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Androvett Blog

by Robert Tharp at 2:37:53 pm

Young women interested in a career in law, or anybody who wants to learn more about one of the most influential women lawyers in Texas, should tune in tonight at 10 p.m. (Dallas time) to KERA Channel 13 for that network’s rebroadcast of Texas Trailblazer: Louise Raggio. If you miss it tonight, it will be re-re-broadcast on Feb. 13 at 9:30 p.m.

Ms. Raggio passed away on January 23 at the age of 91. Her memorial service was held this past weekend. Upon her passing, several high-profile Dallas lawyers shared their memories about the woman who was their friend, mentor and inspiration: 

Louise was a very special, dear friend of mine. Louise ‘walked the walk’ with wit and wisdom.  She not only supported causes involving women, but she supported women, and cared deeply for women in the legal profession. She took an interest in my career, and always asked me about the ‘state of the environment.’ She expected me to make a difference and I loved her for it.

Fran Phillips
Gardere Wynne Sewell

Louise was a friend, first and foremost. We loved talking and fussing and dreaming about politics – and the ways in which our country can be improved by working through the system. We loved talking about how we hoped more participation by women would improve the process.  And while I know and enjoy the friendship of Louise’s sons, I feel like I know, too, each of her grandchildren of whom she was so very proud.  Since I now have one, too, it was great fun, I think, for Louise to watch me beam about our little Barrett!

I’ll miss my friend for many, many reasons. She was a small, often quiet woman whose voice will be heard forever. And not to be forgotten is the fact that she made one hell of a chocolate chip cookie!

Debbie Branson
The Law Offices of Frank Branson

Louise was a trailblazer in the truest sense of the word. She recognized the need for change, not only for women lawyers but for all Texas women, and then she courageously made those changes happen to all our benefit.

Deborah Hankinson
Hankinson Levinger

The word “pioneer” is not sufficient.  Louise was truly one of a distinct very small group of women that opened doors for women to practice law in Texas and elsewhere. I and my fellow women attorneys owe her an immeasurable debt.

Katherine Seaborn
Gardere Wynne Sewell

Our world is a better place because of Louise Raggio.  She set the standard not only for the women of our profession, but for the profession as a whole.  She will be greatly missed.

Charla Aldous
The Aldous Law Firm

Though I never knew Louise personally, I benefited from her work tremendously. She blazed the trail that I and other women of my generation have been able to walk down, if not easily, then with much, much less effort than she had to make. I’m beyond grateful for the sacrifices she made. She will be greatly missed.

Kathleen J. Wu
Andrews & Kurth
2006 recipient of Dallas Women Lawyers Association’s
Louise B. Raggio Award


Louise Raggio was a trailblazer not only for women lawyers but for all women.  She was a feisty, courageous, leader who inspired so many of us to reach higher.  I remember meeting her for the first time and marveling at how much punch God packed into that small package.  There are generations of women lawyers who owe Louise our gratitude and humble thanks.

Dawn Estes
Taber Estes Thorne & Carr


Ms. Raggio is known as the “Mother of Family Law in Texas” because of her work to enact the Marital Property Act of 1967, which gave married women the equal legal rights they were previously denied under Texas law.

When she attended the Southern Methodist University School of Law, she was the only woman in her law school class. Later, she was the first female criminal assistant district attorney in Dallas County and was the first woman to be elected as a director of the State Bar of Texas. She was also the first female trustee and chair of the board of the Texas Bar Foundation. 

by Dave Moore at 12:05:15 pm

Few people want to publish the details of their private lives – especially if it’s something as private as a divorce.

But what happens when someone as highly visible as Super Bowl MVP and Fox Sports NFL commentator Troy Aikman separates from his wife, Rhonda?

Keeping the dirty laundry behind closed doors is still an option for the likes of the Aikmans, Dallas divorce attorney Mary Jo McCurley tells WFAA’s Shelly Slater.

“One or both of them can ask the court to seal the file,” said McCurley, a family lawyer at Dallas-based McCurley Orsinger McCurley Nelson & Downing. “And (either party could) ask the court to sign a confidentiality order.”

The couple has two children together, and a third from a previous marriage – a fact that McCurley says makes sealing the divorce case “absolutely imperative.”

