I have a personal injury case. I am trying to find a lawyer. Lots of lawyers say that they are members of the Tennessee Bar Association or the American Bar Association. What does that mean?
Many lawyers advertise that they are members of the Tennessee Bar Association, the American Bar Association, and / or their local bar association. Mere membership in these organizations tells consumers virtually nothing about a lawyer’s competence – all one needs to join these organizations is a law license and the money to pay the dues.
However, active membership in a bar association tends to indicate that the lawyer is interested in advancement of his or her profession. This is a relevant factor to be weighed by consumers because it indicates a passion for the law. A lawyer who has been active in bar associations will list those activities on his or her website. Those that do not list activities probably have not been active and are probably just dues-paying members.
Membership, particularly active membership in certain other types of bar associations is an important consideration for those who seek to hire a personal injury or wrongful death lawyer. A lawyer who does personal injury or wrongful death litigation on behalf of consumers should be a member of the Tennessee Association of Justice and the American Association of Justice. Once again, these associations have no entrance qualifications other than a law license and the ability to pay dues, but a lawyer who says he or she does personal injury and wrongful death work and does not belong to these organizations is, in my opinion, either not truly committed to protecting the rights of personal injury victims and their families or is too cheap to support the efforts of these organizations.
Both of these organizations work with legislators to help keep the courthouse doors open for ordinary people and work to educate their members. If a lawyer who seeks your case does not belong to these groups (both of them, not just one or the other), we respectfully suggest that you not even consider he or she to be your lawyer. If the lawyer is a member of both groups, then look to see how active he or she is in the organizations.
Those lawyers that are or have been committee chairs or members of the executive committee of these organizations have demonstrated that they are willing to volunteer their time to preserve the right of citizens to access the court system. Those who are merely members are at least saying that they will pay dues to support the organizations, but are unwilling or unable to make the sacrifice necessary to advance the goals of the groups.