Message From the Chair
– Kristal C. Thomson
“At times, our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer
In his Chair message this time last year, Chris Nickelson wrote to you about winter’s darkness and the sadness felt by many during the holiday season. Chris correctly pointed out the many ways in which despair can lead to destruction. In the winter of 2019, he had no idea of the things to come. As I reviewed his words again, I was struck by how easily they could be picked up and inserted into this winter’s “Message from the Chair.” Yes, the destruction created by fear, despair, sorrow, depression, and anger is not new. However, 2020 has highlighted and magnified this belief system unlike any other time in history.
But Chris’s point was not about destruction, nor is mine. Our unified message is of hope. And let me take that one step further – the kind of hope and light consistently demonstrated by Texas Family Lawyers. We hear it often in the echoing corridors of courthouses across the State, “y’all are different.” “You’re not civil lawyers. You’re family lawyers.” Our colleagues say other things about family lawyers that are best not repeated in an archived report. But being different never bothered me – especially this year. I have always been proud to call myself a Texas Family Lawyer, and serving in leadership in the craziest of all years has filled me with the deepest gratitude for my colleagues and our profession. Through the darkest moments of 2020, family lawyers have been a bright light.
Texas Family Lawyers took the lead and joined in the first-ever virtual hearings. Texas Family Lawyers argued one of the first virtual oral arguments in the Texas Supreme Court. Texas Family Lawyers presented the largest virtual CLE in our State. Texas Family Lawyers worked through a pandemic to make sure parents could be with their children. And I’m not surprised by any of it. Family lawyers routinely work in the trenches of our clients’ worst years. Even though outsiders see our work as destructive and depressing, most of us see this as a calling – guiding our clients to repair the broken and create new beginnings. Texas Family Lawyers are uniquely qualified for this moment in time.
That does not mean that we haven’t had our fair share of darkness this year. As I write this message, I am aware of attorneys and judges or the loved ones of attorneys and judges that have died because of COVID. For those who were directly impacted by the virus this year, I imagine it is hard to see a silver lining or any light at all. Far less severe but still real and palpable, are those who have suffered indirectly. I count myself among the many who have suffered anxiety, fear, and depression over the year’s events. Many of us will count this year as one of the worst for various reasons beyond that of the pandemic. Through the tumult of the year, I was lucky that I could lean on several of my Texas Family Lawyer friends for encouragement, laughs, and empathy. They inspired me and re-sparked my love for this (virtual) job.
If you feel like you do not have support, please call the Texas Lawyers’ Assistance Program (“TLAP”). They have resources specifically related to remote work and other repercussions resulting from this year. To learn more about their programs, visit the website at https://www.tlaphelps.org/. I also want you to consider our Section a resource. At various times in my career, I have found it difficult to reach out to my colleagues and admit that I failed or dropped the ball. But when I have, I often learned that my successful colleagues had been through similar circumstances, and talking with them instantly transformed my situation from unbearable to manageable. Thank you to those dear colleagues I have leaned on over the years (you know who you are). If any of you reading this find you do not have a friend or colleague like that in your life, please reach out to me – I have a lot to pay forward. Texas Family Lawyers have fought hard through a challenging year, yet so many of you still find the strength to light the darkness for others. And for that, you have my deepest gratitude.
I hope your holidays are filled with the same peace, love, and light you have given me this year.
*This message originally appeared in the Winter Section Report.