McCurley’s advice reminds us all that while breaking up is hard to do, keeping the details private isn’t impossible.

by Robert Tharp at 2:54:41 pm

Considering the coin toss doesn’t even occur until 6:30 p.m. Eastern, Super Bowl Sunday promises to be a long and late night for football fans across the U.S. Workplace studies show that the Big Game and the celebration that goes along with it cause a dramatic spike in workplace absenteeism.

All those no-shows attributed to so-called “Super Bowl Flu” – an estimated 1.5 million truant workers nationwide – translate to billions of dollars in lost productivity and production costs each year.  A 2010 survey of corporations by the Society for Human Resource Management found that 65 percent reported the Super Bowl resulted in office wagering, although just slightly over half that number stated that the office pools had a negative effect.  “Companies shouldn’t just accept that problems are going to occur, but consider this a time to reinforce their workplace policies in a serious and realistic fashion,” says Dallas employment attorney Mark Shank of Gruber Hurst Johansen & Hail. “Employees need to know that they will continue to be measured by their conduct and judged on their performance in a way that’s consistent with the company’s standards and culture. To mangle the sports metaphors, employees shouldn’t necessarily get a mulligan because of a football game.”

by Robert Tharp at 2:38:19 pm

With nine days and counting on the Super Bowl, the NFL has added some muscle to its already tough position on policing counterfeit and unlicensed NFL-themed merchandise. The league took a pre-emptive strike Wednesday against folks selling or planning to sell counterfeit merchandise in areas around the Super Bowl. The lawsuit seeks to block sales in advance.

Reports the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: NFL Properties, the Green Bay Packers, and Pittsburgh Steelers filed suit Wednesday in State District Court in Fort Worth, seeking to bar "John Doe" defendants from selling counterfeit goods and seize the merchandise.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents say consumers should follow a few simple tips to help ensure they are buying authentic jerseys: Counterfeit goods have poor stitching around names and numbers, which is often particularly noticeable on the inside of the item. Incorrect spelling on sewn labels and counterfeit NFL logos, which should be holographic, are also indications of an illegal knock-off.

Intellectual property attorney Jennifer Sickler agrees: “From a consumer standpoint, there are almost always quality issues with these products,” says Sickler, a partner in Gardere Wynne Sewell’s Houston office. “This is a very lucrative industry, and licensed companies are returning a large amount of proceeds to the city in the form of tax revenues. Counterfeiters are returning little to the city but a flood of inferior products.”

by Robert Tharp at 2:21:09 pm

The dazzling glitz and glamour that accompanies every Super Bowl comes with a not-so-flattering sideshow. Based on analysis of past Super Bowls and other pro sports’ marquee events, the Dallas Police Department has publicly warned that tens of thousands of prostitutes will be converging in North Texas to profit from the celebration. While it’s widely known that prostitution is not a victimless crime on many levels, Dallas hospitality lawyer
Richard Barrett-Cuetara warns that hotels in particular need to take steps to ensure that they’re not found complicit in the illegal activity.

Just last December, for example, the city of Oakland filed lawsuits against three hotel owners alleging their hotels were complicit in prostitution. Meanwhile, Chinese authorities closed down the Chongqing Hilton Hotel and stripped it of its five-star rating last June after uncovering a multilayer prostitution ring operating within the hotel staff.

Barrett-Cuetara, a senior shareholder at Dallas-based Cowles & Thompson, advises hotels to develop security risk management strategies and train staff to take appropriate action when they spot suspicious activity, among other things. “Hotel operators have a very high standard of care to protect their guests and invitees, and they can be liable for a variety of claims resulting from an ill-fated encounter,” he says. “Hotels can’t stop willing guests from participating, but they should focus on detecting any prostitution occurring on the premises and alerting law enforcement.”

by Dave Moore at 1:08:35 pm

When a young man unloaded a handgun upon U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and 19 other individuals in Phoenix, it was clear to witnesses that the suspect – who was later identified as Jared Loughner – was imbalanced. Supporting evidence has since mounted.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune writes:

The disturbing photograph of Jared Loughner that has been released after his arrest, as well as the writings and statements attributed to him, seem to point to a man with a mental illness.

