For years and years, I practiced products-liability and commercial litigation, for the last eleven years at Clark, Thomas & Winters, a large general-service firm here in Austin. I recently decided to change jobs and practice area -- a decision made much easier by the fact that CTW dissolved this spring after 75 years of operation. I'm now of counsel at Coats Rose, where I practice in the firm's Real Estate, Land Use, Government Affairs & Banking section. More succinctly: I now practice land-use law. The lawyers in the section usually (but certainly not always) represent property owners and developers.
This is a happy change. I've been interested in land-use and zoning since law school, when I took the course from Robert Ellickson, one of the first lawyers to push an economic analysis of the growth controls and other anti-density regulations proliferating in the 1970s. I've kept my interest in land-use over the years. I've even been known to venture my own opinion on local land-use controversies from time to time. Sometimes I've ventured these in public. Sometimes I've ventured them only to my wife (who tired of them long ago and accuses me of turning crotchety in my middle-age). This blog isn't really like collecting stamps or gluing together models of fighter jets or whatever, but it's time-intensive, fun and unpaid, which qualifies it as a hobby in my book.
I wish I could say that I'm now being paid to engage in my hobby but, alas, that's not true -- my blogging is still unpaid work. But I am now being paid to practice in an area of law I really enjoy, and that's close enough.
One consequence of this switch is that I will feel more comfortable discussing the legal angle of local zoning controversies. In the past, I've shied away from the legal nitty-gritty of specific zoning disputes or affordable housing regulations or what have you, with rare exception.
I usually will avoid writing about disputes involving one of my clients. One reason is that there's no point: some people would accuse me of shilling for my client and ignore my calm, articulate, well-reasoned opinion. Another reason is that it's generally not in a client's interests for its lawyer to engage in amateur public relations. A third is that I may not always like every detail of a client's project. Strangely, they tend to insist that their projects match their tastes rather than those of their outside counsel. But I don't want to thrust myself into a public debate that may require me to defend design choices that do not match my personal taste.
Should I for some reason deviate from this rule, I will disclose my interest and my client's interest clearly and prominently. You can assume that if there is no such disclosure, then neither I nor my client (nor, to my knowledge, any firm client) has a financial stake in the matter.
The opinions on this blog always have been and will remain my own. They are not not necessarily shared by any of the firm's clients or its attorneys. I and I alone deserve the blame.