Lawyers join with OTS to develop teamwork skills
By Donovan Jackson, Maxwell Gunter Dispatch
Jan. 31, 2013
Helping to advance the leadership skills among Alabama lawyers, the Alabama State Bar Association in conjunction with the Officer Training School, held its 2nd annual Alabama State Bar Leadership Forum Jan. 23.
This year’s forum focused on leadership, teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking and self-discovery.
Lawyers and employees of the Alabama State Bar participated with OTS staff in a leadership reaction course designed to enforce the teamwork concept. The course was comprised of a series of challenging team-oriented scenarios. Obstacles tested participants’ athleticism, courage, steadiness and interdependence. Immediately after each obstacle, OTS staff provided feedback of each team’s performance of leadership, development and tactics used to complete each obstacle.
“The Alabama State Bar Leadership Forum gives us the chance to bring professional civilian workers into our world and show them how the military utilizes leadership skills,” said Capt. Kevin Diamond, assistant director of operations 22nd Training Support Squadron, Officer Training School. “For those who have been in the military for 10-15 years, their experience with the civilian workforce is fairly limited outside of volunteer opportunities or church activities and this forum enlightens their civilian experience.”
Christina Butler, Alabama State Bar external relations and projects director, said that by putting concepts of leadership, action, teamwork, teambuilding and acting under pressure into practice, the forum will continue to benefit the members of the state bar and OTS staff.
“Air University is a great resource and we are looking forward to developing an even closer relationship with Maxwell,” said Edward Patterson, Alabama State Bar assistant executive director. “This hands-on experience with leadership is a novel approach. Lawyers do not typically get this type of opportunity.”
The state bar and Air University will continue to build their relationship in the future.
“I was told, the individuals that participated in the forum gave nothing but positive feedback from their time here,” said Diamond. “It’s a win-win for both organizations.”
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Law Schools’ Applications Fall as Costs Rise and Jobs Are Cut
By ETHAN BRONNER, The New York Times
January 30, 2013
Law school applications are headed for a 30-year low, reflecting increased concern over soaring tuition, crushing student debt and diminishing prospects of lucrative employment upon graduation.
As of this month, there were 30,000 applicants to law schools for the fall, a 20 percent decrease from the same time last year and a 38 percent decline from 2010, according to the Law School Admission Council. Of some 200 law schools nationwide, only 4 have seen increases in applications this year. In 2004 there were 100,000 applicants to law schools; this year there are likely to be 54,000.
Such startling numbers have plunged law school administrations into soul-searching debate about the future of legal education and the profession over all.
“We are going through a revolution in law with a time bomb on our admissions books,” said William D. Henderson, a professor of law at Indiana University, who has written extensively on the issue. “Thirty years ago if you were looking to get on the escalator to upward mobility, you went to business or law school. Today, the law school escalator is broken.”
Responding to the new environment, schools are planning cutbacks and accepting students they would not have admitted before.
A few schools, like the Vermont Law School, have started layoffs and buyouts of professors. Others, like at the University of Illinois, have offered across-the-board tuition discounts to keep up enrollments. Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School, who runs a blog on the topic, said he expected as many as 10 schools to close over the coming decade, and half to three-quarters of all schools to reduce class size, faculty and staff.
After the normal dropout of some applicants, the number of those matriculating in the fall will be about 38,000, the lowest since 1977, when there were two dozen fewer law schools, according to Brian Z. Tamanaha of Washington University Law School, the author of “Failing Law Schools.”
The drop in applications is widely viewed as directly linked to perceptions of the declining job market. Many of the reasons that law jobs are disappearing are similar to those for disruptions in other knowledge-based professions, namely the growth of the Internet. Research is faster and easier, requiring fewer lawyers, and is being outsourced to less expensive locales, including West Virginia and overseas.
In addition, legal forms are now available online and require training well below a lawyer’s to fill them out.
