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Top 3 Things People Don’t Know about Community Property

file0001248906240I got a question from a colleague who works as a financial planner: he wanted to know if a 403(b) retirement account was subject to division in divorce. The short answer to this question is probably yes. Many people don’t realize that in the absence of a premarital agreement, all assets obtained during divorce (with very few exceptions) are considered community property in a Texas divorce. Most people realize that a court may determine the division of their house, vehicles, and tangible assets, but there are some subtle nuances to the presumption of community property that could dramatically affect their odds for a positive outcome in divorce. It is always preferable for spouses to agree on the division of their property, but sometimes agreement is simply impossible, so I wanted to shed some light on the three most surprising aspects of community property division in divorce.

1. Inheritance is off the table.

If a relative passes away and leaves you a large sum of money, that inheritance is not subject to division as community property in your divorce. The money you receive in an inheritance is your separate property. However, if you mingle that money with your community funds (perhaps by using it to purchase other assets with your spouse), it could become a part of the community estate. This phenomenon is known as co-mingling. If you’re married and are on the verge of receiving an inheritance, it is a good idea to meet with a family law attorney to ensure your inheritance is definitively separate property.

2. Retirement accounts are subject to division.

As previously mentioned, retirement accounts (including IRAs, pensions, defined benefit plans, defined contribution plans, 401ks, and 403(b)s) are part of your community estate once you marry your spouse. If you’ve worked for decades at the same company,  you’ve likely acquired a substantial nest egg in your retirement plan. Most people believe if they work hard and obtain retirement benefits, they’re entitled to enjoy the fruits of their labor when they retire. However, once you marry, your contributions to your retirement plans become community property, and as the value of the plan increases over time, the balance of the plan from the date of your marriage becomes subject to division in divorce.

No one wants to lose their inheritance or their retirement. So what are couples to do if they want to avoid these outcomes? Thankfully, the presumption of community property can be overcome.

3. Couples can agree to define their assets as separate or community at any time.

Premarital agreements allow future spouses to decide what assets they want to keep as their separate property and which assets will be their jointly owned community property. Ideally, each party will have his or her own attorney to review the documents and advise as to the consequences of the agreement. This is a great opportunity for them to discuss their finances at their very onset of their marriage and establish clear boundaries about how their assets will be treated if they divorce. If you do not have a premarital agreement, do not despair. You and your spouse can create what’s known as a postnuptial agreement after you marry.

Unfortunately, finances are one of the primary motivating factors for divorce, so the sooner you and your partner get on the same page about the money in your relationship, the better off you will be as a couple. For more information about community property or to discuss your financial circumstances, feel free to give me a call at (713) 574-8626 to schedule a consultation.

Back to School: Beyond Meet the Teacher

SDRandCo (2)This week many Houston children are heading back to school, so many of my friends and relatives are posting adorable photos of their kids in their first day of school gear headed back into the classroom. Understandably this is an exciting time, and everyone has high hopes for the new school year. With this optimism in mind,  I was taken back by a headline that reported that the number of inappropriate student-teacher relationships is at an all-time high in the state of Texas. A summary of the findings of the Texas Education Agency can be found here.

I had no idea this was such a widespread problem and thought it would be a good idea to shed a little light on this phenomenon and give the parents in my life a little food for thought. I was previously under the false impression that once a teacher was found to have behaved inappropriately with a student, that was the end of his teaching career, but this is not necessarily the case.

In Texas, most schools have what’s known as a “second chance” system. The first time an educator is found to have committed some type of misconduct, he or she is typically asked to resign and then quietly leaves. No report is made to the TEA in these instances, and he or she is free to find employment elsewhere. The second time that educator is found to have crossed the line with a student, his or her license may be suspended or revoked, and he or she is typically unable to find new employment as a teacher. This process is very troubling and has resulted in 207 cases of teacher-student involvement reported within the past year, and the number of scenarios that are not reported would likely make that result even higher.

