Alabama State Bar
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Christopher J. Nicholson

White Arnold & Dowd
2025 3rd Avenue North, Suite 500
Birmingham, AL 35203
(205)323-1888 / cnicholson@whitearnolddowd.com

Chris is a 2006 graduate from the University of Alabama. In 2003, he graduated from the University of Virginia with a B.A. in History and a minor in Spanish, with additional coursework in French and German. He clerked for the Honorable Tom King, Jr. for the 10th Judicial Circuit of Alabama and is now an associate with White Arnold & Dowd representing plaintiffs and defendants in civil cases including corporate contract disputes, toxic torts, predatory credit card practices, will and trust disputes, federal False Claims Act qui tam actions, and other matters.

At the University of Virginia, Chris was on the Dean’s List, participated in the Learning Need and Evaluation Center by volunteering to read textbooks for the visually impaired, and was a member of The Sigma Phi Society. During his time at The University of Alabama, Chris was a Lector at St. Francis university parish. His professional affiliations include Young Lawyers Division with American Bar Association, Alabama State Bar, and Birmingham Bar Association. He also participates in Pro Bono Week and was involved in the Computer & Technology Committee and on the Board of Directors for the Birmingham LVP at the Birmingham Bar Association. His community activities include member of the Board of Directors of The Altamont School Alumni Association, lector at Cathedral of St. Paul, and member of the Board of Directors of The Claridge at Hanover Homeowners association where he is current Treasurer 2012-2013.

The ASB past president who recommended Chris said, “I have gotten to know Chris very well and have known him for some time because of work I have done with his firm as well as Bar work. As you know, I have been involved, first as President Elect and then as President, with the Leadership Forum program and, therefore, I am very familiar with the criteria for selection and the characteristics and traits which make someone a valuable member of a Leadership Forum class. Both by observation and personal experience, I have seen those characteristics and traits in Chris. He is dedicated to serving others, as indicated by his volunteer service. I think he has tremendous potential to be a leader and the desire and willingness to be active in Bar activities. I think he would be thoughtful and energetic in his participation with the class, and well-liked by lawyers all over who participate.” The Circuit Judge who recommended Chris said, “I first came to know Chris when he clerked for me. Chris was very bright and quick to learn, and I valued his assistance greatly. I recall a specific instance in which I distributed one of Chris’ memoranda to all judges of the 10th Judicial Circuit, so impressed was I with his work on an issue facing the judiciary at that time. His positive attitude and work ethic at the office made him a pleasure to work with. I was certain that he would become a fine lawyer, and I am gratified to see him fulfilling mu expectations. I should also mention that Chris is a young lawyer who practices law the way it should be practiced – with the civility and collegiality of an attorney beyond his years. His professionalism reminds me of the conduct that attorneys demonstrated when out Bar was much smaller, and which I fear is becoming rare amongst attorneys of all ages as our Bar grows. Chris’ example in this regard is refreshing and commendable. My conversations with Chris over the years have shown me that he is dedicated to becoming a leader in our Bar and the community. He and I both share a deep sense of the responsibility that is incumbent upon lawyers to become servant leaders – to use those skills that we have learned not for our own advantage, but to serve the greater good of the public. I know that Chris has taken on leadership roles in the advancement of pro bono service in the Birmingham area, and I believe your program will allow him to further his work in this and other areas as he continues his career. My life experiences, be they in the military, in the practice of law, or in the judiciary, have demonstrated time and again the critical importance of leadership. I know, too, that people may be born with certain gifts that lend them to leadership, but true leaders must be trained. I believe Chris possesses the characteristics of a leader – integrity, intelligence, compassion, and initiative – and can benefit from your program. In turn, I know that he will be a credit to the Leadership Forum and use what he has learned for the benefit of the Bar and the community at large.”