These facts might save Loughner’s life, according to Dallas criminal defense attorney Barry Sorrels.

Sorrels recently told Fox4 News’ Steve Eagar that while it would be hard to avoid a conviction with an insanity defense, that strategy would probably help Loughner avoid the death penalty in the sentencing phase of the criminal trial.

“There’s no other defense that can be of any value to saving this young man’s life, so that he doesn’t receive the death penalty,” Sorrels said to Eagar.  

Sorrels’ opinion reflects the changing legal landscape around the insanity plea.

According to Public outrage over the jury's verdict in (Ronald Reagan’s attempted assassin John) Hinckley's trial – not guilty by reason of insanity – prompted Congress to make it much more difficult to establish that claim in federal criminal trials.

Arizona also has modified the insanity defense so that a defendant in a state trial no longer can be found not guilty by reason of insanity. Instead, the jury can deliver a verdict of guilty but insane, said Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall.

Sorrells said that the facts will determine whether the prosecution will settle for anything less than Loughner’s execution.

“Right now, both sides are doing as much as they can to find out about the facts of this case and this defendant as possible,” Sorrels told Eagar.

by Robert Tharp at 2:19:42 pm

As SMU’s annual "Game::Business::Law" video game industry/law conference kicks off today, Interactive Age has put together its list of the Top 30 law firms for the diverse and growing video game industry. Implicit in this list is the realization that the video game industry as a focus sector for law firms has come of age.   

"This phenomenon is much like the history and development of Sports Law," says Dr. Peter Raad, founder and executive director of The Guildhall at Southern Methodist University. "Legal issues that were sports-related went from being handled by individual attorneys and small firms to now being part of large firms.  Today, the Sports Law Association has more than a 1,000 members."

This year’s Interactive Age list includes some household names of the legal world, but middle-size and smaller firms have earned hard-won spots based on building solid and long-term relationships in this industry. Take Dallas-based technology focused law firm Munck Carter. This growing firm already has a long history working with video game companies both inside and outside Texas. The firm has a national reputation for its IP expertise and litigation, and gaming companies also turn to Munck Carter for a full range of legal work, including the adoption and protection of trademarks, assistance with copyright registrations, advertising and contest rules and labor & employment issues.

"We've built a firm that combines legal expertise with a deep understanding of how technology companies operate," says Munck Carter Managing Partner William Munck. "As a result, technology companies and video game manufacturers feel comfortable coming to us, whether it's intellectual property issues, a corporate transaction, an employment issue or a high-stakes lawsuit. We speak their language."

by Dave Moore at 10:26:51 am

When a business files Chapter 11, employees often pack their boxes, turn off the lights, nail the doors shut, and go home.

But what happens when a city files for bankruptcy? In the case of Vallejo, Calif., some creditors might end up taking 5 cents on the dollar loaned to the city of 115,000 inhabitants. The city’s filing indicates it’s at least $479 million in debt.

Writes Bloomberg News:

No city or county has used federal bankruptcy laws to force creditors to take less than they are owed, according to Bruce Bennett, the lead lawyer for Orange County, California, when it filed the biggest municipal bankruptcy in the U.S. in 1994.

Vallejo’s plan assumes the city can’t provide essential services, like police and fire protection, while also paying its debts, he said. Should the city succeed, the case “may become an important precedent,” Bennett said in an interview.

Thompson & Knight attorney Rhett Campbell says Vallejo likely won’t be alone in seeking legal shelter from creditors.

“While we’re seeing reports of cities hiring restructuring specialists and otherwise warning of bankruptcy, this type of action is rare but certainly allowable under the laws of most states,” says Campbell. “These insolvency claims are governed by chapter 9 of the bankruptcy code, which is not a typical reorganization. The bankruptcy court’s powers are more limited than under chapter 11, and the city or county maintains control over most financial affairs and continues to provide services, although how it pays for them may be unclear.”

In other words, cities still need to provide police and fire protection, and drinking water for residents, despite their declining sales tax revenues, continuing pension obligations and crumbling property tax bases.

The notion of a city filing for bankruptcy sounds preposterous. Yet, as the New York Times has reported, the Big Apple was on the precipice of doing just that in the mid ‘70s.