Understandably parents are concerned. What can you do to protect your child from this kind of violation? I have a few simple suggestions. First, monitor your child’s social media presence. Is he Facebook friends with his teachers? That by itself is not evidence of wrong doing, but be sure to talk to your child. Are any teachers messaging him about personal matters? Does he text his teacher after hours or spend time after class alone with the teacher on a consistent basis? You have a right to know the nature of your child’s relationships with school personnel.

Second, if you suspect anything untoward is happening between your child and an educator, don’t be afraid to speak up. Schedule a parent-teacher conference to clear the air about what, if anything, is going on between your child and this other influential adult. If you don’t believe a parent-teacher conference would be effective, take your concerns to the school administrators. They would be very interested to know of any allegations against a teacher suggesting misconduct with a student. Your role as a parent is to keep your child safe, and unfortunately, most schools do not take the affirmative steps to investigate this type of behavior until the parents get involved. If you believe your child is being taken advantage of, it is your responsibility to intervene and advocate for the safety of not only your child, but the other children who may be subject to unwanted attention from an authority figure.

3 Tips for Parents Going Through Divorce

032cc38c6b791fc5612c6823ab93fb44In my practice, I see many people at their absolute worst. Their marriage is over, and they’re coming to me for advice and counsel during the divorce process. Some of those people have children which further complicates matters. How does one navigate the divorce process without taking their children on an emotional roller coaster? Frankly, this is a difficult question without a simple solution or answer because every family is different, but these three guidelines are critical if you want to exit your marriage with as little damage to your kids as possible.

1. Never Bad Mouth the Other Parent

This one may seem obvious, but if you’ve been served with a divorce citation, you probably have some choice words to say about your soon to be ex. You should share those choice words with your divorce lawyer, your therapist, your best friend, or your pastor. Who you should not vent to under any circumstances is your child. It doesn’t matter if he or she is an absolute scoundrel. Your child loves her other parent just as much as she loves you. It’s not fair to place a child in the middle of an adult situation by deriding your spouse. It will drive a wedge between you and your child and place you in a terrible light when she gets old enough to process what you said about her other parent. Find healthy ways to express your frustration but keep it away from the little ones.

2.  Avoid Using Your Child as a Bargaining Chip

Similarly, parents going through divorce have to navigate several issues such as who will stay in the family home, who will pay child support, and what the possession and access arrangement will be for the children. Although it may be tempting to punish your ex for his or her wrongdoing by withholding access to the children, please do not do this. Your children will not understand, and it’s simply not in their best interest. The family unit as they know it is changing dramatically; do not make that change even more severe by making the children feel guilty for wanting to see both parents on a consistent basis. Doing so is emotionally abusive and could severely impact your child’s well-being.

3. Maintain Their Routine

Your children may not tell you this, but the day to day happenings in their life are what makes them feel safe. Eating breakfast, getting ready for school, catching the bus to school, sitting through classes, going to extracurricular activities, and doing homework are all a part of their daily routine. If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, it is likely that their routine has been interrupted by one of their parents moving out of the home, or by them moving away from one of their parents. Some interruptions are unavoidable, but if you can minimize the disruptions from your child’s daily life, your child can continue to develop and grow as an individual. The more you provide stability for your children, the less likely they are to resent either of their parents for divorcing. You and your ex have a responsibility to let your children know that you both love them unconditionally even though your marriage is ending. You can show that love by maintaining their routine as much as possible.

We all love our families. Sometimes it’s hard to know if we’re doing the right things for them. If you’re contemplating divorce and need practical advice and guidance, feel free to give me a call at 713-574-8626.

Easy Target for Identity Theft Update

Less than a week after writing a blog about staying safe online and protecting your confidential DSC08847-Binformation from thieves, I made a rookie mistake. It’s embarrassing to admit that even though I know better, every now and then I throw caution to the wind and make a payment online using an unsecured wireless network on a site without proper encryption technology. This is the equivalent of inputting passwords on a public computer (Very bad). What happened to me is a cautionary tale that won’t happen to you if you’re reading this and take heed.

