June 25, 2019

President’s Address:  June, 2019

ABPLA President

President’s Address:  June, 2019

Summer is here! As with many of you, summertime means we have graduations to attend. I recently attended my son's graduation from Boston College School of Law where he attained his Juris Doctorate degree. Mind you, in his three years of legal studies, he also managed to obtain an LLM in international law from the Sorbonne. (He obviously inherited his smarts from his mother's side of the family).

While attending the graduation ceremonies, I reflected on the future of board certification. It is no secret that our profession is evolving. The number of cases being tried throughout the United States has been decreasing for decades. It is therefore absolutely necessary that each of us provide the young lawyers of today with a pathway to trial.

My son is now deep into his bar review course, studying on average eight hours per day. He will take the California bar at the end of July, and then he returns to Boston in February to take the Massachusetts bar.

My next trial is scheduled to go out mid-August. Of course my son will not yet have received his California bar results, but I assure you he will be sitting with me at counsel table throughout the entire case. In fact, I may get two additional cases out to trial before he receives his California bar exam results in November of this year, and my goal is to have him with me at each.

I think it is absolutely imperative that we all extend the opportunity of trial experience to the young lawyers in our orbit. As our legal system evolves, it is critical to have qualified trial lawyers filling the ranks of lawyers and judges that comprise our chosen profession.  Of course, trial experience is a necessary prerequisite to board certification through ABPLA. 

I do note that while trials may be decreasing, many of us are busy actually trying our client’s cases. We seem to be that last bastion of trial lawyers keeping jurors busy.

There was a recent study performed by the Association of American Law Schools (AALS), the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, together with numerous other organizations, that looked at the factors that led students to attend law school. The factors that motivated first year law students to law school show that passion for the practice of law is alive and well. Over one third of the students surveyed stated that opportunities to be helpful to others was a top factor in considering law school. Law school was also identified as a pathway for a career in politics, government, or public service by at least 30% of those surveyed.

Protecting American democratic institutions, the rule of law, and our jury system, is an absolute imperative. Almost one half (47%) of the first year students surveyed indicated that they had a high interest in the type of work that we, as lawyers, do every day. That should be inspiration to all of us.

As a young lawyer, my legal career started under the tutelage of Melvin M. Belli, Sr.  To this day, I can remember Mel stating with passion that we, as trial lawyers, are the only ones that take the Constitution out of its glass case and put it to work on a daily basis.

Indeed, we are trial lawyers. Ours is a noble profession. Those among us specializing in the trial of professional liability cases are uniquely privileged. As Belli once said, I make no apology for being a "trial lawyer." Anyone who can successfully obtain verdicts in damage suits and have those verdicts sustained on appeal, is capable of entering any type of litigation. Likewise, anyone who can professionally defend a case is capable of handling any type of litigation.

I think one of the reasons for the fascination of the trial lawyer lies not perhaps in the characteristics necessary to deal with the human element of the trial, and the mechanics necessary to obtain a judgment, but rather in fortitude. Just plain, old-fashioned heart. One who is without heart, without ability to stand it when the going is rough, when he is in the trough of the sea, has no right to enter the field of trial law. Perhaps here more than any other realm of the law, one finds stouthearted men/women and discovers the truth of the saying that "valor consists in the power of self-recovery."

How many of you have not walked out of the courtroom at the end of the day when the opposition, and perhaps the court, have all but thrown chairs at you? Yet you came back the following day to overcome the obstacles of yesterday and to continue on to a successful verdict. Even though the court itself may have seemed against you, when you obtained that verdict, you found you had some modicum of respect from the court, if not from opposing counsel. So, I say to you each of you, take a young lawyer under your wing. Guide that lawyer in the profession of trial work. That is, after all, what we do.


Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
Barbary Coast Building
San Francisco, CA  94133