Even now, U.S. legislators are looking at legal mechanisms that would allow entire state governments to declare bankruptcy.

Hopefully, the Great Recession will fade into the economy’s rearview mirror before more cities – or entire states – fall into Vallejo’s predicament.

by Robert Tharp at 2:20:27 pm

The budget situation is dire as the 2011 session of the Texas Legislature gets underway, but that hasn’t stopped Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins from unveiling an ambitious legislative wish list for lawmakers to consider.

Among the list released by Watkins last week is a proposal to collect DNA samples of every arrested person in Texas, implement reforms in the often problematic way eyewitness photo lineups are performed, and require all confessions to be videotaped. Finally, the DA hopes to encourage lawyers to pursue legal work in the relatively underpaid world of public service by offering student loan forgiveness to prosecutors. Details are sketchy regarding what these plans would cost and who would pay for them.

FOX KDFW Ch. 4 reporter Shaun Rabb went to Dallas white-collar and criminal defense lawyers John Teakell and Barry Sorrels for some perspective on these proposals. Teakell, a former federal prosecutor who now focuses on state and federal white-collar and criminal defense cases, says the DNA-collection proposal raises serious issues. “It seems to be an unnecessary step as far as the government tracking you or just being involved in your life when you don’t need to,” he tells Rabb.

Meanwhile, Sorrels, a prominent Dallas defense lawyer and newly elected president of the Dallas Bar Association, calls the proposals fair, intelligent and designed to add integrity to our system.

Little is being said at this point regarding the price tag on these proposals. Watkins, for his part, promises to make several trips to Austin to lobby lawmakers during the session.

by Robert Tharp at 11:52:33 am

The current edition of D CEO includes a fascinating portrait of the diverse and thriving technology/security firms that now call Dallas home. We all know Dallas as a major business center that is home to at least 24 Fortune 500 companies , but a number of smaller security-related firms are quietly building international reputations working on the cutting edge of technology and security. Notes D CEO, “Virtually every area of life is swirling with digitized data ripe for hacking, and a number of companies in North Texas are working to thwart the wrongdoers.”

Among the firms and personalities highlighted “The Protection Game,” Stroz Friedberg’s Erin Nealy Cox describes how the concept of a magic bullet does not apply to data security. Instead, peace of mind comes from a multilayered and comprehensive approach. “There is no one thing that can guarantee that you are safe,” she tells D CEO. “It’s a process.”

In addition to Stroz Friedberg’s data security and investigative offerings, the article highlights Addison-based data encryption software maker Credant Technologies and Authentix, another Addison-based company that uses patented technologies to help manufacturers protect their brands from counterfeiting and piracy.

by Robert Tharp at 3:46:45 pm











As a patent lawyer at Dallas-based Munck Carter, Michael Rodriguez uses his engineering background on a daily basis, analyzing patent strategies and other intellectual property matters for a wide range of high-tech firms and inventors. Those same engineering skills are useful in a much different way in Rodriguez’ life as a reserve lieutenant in the Navy’s SeaBees.

Activated just last week for a six-month assignment to build construction projects in Afghanistan combat zones, Rodriguez packed up his office and will soon be leading a team of soldier/engineers designing and building infrastructure projects and forward-operating bases. SeaBees have a distinguished history providing vital support for troops, often in some of the most perilous combat zones. As such, Rodriguez and others like him receive combat training, carry weapons and where body armor while they’re building these projects.

Check out Munck Carter’s touching sendoff for Michael, reported by FOX Ch. 4’s Shaun Rabb.


by Robert Tharp at 1:55:40 pm

Stale websites. Unrealized social media plans. Firm news that falls on deaf ears. May the law firm with the perfect marketing plan cast the first stone. 

For all the rest, the new year offers a chance to wipe the slate clean, step back and take a broad look at marketing plans for year ahead. To that end, Androvett Legal Media & Marketing has created “Legal 11 for 2011,” a practical marketing checklist. 

The idea behind “Legal 11 for 2011” is to begin the year right by putting a firm's marketing house in order. There’s a raft of ideas for optimizing a firm’s Internet presence such as refreshing online bios and photos(No. 2) and promoting the firm’s good work online(No. 1). Search Engine Optimization(No. 5) starts with identifying the keywords that potential clients will use to find you on the Internet, and then using those keywords to build an online presence. Coming in at No. 7 is the reminder that social media networks are not going away and there is a variety of ways to engage social media ethically and effectively.

