Messages from the President

ABPLA PresidentJanuary 22, 2019

First of all, Happy New Year! This year has started off with a "bang" at the ABPLA.  The subcommittees we formed at the Board Meeting last year in Chicago hit the pavement running, and their work guarantees a phenomenal year for our organization. But, more about that later.


I start by referring to a law review article written by our esteemed Vice President, Thomas P. Sartwelle.  Tom was published in the South Texas College of Law Houston Law Review, Volume 59, Fall 2017, Number I. The title of his article was, "Trial Lawyers, Plumbers, and Electricians: Should They All Be Certified?"


Tom reminds us that... "Four decades ago, Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger made the point that for centuries, society has imposed standards on 'certain human activities [affecting] large numbers of people.' Examples included occupations like teachers, doctors and, in more modern times, electricians, plumbers, and other trades. A glaring omission from those occupations, the Chief Justice pointed out, was trial lawyers. Those engaged in protecting and vindicating rights in civil and criminal courtrooms were neither tested nor licensed beyond the passing score on a general knowledge bar examination. Burger explained: '[W]e are more casual about qualifying the people we allow to act as advocates in the courtrooms than we are about licensing our electricians."


In light of this obvious "cry to arms", we must really ask each other, how far have we progressed?  I certainly recommend each of you obtain a copy of Tom's well thought out law review article, but I also challenge you to do more. Get involved! Join a subcommittee of ABPLA.  Come to our annual conference in New York this May. Help your community understand how important board certification is. Raise the bar, and help your trial lawyer brothers and sisters.


I challenge each of you, as you are reading this, to immediately calendar our conference. It will be held from May 2 -4, 2019, at the Park Lane Hotel in New York City. (I know, springtime in New York is horrible, isn't it?).


Our National Legal and Medical Malpractice Conference is a unique three day CLE for both plaintiff and defense attorneys. It is a must attend event for those who truly wish to perfect their practice and connect with those who are setting the standards in our highly specialized fields of practice.  We have an all-star faculty that has been assembled, both plaintiff's lawyers, defense lawyers, and physicians, who will truly provide the most exciting CLE imaginable. I look forward to seeing all of you in New York!


I close this month's address, as I began, with reference to Tom's law review article: "It is... past time for the legal profession to acknowledge the voices from decades past urging the recognition of specialization certification and implementation of true objectively verifiable competence. Now is the time to institute a pre--or post-licensing specialty certification process leading to trained legal specialists reflecting the professionalism that is called for so often but that is lacking after decades of effort. Changing the paradigm will be difficult. But if not now, when?"




May 6, 2018


As the newest President of the American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys (ABPLA), it is my honor and privilege to follow the extraordinary leadership of those before me, Richard B. Collins, William F. McMurry & William C. Callaham, and Tommy Malone. The dynamic energy, dedication, and guidance of these attorneys, not only expanded ABPLA's Board Certified Specialists and influence, but also positioned the ABPLA to be one of the premier national lawyer organizations accredited by the American Bar Association. The ABPLA is now leading the movement to serve the public by certifying the competency, integrity, and ethics of those lawyers who represent clients in the highly complex cases of medical and legal malpractice law.

The ABPLA is an organization that embraces and promotes the highest standards in the legal profession. It was founded in 1973, in the wake of US Supreme Court Justice Warren E. Burger's observations that our country suffered from a "low state of American trial advocacy and a consequent diminution in the quality of our entire system of justice". Chief Justice Burger believed that the creation of a system to certify trial advocates in specialties was an "imperative long overdue step," that would ultimately determine "the quality of our justice." of trial advocates in specialties was "imperative and". The ABPLA met this challenge and continues to serve our justice system through its certification of legal specialties in two of the most complex areas of l the legal profession: medical and legal malpractice.

Since the ABPLA was first organized, professional negligence law has become increasingly complex, requiring lawyers to become specialists in the nuances of legal or medical negligence in order to serve their clients competently and effectively. In such an environment, the need is ever greater to provide consumers with an objective standard by which to assess professional negligence attorneys. Board certification provides such a benchmark.

It is the ABPLA's continuing mission to certify attorneys according to the highest standards of experience, ethics, education, examination and excellence. Through the rigorous certification process, the ABPLA offers the consumers of legal services a clear standard of excellence for selecting medical and legal malpractice attorneys in whom they can have confidence. It is our goal to identify and certify exceptional professional attorneys in every state, and to make available to prospective clients the names of those board-certified attorneys.

For attorneys specializing in professional negligence liability, the ABPLA serves as a unifying voice, to raise our visibility as leaders to our fellow attorneys, and prospective clients in need of assistance.  

As President, my continued goal will be to increase public awareness of the importance of selecting a board-certified attorney as well as to seek out the most experienced and competent attorneys to achieve board certification in professional and legal negligence matters.

I hope that each of you will join me in order to continue the strong heritage of our organization and its' noble purpose. I look forward to serving you as president. If there is anything I can do to personally assist you, please let me know.

Yours very truly,


Randall H. Scarlett
Scarlett Law Group
536 Pacific Avenue
San Francisco, Ca.  94133
[email protected]
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