Messages from the President

 

July 30, 2019

President’s Address:  July, 2019

ABPLA President

President’s Address:  July, 2019

I dictate this month’s President’s Address while waiting for a plane at the San Diego airport.

The American Association for Justices’ annual convention just ended.  My dear friend, Bruce Stern, was just sworn in as AAJ’s newest president.

I have been attending ATLA (now AAJ) conventions for over 30 years. It would be an understatement to indicate that I have formed strong friendships with AAJ lawyers from around the country. In fact, I can confidently say that for me, these conventions are more about friendships than about MCLE.

ABPLA is about the same thing.  Strong friendships with talented lawyers from around the country.  The more time that passes, the more I look forward to ABPLA’s next conference. A time to catch up with friends and true professionals. We are in the closing weeks of finalizing our location for next year’s seminar. It looks to be an all-time great.  Standby for further information.  And, the only hint I’ll give you, is get ready for the sun!

As a past president of the Belli Society, I attended the Belli Seminar, the black-tie Belli dinner, and of course, the Belli board meeting. As with ABPLA, discussions at the board meeting dealt with the organization’s desire to remain relevant, serve its members, and the age-old debate about whether to relax trial standards in order to attract a younger membership. It would appear that many organizations are grappling with the same issues.

Please utilize our Listserv ([email protected]) and chime in with your thoughts as to whether, as a general proposition, we should lower our standards, (trial requirements, or otherwise), in order to attract younger members.  I am very interested in your thoughts!!  

It should come as no surprise that our Standard’s Committee has been closely analyzing this issue. In fact, the ABPLA board discussed the issue for a considerable time at our last board meeting. We need your input and help. Please use the listserv and let us know your thoughts.

As I close, I do know that today is day one of the California Bar Examination.  My son is hard at work answering essay questions or whatever else comes up on today’s examination.  I think I’ll have another glass of wine while waiting for the flight. I guess age does bring with it certain benefits.

             

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 

 

June 25, 2019

President’s Address:  June, 2019

ABPLA President

President’s Address:  June, 2019

Summer is here! As with many of you, summertime means we have graduations to attend. I recently attended my son's graduation from Boston College School of Law where he attained his Juris Doctorate degree. Mind you, in his three years of legal studies, he also managed to obtain an LLM in international law from the Sorbonne. (He obviously inherited his smarts from his mother's side of the family).

While attending the graduation ceremonies, I reflected on the future of board certification. It is no secret that our profession is evolving. The number of cases being tried throughout the United States has been decreasing for decades. It is therefore absolutely necessary that each of us provide the young lawyers of today with a pathway to trial.

My son is now deep into his bar review course, studying on average eight hours per day. He will take the California bar at the end of July, and then he returns to Boston in February to take the Massachusetts bar.

My next trial is scheduled to go out mid-August. Of course my son will not yet have received his California bar results, but I assure you he will be sitting with me at counsel table throughout the entire case. In fact, I may get two additional cases out to trial before he receives his California bar exam results in November of this year, and my goal is to have him with me at each.

I think it is absolutely imperative that we all extend the opportunity of trial experience to the young lawyers in our orbit. As our legal system evolves, it is critical to have qualified trial lawyers filling the ranks of lawyers and judges that comprise our chosen profession.  Of course, trial experience is a necessary prerequisite to board certification through ABPLA. 

I do note that while trials may be decreasing, many of us are busy actually trying our client’s cases. We seem to be that last bastion of trial lawyers keeping jurors busy.

There was a recent study performed by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, together with numerous other organizations, that looked at the factors that led students to attend law school. The factors that motivated first year law students to law school show that passion for the practice of law is alive and well. Over one third of the students surveyed stated that opportunities to be helpful to others was a top factor in considering law school. Law school was also identified as a pathway for a career in politics, government, or public service by at least 30% of those surveyed.

Protecting American democratic institutions, the rule of law, and our jury system, is an absolute imperative. Almost one half (47%) of the first year students surveyed indicated that they had a high interest in the type of work that we, as lawyers, do every day. That should be inspiration to all of us.

As a young lawyer, my legal career started under the tutelage of Melvin M. Belli, Sr.  To this day, I can remember Mel stating with passion that we, as trial lawyers, are the only ones that take the Constitution out of its glass case and put it to work on a daily basis.

