me) and to find a balance that meets everyone’s needs to be successful and productive.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: When I Met the Honorable Frank Maloney


“Unexpected Friendship: We don’t meet people by accident. They are meant to cross our path for a reason.”


Since the day I stared with TCDLA I have learned so much about the history of TCDLA. I remember the first year I started I had the opportunity to sit with Judge Frank Maloney, the first President of TCDLA, to work on a PowerPoint project. We spent hours together over a period of a week. During that week, he told me so many stories about criminal defense and its checkered history that have stuck with me to this day. Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to sit and listen to the stories of many of our gentle giants, who gracefully and humbly shared with me their struggles and successes in the fight for criminal defense.

As time went on, I kept in contact with Judge Maloney; he attended board meetings, shared his institutional knowledge and the history of the Organization. Often, we want to move forward and try something new, leave a legacy; we don’t take the time to appreciate the past or those that helped us get to where we are now. However, Judge Maloney made me realize that I needed to take the time appreciate the history of TCDLA. One time he came to the office with a box of the minutes from the first couple of years’ meetings and photos. I was overwhelmed with nostalgia as I looked through the memories of our gentle giants who started this Organization, one of the largest criminal state organizations in the country. Sadly, despite our continued interactions, once COVID came, Judge Maloney wasn’t able to come around as much. He kept in contact and he’d let me know, in his charming way, that he wanted to attend meetings but didn’t feel safe. Thankfully Facebook kept us connected, and I was glad to see him in posts with his family over the last few years. Like many of the giants that I have come to know in my work here, Judge Maloney will be missed, and I thank him for always staying engaged with me and TCDLA. I recently attended the NACDL Past President dinner, where Judge Maloney was honored as a recently fallen past president. It made me so proud that one of our own TCDLA Presidents, along with the other Texas Past Presidents, were held in such high regard.

Many of those giants are not with us today, but who can forget their contributions; Kelly Pace’s smile and energetic pep talks bright and early; Scrappy Holmes’ late‑night stories; and I’ll always cherish Weldon Holcomb coming into the office, signing a book, and explaining to me what it was like to be a defense attorney decades ago. To this day we have Weldon’s first gavel memorialized in a shadow box hanging in the office. Similarly, many other pictures of the charter members who first met in Dallas in 1971 to found TCDLA grace the TCDLA home office, if you ever have the opportunity to come and visit.

To honor our leaders, we also began taking an annual Presidents’ picture at Rusty, which we hang in the office to celebrate anew those who sacrificed not just one year but six to work on the officer chain. These now join the more than 50 presidents adorning our wall. Each day I walk by and look at these people, some I’ve gotten to know very well as they helped me grow professionally and mentoring me over the years. The institutional knowledge of our past Presidents and Board members helps us all in so many ways that one can only understand when you yourself serve as an active leader in the association.

Once a small organization of some 60 attorneys, today we number close to 3,800, training more than 5,000 attorneys each year. With our grants, we continue to expand our out‑ reach to develop experienced criminal defense lawyers. Our efforts in the legislature have also grown, assuming more importance every year. But the continued success of our association comes from relying not only on our leaders but also on our members—who contribute by serving on a committee, writing a Voice article, testifying about legislation, helping a listserv colleague, giving a referral, or assisting with all the tools at their disposal at seminars.

In my years witnessing the growth of our organization, I myself have been given so many opportunities, been exposed to truths I would never have otherwise experienced—such as understanding what actual innocence means and what it means to represent somebody who needs a fair defense. Most of all, I’ve been given a chance to be part of the friendship bond. I have made some truly amazing friends in this organization.

When I looked at the video put together of all of our pictures collected over the last 50 years, I was struck by the heartfelt camaraderie: it was simply overwhelming. I am so proud to be part of an organization with people who not only care about one another but who will also fight alongside each other. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association is a singular organization, one we all should be proud to belong to. I look forward to celebrating another decade—no! 50 years!—and making it to the centennial celebration. Cheers to all our members and criminal defense attorneys who are part of the Organization’s past, present, and future.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: 2021-2022 TCDLA Committee Highlights Thank You


“No one who achieves success does so without acknowledging the help of others. The wise and confident acknowledge this help with gratitude.”

—Alfred North Whitehead

TCDLA has more than 40 committees and 200 committee members. Committee members meet via zoom and in person to create resources, support our members, and serve in the front line of defense! If you are passionate in a particular area and want to join a committee, visit the website for a full list of possibilities. Committee‑interest forms can be found online—or just email me. Thank you to our members who contribute their time and talents.

Affiliate | Co-Chairs Laurie Key & Susan Anderson: The Affiliate Committee has kept communication open with local bars and assisted with training and recruitment. They have also reached out to local bars who are not affiliates to help or to convince them to join TCDLA.

Amicus (Brief) Curiae | Chair Niles Illich & Vice Chair Kyle Therrian: The committee was consulted on ten cases of statewide significance. Most recently they have been looking to provide amicus support for attorneys representing individuals affected and detained under Operation Lone Star. The Committee is looking to expand its efforts by the addition of attorneys willing to volunteer and write one brief per year as a committee member.

Awards Committee | Co-Chairs David Botsford & Betty Blackwell: The Awards Committee, which meets every March, selected the Hall of Fame inductees (subject to Board approval), the Percy Foreman Lawyer of the Year, and the Charles Butts Pro Bono Lawyer of the Year. The committee did not bestow the Rodney Ellis Award in 2022.

Budget and Financial Development | Chair Nicole DeBorde & Vice Chair Clay Steadman: The Budget and Financial Development Committee put together a successful budget. Committee members met throughout the year to review the income and expenses for accuracy and to ensure TCDLA stays on budget. Over 2,500 checks are signed by the treasurer and check signers.

By-Laws | Chair Adam Kobs: The By‑ Laws Committee was tasked with clarifying two items: qualifications to run for the officer chain and length of time a termed‑out board member must wait before once again applying to be a director. Both amendments were approved by the membership.