The “Legal 11 for 2011” also includes old-school axioms like taking stock of your competition(No. 10), cleaning up client contact lists(No. 8) and evaluating brochures(No. 9). Perhaps No. 11 is the most valuable takeaway, a reminder that you’ve got to have goals in order to achieve them. Commit the goals to writing. When relevant and necessary, get expert help to achieve your goals and objectives. View the entire list here.

by Rhonda Reddick at 4:24:09 pm

In matrimonial bliss, a Detroit couple openly shared their e-mail passwords. But when the bloom fell from the proverbial rose, the husband’s use of his wife’s e-mail to expose her extramarital affairs resulted in his arrest for illegally hacking into her account.

To put some context to this story and the perilous world of social media we now inhabit, KDFW Fox 4 in Dallas turned to Peter Vogel, an expert in Internet technology and related legal concerns, as they looked at whether this was an isolated incident or if the same type of scenario is destined to play itself out again.

“With privacy laws, there is an expectation that people have certain privacies, but the reality today with social media, Internet email and the way we communicate, I think people do share this type of information,” says Vogel, a partner at Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP. He adds that psychologists have determined that people routinely “put things in email that they would never put in writing or say face to face, so email itself is an unusual social phenomenon, and social media has only made it a little crazier.”

A few days later when another Internet privacy issue made the news, KDFW again turned to Vogel. With an estimated $19 billion in stimulus money being offered to physicians and medical facilities for the adoption of electronic medical records, concern is rising about the potential for data breaches and identity theft.

However, says Vogel, “the medical community has proven to be quite vigilant about protecting patient information.” Because of the attention to privacy concerns problems are not likely, however “that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be vigilant.”

by Rhonda Reddick at 9:18:25 am

January is traditionally a time for personal reflection over past events and of preparation for the future. The same is true for businesses, and Dallas labor and employment attorney Carrie Hoffman of Gardere Wynne Sewell LLP, says now is the time for employers to take a long look at their human resources practices and priorities for the coming year.

Just like with most individuals, addressing health and social concerns should be high priorities for businesses, says Hoffman. Whether to help prevent time lost to illnesses or rein in insurance costs, companies should investigate whether a wellness program is appropriate. And if they haven’t done so already, now is the perfect time to take a proactive stance on social networking and blogging practices by employees. Experienced managers know that prevention makes far better economic sense than putting off a decision and later being forced to react to a full-blown HR crisis.

Company leaders also need to assess how they are responding to claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA.) Too often, employers get sidetracked by trying to determine if the claimed condition is a covered disability. However, she says, it is rare when a condition is not covered. “That time and effort should be redirected. Instead of trying to validate the claim, spend that energy improving the interactive process and determining what a reasonable accommodation should be.”

Employers who use independent contractors also would be well advised to closely review their use to make sure they are being properly classified and compensated. “This is an issue that remains high on the Department of Labor and Internal Revenue Service’s watch lists,” says Hoffman.

by Barry Pound at 4:25:52 pm

In a move designed to raise production in several mature oilfields, Mexico’s state-controlled oil company has approved a new contract model for exploration and production projects. Pemex says the new model will compensate contractors on a performance-based, per-barrel fee basis, a change that Pemex expects to increase investment interest from domestic and foreign oil companies.

“This announcement is the result of reforms in Mexico's energy laws that allow Pemex to grant performance incentives that will hopefully reverse a decline in production during the past several years,” says Gabriel Ruiz of the Monterrey office of Thompson & Knight. “Although there is some skepticism that this move will be enough to attract all of the economic and technological resources to address the Mexican oil industry’s complex challenges, contractors are actively analyzing the agreement and the opportunities it presents."

Reportedly the initial performance-based accords for exploration and production are likely to be awarded sometime in 2011 for three mature field projects in the Santuario, Carrizo and Magallanes areas of southeastern Mexico.  At a later stage, Pemex intends to apply the new model to energy reserves in other regions, as well as deep water exploration and production in the Gulf of Mexico.