Monday, October 03, 2005

HARRIET MIERS Reflections of a lawyer-politician Part 2 of 2

Would she have run for City Council this fall if she had not been elected State Bar president? Miss Miers sidesteps the question adroitly, saying the chance to head the bar "was really a very good solution to what would have been a very difficult question. I couldn't have run (for council) as an at-large candidate,' since, under 14-1, only the mayor is elected citywide. But some of her friends think she may feel some relief at leaving council politics. "My personal sense is, that could be the case,' says Dallas attorney Darrell Jordan. "Harriet has not told me that. I'd imagine she feels comfortable dealing almost exclusively with legal issues.

There'll be some politics, too, but . . . I get the feeling she's pleased that that chapter in her life is coming to a close.' Ms. Miers views the State Bar presidency as a "once in a professional lifetime' chance. It is one that promises its own share of headaches, coming at a time when lawyer-bashing seems to be in vogue. "I told her it was almost a thankless task she was about to engage in,' says Dallas attorney Hayden Cooper. "We have so many lawyers and so many problems.' One major issue, that of requiring Texas lawyers to do a given amount of pro-bono work, will be due for a State Bar report to the Legislature during Ms. Miers' term. Pro-bono always has been one of her pet concerns. "I have a very strong belief in the justice system and that it can work,' she says. "I think the participants in the system have a tremendous obligation to make it work.' She often frets that "we are losing a generation of children' in the fraying fabric of social injustices.

Ms. Miers, who was tapped to run by the State Bar's board of directors, won with nearly 55 percent of the vote. Some 20 percent of the lawyers in Texas are women, and doubtless many of them felt it was high time for a woman to head the State Bar. Still, Ms. Miers - ran against a male candidate from lawyer-heavy Houston, and she was no shoo-in for election. "I never saw her gender as a disadvantage (in the race),' says Mr. Jordan, who served as State Bar president in 1989-90. "But it's not necessarily an advantage, either.' The legal fraternity is still, in many cases, just that. To some male lawyers, Ms. Miers notes dryly, her candidacy "was a hard pill for them to swallow. "When there hasn't been a woman president before, that's an issue ,' she says. "(But) it will never be talked about again.' "As far as the good ol' boys,' says John Estes, a partner in Locke Purnell, "yes, you've got diehards here and yonder. But most lawyers have accepted women in the profession.' While she enjoys bei ng a role model for women lawyers, the quiet, ladylike Ms. Miers nevertheless has a strong traditionalist streak. "She's been able to retain her femininity while bashing down walls,' says friend Charlene Howell. "I think of her as steel and silk.' "An ir on fist in a velvet glove,' says Mr. Cooper. "In my judgment, part of her achievements are attributable to her not being a feminist,' says Morris Harrell, dean of Dallas trial lawyers and also a partner in Locke Purnell. Then he pauses to reconsider: "He ll, maybe she is a feminist. I don't know.' "She is in no way a militant,' her friend Ann Simmons says. "You wouldn't find her marching in a demonstration or carrying a picket sign . . . She is conservative.' Ms. Miers' professional success is "something she made herself,' Mr. Estes says. "She's a remarkable person and a remarkable woman.In that order.' *

Away from the demands of council chambers and law office, Ms. Miers tries to save a little space for herself. She still loves to play tennis, but seldom can make time for a match. She does manage to get in some jogging, though not as often as she thinks she should. She enjoys reading for pleasure, but is snowed under by legal briefs and council documents. Her council work and State Bar duties have superseded some of her civic involvement. Ms. Miers has some 50 credits on her resume, including the YWCA board, League of Women Voters, Greater Dallas Chamber and SMU Law School Board of Visitors.

Though she likes movies, she only occasionally escapes to a theater. She does, however, entertain at home, and says with a laugh that some of her more frequent guests "probably get tired of seeing my vegetable casserole and my cheesecake.' She has never married, but she has, as her mother puts it, "been keeping company' with Judge Hecht for several years. Ms. Miers is close to her family and especially dotes on her seven nieces and nephews, one of whom currently shares the house with her and a lively little terrier, Susie-Q. Having children of her own is "clearly something that you miss,' she admits. "It's kind of a matter of choices. You decide at the time what seems to be the right thing for you. "I would not change the choices I have made. I do love children, and I think families are extremely important. That is something I certainly would have, I'm sure, enjoyed if it had happened that way earlier . . . (But) I don't have regrets about not taking a different direction.' - Harriet Miers doesn't believe in wasting much time on might-have-beens. As she says, with quiet certainty, "I just really believe I've been extremely fortunate.'
PHOTO(S): 1. Harriet Miers at the offices of Locke Purnell Rain Harrell 2. Harriet Miers (1 2. DMN: Juan Garcia) 3. Harriet Miers with supporters during her '89 run for City CouncilCHART(S): Self Portrait: Harriet Ellan Miers (DMN)PHOTO LOCATION: 1. NR(C). 2. Oversize Photo File, 7 91. 3. Miers, Harriet.
1991 Copyright The Dallas Morning News Company


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