Cannabis | Chair Don Flanary: In November of 2021, the Texas Attorney General’s Office (AG) requested that TCDLA provide an Opinion regarding the legality of Delta‑8 THC. The TCDLA Cannabis Committee drafted an Opinion in response which was adopted by the TCDLA Board and send to the AG. TCDLA concluded that concentrated or synthesized Delta‑8 THC is currently illegal under sections 481.103, 481.113, 481.116 as well as section 481.106 (c) of the Texas Health and Safety Code. The exclusion set out in section 481.002(5) for “tetrahydrocannabinols in hemp” is limited to the minute quantities of delta‑8 THC which are naturally occurring in hemp plants. Essentially, Delta‑8 THC is illegal to possess in Texas, however given the exclusions in section 481.002(5), viable defenses to possession do still exist.

Capital Assistance | Chair Greg Westfall & Vice Chair Scott Pawgan: The Capital Assistance Committee assisted in selecting speakers and topics for three seminars throughout Texas.

Client Mental Health | Chair Alyse Ferguson & Vice Chair Melissa Shearer: The Client Mental Health Committee put together three mental health seminars along with a monthly virtual Mental Monday CLE. In addition, the committee met to brainstorm on resources to provide members and clients. The committee also produced several free cheat sheets and sundry mental health resources.

Corrections & Parole | Chairs Bill Habern & David O’Neil: This year the co‑chairs served as course directors for the Post‑Conviction Seminar in Austin. The committee has also continued work on legislative proposals to create an independent board to supervise SCFO. The committee began work on a draft bill that would permit a pardon for individuals granted clemency, filling a gap in current law. At the invitation of its director, the co‑chairs met and provided input on how the TDCJ Parole Division could streamline the blue warrant process. Throughout the year, committee members have provided updates on TDCJ and Parolee Board matters of interest, while also fielding listserv questions on parole and corrections.

Criminal Defense Lawyers Project | Chair Adam Kobs & Vice Chair Monique Sparks: This past year, the CDLP committee saw some 325 speakers travel to over 40 seminars throughout Texas, training more than 5,000 criminal defense lawyers. Operating with the theme “Getting Game Day Ready,” the team went undefeated!

Diversity, Justice & Inclusion | Chairs Thuy Le & Monique Sparks: The Diversity, Justice & Inclusion Committee spread the word with statements highlighting various holidays and underrepresented groups. In addition, the committee reviewed suggested changes to the SBOT Lawyers Creed. Thuy and Monique served as course directors for the third annual Race Seminar.

DWI Resource | Chairs Mark Thiessen & Frank Sellers: The DWI Resource Committee continued to fight the good fight against the State and bad law. DWI 2nds acquittals are now eligible for expunction thanks to excellent appellate lawyering. DWI Committee also updated the rules flash card and created a checklist that will be available for purchase soon.

Executive | Chair Michael Gross & Vice Chair Heather Barbieri: The Executive Committee reviewed all business written and approved by committees, bringing items to the TCDLA Board for approval when required. This year the committee met in person quarterly and otherwise handled business virtually—altogether a productive and successful year.

Ethics | Chair Robert Pelton & Vice Chair Brent Mayr: The Ethics Committee monitored and responded to the dedicated Ethics Hotline via email,, and phone, (512) 646‑2734. The committee responds within 24 hours, responding to multiple inquires daily, and over 100 inquires per year. In addition, the committee members submit articles monthly for the standing ethics column in the Voice.

Health  &  Wellness | Chairs  Mark  Griffith & Savannah Gonzalez: The Health and Wellness Committee met to brainstorm on ways to support our members. The committee will implement and program to be held in the evening.

Indigent Client Defense | Chair Jani Maselli Wood & Vice Chair Allison Mathis: The Indigent Defense Committee reviewed and provide comment on several AG opinions. In addition, the committee created a Court Cost Workgroup Booklet.

Judicial Conduct | Chairs Ed Mallett & Philip Wischkaemper: The Judicial Conduct Committee reviewed the several cases where a former Midland Assistant D.A., Ralph Petty, received extra compensation from the County’s judicial budget for being a “law clerk” to the judges. In the central case where the Los Angeles California Federal Defenders, Capital Habeas Unit, discovered the double‑dipping and inherent conflict of interest, they sought a deposition and Petty claimed his Fifth Amendment rights. The death row defendant prevailed on his writ. TCDLA filed Complaints with the Commission on Judicial Conduct against the seven judges still in service who had participated in the scheme. A recent report from our sources in Midland has informed us that one of the judges, who was tangentially involved, received notice that his complaint had been dismissed. Also, during the year, the committee advised members on a variety of issues, including motions to recuse, for change of venue, for continuance when experts became unavailable, and similar, often confidential, matters.

Juvenile | Chair Kameron Johnson: The Juvenile Justice Committee worked on juvenile legislation by serving as experts and a resource for the legislature. This included juvenile‑specific trainings by the newest Juvenile Training Immersion Program (JTIP) specialist and a toolkit developed for certification cases with Lone Star Justice. The committee also held case staffing and reviews for attorneys throughout the state with complex juvenile cases, also creating juvenile cheat sheets and working on creating e‑filing for Texas attorneys (although not completed, we have laid the groundwork for jurisdictions and district clerks to start utilizing). The committee also has published juvenile related articles in the Voice.

Law School Students | Chair Anne Burnham: The Law School Students Committee organized and presented “Pathways to Criminal Defense Practice,” a pan‑ Texas law school virtual Interactive career day event; created a law school students public website page with student‑specific resources; hosted a law student reception at Rusty Duncan, in collaboration with the New Lawyers Committee; and facilitated TCDLA speaker presentations at individual law schools.