In recent years there has also been publicity about the debt load and declining job prospects for law graduates, especially of schools that do not generally provide employees to elite firms in major cities. Last spring, the American Bar Association released a study showing that within nine months of graduation in 2011, only 55 percent of those who finished law school found full-time jobs that required passage of the bar exam.
“Students are doing the math,” said Michelle J. Anderson, dean of the City University of New York School of Law. “Most law schools are too expensive, the debt coming out is too high and the prospect of attaining a six-figure-income job is limited.”
Mr. Tamanaha of Washington University said the rise in tuition and debt was central to the decrease in applications. In 2001, he said, the average tuition for private law school was $23,000; in 2012 it was $40,500 (for public law schools the figures were $8,500 and $23,600). He said that 90 percent of law students finance their education by taking on debt. And among private law school graduates, the average debt in 2001 was $70,000; in 2011 it was $125,000.
“We have been sharply increasing tuition during a low-inflation period,” he said of law schools collectively, noting that a year at a New York City law school can run to more than $80,000 including lodging and food. “And we have been maximizing our revenue. There is no other way to describe it. We will continue to need lawyers, but we need to bring the price down.”
Some argue that the drop is an indictment of the legal training itself — a failure to keep up with the profession’s needs.
“We have a significant mismatch between demand and supply,” said Gillian K. Hadfield, professor of law and economics at the University of Southern California. “It’s not a problem of producing too many lawyers. Actually, we have an exploding demand for both ordinary folk lawyers and big corporate ones.”
She said that, given the structure of the legal profession, it was hard to make a living dealing with matters like mortgage and divorce, and that big corporations were dissatisfied with what they see as the overly academic training at elite law schools.
The drop in law school applications is unlike what is happening in almost any other graduate or professional training, except perhaps to veterinarians. Medical school applications have been rising steadily for the past decade.
Debra W. Stewart, president of the Council of Graduate Schools, said applicants to master of business degrees were steady — a 0.8 percent increase among Americans in 2011 after a decade of substantial growth. But growth in foreign student applications — 13 percent over the same period — made up the difference, something from which law schools cannot benefit, since foreigners have less interest in American legal training.
In the legal academy, there has been discussion about how to make training less costly and more relevant, with special emphasis on the last year of law school. A number of schools, including elite ones like Stanford, have increased their attention to the clinics, where students get hands-on training. Northeastern Law School in Boston, which has long emphasized in-the-field training, has had one of the smallest decreases in its applicant pool this year, according to Jeremy R. Paul, the new dean.
There is also discussion about permitting students to take the bar after only two years rather than three, a decision that would have to be made by the highest officials of a state court system. In New York, the proposal is under active consideration largely because of a desire to reduce student debt.
Some, including Professor Hadfield of the University of Southern California, have called for one- or two-year training programs to create nonlawyer specialists for many tasks currently done by lawyers. Whether or not such changes occur, for now the decline is creating what many see as a cultural shift.
“In the ’80s and ’90s, a liberal arts graduate who didn’t know what to do went to law school,” Professor Henderson of Indiana said. “Now you get $120,000 in debt and a default plan of last resort whose value is just too speculative. Students are voting with their feet. There are going to be massive layoffs in law schools this fall. We won’t have the bodies we need to meet the payroll.”
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Lawmaker: Allow online law school grads to take Arizona bar exam
By Lauren Saria, Cronkite News Service
January 28, 2013
Sharon Garshak of Gilbert always dreamed of going to law school, but her job with an aerospace company and having to support herself made that impossible until she found Kaplan University’s online Concord Law School.
“Despite working full-time at a demanding job, I was able to go to law school and learn the legal principles really well,” she said.
After graduating in 2011, she passed the California bar exam. But she can’t practice in Arizona because the state only allows graduates of law schools accredited by the American Bar Association – a list that includes no online law schools – to sit for the bar exam.
“I don’t intend on moving to California,” she said. “But without being able to take the Arizona bar, I won’t be able to help people.”
A state lawmaker wants to change that.
