Letters to the Editor

Letters: Share-Worthy Story


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SHARE-WORTHY STORY

As a young professional, I’ve already faced some of the obstacles mentioned in “The Rise of the Latino Lawyer,” October, page 34. Thank you to Maria Chávez for her work on this. I will share the article with others—especially other Latino/a law students.

I think Chávez’s article speaks to the importance of mentors (the real mentors that take the time to share the nontangibles with mentees).

Brenda D. Villanueva
Rockville, Md.

We applaud the ABA Journal for spotlighting Latino lawyers and including the article by Professor Chávez. While we support the increased focus on this important, yet underrepresented population of attorneys in the legal profession, we were a bit surprised by the image chosen [for the feature’s opening spread] that depicts a Latina attorney in a more ethnically derogatory manner. We recognize that the style and depiction were selected in homage to the famous Mexican artist Diego Rivera, and as such, we respect your creative gesture. However, this image is not consistent with that of most Latina attorneys in the U.S. and may serve to perpetuate the current perceptions and stereotypes of Latina attorneys as being docile, less professional and less competent. As such, we would have preferred if the Journal had chosen an image of a Latina attorney more professional in demeanor and dress.

We also agree with the article that there are many “true success stories” among Latino lawyers, but that there also remain many challenges. To the extent that this is helpful, we would like to share with your readers two recent national studies that provide a broad-spectrum, in-depth look at the diverse Latina attorney experience across the U.S. These two studies, commissioned by the Hispanic National Bar Association’s Standing Commission on the Status of Latinas in the Legal Profession, are freely available from the HNBA website.

The first study, Few and Far Between: The Reality of Latina Lawyers, is a landmark study and the first of its kind to provide both qualitative and quantitative data on the experiences and status of Latinas across the legal profession, on a national level and across all major legal sectors. This study provides both a demographic and professional profile of nearly 700 Latina attorneys and explores their experiences and how they have navigated their legal careers. This research is intended to help academic, legal and business institutions better understand the issues and barriers that limit Latinas’ advancement within the legal profession and develop strategies aimed at helping more Latina attorneys achieve success in their career endeavors.

The second study, La Voz de la Abogada Latina: Challenges and Rewards in Serving the Public Interest, supplements and expands on the information gathered in the first HNBA commission study on Latina lawyers. It is intended to bridge the knowledge gap by providing additional insight and information about the professional lives, struggles and successes of Latina attorneys by focusing on those working in the public interest sector. More than 200 Latina attorneys from across the U.S. participated in this study.

We encourage your readership to consider HNBA studies as a way to gain a more in-depth understanding of this important issue.

Carrie F. Ricci and Mercedes M. Sellek
2011-2012 Co-Chairs
Hispanic National Bar Association Standing Commission on the Status of Latinas in the Legal Profession

ON THE STATE OF TEXAS

What a terrific article about the Texas workers’ compensation system (“Insult to Injury,” October, page 42). I practice in Indiana but have a client who was injured years ago while working in Texas. She had compromised her workers’ compensation disability claim before all of the “reforms” were enacted but remained eligible for lifetime medical care on account of her injury.

When the effects of the injury flared up (after she moved to Indiana), I called a friend in Texas for a referral. I learned from the fine attorney to whom I was referred that there was no way any attorney in Texas would be willing to represent her because (1) there would be no fund generated from which an attorney fee might be authorized, and (2) it would be a disbarment offense and a felony for the attorney to be paid directly by the employee.

I know from having defended workers’ comp cases in prior years that there are and always will be some employees who game the system, some physicians whose ratings are dependably excessive, and some attorneys who attract both types of employees and physicians. But what Texas has done borders on being uncivilized.

Robert M. Hamlett
Indianapolis

The changes to the Texas workers’ compensation system for first responders were drafted by the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, or CLEAT, after hearing repeatedly from our members about delays and denials of treatment needed for line-of-duty injuries. Detective Ed Martin’s case was one of the most egregious.

The fact that a carrier or third-party administrator would even question an air ambulance charge for an officer shot in the line of duty was beyond the pale and showed a serious disregard for the life and health of those who offer up their lives with every dangerous shift they work. It was evident to us that the system didn’t care and wouldn’t listen to Martin.

My presentation at our statewide symposium regarding this issue in December 2010 was titled Insult to Injury. Martin’s air ambulance denial was an insulting “routine” effort to curb costs. The bigger issue is the timelines imposed for treatment.

Texas is limited to 104 weeks of income benefits and there is no procedure in place to extend that time period. If the employee is not well enough to return to work, then they are left without recourse. By forcing the employee or physicians to appeal treatment denials based on medical necessity, treatment is delayed, which eats into the existing 104-week timeline. Since we were not successful in extending the timeline, we at least forced the employers of first responders, the insurance carriers and third-party administrators to expedite and accelerate the cases and appeals of these employees who are seriously injured in the line of duty.

This should speed up the treatment so that fewer of these cases will face the 104-week “drop-dead” deadline. And since it will require the service providers to expedite treatment for these employees, providers will actually have to read the file to see if the case warrants expedited consideration for treatment instead of issuing an automatic denial. Hopefully this will help Texas avoid some of the real-life tragedies that have occurred in the past.

In our worldview the Texas legislature needs to continue considering incremental adjustments to the workers’ comp system. Texas should continue moving toward taking care of our first responders who have suffered legitimate serious injuries in the line of duty rather than worrying too much about the never-ending war between the lawyers and insurance companies.

Charley Wilkison
CLEAT Director of Public Affairs
Austin, Texas

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