Legislative | Chair Bill Harris: The Legislative Committee met at least monthly this year and spent endless hours at the Capitol during the session. Often committee members and those testifying didn’t leave until after midnight. The committee continues to update members with the legislative cheat sheet, presentations, and materials with the latest laws (including Bail Reform), as well as traveling to affiliates’ local bars and maintaining the Legislative Update listserv and dedicated email().

Listserv | Chair Jeep Darnell & Vice Chair David Moore: The Listserv Committee has the incredibly endless job of reading over 20,000 posts annual on the TCDLA listserv (TCDLA offers more than 20 different specialty areas), spreading awareness of the rules when needed and fostering group respect. Staff are also notified immediately if members need assistance as well.

Long Range Planning | Chair Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube & Vice Chair Monique Sparks: Researching process and structure of the committee for an end of year working session. Including TCDLEI in the process to work towards complimenting mission statements and goals.

Media Relations | Chairs Lisa Greenberg & John Torrey Hunter: The Media Relations Committee is the first to respond to recent events following the Covid‑19 pandemic, Supreme Court decisions, and the recent appointment of a Supreme Court justice. Committee members throughout the state create press releases quickly, fostering relationships with their local media outlets and reporters to assist in getting our voice and perspectives heard when needed.

Membership Benefits | Chair Gene Anthes: The Membership Committee this year sponsored four quarterly members socials throughout the state, including the Cowboys stadium tour, a hockey game, a baseball game, and wine tours.

Memo Bank | Chair Tip Hargrove & Vice Chair Warren Wolf: The Memo Bank Committee was the brainchild of two old tech‑incompetent lawyers who didn’t know how to save a darn thing from the list‑ serv. Past President/Hall of Famer Vee Perini and Tip Hargrove wanted to preserve the best of the recurring posts of general interest to our membership. Committee members review all posts and flag items for inclusion on a section called “Listserve Saved—the good stuff.” This is in the members‑only section, which has expanded to also include the Voir Dire and Motions banks.

New Lawyers | Chair Thuy Le & Vice Chair Rick Flores: The New Lawyers Committee assisted in a Career Day virtual interactive event and hosted a New Lawyers meet‑and‑greet at Rusty Duncan.

Nominations | Chair Heather Barbieri & Vice Chair John Hunter Smith: The Nominations Committee met several times throughout the year to review the process, as well as to encourage members and districts to apply. The committee reviews applications and will meet to select the slate for 2022–23. This year the committee voted on twelve new members and seven renewals for the Board of Directors, ratified at the Annual Members meeting in June. The committee will prepare an analysis report for next year to ensure Texas‑wide representation.

Past Presidents | Chair Betty Blackwell: The Past Presidents Committee meets to keep former presidents abreast of TCDLA issues and to make use of their institutional knowledge for innovative solutions.

Prosecutorial | Chair Lance Evans & Vice Chair David Moore: The Prosecutorial Committee reviewed several grievances submitted by members and proceeded as necessary.

Public Defender | Chairs Jessica Canter & Clifford Duke: The Public Defender Committee focused this year on continuing to strengthen public‑defense ties around the state. Using our annual meeting in San Antonio, we were able to concentrate on networking our new and expanding Public Defender, Regional Defense, and MAC offices with the common goal of superior indigent defense. Our trainings addressed the nuts‑and‑bolts integral to daily defense, but also the growing need to recognize diversity and a holistic defense for indigent clients. We’re looking to TCDLA as the linking organization for these growing offices as we continue to help each other statewide.

Rural Practice | Co-Chairs John Hunter Smith & Clay Steadman: Meeting throughout the year, the Rural Practice Committee worked on a checklist, creating a format for a quarterly virtual roundtable and addressing member needs and monitoring the Rural Listserv.

Strike Force | Chair Nicole DeBorde: Strike Force receives calls and emails from TCDLA members almost weekly. We are proud to serve members under attack for their performance of the criminal defense function in their representation of the accused. Strike force has appeared in person and remotely throughout the state rep‑ resenting our members and has spent many hours brain‑ storming with criminal defense lawyers under attack.

Technology | Chair Jeremy Rosenthal: The Technology Committee this year focused on helping master old technology and finding new technology tools for members to use. Check out the TCDLA website for our bank of “How To” videos for daily tech tasks and their use. Also keep an eye out for new tools coming from TCDLA—one to keep track of Brady and another providing ammunition for cross‑examination—as we work to create a centralized statewide database for members.

Transcript Database | Chair Carmen Roe: The Transcript Database Committee met to strategize the collection and organization of transcripts.

Veterans Assistance | Chair Terri Zimmerman & Vice Chair John Convery: The Veterans Assistance Committee works to serve as a resource for TCDLA members on accurate information about legal issues in‑ volving active duty, reserve, retired, or former military members. Our biggest event of the year is the Annual Veterans Justice Clinic held in February. Speakers include experts discussing topics such as the physical and psychological effects of combat, the workings of the Veterans Administration, developments in military law, confusing military paperwork such as the discharge certificate (DD‑214), and the operations of the various Veterans Treatment Courts around the state.

Voice | Editor Jeep Darnell & Assistant Editors Anglica Cogliano, Amanda Hernandez, Sarah Roland, Jeremy Rosenthal & Clay Steadman: The Voice editorial committee reviews over 100 articles a year, edits content, and checks citations. After the articles are finalized, the committee goes through the proofing process on each of the ten, 46‑page Voice magazines annually. They also reach out to authors to offer assistance or request articles on current events or resources related to criminal defense.

Women’s Caucus | Co-Chairs Betty Blackwell, Julie Hasdorff & Cynthia Hujar Orr: The Women’s Caucus Committee put together a women‑specific seminar and hosted a Women’s Caucus at Rusty Duncan. The committee also kept members engaged on the listserv, and members submitted articles for the Voice. In addition, the Women’s Caucus had a round table discussion with other women practitioners and will launch zoom calls to move these discussions and mentorship opportunities forward.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Welcome to the Family


“One thing I know for sure is that family is not defined by blood.”

