Tad Thomas has won the election and is now the AAJ Parliamentarian!
We are all products of our upbringing. The people, the places, and the ideas to which we are exposed throughout our lives, in a large part, makes us who we are. I am a rare breed in AAJ, one of only a handful of individuals who were AAJ members before they even graduated from law school. In 1999, I was asked to participate in the AAJ (ATLA at the time) Student Trial Advocacy Competition which required a minimal investment toward a student membership in the organization. That was the first of several seminal events in my life that lead me to my decision to run for office in this beloved organization.
The second seminal event came in 2005 when I travelled to Toronto to attend my first AAJ convention. At the time, I didn’t know a single person in the organization. I only recognized some names from listserv emails or seeing their pictures in the New Lawyers Division Newsletter and Trial Magazine. On arrival, my only plan was to show up at the NLD’s Friday night reception, try to meet people, and go from there. Making that trip turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made, not only for my career, but my personal life as well. I met some of the NLD leaders who invited me into the fold and told me what I needed to see while at convention. More than a dozen years later these are now some of my best friends and continue to be AAJ leaders.
That was the start of my AAJ journey. Since then, I have participated in phonathons, public service projects, and fundraising efforts as well as served on the Board of Governors, the Executive Committee, the Budget Committee, and many more. I have adopted AAJ’s mission of education as my own and, for the last several years, I have flown all across the country teaching CLE courses to state and local trial lawyers associations. With each opportunity I have to serve this organization comes the desire to do more, and go a step further.
It is with this in mind-and after many hours of deliberation, calls to my AAJ family, discussions with the lawyers in my firm, and most importantly, getting the support of my own family-I made the decision to declare my candidacy for Parliamentarian in Boston this July.
As I work to become an officer of our esteemed organization, I do so with a few priorities in mind. First, I want to make sure AAJ holds true to its roots. This organization was founded as a fellowship of lawyers dedicated to sharing knowledge with one another in order to better serve our clients and our communities. As a new lawyer, and even today, I benefit from the knowledge of lawyers who celebrate the educational aspect of AAJ. Thanks to the knowledge I have gained through the organization, I returned from three years of public service to restart my private practice as a solo with no business and no employees, and, in only five years, grew into a firm of five lawyers with cases across the country. My passion for education and sharing information is what drives me to travel the country educating lawyers on ways to improve their practices with technology.
Second, I believe our collective efforts would be well served with a renewed effort to coordinate with our affiliated state organizations. At its roots, our organization also facilitated a strong relationship between the states to assist in legislative fights. Today, some of the state associations see AAJ as a competitor instead of a partner. I believe this must change if we are going to combat large organizations, like the Chamber of Commerce, in protecting our clients’ interests in legislative chambers across the country. Finally, I want to see AAJ update the way we communicate with members and potential members. We can work to improve our communications across online platforms and through our digital marketing efforts. Improving in this area will benefit AAJ by growing our membership, adding to our advocacy and fundraising efforts, increasing education program attendance, and much more.
I am privileged to have the support of so many of my AAJ family. Here is the list so far. I’m sure you will see more than a few people you know. These are lawyers from big firms and small firms, big cities and small towns, mass tort firms and single event firms, leaders in sections and litigation groups, board members and former board members, and leaders in the Minority Caucus, Women’s Caucus, LGBT Caucus and the New Lawyers Division. It is this sort of diversity that is celebrated in our organization, and represents the kind of leader I aspire to be – one who brings together lawyers from all walks of life, from all practice areas, and from all sizes of firms for the good of our organization and the benefit of our clients. I hope you will consider adding your name to the list. But, most importantly, I hope you will show up to the AAJ convention in Boston and cast your vote.