The stated mission of the Alabama Association for Justice (ALAJ) is ”to make sure any person who is injured by the misconduct and negligence of others can get justice in the courtroom, even when taking on the most powerful interests; to eliminate civil justice restrictions; to ensure our members have the tools needed to provide a level playing field through timely ethical and educational programs; to strengthen the civil justice system so that deserving individuals can get justice and wrongdoers can be held accountable; to strive for equality in the one room where individuals and powerful interests are held accountable – the American Courtroom.”
In short, ALAJ strives to educate its members, preserve good laws, foster the development and establishment of new laws to protect consumers and the public good, and to preserve access to justice for every citizen.
Ken Riley, a well-respected lawyer with Farris, Riley & Pitt LLP, based in Birmingham, is serving as ALAJ President for 2016-17. Ken has been a member of ALAJ since starting his law practice in 1999, and he has been involved in a number of various capacities over the years through programs such as Emerging Leaders, and service on ALAJ’s Board of Directors. He has been an officer of the organization for the past five years before becoming President this year.
If preserving the Seventh Amendment rights to access to justice through a jury trial is something important to a lawyer, and to the people they represent, they should be involved with ALAJ, Ken says. Membership in ALAJ provides a place to collaborate with other lawyers of like mind, but also with people with other interests. This is a way for lawyers to expand their network and resources, as well as share their viewpoints and observations in practice.
Particular initiatives for ALAJ in the coming year include encouraging more female and minority membership and participation, and identifying leadership opportunities for members. Ken notes that there are a lots of people out there who have leadership capacity, but haven’t had a forum to access and showcase their abilities. He says ALAJ can provide an opportunity for people to contribute in the way that best matches their talents. “There’s something for everybody, really,” he says. “It’s just a matter of ‘want to.’”
Ken says one of his most valuable lessons through membership in ALAJ has been gaining an understanding of the way the legislative process works, and how complicated it can be. “It’s fascinating to see how laws are made and all that goes into the final passage of a bill into law,” he says. “There’s often a lot of criticism surrounding the legislative process, but so much goes into it. It’s amazing to see just how many bills are presented and considered versus how many are ultimately passed.”
Although ALAJ is a membership organization for lawyers, Ken also hopes to increase the public’s awareness and understanding of what the organization does, and that it works for them. The public should know– whether they ask for it or not – there is an organization of lawyers working every day to protect them and their access to justice through the court system. Ken is absolutely correct when he said: “Without us, there would be a huge void, and a huge risk.”
For more information about ALAJ, visit them online at www.alabamajustice.org.
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