As an active member of the civil justice community, I have been part of the American Association for Justice for many years. AAJ has been around for more than half a century – although the name has evolved over time – and works to promote justice and fairness for injured individuals, safeguard victims’ rights, and strengthen the civil justice system at large. As I write this newsletter, I’m currently in Las Vegas at the AAJ summer convention, an event I never miss. In fact, I have been to 40 consecutive conventions with my trial lawyer colleagues.
Trial lawyers have a unique power. They have the training, resources, and willpower to stand up to those who have injured or wronged others, regardless of the opponent. Whether it’s a negligent hospital or nursing home, a careless property owner, or a massive corporation with a dangerous product, trial lawyers can level the playing field, give victims a voice, and ensure that justice is served where it is due.
Maybe it’s the nature of their job — helping citizens through the worst times in their lives while continually ensuring a fair civil justice system — that makes so many trial lawyers continue their work after hours. It’s that calling to serve the public good that conceived Trial Lawyers Care, a nonprofit that has grown into a movement that encourages more and more attorneys to extend their work in civil justice to serve people in other ways.
Trial Lawyers Care first came as an immediate response to September 11th, one that helped shape how the legal system would aid the thousands of families impacted by the terror attacks. Working with legislators, members of AAJ hammered out a plan for a compensation program and pro bono representation for the victims. President Bush signed into law the legislation that created the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, and Trial Lawyers Care was launched to represent thousands of victims. More than 1,100 volunteers counseled 4,000 families from 35 states and 11 countries. They provided pro bono representation to more than 1,700 families who applied for federal financial help, dedicating a combined total of more than 100 years of service. It’s because of these attorney leaders that victims’ families were able to receive not only compensation, but also stellar legal representation when they needed it most — all at no cost to them.
Trial Lawyers Care did not dissolve after that work ended. In fact, the committee gained momentum and participants and spearheaded new projects. It continues to give attorneys opportunities to extend the work they do, giving the voiceless a voice and fostering well-being in the face of tragedy. For example, during this AAJ convention in Las Vegas, Trial Lawyers Care is hosting a service project at Las Vegas Rescue Mission, a nonprofit organization that serves those in need by providing food, shelter, daily needs, and addiction recovery. Then, to commemorate the 20th anniversary of 9/11 and Trial Lawyers Care, AAJ is encouraging trial lawyers to participate in a day of service anywhere, on any day — whether it’s cleaning a park, helping at a youth shelter, stocking a food pantry, or scheduling an End Distracted Driving talk.
If you’re a trial lawyer, I encourage you to check out Trial Lawyers Care and give back by participating in their projects. And if you are not yet a member of AAJ, message me to hear more about why I value this organization so much.
A West Point graduate where he served as captain and military aviator, John Bair continues his commitment to our country through his efforts within the settlement planning industry. He has represented families of victims lost in the Flight 3407 crash, offered pro bono services to the families of 9/11 victims and drafted the first consumer protection bill for plaintiffs (H.R. 3699).