James E. Brill—Author Interview

James Brill

James E. Brill is a solo practitioner from Houston whose practice emphasizes probate, estate planning, and real estate. He has served as editor, project director, and principal author of the Texas Probate System since 1971.n

You’ve led the development of Texas Probate System, which Forms Builder is based on, for many years. Tell us how these materials have evolved.

The first edition of Texas Probate System was published just in time for the 1972 State Bar Convention. It covered independent administrations and muniment of title proceedings. Two years later it was expanded to cover small estates, temporary and regular dependent administrations, administrations with will annexed, and proceedings to determination heirship. Although I had been sole author of Texas Probate System, I collaborated with several other lawyers to prepare this expanded version.

Over the years, Texas Probate System has been revised and updated at least five times. During this period, one edition was written by me with the help of my legal assistant Linda Woodall Bennett. In the remainder of the updates, Sue Mills, a member of the TexasBarBooks publications staff, provided research and writing assistance and carefully and gently edited my drafts. One recent development was the introduction of an electronic version available in WordPerfect, as well as in Word.

When you were first approached for contributing to Forms Builder, what were the stated goals of the project?

The original books were paper-based, but advances in technology enabled later versions to be a combination of paper and word processing. Similarly, new technology has made it possible to advance to an even higher level—that of document assembly. The integration of the material into a document assembly system has been the goal from the outset, and the result is the Texas Probate Forms Builder Document Assembly System, or simply, Forms Builder.

What do you think could potentially be the main benefits of Forms Builder for new and experienced attorneys and their legal assistants?

When properly understood and used, Forms Builder will prepare the necessary forms and letters, calculate due dates, be a repository for the factual data of each estate, and prompt the user regarding future required actions. Since it and the user perform and prepare documents at such rapid speed, lawyers will need to rethink their reliance on hourly billing and consider flat fees and other alternative billing methods.

What are your expectations for Forms Builder?

I expect even greater statewide standardization not only of forms, but also of administrative and substantive procedures through the use of Forms Builder.

What are you reading now?

I am reading The Dumbest Generation (How the Digital Age Stupifies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future) by Mark Bauerlain and The Age Of The Unthinkable (Why the New World Disorder Constantly Surprises Us and What We Can Do About It) by Joshua Cooper Ramo, son of Roberta Cooper Ramo, first woman president of the American Bar Association.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Cheap Probate Houston March 15, 2014 at 4:21 pm

Great post.Thanks for sharing your website and your website.


William D. Elliott August 4, 2017 at 5:18 pm

I hold Jimmy Brill high on the pantheon of my legal heroes. For as long as I have been practicing law, he has been the exemplar of the best that a Texas lawyer can offer.


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