Indeed, we are trial lawyers. Ours is a noble profession. Those among us specializing in the trial of professional liability cases are uniquely privileged. As Belli once said, I make no apology for being a "trial lawyer." Anyone who can successfully obtain verdicts in damage suits and have those verdicts sustained on appeal, is capable of entering any type of litigation. Likewise, anyone who can professionally defend a case is capable of handling any type of litigation.

I think one of the reasons for the fascination of the trial lawyer lies not perhaps in the characteristics necessary to deal with the human element of the trial, and the mechanics necessary to obtain a judgment, but rather in fortitude. Just plain, old-fashioned heart. One who is without heart, without ability to stand it when the going is rough, when he is in the trough of the sea, has no right to enter the field of trial law. Perhaps here more than any other realm of the law, one finds stouthearted men/women and discovers the truth of the saying that "valor consists in the power of self-recovery."

How many of you have not walked out of the courtroom at the end of the day when the opposition, and perhaps the court, have all but thrown chairs at you? Yet you came back the following day to overcome the obstacles of yesterday and to continue on to a successful verdict. Even though the court itself may have seemed against you, when you obtained that verdict, you found you had some modicum of respect from the court, if not from opposing counsel. So, I say to you each of you, take a young lawyer under your wing. Guide that lawyer in the profession of trial work. That is, after all, what we do.

             

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 

 

May 22, 2019

President’s Address:  May, 2019

ABPLA President

It's a wrap! The ABPLA National Legal and Medical Malpractice Conference was held May 2-4, 2019 at the Park Lane Hotel in New York City. I left the conference absolutely exhilarated. I needed a vacation from my seminar “vacation”. 

I always come away from our Conference feeling reenergized. It is great spending time with so many colleagues and friends from around the country. And then . . . there is the MCLE. 

The Thursday, May 2nd Program opened with Susan Witt who shocked the audience with live video of the "dancing doctor” from Atlanta. Next up, another Atlanta powerhouse, Adam Malone, talked to us about overcoming challenges in medical negligence cases. The program turned to legal malpractice as Ronald Minkoff reviewed causation through a series of case studies. Trial practices was next, and Patrick Malone wowed the audience as he reviewed fearless cross-examination technique. Not to be outdone, the Thursday program ended with Mark Bower and Nursine Jackson reviewing electronic health records and audit trails.

Friday's program branched away from the traditional 50 minute presentations, and was power packed with a number of 20 minute fast hitting discussions. First up was Karen Winner who reviewed tragedies with the family law system in New York State. Dr. Charles Rawlings next thoroughly reviewed Cauda Equina Syndrome.  Michael Kaplan, who teaches the only brain injury law school class in the United States (George Washington University), reviewed delayed diagnosis of stroke giving rise to malpractice. Grace Weatherly (incoming National ABOTA Vice President) put personal experience to task as she reviewed practicing law in a divided nation. Les Weisbrod (past President of the American Association for Justice), stunned the audience with a thorough review of the benefits of cooling a distressed infant at childbirth.  Chris Carey refocused on legal malpractice and Peter Wayne (Forge) reviewed special needs planning. Closing the program, Linley Jones (past President of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association), captivated the audience reviewing jury selection issues with focus on the nationalist juror.

It was my honor at the ABPLA dinner Friday night to present Thomas P. Sartwelle with the Thomas “Tommy” W. Malone “Distinguished Service Award". This annual award, (given just one year prior to Gary Brooks), is awarded to the consummate professional who demonstrates the highest level of ethical conduct, civility, and professional competence in the practice of law. It is an award earned, not simply given, and Tom Sartwelle epitomizes what we can only hope future awardees demonstrate.

Saturday's program was kicked off by our own Justin Kahn who dazzled the audience with his coverage of language and technology in the courtroom. His presentation was simply "magical". Following Justin, was Dr. Sharon Grouper who covered human interaction in the operating room. Dr. Grouper presented a case study of multifaceted failure in the OR. Counsel to the State Bar of Georgia, Paula Frederick, discussed legal ethics and social media. The program was closed through a presentation by Dr. Richard Shure, who discussed sports medicine and orthopedic injuries.

Given the half day format of the program, many of the conference attendees were able to take in a play. My son, my wife and I snuck off Saturday afternoon to see "To Kill a Mockingbird". This nine time Tony award-winning play features Jeff Daniels (Atticus Finch) in Aaron Sorkin's adaptation of the famous book. I highly recommend the play to anyone-especially those of us in the legal profession with a sense of justice.