—Jessica Scott

TCDLA is proud to celebrate the 35th Annual Rusty Duncan Advanced Criminal Law Course, scheduled for June 16‑18, 2022, in San Antonio. Named for the late Honorable M. P. “Rusty” Duncan III of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, this course is designed to cover state law and scholarly topics as well as cases from the past year that impact your practice today. Who is Rusty Duncan? you ask.

Honorable Maurice Palmer “Rusty” Duncan III celebrated life between 1945 and 1990. He ended his career as a judge on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1987–1990. Before becoming a judge, Rusty was Board Certified in Criminal Law and practiced criminal defense out of Denton, Texas. He volunteered in a number of ways: chair, State Bar’s Committee on the Study of the Insanity Defense in Texas, 1982–1983; co‑chair, State Bar’s Penal Code and Criminal Procedure Committee, 1982–1984; member, Senate Committee on Development of a Criminal Code of Evidence, 1983–1984; and editor, Voice for the Defense, 1984–1987. For a more exciting and detailed story about Rusty, see this June 2019 article.

At the end of Rusty Duncan, our current don of TCDLA, Michael Gross, will pass on the TCDLA legacy to incoming President Heather Barbieri. It has been a pleasure working with Michael this year. During the Board meeting we will swear into the TCDLA family the new slate of officers, seven renewing board members, and 13 new board members. Afterward, everyone will head to Rosario’s for a time‑honored traditional lunch. Together TCDLA will continue becoming stronger as we unite, supporting and protecting each other.

Under President Michael Gross’s leadership, the Executive Committee, TCDLA Board, and committees have continued to meet and work hard despite the craziness of everyone having to go back to court all at once. It has been wonderful to work with each group this year. Read next month’s article to see highlights of our committees’ efforts this year. If you want to become more involved as a TCDLA member, we are accepting Committee Interest forms for 2022‑2023, due July 1, 2022. We have more than 25 committees to consider! The form can be found on the website—or email

A huge thanks to TCDLEI Chair Laurie Key and the TCDLEI Board Members for providing more than $50,000 in scholarships for attorneys enduring hardships, travel stipends, and a 3L scholarship. We will have a silent auction at Rusty Duncan to raise funds for next year. It is YOU who can make this happen!

April showers brought exceptional CLE blooms. For two days in Austin we presented Women in the Law and Their Male Allies—with course directors Betty Blackwell, Jessica Canter, Julie Hasdorff, Michelle Ochoa, and Cynthia Orr—and Race in Criminal Justice—with course directors Thuy Le and Monique Sparks. The interactive events presented outstanding speakers, resulting in stellar evaluations. We thank the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for funding this event and allowing travel stipends for many who had not been to these events (or any) in a long time. It was a great group to be with—very empowering.

Another special event in April featured our third cohort of Future Indigent Defense Leaders (FIDL). TIDC,  HCPDO, and TCDLA  joined to present FIDL 3.0. After four years, the partners were able to bring Gideon’s Promise to Texas. The class, meeting April 22 to May 3 in San Antonio, consisted of 30 Texas attorneys who all practice in a public defender office or whose practice consists primarily of indigent defense. Gideon’s Promise involved an intense two‑week training in teaching new attorneys a client‑centered holistic approach.

Each session began with entrants at breakfast together and ended with dinner and evening activities. There were no breaks during the day to maximize all available hours. Faculty planned each night for an hour or two after group events and returned bright and early to prepare their rooms. I had the opportunity to participate, and I was amazed by how close everyone became by the second day. The presentations and group activities were inspiring— leaving me wanting to get out into the world and make a difference.

Our 16 faculty members, led by Jon Rapping, Sean Mayer, and Zanele Ngubeni, came from all across the country, including several from Texas. Staff members Kathleen Casey Gamez, Sarah Grace, Rick Wardroup, and Keri Steen worked endless hours behind the scenes to make sure the first‑ever Texas Gideon’s Promise was a success. We are now working towards TCDLA hosting a Texas program. Thank you to the faculty who traveled from far and wide, as well as to our Texas TCDLA members, staying a week or better for these intense sessions!

Our May DWI Defense Project seminar also proved its usual resounding success. Course directors Larry Boyd, David Burrows, and Frank Sellers and their speakers elaborated on the Yellowstone seminar theme: “The whole world’s a test, son.”

Also, on tap was the May 13 SBOT induction, featuring over 1,000 attorneys. TCDLA staff attended and welcomed each of those new attorneys interested in criminal defense.

Want to get to know the TCDLA family better? Join us in South Padre Island July 13 for Trainer of Trainers. The new format this year will be interactive (and did I mention fun?). Come if youwant to become a speaker or pick up new skills from veteran speakers. Each year the Trainer of Trainers program plays an essential role in providing the best quality speakers! The event also includes two additional days of Fun‑in‑the Sun CLE, with speakers from all over the State. Besides training, relationships are renewed or built, and families get to know each other and make plans for the next Padre gathering. There are many opportunities for you to participate if you want, or you can just take some “me” time. On the last day, we host a TCDLA, TCDLEI, and CDLP orientation. If you are not already on one of the boards or committees, you are still welcome to attend and learn more about them.

Finally, I look forward to working this year with Heather Barbieri as she takes over the presidential responsibilities in June. Under her leadership, we will continue developing and maintaining solid bonds, supporting Texas criminal defense attorneys and, most importantly, our TCDLA family! Always remember: The TCDLA staff members are here to assist. If it’s information you need or a service we can provide, don’t hesitate to contact us.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Cyber Security


“Don’t worry. I’m from the IT team.”


As we begin the month, it is time for TCDLA to run scans and ensure we pass all the PCI Compliant tests. These are security standards we must follow to process payments online while maintaining a level of security that protects data. After several days, countless hours of answering more than 200 questions, running tests on servers, and contacting IT on our website and database providers, we passed. The good thing is we get to do this all over again next year!