The office building where I work has an unsecured wireless network that essentially everyone in the building has access to. Guests and visitors can’t access it without the password, but the hundreds of other people on this floor are all sharing the same WiFi. For the four years of my business residence, this has been a non-issue. Then, suddenly I found the perfect guitar accessory online: a gold capo. For the non-musicians out there, a capo is a clamp that you use to change a guitar’s pitch for certain songs. The best part about this capo? It costed a mere $2.14. I was sold.

When I processed my payment, I used my credit card, pressed order and went on about my day. I received the capo about a week later, and life was good. Until a few days passed, and I noticed an email receipt for $5.00 at Coca Cola. Strange. I don’t recall buying anything for that amount. A few minutes later, I got an email receipt for $12.54 at a costume store in Las Vegas, Nevada. I knew foul play was afoot. Immediately, I called the bank and started the dispute process and hung my head in shame. How could I advise people on protecting their information when I’m online buying guitar accessories with reckless abandon?

I’m not sure if one of my coworkers stole my card information right before vacation or if a random teenage internet hacker caught me by surprise to teach me a valuable lesson. In any case, the hyper vigilance campaign is on. Learn from my mistakes and be smarter online and in life. Change your passwords often. Make your online purchases from reputable websites with payment encryption in place for their transactions. And never ever, under any circumstances, trust your fellow travelers on an unsecured network. You don’t know who you’re surfing with at that coffee bar or restaurant, so why take the risk?

For legal advice when it counts, contact me at (713) 574-8626

Are You an Easy Target for Identity Theft?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn the course of my practice, I have met some lovely people facing unfortunate circumstances. No one is thrilled about filing for consumer bankruptcy, but that feeling is multiplied ten fold when it is due to someone else ruining your finances. Within the past few years, I’ve met an increasing number of identity theft victims. Not all of them had to seek  bankruptcy protection, but every single one of them felt vulnerable and violated. It is the attorney’s role to protect the private information of her clients, so we take the necessary precautions at the office to do so. It is also my job to share this knowledge with others in the interest of a more equitable and just society. Here are four key ways to safeguard your personal information.

1. Store your personal documents in a safe place. Your social security card, medical records, credit card offers, and tax returns should be kept in a locked cabinet or a safe deposit box in a bank. The number of people whose identities are stolen as a result of a stolen purse or wallet containing their social security card is astonishing. Don’t carry it with you. Similarly, your mail contains information that a thief can use to impersonate you in stores or online to open credit accounts. Be sure to check it promptly, and consider opting out of promotional offers.

2. Keep an eye on your accounts. Most banks and credit card issuers have a process for investigating suspicious transactions, but you can’t alert them promptly if you don’t check your account history on a regular basis. Sign up for online banking and be on the look out for transactions you don’t recognize. It’s also not a bad idea to subscribe to a monthly credit monitoring service to confirm that your debts are reported accurately and reflect only your account activity. If you don’t want to pay for credit monitoring, you can always request a free copy of your credit report every calendar year at www.annualcreditreport.com.

3. Be cautious about sharing on social media. Many people (myself included) are active on social media in one way or another. That’s fine. No judgment here. However, if you’re traveling to Tahiti for your yearly vacation with the family, it might be wise not to announce it on Facebook. You never know who your friends are connected to, and depending on your security settings, you could be announcing your departure to a large number of people you don’t know at all. No one likes to think about the fact that when you are abroad, your home is fair game for thieves for the entire duration of your trip. Tell your close friends and family your whereabouts. Your status updates and photos can come after you’ve enjoyed all that Tahiti has to offer.

