I am looking for a lawyer and some of them say that they are members of various bar associations. Is that important?
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 at a minimum 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. Neither of these explanations speak well of such a lawyer.
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 she to be your lawyer. If the lawyer is a member of both groups, then look to see how active 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.
All of the members of Law Offices of John Day, P.C. are members of the Tennessee Association for Justice and the American Association for Justice. John A. Day has been President of the TAJ’s predecessor organization and has served on its Board for over 25 years. John has also served on the Executive Committee of AAJ’s predecessor and as Chair of the Council of State Presidents.
Brandon Bass of our office serves on the Board of Governors of TAJ, the Board of Governors of the New Lawyers Division of AAJ, and the Board of Governors of the New Lawyers Division of the Tennessee Bar Association. Laura Bishop serves on the board of the Lawyers’ Association for Women. Burke Keaty serves on the Legislative Committee of the Tennessee Association for Justice and, along with John and Brandon, was recently honored for work done during the 2011 legislative session.
So, is this a major factor in hiring a lawyer in a personal injury or wrongful death case? In my mind, it is a disqualifying factor if the lawyer is not a member, but the mere fact of membership has little value. If it the lawyer is an active member of a relevant bar association, there are other factors that are much more important. Those factors are discussed in this Legal Guide.