Coincidently, this month I attended a professional development training on cyber security and how it affects associations, members, and vendors. In addition, Mike Adams, TCDLA and Technology Committee member, submitted an article for this issue that complements mine perfectly.

What I have learned—and witnessed—is that anyone that can be a victim. Yahoo Finance reported cyber‑attacks increased by 341% during COVID‑19, according to Nexusguard Research. All too often, people are embarrassed to admit tobeing victims, and unfortunately, they don’t share their experiences, allowing us to continue thinking it can never happen to us. But think again. Attacks no longer take the form of emails with lousy grammar or fake voicemails intoning, “This is the IRS. You will be arrested . . .” (IRS repeatedly says they never call, always corresponding by mail.)

Just recently in my own world view I’ve seen deposit accounts altered, payment methods changed, ransomware paid, wire transfers intercepted by duplicate email accounts, and more—all when knowledgeable, professional people are the victims.

Data by RiskIQ suggests cyber‑ crime costs organizations $2.9 million every minute, with major businesses losing $25 per minute as a result of data breaches. Ransomware attacks have gone mainstream with the proliferation of ransomware‑ as‑a‑service (RAS), where cyber‑ criminal groups create and market ransomware to “affiliates.”

Who knew there were so many phishes (from information accessed here: Eight types of phishing attacks and how to identify them | CSO Online)?

Whaling: Seeking CEO or president credentials. When assuming office, our incoming president each year receives emails from members telling them “you have been hacked.” No, they’re not being hacked, just targeted as high‑profile titles. When you look at the sender’s email address, it may indicate, for instance, from Melissa Schank, mschank@tcdla. com <akfdjfalksdjfl;kaj@gmail. com>. If you look closely, you’ll see it’s not the actual email address it seems to be at first glance. Several such fake emails led people to think that I needed them for a minute, or wanted them to process something for me, or needed to make bogus payroll/vendor account changes. In our office we must remain alert about our established procedures for payment for members, vendors, or even staff (when dealing with in‑house payroll/401k updates).

Phishing : Mass-market emailing looking for you to log in. You might see, for example, an email saying your PayPal password expired; your storage has been exceeded; your account is frozen; or something as blatant as “click here to pay the outstanding invoice.” If you enter your information, they have you. If this should happen, of course, you’re advised to change your password(s) immediately and contact the entity to make sure nothing is billed you.

Spear Phishing: Targeting large corporations or government agencies. Assembling critical data, these criminals work for long periods researching then strategically attacking these organizations.

Clone PhishingCreating a near-perfect replica. The look is the same, often gaining entry by resending a message received previously that was intercepted by a cloned website. If you receive what seems to be an odd request or repeats a previous message, reach out to the end‑user directly to find out. (Some offices have particular code words or do not handle specific processing through email.)

Vishing: Phone call from a financial firm asking for personal information due to a “security problem.” Whenever I get one of these, I hang up and log into the secure site, determine if there is in fact a breach, make sure my password works—or even call the firm as needed.

Smishing: Pretending to send text messages from a company to get you to click on a link. Often attackers use the name of a reputable company, replicating the logo or site and asking you to log in. Recently I purchased something from Best Buy, using a Wells Fargo card, and the site asked for a verification code from my bank. My bank info is saved in contacts, so I know if they text or call. They responded to my inquiry: “Wells Fargo will never call or text you for this code. Don’t share it.” Why these are successful: 98% of text messages are read, with 45% responded to, while emails run 20% and 6%, respectively.

Snowshoeing:A viral type of spam. We get a message, open it—and every one of our contacts gets a message we didn’t send. We tell everyone not to open that email after someone tells us about it. At any rate, change your password immediately, then let people know not to open the infected message. The most virulent form can invade your contact list once you start clicking away and spread again. Most malware software will catch this, so it is essential to keep an active subscription. (When I notice something is working oddly on my computer, I immediately run a scan.)

Other attacks:

  • Man in the middle: someone pretending to be you and intercepting all your emails and transfers by having your information
  • Email Forwarding Activity: attackers set up email rules to hide their malicious activities or have emails forward
  • Ransom: send us bitcoins or we will hold your data hostage
  • Fake Malware and Updates
  • SQL Injection: attacking your database
  • Drive-by Attack :website loaded with viruses

A helpful to visit for more information is

Additional Preventive Measures (from information and graphics accessed from TSAE CEO Forum)

    1. Determine what data your organization saves that could be lost if you are Also, consider the cost to replace it (or pay reparations to members) for a breach.
    2. Conduct an annual review of the organization’s cybersecurity stance, policies and procedures, the threat landscape, any training program, and insurance.
    3. Implement multi‑factor authentication (MFA) for all.
    4. Make sure that your website is secure with HTTPS.
    5. Conduct a baseline, simulated phishing attack for both the board and staff to raise awareness and improve skills.
    6. Ensure that antivirus and malware detection is provided to all staff computers, then monitor, maintain, and review them regularly.
    7. Communicate and enforce clear password models. Promote the use of password vaults for all.
      • Make your password longer and harder to guess, with a minimum of 16 characters using a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters,
      • Change your password
    8. Develop business continuity plans that include what may need to happen in case of a cyber or ransomware attack. Then, create and communicate an incident response plan.
    9. Implement document retention and destruction plan.

How secure is my password?

These attacks are exceptionally successful because the attackers are perfecting their craft. After all, this is what they do, and they do it well. At the end of the day, we all try to be as secure as possible, and awareness is critical. Unfortunately, there is a new scheme, attack, or virus every day. We can be so busy sometimes that we do what is fastest, all too often leading to otherwise‑avoidable consequences. I thank those who bravely share their stories. We’re not judging them, rather, thanking them for making others aware who might otherwise fall victim. By sharing this piece, I hope you were able to maybe take one new thing away—or just be reminded about the threats.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Gatherings


“This is the power of gathering: it inspires us, delightfully, to be more hopeful, more joyful, more thoughtful: in a word, more alive.”

