A CALL TO ARMS
As I write my first “From the Chair” column I am licking my wounds from a medical malpractice trial that ended with a defense verdict. Being a trial lawyer can be a lonely profession. I can still feel the emptiness that surrounded me in the car during my drive home that night. The fact that the evidence went in as well as I could have hoped for, coupled with the fact that the jury only deliberated for an hour, made this verdict particularly hard to swallow.
Of course, the worst part was turning to face my client; I felt very deeply like I had let him down.
When I spoke with him in the hallway outside the courtroom I told him I wish I had done better for him. I will never forget his response: He thanked me for fighting for him; for standing up for him; for explaining what had happened to him; and for giving him a chance to tell the jury how his life had changed.
As badly as we want plaintiffs’ verdicts, victory is sometimes achieved by simply allowing our clients to tell their story to a jury.
Without the American Association for Justice, I doubt my client would have ever had his day in court. The fact is, AAJ, our state TLA’s and a handful of sister organizations remain the best and only defense against those powerful interests who would slam the courthouse door closed on the victims of negligence and greed.
And without AAJ, I most certainly would not be a trial lawyer. I had the privilege of growing up the son of a trial lawyer. Our family summer vacations often involved climbing into a rented minivan and driving through different parts of the country on our way to an AAJ (then ATLA) convention. You might even think of it as National Lampoon’s Trial Lawyer Vacation. Trust me: we had plenty of Griswold moments.
But the journey always led us to Convention. And even as a kid I remember being struck by the stories of the clients that spoke at the Civil Justice Foundation Breakfast of Champions. I remember learning at the Public Justice Gala about the battles that the Trial Lawyer of the Year candidates fought. And, mostly, I remembe r the call to arms of our legendary AAJ Past Presidents.
Make no mistake about it: the New Lawyers Division is critical to the success of AAJ. So consider this my call to arms to you.
We have an aggressive agenda in front of us this year. There are 4000 members of the NLD; I would ask each of you to make at least one contribution to our Division this year. There are plenty of opportunities to pitch in:
1. Join the PAC. In an election year in particular, PAC participation is imperative. I would suggest that all NLD members commit at the following levels:
• 1-3 Years in Practice: $10/month
• 4-7 Years in Practice: $25/month
• 8-10 Years in Practice: $50/month
This last level would assure that you are a member of the NLD M-Club, which provides certain benefits, including an invitation to the M-Club Luncheon at both AAJ Conventions.
2. Speaking of Convention, attend one—or both! Attendance at an AAJ Convention is one of the best ways to advance your career as a trial lawyer. The CLEs and Seminars are world-class. The Exhibit Hall provides an opportunity to view the latest technology, review hot-off-the-press trial strategy publications, meet with experts, case-funding companies, graphic illustrators, and many other exhibitors who can serve a valuable purpose in your practice.
But most importantly, Convention provides an outstanding venue to meet trial lawyers from across the country. As New Lawyers, there are few better opportunities to begin building a national referral network than an AAJ Convention. And best of all, you are eligible for a steep discount the first time you attend one.
Oh, and did I mention the NLD Party? I have one word to sum up the Chicago Party: Epic.
3. On that note, be an NLD Party Sponsor. Sponsorship gets your firm name in lights and gives you access to the VIP Room at the Party. Be on the lookout for our Sponsorship Letter which will be hitting your mailbox soon.
4. Attend an NLD Phonathon . This year we will be hosting several phonathons. Here are the dates and locations:
|October 4, 2012||Washington, D.C.|
|November 2, 2012||Las Vegas, NV|
|November 29, 2012||Atlanta, GA|
|January 10-11, 2013||Dallas, TX|
|March 7-8, 2013||Portland, OR|
|April 11, 2013||Las Vegas, NV|
|May 2-3, 2013||New Orleans, LA|
|June 6-7, 2013||New York, NY|
Attendance at a Phonathon is a great way to meet other NLD members and get involved with our division. Not to mention they are a ton of fun. And, AAJ generally reimburses a portion of your travel expenses.
5. Join an NLD Committee. The list of committees can be found on our website. Committee participation is what you make of it, but most committees require a minimal time commitment. Committee work is another way to meet fellow NLD members and support the work of AAJ.
We all know that as plaintiffs’ lawyers, the odds are stacked against us. AAJ is one of our best tools to level the playing field. The NLD provides new lawyers a great opportunity to make a difference in AAJ. But we need everyone’s participation. My challenge to you is to do one thing for the NLD this year. I promise that if you do just one thing—make one commitment to the NLD—it will pay you back tenfold.
I am honored to serve as your Chair this year. I look forward to working with AAJ President Mary Alice McLarty as the NLD continues to be a “go-to” group for all of our AAJ Leaders. I hope to meet many of you this year. I know I will be relying on each of you, and the many fantastic leaders of the NLD.
In the meantime, if you have one of those lonely days that trial lawyers can have, don’t forget that you are not out there alone. There are 4000 NLD members fighting the same good fight every day. I hope you will make a commitment to the NLD and join me in keeping the court house door open.
Christopher T. Nace