Rep. John Allen, R-Scottsdale, has introduced a bill that would allow graduates of online law schools to take the bar exam and become attorneys.
Allen said opening the exam to more people could increase access to the legal profession and give students a cheaper option to traditional schools.
“It’s just a discussion we should have as a community: Where are we going to accept people to come from in education?” Allen said. “Because someone goes a brick and mortar school, do they have an exclusive right to a test?”
HB 2120 calls for the Arizona Supreme Court, which administers the bar exam and licenses attorneys, to change its rules governing who can take the exam and become attorneys to include graduates of online law schools. It also would codify the high court’s authority to license attorneys.
Currently, California is the only state with rules allowing graduates of online law schools to take the bar exam and become attorneys.
However, Allen acknowledged that he faces the question of whether a law can force the state Supreme Court to change its rules. Because of that, he called his bill “more of a curiosity.”
“It’s a good place to start the discussion, and I’m not going to die if it doesn’t pass,” Allen said.
Jennifer Liewer, chief communications officer for the Arizona Supreme Court, had no comment on the bill. She said those seeking changes to the court’s rules may submit petitions that the justices review once a year.
The Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education licenses non-public universities to confer degrees in the state. At present, Concord is the only private online law school licensed by the board. Neither of Arizona’s public law schools offers online juris doctor degrees.
Concord Law School Dean Greg Brandes said in a telephone interview that having online law school graduates as lawyers in Arizona, where Concord reports about 30 alumni, would be a “great addition to the legal landscape.”
“We support these kinds of efforts and think it’s good for the public,” he said.
Brandes said many Concord students go through the program with no intention of practicing law, but rather seek a background of legal knowledge to further their current careers.
Douglas J. Sylvester, dean of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, said although the school offers some legal courses online, it won’t offer an online juris doctor program. He noted that a traditional law school experience features immersion and interactions.
“It’s very hard to do that in an online environment,” he said.
Allen said that even if graduates of online law schools are licensed to practice law in Arizona, they would still be subject to the free market. Employers would decide whether a lawyer’s education is of value, he said.
In the end, Allen said, the bill may push people to think about the current barriers to entering the legal profession, including time and money.
“We are in the information age; we should start acting like it,” he said. “We should stop being afraid of hurting big education and start saying … it’s what you know that’s important, not where you learned it.”
Requirements to practice law in Arizona:
• Be at least 21.
• Be of good moral character.
• Be mentally, emotionally and physically able to practice law.
• Possess the required knowledge.
• Graduate with a juris doctor from a law school approved by the American Bar Association.
• Be in good standing in other jurisdictions, when applicable.
• Complete a course on Arizona law.
An exception: Graduates of schools not accredited by the American Bar Association who have been actively practicing law in another state for at least five of the last seven years may also be recommended for practice of law. In practice, this rule applies only to California, which allows graduates of law schools not accredited by the American Bar Association to sit for the bar.
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Sonia Sotomayor Debate: Should Unhappy Lawyers Blame Themselves?
By Paul Campos, TIME Magazine
January 28, 2013
In an interview with Oprah for her memoir My Beloved Life, U.S. Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor said she believes that “being a lawyer is one of the best jobs in the whole wide world, because every lawyer, no matter whom they represent, is trying to help someone … To me, lawyering is the height of service — and being involved in this profession is a gift. Any lawyer who is unhappy should go back to square one and start again.”
I hear judges and law professors say similar things all the time. What such people have in common is that they’re not practicing law. Sotomayor, who did practice law for a dozen years before becoming a federal judge, should know better, and at one time did: in a televised interview in 1986, two years after she left the Manhattan district attorney’s office to join a law firm, she said that “the vast majority of lawyering is drudgery work. It’s sitting in a library; it’s banging out a brief; it’s talking to clients for endless hours, not necessarily on interesting topics.”