-Alice Waters

Cynthia Orr orchestrated a joint fundraiser with the NACDL Foundation for Criminal Justice (NFCJ) and the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute (TCDLEI) in Austin. Both organizations honored Mike Ware and Jason Hernandez, gathering in Austin at the home of the Hoches.

Mike Ware, executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas, directs their investigative and legal services. In addition, he is an adjunct professor at Texas A&M University School of Law and supervises the Texas A&M Innocence Project legal clinic, an Innocence Texas partner.

In 1984, Mike began private practice, specializing in criminal defense. His practice included representing police officers in criminal, civil, and administrative matters, as well as investigating and litigating whistleblower claims. From July 2007 until July 2011, Mike was the Special Fields Bureau Chief for the Dallas County District Attorney’s office, which included the Conviction Integrity Unit. In 2014, he received the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Association’s Percy Foreman Criminal Defense Lawyer of the Year award.

Jason Hernandez, an advocate and community leader, was a nonviolent drug offender sentenced to mandatory life in prison at age 17. President Obama commuted his sentence to 20 years in 2013. You can find more information on his story at‑hernandez.

It was truly an evening of fun and entertainment while recognizing the two and raising money for these two organizations. We want to thank our TCDLA members for joining us.

  • Kerri Anderson Donica
  • Samuel Bassett
  • Brock Benjamin
  • David Botsford
  • Cory Clements
  • Aaron Diaz
  • Mikel Eggert
  • Lance Evans
  • Michael Heiskell
  • Nicole DeBorde Hochglaube
  • Audrey Moorehead
  • Gerry Morris
  • Carmen Roe
  • John Toland
  • Amber Vazquez

Also on the calendar was an interactive Voir Dire seminar out of Houston hosted by course directors Stanley Schneider, John Hunter Smith, and Carmen Roe. Participants enjoyed working in smaller groups with our speakers, followed by a one‑on‑one with Joshua Karton. We then gathered for a board dinner and enjoyed our usual camaraderie.

On  Friday  and  Saturday criminal defense attorneys from all districts met and worked on TCDLA business. A subcommittee of the Rural Committee—Clay Steadman, Jody Griffith, Michelle Ochoa, and Judson Woodley— is fashioning a pretrial and trial checklist for rural practice (divided into two parts to make it more user friendly). Michelle took notes during the meeting, and I asked her to type them up and email them so I can help compile the checklists. The Legislative Committee met to discuss legislation, SB6 training, and other developments around the state. Legislative Counsel David Gonzalez will do a two‑ hour introduction breaking down the elements of SB6. Finally, the Executive and CDLP committees met to prepare for the upcoming year.

Sam  Basset,  TCDLEI  Board member, and Michael Gross, TCDLA President, presented Symphony Munoz the Charlie Butts Scholarship Award at the board meeting. Past president Sam Bassett set up the scholarship through the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute to award a 3L law student demonstrating interest in criminal law, especially criminal defense. Eligible students must share their views on our role in the criminal justice system and present recommendations from a member and a professor. Applications for the annual award are due each year in December.

This year TCDLA awarded the scholarship to Symphony Munoz, who is a 3L student at Texas Tech University. Symphony grew up in a small, west Texas town. Her father was the first in his family to earn a master’s degree, and her mother was the first in her family to attend college. She stated, “Now, I am adding to their legacy as the first person in our family to obtain a professional degree.” Despite her parent’s achievements, she has siblings who are also pursuing their own educational paths. At first, Munoz worked as a server, but soon realized her studies needed to take priority. She now expects to graduate Summa Cum Laude.

Dwight McDonald, a Texas Tech University alumni himself, worked in a private criminal defense practice for 22 years. In 2015, he transitioned to the clinical professor position he currently holds. He wrote Munoz a letter of recommendation which helped earn her the scholarship.

Mr. McDonald confidently stated, “I have witnessed firsthand her ability to take complex legal matters, dissect them, explain it to her client in terms they could understand and then provide the Court or opposing counsel a compelling argument based on the facts and the law and secure a favorable outcome for her client. Symphony attacks all assignments and the challenges of representing clients as a student attorney with a positive attitude and a set of intellectual tools that are indeed superbly attuned to quickly mastering and integrating new ideas, facts and the law.”

This month we will hold two more interactive programs with group discussions in Austin— Women in Law and their Male Allies (April 21) and Race in Criminal Law (April 22). Come to one or both! Visit our website for a detailed agenda or email to sign up today. We will cover one or two nights of hotel stay.

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Fast and Furious


“In life, it’s not where you go, it’s who you travel with.”

—Charles Schulz

February flew by. The month started with seminars during the Austin shutdown, led by our fearless course directors Rick Wardroup (Capital); Jani Maselli Wood (Appellate); Teri Zimmerman, John Shelburne, and John Convery (Veterans); and Rick Wardroup and Alyse Ferguson (Mental Health). Special thanks to all the speakers and attendees who braved the weather and made this event possible.

Next up was TCDLA’s Federal Law & Gumbo. The excellent topics and speakers in New Orleans kept the entire audience entranced each day till 4:30 pm. Speakers then lingered and met with attendees individually, and the questions continued at length. You know it’s good when no one leaves early on a Friday! Course directors John Convery and David Botsford hosted a stellar lineup. (If you missed the event, you can find it in the on-demand portion of our website.)

Of particular note was the presentation of the TCDLA Distinguished Service Award to Roy Barrera Sr., surrounded as he was by a number of attending past presidents. It was such an honor to meet a legend and listen to his stories. At the age of 95, Roy still retains clients and actively litigates, including in a recent criminal felony. He may be the longest-standing criminal defense attorney in the state, licensed more than 70 years. In 2021, Roy had two jury trials—one trial to verdict and another ending in a mistrial. He truly is one of our gentle giants.

