Nov. 30, 2021 —The UH Law Center’s Women of the Law (WOL) alumni group recently invited author, mindfulness coach, and Law Center alumna, Melanie Bragg, to speak at their annual fall event. WOL, which aims to create a space for women alumni to network and learn together, had a large, engaged group of members to learn about the ethics of being a lawyer. Over the course of the hour, Bragg walked through examples of ethics from the Texas Rules of Disciplinary Procedure by tying them to well-known lawyer’s stories in her latest book: Defining Moments, Insights into the Lawyer’s Soul.
Bragg runs a general civil law firm in Houston and is a Delegate to the American Bar Association (ABA) House of Delegates. She anchored the talk around four central themes that kept coming up as she did her interviews for the book: legacy, excellence, authenticity, and determination, which spells the word LEAD. Each interview in the book revealed the lawyers “LEAD Line,” or success principle, that he or she has lived by on their road to success. The stories are told by a wide range of lawyers - past ABA presidents, judges, large firm lawyers, small firm lawyers, non-practicing lawyers - the one thing they share is that their success was driven by their defining moments.
Legacy represented “what we do each and every day for our clients, even the things that people don’t know we do,” explained Bragg. She was talking about the conversations that happened out of hours or the extra mile lawyers would go for their clients. When it comes to excellence, Bragg said that you can’t be a lawyer unless you’re committed to excellence. The final two themes are authenticity and determination. Bragg says you can’t be anybody but yourself, people will like you more for it and as a woman in law, you need to be determined. “Women in the law, I applaud each and every one of us,” said Bragg. “There are setbacks, but we persevere and get through it.”
One of the lawyers that Bragg interviewed for her book included Houston’s Jim Perdue, known as the King of Malpractice Lawyers. Under Bragg’s theme of excellence, Perdue’s “LEAD line” was “Out of the hottest furnace comes the hardest steel.” Perdue came from a difficult background with an alcoholic father, but he was able to find support. He said “My defining moments were when it looked so hopeless. If I find somebody I can help, I’ll always help them because I had somebody help me.” Bragg connected Perdue’s story to the idea of competent and diligent representation. “A lawyer should feel a moral or professional obligation to pursue a matter on behalf of a client with reasonable diligence and promptness despite opposition, obstruction, or personal inconvenience to the lawyer.”
Bragg encouraged all the women on the call to, “Think about your defining moments in your life, those touch point moments. What made you decide to be a lawyer?” She used Nashville lawyer Barbara Mendel Mayden’s story to demonstrate what it sometimes took to be a woman practicing law. Mayden’s “LEAD line” around the theme of authenticity was “Find your voice because nobody is going to give it to you.” This is something Mayden learned the hard way when she graduated in the 1970s and would show up for meetings at men only clubs. Mayden would have to wait for a man to bring her into the building. “I realized that I had to be assertive because of my age and gender. I had to overcome the fear of feeling like I didn’t know what the heck I was talking about: slowly realizing that nobody really knows what they’re talking about and just talk anyway,” said Mayden.
While Bragg tied the stories of good lawyer behavior to the ethics of being a lawyer, she impressed upon the group that “we’re not just supposed to be ethical at work, we’re supposed to be ethical all the time.” The event began and ended with breakout sessions for the group to talk about their life defining moments. Many of the women spoke about how engaging Bragg was in taking the topic of ethics and weaving it into memorable stories.
Defining Moments: Insights into a Lawyer’s Soul is published by the American Bar Association. Bragg is the author of two other books: Crosstown Park, an Alex Stockton legal thriller, published by Koehler Books and HIPAA for the General Practitioner, also published by the American Bar Association. Since its beginnings in 2018, the WOL group has raised thousands of dollars for a Women of the Law Scholarship and has named a room in the new John M. O’Quinn law building to honor outstanding women alumni. For additional WOL engagement, leadership, or event sponsorship opportunities, please contact Stephanie Johnson at (713) 743-3839 or email@example.com.
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