Cole Portis is the 141st President of the Alabama State Bar. Cole, the Section Head of the Product Liability & Personal Injury Section for Beasley Allen, is using his 13-month tenure as President of the bar to serve our profession and also the state. He is starting programs that will help lawyers to be more effective in their work and service to the state.
Cole is opening the lines of communication and visiting more than 60 local bar associations so that he and others can listen to what members want and need. He is inviting leaders of those associations to Montgomery for conversations about what’s happening within the bar. To supplement those meetings, he helped develop a portal that lawyers can access through alabar.org so that any member can offer suggestions about benefits and address other bar matters.
Cole is familiar with service, being the father of nine children ages 6 to 22. Cole and his wife, Joy, adopted six of their children and are strong advocates for adoption. They founded “Love 100 Ministry,” which assists Alabama families with adoption costs, and have fostered many children. Cole believes that children in Alabama who are in the foster care system must be taken care of and that all lawyers have a responsibility to help these children.
Cole’s calling to serve resonates throughout his practice. He represents those who have lost someone or have been injured. While he knows that legal professionals are often referred to as lawyers and attorneys, he said he feels like he is a “counselor of law,” someone who counsels individuals through their grief. Cole and his staff have successfully handled more than 100 cases that were tried or resolved for more than $1 million. Cole was nominated, along with his colleagues, for the 2014 Public Justice Trial Lawyer of the Year Award for leading the first lawsuit to go to trial against Toyota involving the sudden unintended acceleration issue.
Cole is a highly successful lawyer at trial, but he is also very successful in managing an entire section with more than 14 lawyers and approximately 30 support staff in his section.
Helping others is also the common thread running through Portis’s Alabama State Bar agenda. While the Alabama Bar has the Alabama Lawyer Assistance Program, which provides help to lawyers, judges and law students who are addicted and have mental health disorders, Cole is starting a wellness initiative that will help lawyers take care of themselves before concerns become problems.
The initiative will primarily deal with mind, body and spirit, and provide resources for stress, nutrition and faith. Cole is focusing on the practice of law and is designing a program that will help lawyers tap into educational opportunities involved in the practice of law as well as new areas of law.
With technology evolving on a daily basis, Cole wants to show lawyers the technology that is available to help them in their practice and introduce them to emerging technology. He notes that lawyers do not go to school to learn how to run businesses, but law offices are businesses. To help lawyers become more efficient, he wants the Alabama State Bar to provide lawyers with the tools for running effective businesses, including foundational principles and marketing.
Cole asked Monet Gaines, Assistant Attorney General in the Opinions Division, to be his Vice President, and she didn’t hesitate to help him accomplish his goals. Monet has agreed to help Cole increase interest in the legal profession and boost minority participation in the bar. The bar has a successful program aimed at attracting high school students, and Cole would like to promote becoming a lawyer to college students, emphasizing there are several roads they can take that end at the same destination. “He really seeks to make a difference in everything that he does, not just this,” Monet said. “He really has a heart toward service. Listening to what he’s passionate about is just exciting to me.”
Under his leadership, the Alabama State Bar also will promote the legal profession by advocating for the public and volunteering to represent those who cannot afford legal representation, increase foster care among lawyers and issue a call to all lawyers to be engaged in public service, including the Alabama Legislature, because lawyers understand how to be analytical and solve problems. Having known Cole since he was in high school, and having worked with him as a lawyer, I believe he will accomplish all of his goals in 13 short months.
We are honored to have Cole serve as Bar President and I am confident he will be outstanding in that role.
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