The fun times did not end with the seminar; this also included our President’s Trip, hosted by Michael Gross. His choice social events combined great times, delicious meals, plus the camaraderie of our past presidents, officers, lifelong members, and new faces. We spent four days and evenings together and really got to know each other and catch up. The photos can’t begin to show just how much fun we had!

Gene Anthes and Sean Levinson from the Membership Committee also put together a rousing get-together: our first Members Social Event Touring the Cowboys Stadium. This was a great idea to bring members and families together to meet and form relationships in a fun, relaxing environment. The Membership Committee has three more social events planned this year: a Dallas Stars Hockey game, a Texas Rangers game, and a Wine Tasting—Austin to Fredericksburg. We will be sending more details soon.

The month continued with an Indigent Defense seminar in Dallas, where Lynn Richardson assembled a talented lineup for an overwhelming turnout of attendees. This event has always been popular due to Lynn’s leadership and support. In addition, we hosted two Juvenile Training Immersion Programs. Bill Cox and Kathleen Casey-Gamez worked tirelessly with trainers who prepared materials and a written curriculum designed specifically for Texas. The series of small group interactive programs—each a different topic—proved to be a resounding success. The next one is March 4 in El Paso on Adolescent Development. The final program of the series will be held virtually on April 29, dealing with “The Role of Counsel and Organization 101: Managing the Juvenile Caseload.”

It must be noted that we have worked closely with the grant on innumerable related items. We want to thank Judge Hervey and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals judges in general for their continued support for the education of criminal defense attorneys and support staff.

We also held a successful Career Pathways training to engage law-school students, new lawyers, and lawyers exploring a specialty or new career. More than 40 criminal defense attorneys shared their experiences, career paths, local county cultures, and norms—whether in private practice, firms, or PD/MAC offices. If you missed out, you can still view this on the website.

TCDLA also joined with the NACDL Foundation in a united effort to fund TCDLEI scholarships. We appreciate all our members who contributed and/or attended. The Texas Criminal Defense Lawyers Educational Institute Board met to prepare for the Rusty Duncan Silent Auction as well as plan for the remainder of the fiscal year. Do you have something you would like to donate—artwork, vacation home, jewelry, memorabilia? We welcome anything!

The Future Indigent Defense Leaders 3.0 class has been finalized, and we will next turn to planning travel to Gideon Core 101 in April. If you didn’t get in this year, applications will open up for 4.0 in November. We had so many qualified applicants that TIDC and HCPDO really had a hard time selecting candidates. The client-centered focus was overwhelming, listening to each applicant’s story. Special thanks to those who assisted in the numerous interviews—Thuy Le, Brandon Ball, Kathleen Casey-Gamez, Bill Cox, and Rick Wardroup. We have weekly planning meetings with these folks as well as Geoff Burkhart and Alex Bunin.

As Michael mentioned in his article, many of our other committees met this month. The Awards Committee, for one, met to select the recipients and research candidates—itself quite a task! All our committee volunteers should be lauded, as they continuously look for ways to provide services for our members.

This month has indeed flown by. I worked night and day to catch up so I could enjoy my time spent with members, whether traveling, zooming, or on the phone. Time flies when you’re having fun, and enjoying what I do in life is its own reward itself. Now time for March Madness!

Executive Officer’s Perspective: A New Year


“An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”

—Bill Vaughan

2022 is here! I am hoping you had the chance to take some time off and re-energize. After hunkering down for two years, my family went on vacation during the holiday break. Wow, did it feel good to see people and try to regain some semblance of normality. It felt so good to disconnect. Still, it was a little scary trying to take every precaution and preventive measure—masking up and liberally applying hand sanitizer all the while. But I am glad we were able to spend time together. The time off was welcome and proved enjoyable. When is the next holiday?

TCDLA has hit the ground running in 2022. The Ethics Committee has reviewed and prepared a letter for the State Bar Committee on Disciplinary Rules and Referenda regarding the proposed changes to Texas Disciplinary Rule of Professional Conduct 3.09. The Bylaws Committee is clarifying verbiage regarding terms and application requirements. The Amicus Committee voted on several cases presented. The Membership Committee has planned several social events so members can reconnect, bringing along friends and family.

The TCDLA Codes have also been updated, along with several revised publications per the 87th legislative session. In addition, we have a new app coming out, which will include quick links to our resources and members-only section. You will be able to check your membership status and renew, register for a seminar or access seminar material, and shop for publications. You will also have access to the Member Directory Search, TCDLA Listserv, and podcast. The TCDLA podcast bank has been growing (download it!), and if you want to be part of the this, email .

The Voice editorial committee continues to work hard to provide you with monthly issues. If you are interested in writing an article, please do consider submitting. Articles can run anywhere from 500 to 2500 words. The website has guidelines and videos to help get you started. A team reviews all submissions. Looking for a past article? All the Voice issues since its inception in March 1972 can be searched.

Looking forward, a number of events are upcoming, as shown on the website, and you can attend them in person or virtually. Course directors and speakers are busy filling out lineups for the year’s schedule. We are building on-demand CLE as well, if you’re looking to fill a specific need for CLE. On, go to CLE/Events → Webinars on Demand.

Reminder too: We have a host of resources on  Task Force the members-only section of the website. Several committees maintain specific pages with additional resources—COVID, Law School, Client Mental Health, Memo Bank, Amicus, Veterans, DWI, Juvenile, Wellness—incorporating how-to videos, motions, and numerous other resources. If you are interested in Operation Lonestar, you can find information, training material, and such as well. TCDLA’s 35-plus committees are here to assist, and you can find them listed on the website under the About tab. As work with officers on this year proceeds, we are already sifting through grant applications for next year.

