By Wick CauthornFirst and foremost, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association is a political organization. It is, however, a unique political organization. We have set aside our partisan differences to unite behind one cause: to seek justice on behalf of our clients. By justice, I do not mean any vague sentimental ideas about what is fair or what is righteous; I mean the constitutionally protected right of a Georgia citizen to have their grievances heard by a jury.
For the last several decades, special interests have spent billions of dollars lobbying our elected officials in an attempt to erode that right. Billions—with a ‘b’. GTLA and our members through the Civil Justice PAC have been very successful challenging these special interests. Our members’ belief in our core mission and willingness to participate as advocates for civil justice is what makes GTLA a strong organization.
Many of us give to the Civil Justice PAC, but we all can’t be Champion donors. While money is certainly important, the most powerful gift you can make to our cause is your time.
Politics is ultimately about personal relationships. The most powerful influence must be earned over time. Making sure that GTLA has a physical presence at the Capital while the General Assembly is in session is an important part of building relationships and increasing our influence with state leadership. For this reason, GTLA and the Civil Justice PAC have instituted the Lawyer of the Day Program.
GTLA members volunteer to serve as a Lawyer of the Day at the Capitol. During their day, they will visit with Bill Clark, our dedicated Civil Justice PAC director of political affairs, attend committee meetings, meet with members of the Senate and the House and speak with their own representatives. The purpose of the visit is twofold: first, just being a Lawyer of the Day shows to members of the General Assembly that we are dedicated to our cause and that our members are willing to give their own time and energy to fight for what we believe in; second, when you volunteer, you will see how powerful you can be, and you will be encouraged by the experience – you will be more likely to continue to support our efforts on your own.
GTLA wants us to be involved politically. We need to call our representatives and let them know that access to civil justice is important to us. They will listen to you. They will learn your name. They will answer your phone call. The Lawyer of the Day program is an opportunity to build your personal relationship with members of the General Assembly. Through the Lawyer of the Day program, you will improve your own access and increase your own influence.
When you leave the Capitol after participating in the program, you will be energized and encouraged by the experience. You will know that you fought for something you believe in, and you will continue to build a relationship with state leadership. Hopefully, you will continue to fight for civil justice when you go home. You will support local leaders who protect your clients. You will meet with your representatives and build long-term relationships.
The Lawyer of the Day program is particularly important for our younger lawyers. Those of us who are building our reputations can benefit from the facetime. Because members of the General Assembly know you are with GTLA, they will know you as a trial lawyer. They will see you as someone dedicated to leadership and interested in taking action on your values. Because of your youth, they will see you as someone who is going to be around for a while and someone with whom they are going to have to deal over the long haul.
Not everyone is a political person by nature, and we certainly aren’t all activists. But, presumably, you joined GTLA because you believe in the importance of protecting our clients’ right to a jury trial, and you believe that the mission of GTLA is important.
GTLA is a great resource for our practices. The networking, CLE, listserv, and online resources are worth the price of membership. However, unlike all of those things, the Lawyer of the Day program requires something from you. It requires your time and your energy.
When you participate in the program you will realize that it may be more valuable to your career than any other GTLA resource. This business is about relationships. The Lawyer of the Day program gives you direct access to state leadership. The program will guide you and help you understand how to build influence and communicate your values. In the long run, the relationships you build will protect your clients and your own career.
As trial lawyers, we have dedicated ourselves to the civil justice system and the core mission of GTLA. The Lawyer of the Day program puts you on the front line and allows you the chance to give of yourself. However, at the end of the day, you may find that you gain as much from the program as you give to it.
About the Author
Wick Cauthorn is an Associate Attorney at Morgan & Morgan in Atlanta. An alumnus of both the University of Georgia and the University of Georgia School of Law, Wick specializes in general civil litigation and appellate law. Wick is currently participating in GTLA LEAD program as a member of the 2017 – 2018 class.