HCCLA offers its members two unique and successful mentorship opportunities: the Second Chair Program and Brainstorming Lunches.
New criminal defense attorneys in Houston face serious obstacles since law school often does little to prepare young attorneys for the difficulties inherent in a criminal justice system that is infamous as one of the harshest in the world. Our goal is to train and support the dedicated lawyers so desperately needed by the more than ten-thousand civilians who are incarcerated in our local jail on any given day.
The HCCLA Second Chair Program is the largest and most successful criminal defense mentorship program in Texas, and likely the nation.
Launched in 2008, the Second Chair Program works to strengthen the defense bar by uniting the ranks of more experienced criminal defense attorneys (First Chairs) with those seeking to enhance their professional education (Second Chairs).
- We call for new applicants during a two-week period twice per year—usually March and September. Watch the listserv for announcements.
- Participants must be current HCCLA members who are licensed and in good standing with the Texas Bar.
- First Chairs must have at least 5 years experience as a criminal lawyer and have been first chair for the defense in at least 5 trials.
- “Junior” First Chairs may be accepted if they don’t quite meet the requirements above but show the skill and commitment necessary to assist newer lawyers.
- All levels of experience are eligible as Second Chairs, but preference is given to newer lawyers when there is a shortage of First Chairs.
- All participants must have the significant time and energy necessary to devote to the partnership.
- After applying online, you’ll be paired with a mentor or mentee. We try to match people based on interests, background, and geographic location.
- Each partnership is unique, but will likely involve the following:
- Shadowing – In every partnership, the Second Chair should accompany the First Chair to court, investigations, client meetings, witness interviews, and observe everything involved in case preparation and litigation.
- Trusted Advisor – The First Chair should be available for consultation.
- Enthusiastic Helper – The Second Chair should actively seek out ways to assist the First Chair in their practice, like doing research or drafting motions, etc.
- Second-Chairing – The First Chair may select cases for their Second Chair to sit second and participate co-counsel style in all aspects of the case.
- Role Reversal – The Second Chair may choose a case on which the First Chair agrees to sit second as an advisor.
- Partnerships are announced at a Brainstorming Lunch at the close of the application period.
The Second Chair Program offers new lawyers the incredible opportunity to work side-by-side with world-class criminal defense attorneys. While not every partnership can be an ideal match, many go on to form life-long friendships and professional alliances.
Brainstorming Lunches are held periodically for lawyers to discuss their difficult cases and receive advice from the group in a friendly and informal setting. With lunch provided, members are welcome to bring their cases and questions. We strive to allow each member to present their issues or questions to the group. The group, comprised of many senior lawyers, will undertake to answer and provide advice or direction.
The lunches will give participants access to a large group without requiring the one-on-one mentorship partnership. Participants have been extremely thankful for the opportunity and education they receive. While the brainstorming lunches compliment the Second Chair Program, participation in the Second Chair Program is not required.
Watch the HCCLA activities calendar for updates on scheduled brainstorming lunches and sign up to attend.