On the home front, staff started the first week of January with two grant-funded programs, heading off to Lubbock. Together with the Lubbock Criminal Defense Lawyers Association, they put on the Prairie Pup Nuts & Bolts and the 41st Annual Prairie Dog. Next up are preparations for 26 scheduled seminars, beginning with site visits then work on marketing and registration, publications, and the new app.

Our accounting team is currently huddling with auditors to complete the FY21 audit. As we approach the midway point in the fiscal year, we are looking at how we fared in our budgeting to ensure we end the year on track. This is an important tool in helping us plan for FY23—which is just around the corner!

Never forget that we are here to serve and assist you. If there is anything we can do for you, our members, please let me know. Let TCDLA be part of your starting the new year off in a positive direction: Let’s be the optimists with half-full cups!

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Setbacks


“Turn your setbacks into comebacks.”


The holiday season is here! It’s been too long since I’ve traveled or taken a vacation due to the pandemic, so I’m excited to be going to see my out-of-state relatives. It seems like years! We will be taking a trip out west, reuniting with cousins and getting together with our extended family.

But excitement over our plans was tempered when my daughter hurt herself—tearing her ACL and meniscus and straining the FCL and MCL. She was devastated that her basketball season was over before it even started. It broke my heart to see her work so hard this summer to prepare, only to be let down. This was to be her year. Now she is relegated to physical therapy for six weeks to allow the FCL and MCL to regain mobility and flexibility, then surgery.

The operation is scheduled a few days after we return from our holiday trip. The recovery process itself will require six to nine months, due to two tears in her meniscus. When the doctor explained the surgery process, it was surreal, sounding like something from a sci-fi movie.

As a parent, I wish I could shield her from sickness, or pain, or whatever plagues her. In a way, I feel the same about our staff and our members. Those moments when we’re excited over new developments then face some terrible setback. Those life-impacting hardships force us to figure a way to move forward. To strive to be stronger or better. None of these things can—or should—be done alone.

While we can’t control what befalls us, we can challenge ourselves to conduct the way we respond. We have the power to marshal our resources and overcome adversity. Strength comes from what you thought you couldn’t do! Similarly, we also can provide the support to help each other along our journeys. In either case, reaching the end, successful goal is so rewarding.

For my daughter, the saying “walk before you run, crawl if you have to” rings so true. In youth, in particular, we want to get there without undergoing any trials or tribulations. Persistence, not giving up, will be key. As the holiday approaches, we will add in a bit of patience.

And as the season winds down, we tend to reflect on the past year. I challenge all to take a moment during the holidays and enjoy time with family and friends. Give the best gift you can, your presence and undivided attention. Go above and beyond—connect with friends, loved ones, fill your heart. Spread some joy to someone and show them you care. Together we can lessen each other’s burdens, so sprinkle some kindness, plant some love. Make these holidays extraordinary and share it with someone close. Cheers to hope, overindulgence in food, and reenergizing (worry about getting back into shape next year—a small setback!). Happy holidays to you, and wishing you a peaceful, healthy, and prosperous year!

Executive Officer’s Perspective: Do you love what you do?


“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life,
and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work.
And the only way to do great work is to love what you do.”

– Steve Jobs

As everyone starts going back in to work, we notice a seismic shift between working from home and in the office. The previous year held many challenges for working parents, juggling their full-time jobs and taking care of children (and, if you were like me, taking on the role of warden and teacher). This past year’s social isolation totally unsettled me. A people person, I surprised myself by all too easily becoming something of an unsocial couch potato. The anxiety built as we let our guard down in the spring, thinking things were getting better, then boom—a new strain crept in.

Still, many of our staff returned to the office immediately after Austin’s mandatory shutdown lapsed. As things opened up more, I too returned to face the new challenges: from traveling, to ever-changing COVID rules, to dealing with children thinking themselves free of virtual school (since “the warden” no longer occupied a home office). I am so glad they are back to in-person school, though I do feel sad for our COVID puppies, now alone at home. Did anyone else‘s children beg for a pet that has now become your responsibility?

Through all the disruption, the workforce has changed too: In association/events and hotel industries, for instance, many employees have moved on, some working remotely—if at all. Several companies have given up or reduced their office space, maybe rotating shifts to adjust. With courts not yet 100% operational, we still face zoom court and may well into the future. Some say that zoom and team rotations are the way of the future. Really? Sure, many jobs can be managed remotely or on a rotating basis, but if you work in an industry that provides service to people, how can you do this from home? You need to interact, serve, provide resources.

More than a year in, service industries like restaurants struggle to maintain a staff. One person now does the job of three. To this, we can all relate. The bottom line, at the end of the day, is can you provide your customer the best service. This new reality faces a challenge as everyone opens up to in-person events, social gatherings, vacations. In Austin, for one, employers must deal with the daunting prospect of a job market that’s become ultra-competitive, each company trying to offer more than the next (a boon to service employees, of course).

But when you’re running a small business, whether with one or more employees, each person has a job. And when you’re understaffed, struggling to fill positions, you will ultimately have to spend time training any new hires, assimilating them in your way of doing things. What sets your work culture apart from the next? Do you mentor your team? The job is not always about pay. Don‘t get me wrong; everyone loves a hefty paycheck. What makes a job desirable, though, may lie in the extras—the atmosphere—you offer. Is there a passion for the industry? A job may be stressful, but at the end of the day, is it rewarding? Can you believe in what you do? I hear all too often how people dread going to work. What things do you do to ensure your team doesn‘t feel this way? There are so many things you can do that are not financially prohibitive. Sometimes that just means thinking outside the box.

With TCDLA, what makes our staff special is their motivation to provide the best service. If an issue arises, we want to resolve it immediately. Our members are our extended family we’ve grown to know and care about. I attended several seminars recently and listened closely to what the speakers and attendees had to say. For me, this sort of continuing education is invaluable. Networking with peers assists me in keeping up with the newest trends, technology—but most important, in finding ways we can better serve our members.

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