4. Mind the shoulder snoopers. When you’re in the grocery store checkout, and the time comes for you to swipe or insert your card, sometimes you’re not alone. Sometimes there is a person  possibly unfamiliar with Western standards for personal space. That person may be hovering over your shoulder. What do you do? If you’re able to swipe your card, and you’re using a debit card, run it as a credit card. This way you can bypass the need to insert your pin. If you’re using an EMV chip card, it may be a good idea to cover the key pad or ask the cashier to enter your transaction as a credit purchase. A person who is physically close to you can look over your shoulder and clearly see your PIN number, and if he or she has a credit card cloning device, could make many more transactions from your card without you ever knowing. EMV chip technology has cut down on some of the risk of card cloning, but not every card issuer has embraced chip technology. It may seem rude to be suspicious of your neighbors, but better safe than sorry.

There are wallets that claim to protect your cards from cloning. They have mixed reviews at best, but with some simple common sense, you can avoid being victimized by thieves. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Be safe out there.

For more information on this topic, feel free to contact me at (713) 574-8626. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Doing Well by Doing Good

March is an important month in my life. I was born on March 19th, and as my birthday DSCF9141approaches, my desire to make good on the New Years promises I made to myself is renewed. One of those beginning of the year promises involved spending more time in service to others, outside of my professional obligations. Recently, I took a step toward fulfilling that goal by meeting with Mike Jansen and Dayton Gilbert of the American Heart Association. I had questions about the organization, and they were very generous with their time and insights over coffee.

One of the challenges that my clients and I face is how to balance the demands of daily life with the need to give back to the community. Many of my estate planning clients are Baby Boomers, thinking about how to equitably divide their assets. Those of this generation who are religious routinely leave bequests in their wills to their local church, synagogue or mosque. The other segment of my estate planning practice are newlyweds and young parents. They want what’s best for their families in order to secure their future. Each of these types of clients asks for advice, recommendations, and warnings about how to arrange their affairs in the face of the unknown. I advise each of these groups to consider making a testamentary bequest to a reputable charitable organization.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death among American men and women. The American Heart Association funds heart research, hosts scientific sessions for continued advancement of the medical community, and educates the public about lifestyle, diet, and stress management. Its primary goal is to connect the best medical research to the doctors who need it most so that they can save lives by decreasing risks in current procedures. Due to the AHA’s efforts, scientists have learned how to slow down heart attacks and make stints safer and more effective for the people who need them to keep their arteries free from blockages that cause heart attacks.

My first professional experience with the American Heart Association happened in 2014 when I participated in a marketing campaign known as Free Wills Month. The AHA was one of the featured organizations, and it sent several informational booklets and newsletters detailing its mission. I felt comfortable recommending it to clients considering a charitable bequest in 2014, and I have continued confidence in that recommendation.  The impulse to serve others is a noble one. If you have been fortunate enough to leave assets to your spouse, children, friends, family or faith tradition, why not support a good cause? I encourage you to think seriously about donating your time, influence, and money to a cause you believe in. Both of my parents have heart disease; the efforts of the American Heart Association have tangibly benefited my family, and if you look deep enough, you’ll probably find they have helped yours too.

For more information about this wonderful organization from the Sugar Land attorney who cares, give me a call at (713) 574-8626. Also pay a visit to the American Heart Association website here.

What Happened to Thanksgiving?

As I was getting ready for a holiday party a few days ago, I noticed all of the TV ads were about ttronslien-0825Black Friday sales, Veteran’s Day blow-out specials, and Christmas close-outs. Every few minutes, these advertisements were clamoring for my attention. My sweetheart yelled at me from the other room, “What happened to Thanksgiving? Did we jump from Halloween straight to Christmas?”