So, as I began, it's a wrap! In the, "you spoke and we listened" category, the ABPLA Board discussed new dates for next year's Seminar. We understand that May is a busy month for graduations and other events. Accordingly, as we begin planning next year's conference, and its location, we will also examine new dates. If you were unable to attend this year's conference due to a conflict, please drop me a note letting me know your ideas on dates as well as locations for next year's conference. All suggestions will be considered.

Lastly, we need stronger input from our defense brethren and sisters. If you would like to speak at next year's conference, please shoot me an e-mail. I will make sure your name gets to the conference planning committee. Talk to you next month! 

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 

 

ABPLA President

April 11, 2019

PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS: April 

Greetings from Las Vegas!  I am dictating this month’s President’s Address while waiting to speak at a Traumatic Brain Injury conference taking place at the Convention Center at the Aria Casino & Resort. 

Just across town, at yet another hotel convention center, is the Mass Torts Made Perfect seminar at which there is yet another large gathering of lawyers. 

‘‘Tis the season”, as they say, and I guess this holds true for Medical Legal Seminars as well.  While there are certainly many seminars held each year, undoubtedly one of the best is the yearly conference hosted by the ABPLA.   

I sincerely hope that each and every one of you has signed up and plans to attend our National Legal & Medical Malpractice Conference. This year’s conference will be nothing short of phenomenal. It is a unique 3-day CLE for both plaintiff and defense attorneys who have an interest in professional liability. 

The conference is just around the corner, May 2 - 4th at the Park Lane Hotel in New York City.

This conference provides you the opportunity to learn not only from the best in the areas of Medical Malpractice and Legal Malpractice litigation, but also with the best in those fields. The conference is attended by Board Certified Specialists of the ABPLA and is also open to the public. This is your chance to learn from those who practice in this field almost exclusively and have the certification and results to prove it.

Those who are leading the charge in our field, and who have blazed paths, are not just presenters, but attendees. This year’s speakers will highlight the changes happening in our profession and inspire you to improve your professional skills and legal expertise. Significant interaction and discussion make the conference invaluable. It is not often that people from both sides of the bar have a chance to share openly. If you practice in the area of professional liability, this will not be an event you will want to miss, and that this conference is happening in New York in the Spring, it will be the best event you attended all year.

So, if you have not already signed up, do so now. I look forward to meeting with you personally in New York. 

 

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

The room block is close to capacity. If you need assistance in securing a room at the group rate please call Reeve at 404.919.4009. 

 

 

ABPLA President

March 21, 2019

PRESIDENT’S ADDRESS:  March (Part 3) 

This past month I enjoyed the opportunity to speak with three legal giants, two past presidents of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys (ABPLA), and the immediate past president of the National Board of Trial Advocates (NBTA).

In this, Part 3 of my March address, I share the unique insights I gained from speaking with Jack McGehee, the immediate past president of the National Board of Trial Advocates (NBTA).  Jack is board certified in medical malpractice by ABPLA and sits on our board as well.

Jack McGehee, is the senior partner at McGehee, Chang, Landgraf, located in Houston, Texas. Jack has more than 38 years of trial experience and has brought over 306 cases to verdict. He is board certified in medical malpractice and has served on the ABPLA board since the early 1990s. Jack is the immediate past president of the NBTA.

Q:  Jack, please give us your insights as to board certification. Why do you think it's important, and where is it heading?

A:  Five years ago I got a call from David Rapoport who asked me if I would consider becoming president of the NBTA.  My first response was to push back.  But then I thought about it.  And then Randy, I went from being neutral to being very desirous of the opportunity... very, very, humbled… and very aggressive at what I thought I could do. I took it on as a personal cause and I really believed in it through and through. 

And I'm so frustrated at the profiteers around the country making money off of referrals . . . referring our clients to would be "competent" counsel who they claim are Super or Best. Unlike us, those groups don't have the urgency, the mission, to do it correctly and I think board certification, which I trademarked ("Board Certified-Proven, Tested Excellence” and is available for ABPLA members to use), should be the only criteria that clients use, or the biggest criteria.

We should mimic the medical profession where the first thing every patient asks her doctor is: “Are you board certified?"  And, over the years that has become the driving force.  Today 85% of the physicians are board certified and only 3% of the lawyers are board certified. And we need to change that paradigm and not give up ground to the profiteers who are only going to do things that make money.

So, I accepted and I wrote a five-year plan for the NBTA and it basically was, we are going to stop just certifying 5 specialty areas.  We are going to go out and certify every legitimate specialty area that we can.  I identified 22 areas, which was an arduous and painful process, and then started putting boards together, finding founding Presidents who could share the cause within that specialty. That was very difficult.

