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Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Spring 2015

President’s Message Steven F. Casey From the President It is a very high honor for me to serve as President of your Birmingham Bar Association in 2015. I promise to do my very best to demonstrate that your trust in me is not misplaced, and will work hard to uphold the high ideals of the Association’s members and its previous leaders. In this column, I’d like to address the special nature of the Birmingham Bar Association and then mention some of the things we hope to accomplish during this year. As I mentioned at our 2014 Annual Meeting, ours is a unique association. Those of you who have had the opportunity to practice law in other locales know that the Birmingham Bar has a collegiality about it that is uncommon. Combining the adversarial nature of our system with the natural competitiveness that most of us bring to our work can cause considerable conflict between lawyers. The public perception of lawyers around the country is shaped largely by that notion of adversarial conflict. The Birmingham Bar, however, has deep roots that tap into the best of the profession and allow us to represent our clients with zeal while also treating each other with respect and courtesy. This is not true of every bar association. We are very fortunate that our forebears established those traditions that set us apart, and which make Birmingham a genuinely enjoyable place to practice. Many of you share my experience of having older lawyers pull me aside during depositions or hearings and give me words of advice and wisdom. As a young lawyer, I had a number of our local judges provide me with guidance that they weren’t required to give, but did so out of their desire to pass along what had been given them when they were younger. One example that I recall as if it were only yesterday is when I was called out to trial in Judge Dugan Callaway’s court and the judge asked me and the plaintiff ’s lawyer whether we wanted a court reporter. My opponent deferred to me and I frankly had no clue what to do. Judge Callaway noticed my hesitation and came to my rescue by saying, “Steve, if it’s worth trying, it’s worth having a court reporter.” There was no requirement that the judge help me out with that advice, but he saved me from what could have been a serious mistake, and I am sure it is because he was similarly saved by someone else when he was a baby lawyer. Not only have older lawyers and judges looked out for the younger lawyers, but generally speaking, Birmingham lawyers just treat each other with genuine courtesy. Birmingham lawyers are known, quite rightly, for their diligence and passion when representing their clients, but they are also known for not taking undue advantage of their fellows at the bar. When we can, we agree to continuances when another’s schedule becomes full. We allow each other to correct mistakes as long as we can do so and still represent our client’s position properly. I vividly recall a mentor of mine dressing down a lawyer across town who had filed a lawsuit against a major client of our firm’s and, when no answer was timely filed, had taken a default judgment in state district court. “You know I represent the company you sued! Why didn’t you call me when no answer was filed?” The lawyer who had taken the default was clearly embarrassed and the judge who was then asked to set aside the default was disappointed in him as well. In quite a few other places, even in Alabama, lawyers take advantage of each other every day. Not in Birmingham, I am pleased to say. So, other than recognize and appreciate this unique nature of our group, what should we do with this? We should make sure we continue the tradition, that’s what. I urge each of you to renew your commitment to honor these noble traditions that others established years ago—from which many of us have benefited—and vow to maintain these practices of respect and gentility and collegiality toward each other. Let’s each continue to refuse to take undue advantage of our opponents. And let’s also make sure we help those with less experience learn how things are done in Birmingham, gently and respectfully. 8 Birmingham Bar Association


Birmingham Bar Association Bulletin | Spring 2015
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