I had no good answer to that question. Seriously, what did happen to Thanksgiving? Most years go by with at least a cursory acknowledgment of the concept of gratitude, even if that comes in the form of reruns of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and vague references to turkeys being pardoned by the President. Personally, I bristle at the jilting of Thanksgiving. Halloween is fun. Christmas is great for the economy, but Thanksgiving is special. It’s a time for self-reflection, family, and football. It doesn’t get the attention it deserves. It’s the Jan Brady of the holiday season. Even though advertisers don’t care about giving thanks, I must do my part to make note of what I have to be thankful for, so here are the 4 things I’m most thankful for this year.

1. Good Health. This year I only took one sick day. Without my health and strength, I’m not able to effectively advocate for my clients. Thankfully, 2015 was very kind to me. Taking more interest in self-care and wellness has paid off in increased productivity, more efficiency, and better balance in my work and life. I have just enough time for my clients, my friends, and my family.

2. The National Spotlight on Police Brutality. Some shocking things happened in 2015. From Sandra Bland’s death to the riots in Ferguson, this year the intersection of race and our nation’s police came into the national conversation. People are becoming more aware of the inequalities present in American society, and we are finally starting to talk about the issues publicly. Sadly, people had to die to bring these issues to the forefront, but clearly their deaths were not in vain. We honor them with every step we take to hold overreaching police accountable and prevent these tragedies from happening in the future.

3. Marriage Equality.  This summer, the United States Supreme Court issued a landmark decision in United States v. Windsor that made marriage equality the law of the land. Same-sex couples now have the right to marry in all fifty states. The benefits that heterosexual couples and their children have are now afforded to all couples in this country. Religious groups still have the right to refuse to perform marriages that conflict with their religious views, but civil marriage is now a right that everyone can freely enjoy. Some of my friends and family have been able to solidify their loving relationships with the rite of marriage this year, and I am happy that this exciting time is now a reality for so many who were once deprived of a right to love in their own way.

4. Wonderful Clients. My business would not be possible without people entrusting me every day with the most important aspects of their lives. I handle some very sensitive topics for my clients. I listen to their stories of heartbreak on the verge of divorce. I walk them through the shambles of their finances when they contemplate bankruptcy. I welcome their new children into the world as we fashion an appropriate estate plan to protect their growing families. I meet their parents, their spouses, and their children. I become intimately familiar with my clients because I truly care about each and every one of them. My success depends on theirs, so anything I can do to help them is a step in the right direction for my firm. I fight hard for my clients. I tell them when they’re wrong, and I celebrate them when they’re right. We have ups and downs together, and I’m a better attorney because of those experiences. I am so blessed to have been able to serve my clients this year, and it’s my sincere prayer that I can continue to serve them and others in 2016.

If you’re looking for a lawyer who cares, look no further. For sound legal advice and a listening ear, call me at (713) 574-8626 to schedule your initial consultation. You’ll be glad you did.

 

3 Scary Halloween Facts

DSC_0594Halloween is right around the corner, so I thought it would be fun to celebrate the season with a few little known facts about the holiday. Whether you celebrate with costumes, decorations, and a posse of trick-or-treaters or simply leave the porch light on to pass out candy, these are a few things to keep in mind to keep yourself and your family safe this year.

1. Halloween is the most dangerous night of the year for pedestrians. AAA reports that the combination of children running around in costumes, along with drunk drivers on the road, creates a perfect storm. It is suggested that parents accompany kids if possible, make sure they are visible, and coach them on road safety. Reflective clothing as well as portable lights should be a part of your Halloween gear this year to ensure you’re visible to any vehicles you may encounter on your way, if you plan to trick-or-treat by foot.

2. Your Halloween celebrations are giving the economy a boost. From its vampy costumes and sweet treats to macabre household decorations, Halloween is big business. So big, in fact, that it’s the second-largest commercial holiday in America—only Christmas surpasses it in sales. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers spent $5.8 billion in 2010, and in 2015, Americans are set to spend $6.9 billion on Halloween.

