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Sharp Embraces Opportunity to Lead Austin Bar Association

Having a spouse as a co-worker can be a trying experience.

Unless you are Lance Sharp. The Austin attorney, and incoming president of the Austin Bar Association, told Austin Legal News that working with fellow attorney and spouse, Laura Sharp, is a “pleasure.”

That optimism and disposition will serve Sharp well as he oversees the diverse membership of Central Texas attorneys in the Austin Bar. Those qualities were also one of the reasons we thought he would be an appropriate interview for our regular Wednesday interview.

1. Describe your legal practice?
My legal practice has primarily concentrated on plaintiff’s personal injury and consumer protection. I have the pleasure of working with my wife, Laura Sharp as my partner. We handle auto accidents, product liabilities, DTPA, bad faith claims, probate and estate litigation and medical and dental malpractice.

2. What are the biggest challenges of those you interact with on the legal front, and what is the key to helping them resolve those challenges?
The biggest challenge for my personal injury practice is the effect Tort Reform has on my clients’ cases. It is extremely difficult to explain to clients how the changes in the law have severely devalued their case or made it economically unviable. I have to turn away many cases that are meritorious because I will not be able to justify the expenses of their case. Often the monetary problems their cases have caused them and their families have devastated them financially, but the litigation costs exceed what I anticipate they can recover.

3. What are the advantages to practicing law in Austin?
In general I believe the greatest advantages to practicing law in Austin are the other lawyers and judges in our legal community. Lawyers in Austin treat each other with respect and professionalism. The knowledgeable judges make practicing law easier.

4. How would you improve the legal profession if you could?
I would first change the educational steps by which one becomes a lawyer. First, with fewer law firms hiring and more lawyers hanging out their shingle on their own, I believe it would help the legal profession as a whole to setup some type of residency or apprentice program. This should be done the year after law school or perhaps incorporated into their 3rd year of law school. Actual experience would benefit both the profession and the public. Secondly, I would try to shine more light on the good lawyers that “do” for their communities. Each time I participate in community projects, whether they are from coaching to church, I find the makeup of volunteers always includes other lawyers. I am not surprised, nor will the legal community be surprised, but my sense is that the general community has little idea of the volunteer hours that we commit to serve in our communities. If people were made more aware of all the volunteer work , religious and community activities in which lawyers are involved, I believe it would greatly enhance the image of our profession.

5. Who or what was your biggest influence in becoming a lawyer and why?
My parents were my biggest influence in becoming a lawyer. While growing up, they both taught me to respect the law and the importance lawyers play in shaping and preserving the rights of individuals in society.

6. What do you hope to accomplish as President of the Austin Bar?
First and foremost, I want to continue the excellent work the Austin Bar has been doing. Continuity is important as so many of our current projects help lawyer practice good law and the community at large. Secondly, I believe it is important that we improve the image of the lawyers. I realize it’s not something that will happen overnight but it is something we should be continually striving for, and should not waiver from promoting. Finally, the Austin Bar Association has enjoyed a wonderful number of years in our current location, but the time has come where we must make a move. I anticipate that much of the time and effort in this next year will be devoted to reviewing the possibilities and making decisions on what will be our new bar home. This may include looking at purchase options. I expect to be continually updating you on our progress, listening to suggestions and hopefully arriving at a solution that will be long lasting, perhaps even permanent.

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