Sotomayor’s memoir, My Beloved Life, is largely bereft of such insights, although she does reveal that she left her job at the Manhattan district attorney’s office, in part, because she found herself “hardened” by “a certain sense of futility” about her work, and by the effects a case load she describes as “crushing” was having on her personal life. But twenty years as a federal judge seem to have detached Sotomayor from any sense of the increasingly severe problems faced by so many members of the legal profession. For young law graduates, especially, Sotomayor’s words about service and happiness are likely to ring hollow.
Here is part of a letter I received this fall from a “lucky” law graduate — lucky in that, unlike half of all recent law graduates, she actually has a legal job. The writer graduated six years ago with $150,000 in student loans. Her salary as a public interest lawyer has not allowed her to pay down any of the principal, and the monthly loan payments she makes on the interest have her living barely above the poverty line:
Over the last six years, I have discovered that I hate our system of justice, our courts, our law and everyone remotely connected to them. I hate the actual work of being a lawyer and having to deal with other lawyers. Being chained to this computer and phone every day feels like torture. It has affected my physical and mental health negatively. I don’t want to talk or interact with people, and the anger and rage I feel every day has swallowed up my sense of humor. It doesn’t help that most of my clients are extremely vulnerable, mentally unstable and treated with the utmost contempt by every human being they come in contact with (including other poor people who assume that they are the deserving poor and everyone else is a malingering parasite).
Luckily in our small office I can close the door and sob hysterically without anyone much noticing. I feel terrible taking up a scarce job that someone else may be able to love and run with and really work the hell out of, while I hang on and avoid work as much as possible. The people I work for/with are the best people in the world and I feel like I’m taking advantage of them. But I don’t feel like I have any choice but to keep going on due to the debt and lack of other employment options, especially options that would pay enough for me to make the debt payments I have to make and still be able to afford to keep a roof over my head.
The amount of contempt I feel for myself for getting in this situation is killing me….Is there any hope?
I receive letters like this one regularly. I don’t think it’s especially helpful to tell this person to go back to square one, especially given that she, like so many other young lawyers, tells me that if she could return her degree in exchange for her debts being wiped out, she “would do so in a heartbeat.”
The crisis of the American legal profession is just part of a much larger crisis in America — one in which people who followed all the rules and did everything right have ended up in some pretty terrible places. Sonia Sotomayor’s journey from growing up in the housing projects in the Bronx to Princeton and Yale Law School and eventually to the Supreme Court is impressive indeed. But I would have thought that it would also have made her more empathetic to her colleagues who are less fortunate.
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January 20, 2013
Tuscaloosa attorney Justin G. Williams is one of 30 lawyers from the state chosen to participate in the Alabama State Bar’s Leadership Forum, a program to identify future leaders of the profession.
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Mobile lawyer Benjamin Ford picked to participate in Alabama State Bar leadership program
January 21, 2013
MOBILE, Alabama - A local lawyer has been selected as one of 30 attorneys throughout the state to participate in a leadership program sponsored by the Alabama State Bar.
The bar association said it picked Benjamin Ford from a pool of 58 applicants ranging from attorneys in private practice to lawyers working for the government and corporations. The Leadership Forum is designed to identify future leaders in the profession.
“The Leadership Forum is an innovative leadership-training program providing participants with a rigorous education and training that includes leadership, ethics, and career development,” Alabama State Bar president Phillip W. McCallum said in a prepared statement. “It includes sessions that prepare participants for interaction and relationship building with members of the legal, judicial, and legislative sectors as well as diverse organizations and communities in the state.”
Ford, a partner at Ambrecht Jackson in Mobile, graduated cum laude in 2003 from Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law in 2003. His practice has concentrated on general civil litigation, with an emphasis on real estate, business, construction, oil and gas, and probate matters.
Ford is active in the Mobile Bar Association, the Alabama Defense Lawyers Association and the Defense Research Institute. He currently is vice president of the Federal Bar Association.
His community involvement includes past service as treasurer of the Mobile Auburn Alumni Club, past member of the Board of Directors for the Dearborn YMCA and youth sports coach for the past four years. He is a member of Ashland Place Church and various other clubs and societies.