3. In some places, the oldest you can be to legally trick-or-treat is twelve (12) years old. In 2010, Belleville, Illinois, became the latest city to ban trick-or-treating for kids over 12. Teens can face fines from $100 to $1,000 for going door-to-door (although according to officials, more often than not, over-age Halloween-goers are just given a warning). This city found that children over the age of twelve were using Halloween as an excuse to loiter in public places, commit random acts of vandalism, and basically be a nuisance. If you’re over the age of twelve, and still going door to door, perhaps it’s time to pass the baton to the next generation.

For more fun facts and great legal advice when you need it, feel free to call me at                    (713) 574-8626 to schedule your initial consultation. I’d love to hear from you.

Happy Halloween!

The Challenge Presented by Difficult Clients

ANGRYThis week I’ve been confronted by the reality that a large part of what I do involves dealing with people at their worst. My clients are going through divorce. Some are facing bankruptcy. Others have been personally injured, and still others are facing jail time. Stress can do a number on a person’s ability to cope and adapt to life’s ups and downs. Sometimes that stress gets taken out on me. Occasionally, my clients will lash out at a staff member, and while I’m sensitive to what they’re going through, a vital part of my job is to remind my client that it’s never appropriate to take their frustrations out on me or my staff because we’re here to help. We’re all on the same team, and as the old adage goes: don’t bite the hand that feeds you.

There are times when I’ve had to escort clients out of meetings to remind them of the fact that while I’m sensitive to their emotional upset, at no time is it okay to curse or yell at me or anyone who works for me. How can I effectively advocate for a person who can’t maintain his composure in our private interactions? If I’m not able to reign in an irate client in private, I run the risk of allowing that person’s bad behavior to impact the outcome of his case in the eye’s of the judge when we make it to court. That’s not a risk I’m willing to take. I’d much rather offend a client and obtain the desired outcome he seeks than placate a difficult person to his own detriment.

Contrary to popular belief, lawyers are people too. We have good and bad days like everyone else, but the lawyer who can’t control her emotions is the one who cannot keep a cool head to make sound decisions for her client, and I refuse to be that type of attorney. I’ve seen lawyers in screaming fits, in tears, and visibly shaken in the hallways of court rooms, but once those lawyers reach the presence of the judge or the jury, their game face is on in spite of how they may be feeling. An important part of our job is how we relate to our clients. Any attorney who has been practicing for any amount of time has more than a few stories about the time they had to talk a client off of the ledge in order to get past the strong emotional component of their case and make sure the job is done.

We can’t always be your friend. We’re also not your therapist, although we are definitely legal counselors. Boundaries have to be maintained for our welfare and for the benefit of our clients. Keep that in mind the next time you blow off some steam on a customer service rep or anyone else you may encounter on a bad day. That person has feelings and is just trying to do his job. We’re all doing our level best to help you, and that’s made much easier when you cooperate and keep your emotions in check.

For professional advice and to schedule a legal consultation, be sure to give me a call at (713 ) 574-8626.

10 Things I’m Thankful for in 2014

It’s that time of the year again! The leaves have changed colors. Folks have started wearing 2013_11_11_7382-1morguejackets and scarves. Fall (also known as autumn) is my favorite time of year. It’s the only season with two names, and Thanksgiving (also my favorite) is the most low-pressure, feel-good holiday there is. This is a time for reflection, and once a year everyone is reminded to count their blessings. With that in mind, I’d like to offer my thoughts on what I’m thankful for this year.

1. Meeting awesome people

This year has been particularly good for me because of some of the wonderful people I was fortunate to meet. In June, when I was sitting at a bar having brunch at Katie’s Diner in New Orleans, Louisiana, I was introduced to someone who is now one of my closest friends. She later moved to Texas and is now my office administrator.

In October I had the pleasure of meeting Dave Lorenzo at one of his LegalMax seminars in Miami, Florida. I also met Brian Tannebaum, a former Abovethelaw.com contributor and Florida criminal defense attorney. Both of these guys were personable and dynamic. They gave me a lot to think about in terms of how I run my business and what I need to do to make it even better.

