It is hard to believe that my time as President of the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association has come to an
end, and I have passed the gavel to my good friend, Mike Prieto. This past year was truly an honor, and I could not be more proud to have had the opportunity to lead this unique organization, which is made up of so many talented attorneys who are always willing to not only help one another, but to always maintain the fight to protect our civil justice system.
As one of only two Presidents from outside of the metro Atlanta area to serve in the past 10 years, one of the primary goals of my tenure was to travel the State in an attempt to meet as many GTLA members as possible. I firmly believe that to properly protect the right to trial by jury, we are a stronger voice when we are more inclusive, and that includes geographic diversity. Many of our members reside in smaller communities in each corner of our State. They are just as important to our effort as anyone else. Their relationship with their legislator is just as important, and sometimes even more important, to our efforts as any other.
This past year we created the GTLA Justice Tour. The tour began in the Fall, and consisted of stops in nine cities across Georgia, during which we engaged with local members to discuss various legislative topics, seeking input in how best to preserve and enhance our civil justice system. At each meeting, it was followed by a reception with State and Local elected officials, including members of the local judiciary. This was an effective effort at making certain that our members knew their local legislators, and if not, would be the beginning of a trusted relationship. In the end, the Tour resulted in more than 150 GTLA members having the opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with our lobbying team, as well as dozens of our State’s prominent legal and political figures.
As a longtime member of GTLA and its Executive Committee, I have been actively involved in events, legislative affairs and fundraising. But it was meeting with our members across the State — who became my colleagues and friends — and working alongside some of the brightest minds our State has to offer on various legislative issues, that paved the way for the deep appreciation I have for this organization.
Another goal was to increase the number of members at the Champion level. Champion level members provide the necessary funding to maintain our successful lobbying team. The unparalleled talent among our membership has always been a key selling-point for attracting new members, but we wanted more of our members to become more involved, and that meant asking more members to become Champion members. The staff set a new goal to increase our Champion membership to 250 members by year’s end. Not only did we exceed this goal, but we have continued to add new Champion and General Members to our coffers since then, making Georgia one of the most actively engaged State TLAs in the nation.
It is impossible to mention the achievements of our association without mentioning the overwhelming success of the Civil Justice PAC and our Directed Giving Program. As most of you know, the Civil Justice PAC is one of the largest PACs in the State of Georgia, and the 2016 election cycle proved once again that the resolve of our members to preserve the Civil Justice System is stronger than ever with the PAC boasting more than $800,000 in candidate and committee contributions and a 93% overall rate of victory. We would also like to extend our thanks to those members who participate in the Directed Giving Program, which continues to provide additional support to pro-Civil Justice candidates across the state. As we once again prepare for another campaign cycle, you can rest assured that Caroline McLean, your Civil Justice PAC Board and the members of the Directed Giving Program are doing their part to support those candidates who will uphold our values under the Gold Dome.
Finally, I want to thank each and every one of you who have given me the immense privilege of serving as your 2016-2017 Georgia Trial Lawyers Association President. The success that we have seen over this year can only be attributed to you, and I cannot thank you enough for making GTLA the first-class association that it continues to be. As I pass the gavel, I know that we will only continue to see growth and prosperity under the leadership of my predecessor and friend, Mike Prieto. He, along with Laurie Speed, Dan Snipes, Lyle Warshauer, Jon Pope and Jess Davis, will undoubtedly take GTLA to the next level and beyond, and I wish them all the best in this coming year.
Thank you again for the honor, and I look forward to continued work with each of you as we vigilantly defend the right to trial by jury.