National Pro Bono Week

This week (Oct. 21-27, 2018) is the 10th Annual National Pro Bono Week! Legal organizations across the country have planned events to celebrate and educate pro bono attorneys in their communities, and the Harris County Law Library is no exception. On Thursday, Oct. 25, at 2 p.m., we’ll offer our first session of Free Legal Tech for the Public, which is designed to help pro bono attorneys and self-represented litigants make sense of all the great online resources available to help individuals representing themselves in legal matters. Everyone is welcome to attend this Hands-on Legal Tech Training from the Law Library’s Legal Tech Institute and Texas attorneys can earn 1.0 hour of CLE credit. Click for details and registration information.

Hats Off to Houston Volunteer Lawyers!

In the tradition of celebrating excellence in pro bono work during National Pro Bono Week, the Law Library would like to give a hat tip to Houston Volunteer Lawyers! HVL attorneys staff the “Library Booth,” which is a legal information booth where self-represented litigants with limited means can speak with a licensed attorney for free. The Library Booth is open Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., in the lower level of our downtown Houston location. Working in close proximity with HVL attorneys, our law librarians see the positive impact it has on our patrons to have ready access to pro bono attorneys who can answer basic questions. With guidance, self-represented litigants can make better use of the Law Library’s collection and have improved access to justice. Visit to see all the ways HVL supports pro bono.

Further Reading

Hispanic Heritage Month

Saturday, September 15, marks the independence day of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize follow shortly after, on the 16th, 18th and 21st. The Harris County Law Library extends Happy Independence Day wishes to the more than 57 million Americans, and roughly 11 million Texans, who claim Hispanic roots. We would also like to commemorate Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 through October 15, by recognizing the contributions of several of our era’s high-profile Hispanic lawyers, including Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor; former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales; United States Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio; New Mexico Governor, Susana Martinez; and former Director of Intergovernmental Affairs under President Obama, Cecilia Muñoz. We also honor the trailblazers who came before, including the rich history of Latina and Latino lawyers practicing before the United States Supreme Court.

National Bar Associations

State and Local Bar Associations

Fashion Law: A New Frontier

 Law librarian uniform, standard issue.

Law librarian uniform, standard issue.

Law librarians are no strangers to fashion. Anyone familiar with our cardigan game knows what I’m talking about. Increasingly, other lawyers are catching up, with fashion law rapidly expanding as both a practice area and a field of general interest.

What even is fashion law? It covers everything from intellectual property, to business, to international human rights.

 Classic cinema.

Classic cinema.

Traditionally, fashion has enjoyed only limited intellectual property protection in the United States, where clothing design has been considered such an essential (or maybe inessential, depending who you ask) part of culture development that copycats have been encouraged by the market and the lack of legal constraints. Readers may recall the classic scene in “The Devil Wears Prada,” when Runway Magazine editor Miranda explains this phenomenon to fashion neophyte Andy, who had no understanding of the lofty origins of her "lumpy blue sweater."

A recent Supreme Court ruling, however, has shifted the conversation. In Star Athletica, L.L.C. v. Varsity Brands, Inc., 580 U.S. ___ (2017), the Court held that graphic designs applied to useful articles can be subject to copyright, even if those designs are apparently essential to the usefulness of the article. This ruling certainly favors large shops with the resources to create novel designs, register them with the Copyright Office, and litigate against smaller operations with fewer resources. However, it also means that independent artists will now have recourse when their designs are mass produced without permission by behemoths like Walmart or Urban Outfitters.

 The cheerleader uniforms at the heart of the Star Athletica case.

The cheerleader uniforms at the heart of the Star Athletica case.

 View of the Dhaka, Bangladesh river walk.

View of the Dhaka, Bangladesh river walk.

The fashion industry is using the law to combat human rights abuses long associated with “fast fashion.” An international organization called Fashion Revolution is leading the charge to provide safe working conditions and fair wages for everyone employed by the industry, including floor shop laborers in developing nations. International scrutiny of these issues increased significantly in the wake of the November 2012 Tazreen Fashion factory fire, which killed at least 117 workers in Dhaka, Bangladesh.

Attorneys and legal professionals can now obtain specialized degrees in fashion law. The Fashion Law Institute at Fordham Law School offers both an LLM and MSL in this burgeoning space, as well as two CLE “bootcamp” events, one in New York and the other in San Francisco.

Interested to learn more? Check out The Fashion Law, which tracks legal developments in the fashion industry.

Legal Tech Institute Guest Speaker Wins National Association Election

In September, 2017, Saskia presented a CLE for the Law Library's Legal Tech Institute on artificial intelligence in the practice of law. Find a recording of the program on the Legal Tech Institute page today.