The National Association of Bar Executives (NABE) Communications Section recently presented its annual Luminary Awards for Excellence, Creativity and Professionalism in Bar Communications. The awards were made at the section's workshop recently held in Minneapolis.
This year's award winner in the category of Excellence in Public Relations goes to the Alabama State Bar for its public outreach program "Athletes, Academics & the Law: Play It Smart!" The award is given for a public relations effort that exemplifies effectiveness of communications in getting the bar's message across to its members and the public. The entries are judged on appropriateness of methodology, quality of materials, innovation and technical excellence, success in meeting stated objectives and effective use of available resources.
The Alabama State Bar's program began under the leadership of 2003-04 bar president, William Clark. Clark said that its purpose "is to encourage high school athletes to place an emphasis on their studies so as to prepare them for a career in the law or other professions or business. Alabama lawyers who are former college athletes volunteer to come to schools to deliver this message to students. The concept is based upon the premise that so many high school athletes pursue football or other athletic careers with hopes of becoming professionals while only a minuscule percentage ever reach that goal." The program is geared for students in the ninth grade and older.
To date, there are over 40 volunteers, including three judges, from all parts of the state. They include male and female athletes at 20 different colleges or universities who have played a variety of sports, from football and basketball to track and tennis. Over 1000 students from 15 schools heard presentations last spring, with an equal number already booked for this fall. Birmingham lawyer Scotty Colson, chair of the Lawyer Public Relations Committee that oversees the program, says, "At a time in our state when funding for education is at crisis level, providing encouragement to student/athletes, as well as a role model, has been welcomed by educators, coaches and parents. Our volunteer lawyer/athletes have truly put a "face" on the legal profession. In addition, the commitment of our lawyer/athletes has been inspiring."