Mobile Bay Monthly selected him to the Top “40 Under 40” and he has been named a Rising Star by Super Lawyers. He received a Pro Bono Certificate of Achievement from the South Alabama VLP.
“I believe that my generation has been persistently fed from an early age that the path to achievement and happiness is through individual gain and selfish desires,” Ford said in a statement.” This injustice, I believe, has created a generation of inward-thinking young professionals. Many of these young professionals lack the sense of community responsibility that older professionals know is essential for a society to properly function. Our communities will potentially suffer as a result.”
Ford indicated that he believes it is important for younger professionals to start shouldering a greater responsibility in civic life.
“I believe that I have the right mindset, social skills and business qualities to build on the contributions that I believe I have made,” he stated. “I strive to always act in a manner that is befitting of lawyer’s role as an officer of the court and servant of the community.”
Alabama appellate judges say system needs more funding, suggest tweaks in laws
By Mike Cason, al.com
January 14, 2013
HOOVER, Alabama --- Leaders of Alabama’s appellate courts told a legislative panel today that the judicial system needs more funding and suggested tweaks to specific laws that could resolve problems with some types of cases.
Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, Court of Criminal Appeals Presiding Judge Mary Becker Windom and Court of Civil Appeals Presiding Judge William Thompson spoke to the Joint House and Senate Judiciary Committee at a meeting in Hoover to prepare for the legislative session, which begins Feb. 5.
“I can make it simple,” Moore said. “We need money.”
Moore quoted from an article in The Alabama Lawyer that said funding of the judicial branch has declined more steeply than funding for the legislative and executive branches since 2008.
“We are not an agency,” Moore said. “We’re a branch of government. We depend on your allocation for money. As I’ve traveled around the state we’ve gone to different courts and seen the different clerk’s offices. We’re below 50 percent staffing. We’ve got more empty seats than filled seats. I’ve seen judges actually answering the phones.”
Thompson said the Court of Civil Appeals has cut expenses but still has had inadequate funding the last two years.
“We have for the last two years had to seek emergency appropriations from the finance director’s office just to make it through the year,” Thompson said.
Windom said the Court of Criminal Appeals has had “less than adequate funding” the last three years.
Windom asked lawmakers to amend a law that she said put the court system “in a quandary.”
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in an Alabama case that a mandatory life without parole sentence imposed on a person under 18 when they committed their crime violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, Windom said. The court did not rule that life without parole was unconstitutional for juvenile offenders, but that the mandatory nature of Alabama’s law was. A judge and jury must be able to consider mitigating circumstances, the court ruled. Alabama law does not allow for that in sentencing for capital offenses.
“On behalf of our court and the entire Alabama legal community, I urge you to make this issue a priority and enact corrective legislation early in the legislative session so that the wheels of justice are not hampered by this problem,” Windom told the panel.
Thompson described to the committee language in an Alabama law that affects when alimony can be terminated by a court. If an ex-spouse who is receiving the alimony remarries or cohabitates "with a member of the opposite sex," the court will terminate the alimony, Thompson said. The words, “with a member of the opposite sex” mean that the law does not apply to a same sex relationship involving the ex-spouse receiving alimony, Thompson said.
Thompson said that law and a couple of others he mentioned were examples of situations where legislators could make minor tweaks to laws.
Alabama Department of Corrections Commissioner Kim Thomas urged the committee to help pass a law to limit what he called frivolous lawsuits filed by prisoners.
"It's nothing about cases with merit," Thomas said.
An example of a frivolous case would be when an inmate who commits a disciplinary violation sues because he loses visitation or is assigned extra work because of the violation, Thomas said.
Thomas estimated the department faces about 360 frivolous lawsuits a year.
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Comer Takes Oath As Madison County’s Newest Circuit Judge
WHNT –TV, Huntsville
January 16, 2013
HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – There’s a new face amongst Madison County judges, but it’s a familiar one. Today, Chris Comer was sworn in as a Circuit Judge.
