The WV Association For Justice – Benefits of Our Relationship

Travels and “stuff” have kept me from posting the last couple of weeks. My attendance last week at the 2011 WVAJ Mid-Winter Conference provided me an abundance of valuable material to blog about.

1. We became the WV Association for Justice, WVAJ, from the WV Trials Lawyers Association, an affiliate of A.T.L.A., the Association of Trial Lawyers of America.

2. During the Bush era the term “trial lawyers” was demonized by The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the insurance industry, and, within WV, an industry funded entity, CALA, “Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse”.

3. As a result of intense pressure, and extensive “tort reform” litigation, A.T.L.A. decided to became the American Association for Justice, and we became The WV Association for Justice. Everyone loves justice.

4. The “Trial Lawyers” was an idea of our founding father, the George Washington of WV personal injury litigators, Stanley Preiser. Many articles have appeared recently on Stanley, who died in 2010. He is one of a handful of giants of the profession, known nationwide.

5. I was privileged to be selected as a member of the then WVTLA Board of Directors in the mid 90’s. My association with this organization has been invaluable.

6. Twice a year, we have a two day seminar, our Annual Meeting in June, and the Mid-Winter in February. Each time I come back with at least a dozen key tips or pieces of information. Often I do not know what is valuable until months later.

7. A few examples are:

a. A casual conversation with a seminar presenter, and President of ATLA, led to my son’s finding an internship for his masters of arts program at The Savannah College of Art and Design. The employer insisted on paying him and offered him a job upon graduation. Now that’s an example of networking.

b. I learned of the WV Supreme Court of Appeals case of Hayseeds Inc. vs. State Farm Insurance two days before a day long mediation of an insurance claim resulting from a total loss fire of a local super market. In the face of the threat to pay all my client’s attorney fees and damages for “aggravation and inconvenience”, we collected every single penny of policy coverage, over $400,000.

c. I have been blessed to participate in a number of major impact personal injury settlements. All but one had me associated with an attorney who was or had been President of WVTLA. These lawyers, Wesley Metheney, Guy Bucci, and Tim Bailey have made the difference for me and our clients.I would not know these men if it weren’t for the WVAJ.

d. I settled one such case “on my own” without filing suit. Even then, a member of the law firm of one of these firms attended mediation so the defense knew I would associate with a firm of great stature if we filed suit. We did not have to.

e. Because I am “the Republican Trial Lawyer”, I have been given the opportunity to appear on t.v. in support of a beleaguered political candidate and to show up at a local business persons organization in support of a candidate. It is great when I can give back to this organization.

f. I was invited by the WVTLA, in the early ’90’s, to organize a “Peoples’ Law School” in Upshur County. We ended up doing 7-8 annual schools, one of which included an eight week “mock trial”. We averaged as many as 150 attendees per session and never less than 80, and I was named State Peoples’ Law School Chair Person”.

g. For several years, we had as many as 20 Peoples’ Law Schools per year and reached thousands of WV citizens, covering dozens of important legal subjects. I was awarded two major WVTLA awards in gratitude from the organization.

h. (My efforts, of course, pale in comparison to the efforts over many years of my friend Dan Ringer of Morgantown who hosts the popular WVPBS program The Law Works.) There is so much misinformation out there about our legal system, including intentional falsehoods and exaggerations, that there is a huge need for accurate information.

i. When the family of a Sago Miner sought me out for advice, I had the perfect person to associate with, Tim Bailey of Bucci, Bailey and Javins, LC. Tim diligently pursued the case to a just decision. I played a role as local counsel. Mutual respect and trust allow us to work well together.

8. Now the WVAJ has a statewide “Speakers Bureau”. We will provide a knowledgeagable speaker to community groups and schools. Give our Director Beth White a call at 304 344-0692.

9. Trial lawyers, inevitably, have big egos, and some well known lawyers have left the organization for various reasons, or choose not to join, but it is clearly THE organization for any WV lawyer with aspirations to practice personal injury and insurance law.

This post was written by Burton Hunter

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