April Farris: Never underestimate yourself
April Farris was recently appointed to the First Court of Appeals by Governor Greg Abbott—a moment she describes as her greatest accomplishment thus far. April applied for the appointed position not knowing whether she would be selected for an interview even though she was one of the most qualified candidates, saying “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” April shares this experience with the advice that young women should never underestimate themselves.
April was born in Nebraska while her father was stationed there as a dentist in the Air Force. Her family relocated to Big Spring, Texas—a small town in the Permian Basin with a population at the time of 25,000 people. She described the community she grew up in as diverse. With only one high school in the town at the time, she remembers attending school with everyone; it didn’t matter whether folks were rich or poor. Everyone was supportive of one another in April’s eyes. Neighbors were so supportive that some of the congratulatory messages she received after being appointed to office came from former teachers and leaders in Big Spring.
April sparked her interest in law when she was in high school. She interned for the Howard County attorney’s office where she filed misdemeanor charges into the computer database. She also drew a love of law from her first role model: her grandfather Raymond “Sonny” Hollis. He was a former superintendent of a small school district near Big Spring that served a predominantly low-income community. April remembers her grandfather purchasing winter coats and shoes for students in the district. He also had a passion for justice that he shared with April. While in college in the 1950s, he wrote an op-ed for his college newspaper challenging the college’s segregation policy. The op-ed sparked a debate that led to the college ending and apologizing for segregation. He also had a distinct passion for the Constitution that transferred onto April, a guiding principle for her legal career.
April would go on to attend Harvard Law School. One of the biggest barriers she faced was a personal barrier: imposter syndrome. Heading to an ivy league law school after growing up in a small West Texas town pushed April outside of her comfort zone. A lot of the times, she felt like she didn’t belong or wasn’t qualified. When other classmates, especially men, would take advantage of office hours or speak up in class, April would shy away from these opportunities. It wasn’t until April clerked in the United States Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that Judge Jennifer Elrod convinced her otherwise. Judge Elrod taught her that women should own their achievements and have confidence that they deserve a seat at the table. April took that lesson to heart.
April carried that confidence into the rest of her legal career, serving as an Assistant Solicitor General for the State of Texas and a partner at Yetter Coleman LLP. In both roles, April handled appellate litigation. She remembers times as a young lawyer when she wasn’t taken seriously by opposing counsel. Other lawyers would call her “young lady” or dismiss her presence. Because of this, April made it a priority to be the most prepared attorney in the room, often reading the record of facts cover to cover. Her goal was to show the judges that she deserved to be in that space. She encourages other young women—especially those interested in law—to go out there and prove others wrong.
In 2020, the application for appointment to the First Court of Appeals arose. April recalled having a mentor who told her his one regret in life was having the opportunity to become a judge and not taking it. April knew that if she ever had the chance to apply or run for a judicial position, she would take it. Receiving the call from the Governor’s office that she was selected for the appointment was the thrill of a lifetime. April is excited to serve as a judge alongside other well-qualified women. She is excited to continue encouraging other young, diverse women to become attorneys. April closed with this advice: “Don’t underestimate yourself. Put in the work, learn the material. When you know your stuff, know that you deserve to be there. The sky is the limit when you work hard and believe in yourself.”