Comer has practiced law in Madison County for more than 10 years. Several judges were in attendance, and retired Judge Loyd Little administered the oath of office.
“It is an honor to serve the citizens of Madison County,” said Comer. “I am looking forward to serving the people of Madison County by ensuring that our citizens are treated fairly and that the law is followed. My career as a judicial clerk, prosecutor and litigator has prepared me for this next opportunity. I will work hard and do my part to see that justice is served in my courtroom.”
Comer served as a clerk for Judge Little, and has also worked as a prosecutor and civil attorney. He is a past Secretary for the Huntsville/Madison County Bar Association and is a graduate of the Alabama State Bar Leadership Forum.
Comer is a graduate of Grissom High School. He went to Auburn University, where he earned his Bachelor of Science in Business Administration. He then earned his juris doctorate from the University of Alabama School of Law.
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Thomas J. Methvin selected as president of Beasley Allen law firm for 15th year
Erin Edgemon, The Birmingham News
January 15, 2013
MONTGOMERY, Alabama -- Thomas J. Methvin has been selected as Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.’s president for the 15th consecutive year, the law firm announced.
The office of president is elected by the board of directors annually.
Methvin is a national spokesman for the rights of consumers and the law that applies to their rights. He has appeared on "Good Morning America," "The O'Reilly Factor," and on all the major networks to discuss these issues. He also has appeared in numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Business Week Magazine, and Fortune Magazine.
Methvin was the lead lawyer in a landmark predatory lending case involving a door-to-door sales and finance scam. The verdict of $581 million is the largest predatory lending verdict in American history. As a result of this litigation, the defendant finance company left the State of Alabama.
Methvin was also co-counsel in other consumer fraud cases resulting in verdicts of $50 million, $45 million, $34.5 million, $25.4 million and $15 million. Tom has tried a total of 13 cases that have resulted in verdicts in excess of one million dollars.
Since 1998, Methvin has been the managing shareholder of the firm. He helped organize the firm into sections based on types of cases. This has allowed our lawyers to concentrate in certain areas and to be on the cutting edge in their field. He has helped Beasley Allen become a national powerhouse in representing victims of wrongdoing. In 2010, the firm was named among Alabama's Largest Law Firms by Business Alabama magazine.
In 2002, Methvin was selected by the National Law Journal as one of the Top 40 Litigators in the country younger than the age of 40. He also was named by the Montgomery Advertiser as one of the "Top 40 under 40," which is a list of the top 40 business leaders in Central Alabama younger than the age 40.
In July of 2007, Methvin was featured in Fortune Magazine as one of America's Premier Lawyers. He was also featured in Business Alabama magazine.
Also in 2007, Methvin was chosen by Birmingham Magazine as one of the Best Lawyers in Alabama in the field of personal injury and mass torts. He has been selected to Alabama Super Lawyers for 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. Since 2006, he has been selected every year for inclusion in U.S. News & World Report's Best Lawyers in America list. Methvin also is included on the Chambers USA Leading Lawyers list for 2010. He was named to Lawdragon 2010.
In 2011, the Birmingham Business Journal named Methvin a "Leading Lawyer of Alabama." He also was selected by The Trial Lawyer magazine as a 2011 member of The Round Table: America's 100 Most Influential Trial Lawyers. This selection places him among the top 100 civil plaintiff attorneys in the United States. He also is a member of The National Trial Lawyers, "Top 100" and was named to The American Lawyer "Top Lawyers" list.
Methvin is a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent Rated attorney.
Methvin has been an active member of the Alabama State Bar Association, serving on the Board of Bar Commissioners for nine years and the Executive Committee for two years. He became president of the Alabama State Bar in July 2009, where he served through July 2010.