2. Fantastic clients

My firm wouldn’t exist without my clients, and every day I’m thankful for each and every one of them. My clients are some of the most kind, intelligent folks I’ve encountered, and I feel honored that they have entrusted their divorces, lawsuits, estate plans, and oil & gas royalty claims to me and my staff. I look forward to putting together a small “thank you” gift for them around Christmas time.

3. Learning a few life lessons

This year I learned that I cannot be everything to everyone. I also learned that it’s terribly important to set realistic expectations for my clients and myself. Just because I know how a legal process works doesn’t mean my client does. It’s my job to educate and advise every client I have, and I believe I’ve had a chance to do that more this year than I have in the past.

4. Owning a thriving business

Before I started my practice, I was a pawn in the corporate wheel. Although I was highly paid, I was not happy with the work I was doing and didn’t feel like I was making a difference in the world. Thanks to that experience, I greatly value the freedom and satisfaction I get from owning my own business. Was it difficult getting used to the ebb and flow of small business ownership? Yes. Did it take me some time to get used to not having a steady paycheck or paid sick and vacation days? Yes. Has it all led to me being happier and more fulfilled in my career? Absolutely. Now that I am my own boss, I can’t imagine going back to work for anyone else. I’ve tried to do that a few times since starting my firm, and the results were disastrous. Every day I’m thankful that I only answer to my clients (and occasionally to a judge).

5. Writing my first book

At the end of last year I began writing a do-it-yourself divorce guide for pro-se litigants. About two weeks ago I completed it. It is my first book, and I am incredibly proud of it. My hope is that this book really helps people who cannot afford to retain an attorney. I spent a great deal of time and effort to write something user friendly, free of legalese, and made it accessible to every day people who simply want to move on with their lives. I’m currently in the process of building a dedicated website for the e-book and can’t wait to make it available for sale in 2015.

6. Balancing work with life

This year I’ve been blessed to do a fair amount of travel. I went to New Orleans, Miami, Los Angeles, Dallas, and Austin this year. I’ve been able to spend time with my friends and family while keeping up with my day to day responsibilities. I had about  3 weeks of vacation this year, and I hope to keep up the trend of taking time off to recharge my batteries. I’m no good to anyone when I’m stressed and burnt out from working too much, so it’s a blessing that I’ve been able to strike a balance between my career and my other interests.

7. Helping clients get fantastic settlements 

One of the highlights of my career is being able to help people get compensated for their damages. When a company has to pony up dough because I have proof of their legal liability to one of my clients, there is no greater feeling in the world. Being the under dog who takes on behemoths is a challenging task, but when it pays off, my clients are happy, and I feel good. While I’m usually unable to disclose exactly how much I’ve gotten from whom, my clients know what kind of results I’ve gotten for them, and that’s all the validation I need.

8. Widespread legal changes 

This year the number of states with legalized gay marriage rose to 35. The number of states with legalized access to marijuana rose to 23 (plus the District of Colombia). It seems like America is slowly but surely moving towards progress in terms of civil liberties and civil rights, and I am very grateful for these developments. Unfair laws have prohibited people from exercising their rights to live their lives as they choose, and these laws are finally being challenged in the courts and legislatures. Texas isn’t in either category just yet (in terms of legalized gay marriage or marijuana), but change is on the way. It’s just a matter of time.

9.  Overall health, wealth, and happiness

2014 was a great year for me and my law firm. I only had to take one sick day this year, and thankfully I was able to employ an office administrator to help me communicate better with current and former clients. This year has been tremendous in terms of growth, both personal and financial. I’m looking forward to what 2015 has in store.

If you haven’t yet, take some time to write down a few things you are thankful for. An attitude of gratitude is a good thing to have all year. Until next time, thanks for reading, and if you ever have questions about me and what I do, please feel free to call (713) 574-8626.