Letter From The President Of The Texas Young Lawyers Association

2005-05-01 00:00

To The Readers Of The Metropolitan Corporate Counsel:

As President of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, I believe that young lawyers throughout the country share two hopes. First, we hope to achieve the level of skill, proficiency, and satisfaction in law that we envisioned for ourselves when we began law school. Second, we hope to make positive contributions to our community. TYLA exists to help lawyers realize these two hopes, for the benefit of ourselves, our profession, and our community at large.

To fully understand the importance of TYLA's commitment to public service, I had to listen to Daulton Bissett, a 84-year old Texan who lost his life savings in a telemarketing scam targeting senior citizens. As he told it to me, his story goes something like this.

Mr. Bissett and his wife lived most of their adult life in a small town outside San Antonio. By the time they reached their golden years, their kids were grown and doing well, and Mr. Bissett was happy and healthy with the satisfaction that comes from a lifetime of working hard, earning a good reputation in the community, and saving for retirement. During his working life, he was a rancher and an educator, first as principal of the local high school and later as superintendent of all the schools in town. He was elected mayor eight times.

When I met him, Mr. Bissett did not strike me as the type of person who could be swindled, but he was. Not long ago, a telemarketer informed him that he had been selected to receive a generous, $2 million award in recognition of his lifetime of civic service. The only catch, the caller said, was that Mr. Bissett was required to pay the taxes on the award before it could be delivered. As soon as the taxes were paid, he was told, the president of the awarding organization would fly to Texas personally to present Mr. Bissett with this prestigious and lucrative honor. Flattered and, over time, reassured by the caller's calm and reverent explanations of the award's rigorous selection process, Mr. Bissett sent the money that the caller asked for - all $200,000 of his life savings. He didn't tell his wife he did it. He wanted the award to be a surprise. Unfortunately, when it came time for someone to deliver the $2 million, no one showed up. It was then that Mr. Bissett first realized that he had been scammed.

I met Mr. Bissett when TYLA unveiled two public service announcements designed to inform Texas seniors that they have the right to "Just Hang Up" on crooked telemarketers. The PSAs feature Former First Lady Barbara Bush and Former Texas Governor Ann Richards, two of our state's most recognized and respected seniors, and when Mr. Bissett saw them, he told me how important messages like these are. He also told me how much he wished he had heard the same advice several years ago.

And that brings me to my point. Embedded in Mr. Bissett's brave words is a lesson for all of us who hope to make a difference in our community. Often, the most effective way for us to contribute is simply to create and deliver messages that inform, advise, and empower. I have seen TYLA make a tremendous difference by packaging and delivering critical information that helps people to make better decisions and avoid legal problems. These messages are packaged in brochures, pamphlets, and videotapes, and they are carried into the community by lawyers who use them as springboards to inform citizens of important legal issues. Each of them makes a difference.

To learn more about what you can do to inform the public of their rights on important issues, please visit our website at www.tyla.org. As I learned from Mr. Bissett, we should never underestimate the power of the right message, delivered by lawyers.

Sincerely, David R. McAtee II