Methvin is a Fellow in the Alabama Law Foundation, which promotes access to justice for the poor. He is also President of the Montgomery Cumberland Law School Club. He is a former member of the Finance Committee for the Access to Justice Commission, which was founded by the Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court to find new ways to provide access to justice for the poor in Alabama.
In 2009, Methvin was selected as a Fellow in the American Bar Foundation. The Fellows of the American Bar Foundation is an honorary organization of lawyers, judges and legal scholars whose public and private careers have demonstrated outstanding dedication to the welfare of their communities and to the highest principles of the legal profession. Fellows are nominated by their peers.
Methvin is a former President of the Montgomery County Bar Association (1996) and the former President of the Montgomery County Trial Lawyers Association (1996), and a current member of the Alabama Association for Justice Executive Committee and the Million Dollar Advocates Forum.
Methvin is past president of the Board of Directors for Brantwood Children's Home, a home for abused and neglected children, and still active in support of the organization and the children it serves; he also is on the Board for Let God Arise Ministries, a prison ministry, and serves on the Cystic Fibrosis Advisory Panel, which helps fight the terrible disease of CF. In 2009, he received the Sheena Diane Ayers Humanitarian Award for his longtime service and support for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Methvin was born in Eufaula, Alabama, in 1963. After graduating from high school with honors, he graduated from the University of Alabama with a degree in corporate finance in the Business School. He then earned his law degree from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham in 1988 and began his legal career at Beasley Allen that same year.
2013 Forecast: Legal
by Antrenise Cole, Birmingham Business Journal
January 4, 2013
Some familiar topics will once again be among the hot legal issues in the new year, according to local experts. Just like last year, Birmingham’s legal community will closely monitor Jefferson County’s bankruptcy proceedings and the debate surrounding Alabama’s immigration law.
But experts say there are several other legal issues businesses should keep an eye on in 2013.
1) Court funding
Inadequate court funding will continue to be the biggest concern for local attorneys in 2013, according to Alabama State Bar President Phillip McCallum. “I think there’s a huge concern on the part of businesses on their ability to collect on their past-due debts,” he said. When you’re not funding the courts appropriately, there are delays in the system, and it’s hard for them to get their cases heard. It also affects the business climate and whether or not businesses want to locate here.”
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Birmingham area lawyers selected for Alabama State Bar leadership forum
By Kelsey Stein, The Birmingham News
January 08, 2013
The Alabama State Bar selects 13 Birmingham area lawyers for its leadership forum.
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama -- Thirteen Birmingham area lawyers have been chosen to participate in the Alabama State Bar's leadership forum this year.
They are among 30 participants from throughout the state who were selected from a pool of 58 applicants. Candidates are evaluated based on leadership qualities and community service, according to a news release.
To graduate from the forum, participants must attend five training sessions designed to enhance leadership skills.
"Leaders need to have good problem-solving skills and be able to think critically. As opposed to the traditional law practice setting, which fosters competition, leadership is a collaborative process," State Bar President Phillip W. McCallum, stated in the release.
This year's local participants are Ryan K. Buchanan, of the U.S. Attorney’s Office; John William Clark IV, of Bainbridge Mims Rogers & Smith LLP; Diandra S. DeBrosse, of Gentle Turner Sexton Debrosse & Harbison; Rachel Abigail Herrin, of the Law Office of Abby Herrin; Brett Andrew Ialacci, of Badham & Buck LLC; Jonathan William Macklem, of Christian & Small LLP; Joseph Brannon Maner, of Gordon Dana Knight & Gilmore LLC; Abigail Lounsbury Morrow, of Cadence Bank NA; Christopher Joseph Nicholson, of White Arnold & Dowd PC; Patrick Henry Strong, of Balch & Bingham LLC; Michael Francis Walker, of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings LLP; and Stephen Cochran Wallace, of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Criminal Division.
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Three Huntsville attorneys selected for Alabama Bar leadership program
By Bryan Lawson, Huntsville Times
January 09, 2013
HUNTSVILLE, Alabama -- Three Huntsville attorneys are among a select group that have been chosen by the Alabama State Bar to participate in the bar's Leadership Forum.