But now we have 10 board certification specialties on the assembly line waiting for board certification approval. Trucking became the first that made it through the process. Today you can become board certified in trucking accident law. Next will be immigration law. And, I think immigration has the biggest need for the country given this "so-called" immigration crisis.  There are so many lawyers willing to take money from desperate people without doing much of anything because they aren’t qualified. So I am truly committed in my heart that the future of our success is that board certification takes over the space dominated by the profiteers and offer immigration clients a better way to pick a qualified lawyer

Q:  How do we reach the public, because they do not know the value of board certification?

A:  Social media is going to have the greatest bang for the buck. It used to be billboards and telephone books or TV commercials, but that's been so diluted and the price points are so skewed… but social media can be used today to inform the clients looking for qualified lawyers.    And we are slowly moving there, but we need  a synergistic approach and social media is part of it. Need is also a part of it.  Let me give you an example:

We had a very disgusting experience in Houston following hurricane Harvey where there were quite a few lawyers out beating on the doors. Not necessarily qualified lawyers. Signing people up at 45% and taking a lien on their house to secure payment of their fee.

So the federal court had to decide which lawyer should be in charge.  The Judge  required  Statements of Interest from everyone who wanted to  lead the plaintiff’s side of the case.  What followed was a feeding frenzy.  There were 210 statements of interest submitted. And many of them were the guys who had never tried a case.  Sadly the federal court had no guidance to determine which of these folks were for real and which were not.  Imagine if you could become board certified in these kinds of cases.

So now fast forward to six months ago. One of the most distinguished federal judges who does MDL and who does class-action and who does mass torts agreed to be the founding president of the National Board of Complex Litigation Attorneys.  And for the first time the NBTA will  offer board certification for lawyers working in Complex cases. So, the next time there's a “beauty contest” for leadership, board certified lawyers should be the most "beautiful" [laughs]. And if that's the case, every lawyer should want to be board certified so that they can take part in leadership of class actions and other complex litigation.   We satisfied a need. We are doing that with patent and trademark, appellate law, immigration law,  health law and other specialty areas.  So your question is how do we get the word out?  I think we get the word out with the lawyers first, and then the lawyers are going to be talking about the benefits so much that I think it will take hold eventually. And while I don't have a formula to get there, I'm not going to just sit around and do nothing while the profiteers dominate.

Q:  Less cases are getting tried, it's evident from court dockets, and it's getting exponentially more expensive to try cases, so how do you maintain the degree of excellence in a shrinking trial environment?

A:  I’ve always been a proponent for the ABPLA to represent the best 100 or 200 people in the country.  The best of the best.  I never thought the ABPLA market should be 5000 board certified lawyers. So, I think, the cream of the crop, the truly most qualified  in our industry is you and the guys that did the hard things to become specialists.  ABPLA certification  shows the public that we've been there and tried cases... I'll tell you what, if you show me someone that has tried an injunction  or handled a bunch of hearings and put them up against you or an ABPLA  board certified trial lawyer in medical malpractice, it's a no-brainer who will succeed.  So I've never been in favor of relaxing the number of trials that are required. I don't think we should ever give that up.

Q:  So in terms of the NBTA, at present, how many specialties are currently offered?

A:  Now it’s about 10+6. We have 6 specialty areas that are approved by the ABA, and 10 that are on the assembly line.  And, as I said at the outset, I envision 22 total specialty areas.

Q:  Is the NBTA going to take the laboring oar in promoting each of the 22 specialty areas?

A:  Yes. We have produced three really good videos that are on the (NBTA) website.  They can be downloaded by our members. One is a client coming into a lawyer's office talking about board certification and, they are all really good and effective clips. In other words, once you get board certified, we'd like to give marketing ideas and marketing products to everybody who gets board certified so they can benefit from their certification. 


 

As you are all aware, the NBTA requested that ABPLA put on one of the  programs in New Orleans at the first ever NBTA All Star Conferences earlier this year.  The ABPLA nailed it.  The entire program was very, very well received.

 The NBTA does not offer board certification in the areas of medical malpractice or legal malpractice. Only ABPLA offers such certification, nationwide.

 As always, if you have not signed up for our conference this May in New York, immediately stop what you are doing, go to ABPLA.org, and sign up now.

Reeve and I leave Sunday for the ABA Roundtable.  I will let you know in April how the meetings progressed! 

 

Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133

 

 
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