In his own words, Chris says, “I would like to tell you about two men – one a deacon, one a soldier. One is my grandfather, the other one was one of my first pro bono clients. Both of these men have had a profound impact on how I view my role in the community and the world at large, as a lawyer and as a human being. My grandfather was born to Lebanese immigrants to the United States, and grew up poor in Birmingham. His father died of tuberculosis when my grandfather was only a boy, and his mother was forced into the role of sole breadwinner for the family – this during a time when women were generally relegated to lower-wage careers. Born with an eye condition that required surgery, my grandfather was never able to see well enough to play sports, and he had trouble making friends. His mother even had to give a neighbor’s child a little bit of her hard-earned money so that he would play with my grandfather. Some people may have become embittered; dissatisfied with the hand they had been dealt. But despite these early hardships, my grandfather persevered. Although he did not graduate from college, he joined the Air Force, and later worked his way up to executive vice president of a bank in Miami. He felt a calling to the diaconate in the Catholic church, and was ordained. Through his work in the church, he demonstrated to me firsthand a true example of servant leadership. Working for essentially nothing, my grandfather assisted at the service each Sunday, baptized children, married couples, visited the sick, consoled grieving families, and served at funerals. With the help of my grandmother, he also established children’s liturgy programs during his service in Miami and Birmingham, writing special sermons each week so that schoolchildren could better understand the gospel.  My grandfather’s leadership was not flashy. It was certainly not for personal gain. And I am not sure, if you asked him, whether he would have described himself as a leader. But I know that hundreds, if not thousands, of people have looked to him for spiritual guidance over the course of his decades-long career as a deacon, and he has always seen it as his duty to give of himself in this regard – putting the needs of his community ahead of his own. My grandfather showed me, even when I was a boy, the importance of looking beyond yourself, stepping forward, and making a positive impact on the community. I have tried to incorporate these ideals into my practice of law through the provision of pro bono services to clients who need access to justice but cannot afford to pay for legal representation. I do this not for recognition, but simply because it is the right thing to do. In my view, it is what we are supposed to do. One of my first pro bono cases involved a soldier – I will call him Lieutenant Jackson. The lieutenant was faced with a peculiarly unjust situation. While serving in Iraq, he, like so many of our young men and women in uniform, had to perform multiple roles. He was a combat platoon leader, and had the additional responsibility of being a paymaster for local militias allied with the coalition forces. In the latter role, Lieutenant Jackson was periodically issued thousands of dollars in cash, which he would have to secure in his quarters on base – basically a small trailer. One day, Lieutenant Jackson was called out on an emergency response. He had to lead his platoon on a combat mission. Upon his return, he realized that tens of thousands of dollars had gone missing from his quarters. Although a local Iraqi translator who disappeared the same day was suspected, the culprit was never found. Under the applicable military policy, Lieutenant Jackson was to be held strictly liable for the missing money, which would be taken from his pay over time. The injustice of his situation was that Lieutenant Jackson had, time and time again, attempted to requisition a safe to secure the funds allocated to him, as per military regulations – to no avail. While I had never studied military law or regulations, ort practiced in this area, I was able to research his case, enlist his help in getting sworn statements from his brothers in arms, and draft a response to the administrative action being taken against him. Together, we prevailed, and he was not held liable for any of the missing money. While I was gratified to be able to help, it is Lieutenant Jackson who inspired me. He is on his second combat deployment, in Afghanistan, as I write this. I keep in touch with him via email, when he has time. His attitude is amazing – he is a true servant leader. His concern is never for himself, only the men he leads and, ultimately, for his country. This young man, who could himself been a lawyer, or a physician, or any number of thing, chose to become an officer in the military, and further chooses to put himself in harm’s way – for a second time now – in combat duty. He does this because he believes in something larger than himself. He believes in the nobility of service, in the best of what the United States represents, and through his beliefs, he in turn embodies these very ideals. In the course of my small service to Lieutenant Jackson, I rededicated myself to looking beyond my daily concerns. I decided to ask myself what I could do so that I, too, could serve some greater cause – to focus not merely on a billable hour, but on making an impact that would make a positive difference, if only for one person. For me, this cause is pro bono service to indigent clients. By offering this service to people in need, I am able to follow the selfless examples of my grandfather and Lieutenant Jackson. These men, in their own very different ways, provided models of what servant leadership is all about, goals that I strive toward. I would like to meet the next generation of servant leaders from all over the state, so that we can share our visions about how to improve our communities, both locally and statewide. I would like to learn how to better use my God-given gifts to make a difference in pro bono service and other arenas. And finally, I would like to give back to the Leadership Forum itself – to help future classes after Class 9 – because I believe that training and building a strong network of servant leaders is perhaps the single most powerful way to change our state for the better.”