Attorneys John A. Brinkley Jr., Jeremiah M. Hodges and Joshua B. White, were among 30 attorneys selected statewide to participate in the leadership training program, the Alabama State Bar announced Wednesday.
Phillip W. McCallum of Birmingham, president of the Alabama State Bar, said the leadership forum provides participants "with leadership, ethics and career development," and includes sessions for "relationship building with members of the legal, judicial, and legislative sectors" and other organizations and communities across Alabama.
Brinkley is an associate of the law firm Brinkley & Chestnut in Huntsville.
Hodges is a partner at the firm Hodges Trial Lawyers in Huntsville.
White is an associate at the firm Stephens Millirons in Huntsville.
The bar said those chosen were picked from a field of 58 applicants. The forum is aimed at attorneys with between five and 15 years of legal experience.
There have been 232 graduates of the forum, the bar said.
To graduate, participants must attend five training sessions, including a three-day orientation, spend about 60 hours in meetings and workshops hosted by speakers from various disciplines.
"Leaders need to have good problem-solving skills and be able to think critically," McCallum said in the bar news release. "As opposed to the traditional law practice setting, which fosters competition, leadership is a collaborative process."
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Chief Justice Prods Congress to Resolve Budget Talks and Control National Debt
By ADAM LIPTAK, The New York Times
January 1, 2013
WASHINGTON — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. used his year-end report on the federal judiciary to give Congressional budget negotiators a little nudge.
“Our country faces new challenges, including the much-publicized ‘fiscal cliff’ and the longer-term problem of a truly extravagant and burgeoning national debt,” he wrote. “No one seriously doubts that the country’s fiscal ledger has gone awry. The public properly looks to its elected officials to craft a solution.”
The chief justice said that his branch of the government provided an example of doing much with few resources. The federal judiciary makes do with a budget appropriation of about $7 billion, he wrote, “a mere two-tenths of 1 percent of the United States’ total budget of $3.7 trillion.”
“Yes,” he went on, “for each citizen’s tax dollar, only two-tenths of one penny goes toward funding the entire third branch of government!”
In the report, Chief Justice Roberts said the judiciary was doing what it could to cut costs in rent, salaries and computer services. The Supreme Court “continues to set a good example,” he said, asking for a smaller appropriation in the last fiscal year than in the previous one. This fiscal year, the request rose slightly, “largely in response to new judicial security needs,” he said. He did not elaborate.
An appendix to the chief justice’s report on the workload of the federal courts showed decreases in the Supreme Court’s docket and in the number of cases it is deciding. In the term that ended last year, the number of requests for Supreme Court review dropped by almost two percent from the previous term. The justices issued just 64 signed opinions in the most recent term, down from 75.
The federal courts went to great lengths last year in trying circumstances, notably after Hurricane Sandy. “As just one example,” he said, “the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York conducted emergency hearings in Lower Manhattan the day after the storm hit, working in a building without heat or hot water that was only sparsely lit by gas-fueled emergency generators.” Though Chief Justice Roberts did not say so, the Supreme Court also showed fortitude the day the storm hit, hearing arguments when the rest of official Washington was closed.
He called on President Obama and Congress “to be especially attentive to the needs of the judicial branch and provide the resources necessary to its operation.”
“Because the judiciary has already pursued cost containment so aggressively, it will become increasingly difficult to economize further without reducing the quality of judicial services,” he wrote. “Virtually all of the judiciary’s core functions are constitutionally and statutorily required. Unlike executive branch agencies, the courts do not have discretionary programs they can eliminate or projects they can postpone.”
The number of judicial vacancies does not help matters, he went on. “At the close of 2012, 27 of the existing judicial vacancies are designated as presenting judicial emergencies,” he wrote. “I urge the executive and legislative branches to act diligently in nominating and confirming highly qualified candidates to fill those vacancies.”
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