September 9, 2019

President’s Address:

ABPLA President

As Stuart M. Speiser related there are four legs supporting the American Civil Justice System: The first is the contingency fee which provides that the client pays only if he or she wins; the second is the protection of losers against fee-shifting (having to pay the winner's legal fees) unless the loser engages in litigation abuse; the third is specialist lawyers who provide legal services equal in quality to those enjoyed by the affluent, without any cash outlay by the clients; and lastly, jury trials available in virtually all civil (as well as criminal) cases.  [see, Stuart M. Speiser, The Founding Lawyers and America's Quest for Justice, Pound Civil Justice Institute 2010, page 231].

Indeed, focusing on the third leg, I note that our legal system provides many highly qualified trial lawyers for those clients who can afford to pay their fees. Their services are essential to the overall scheme of the American Rule of Law since they either bring suit or defend those entities/individuals with the wherewithal to pay. It only makes sense that such lawyers would want to specialize, thereby providing their paying clientele with the added value of their board certified specialization.

So too, does our system provide highly qualified trial lawyers willing to work on a contingency fee. Their services are equally essential to the overall scheme of the American Rule of law. Necessarily these lawyers level the playing field by giving access to those less affluent who are nonetheless harmed by the negligence or wrongful conduct of another. It can therefore only make sense that such lawyers would want to specialize, thereby providing their clientele with the added value of their board certified specialization.

And therein lies the dilemma for all board certified lawyers. What seems so obvious in theory, and what clearly is a bedrock (one of the four legs) of our American Civil Justice System, remains relatively unknown for both the affluent, and the non-affluent. The sad reality is that the value of board certification has yet to be appreciated by the insurance industry and/or by the consumer, alike. And, to be blunt, I believe that until we organize, and get the word out to the consumer, as well as to the insurance industry and business, we are destined to remain an unknown but rich commodity.

I want your ideas. Together we are an amazing force. We have to change the perception of board certification, and we have to get the word out! We are too rich of a commodity for the concept not to take hold much as it has in the medical community. As we often say, who would undergo surgery with the non-board-certified surgeon?

So this month I implore you to get on the listserve and let's discuss a functional plan and implement that plan. There must be a two track process. On the defense side of the "v" I would like to see board certified lawyers throughout the country arranging meetings with the primary insurance companies within their state. We must speak with a unified voice and have a package prepared to present to each carrier educating them as to the benefit of board certification.

On the plaintiff’s side of the “v” it becomes a more difficult process. How do we educate the general public? Certainly we need to integrate into our respective communities and spread the word. However, short of a mass publicity campaign, which likely would be cost prohibitive, I need your input. So please, let's get on the listserv and talk. Let's help each other by educating the consumer and carrier alike as to the benefits of board certification!

In closing, I note that summer rapidly came to an end. With the end of summer, however, came disaster. As each of you are aware, hurricane Dorian spread apocalyptic doom in the Bahamas. It breaks my heart that our great past president, Tommy Malone, lost Snapper Point in the Abaco's to Dorian.  Snapper Point was truly a slice of heaven. Spread over many acres were beautiful homes, a marina, pool and tennis court. It fundamentally changed my outlook on life to have spent time there. Tommy often offered Snapper Point for our board meetings. So, Tommy and Debbie Malone, we give our prayers. Snapper Point may be gone, but it will never leave the memories of those who were blessed to have spent time there with Tommy and Debbie.

What you may not be aware of is that Tommy and Debbie employed many in order to maintain the property for their guests. Mike, the foreman on the property, together with his wife and family equally lost everything. Keva, in charge of maintaining each of the interiors likewise lost everything.  Xante, who performed heavy lifting on the property likewise lost everything. Each family is experiencing apocalyptic conditions. If any of you wish to assist these families, I provide links to a “go fund me page” below. It is extremely difficult for these families to exist, so please consider giving.  Until then, please keep Marsh Harbour and all of its people in your prayers.


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