Some of my friends have asked why in the world I would take time from my busy law practice for volunteer service on the State Bar Executive Committee and now to run for Secretary of the State Bar of Georgia. That’s a fair question that deserves an answer more serious than, “it’s on my bucket list.”

Perhaps the fact that one would campaign statewide, spending precious time and money competing for a job that does not pay, is proof of one’s unfitness for the office and of the continuing validity of the “Peter Principle.”

However, even after all these years practicing law “in the trenches,” I’m still just idealistic enough to believe we all have an obligation to improve the law and our profession. Together we have an opportunity to improve both the perception and the reality of our profession and court system. After thirty years in this profession, and fifteen years learning how to get things done in the State Bar, I want to do my part. That does not take from my law practice, but ultimately strengthens it.

The State Bar’s public service ads you may have seen recently on TV are paid for with lawyers’ voluntary contributions to the Legislative  & Advocacy Fund. The ads are a good step in the right direction but  they are not enough.

In order to make progress, we must maintain continuity of effort and leadership over a period of years to

? reinforce virtue in our own ranks,
? address practical, nuts and bolts issues that affect our
representation of clients and our lives as practicing attorneys,
? heighten the public’s recognition of the importance of independent lawyers and judges in upholding their freedoms, and
? improve liaisons with the legislative and executive branches of state  government, with the business community, and with other professional  organizations in Georgia.

Anything the Bar considers doing should be measured by the test of practicality and common sense.  We should keep in mind a few of rules of thumb for practicality:

  • The KISS principle, though it is hard to keep anything simple in law. Ideas that sound great in theory fall flat if they are so complicated that they increase transaction cost beyond what the market can bear.
  • Remember that the perfect is often the enemy of the good, and that the toughest choices are not between good and bad, but between good and good and between bad and bad.
  • In the words of  Larry the Cable Guy, “Get ‘er done.” While some things the Bar does can legitimately take several years of study and deliberation, a lot of practical projects need a fast track approach. There is no reason why some of these projects — which I won’t name here — should take longer than it took the US to win World War II.  Recruit lawyers who already have expertise in the subject matter for a short term project team, get the job done, and move on.

When new issues come out of left field – such as the Fulton County courthouse murders and their aftermath, the out-of-state advertising  lawyers descending on Savannah after the recent sugar plant explosion,  the ripple effects of volatility in financial markets, a proposal for  a sales tax on legal services, or whatever may be next – it is  important to have people at the helm with career experiences that  enable them to speak for a broad cross-section of practicing Georgia attorneys.

Now that the opportunity has arisen to move up the State Bar leadership ladder, I realize that the circuitous path of my career over the past thirty plus years may have prepared me reasonably well to represent a cross-section of practicing lawyers in Georgia.  It is somewhat startling to realize that I’m the:

  • Only candidate in private law practice, supporting a family by representing clients who are free to choose someone else.
  • Only candidate who is a former prosecutor.
  • Only candidate who is a a current member of the State Bar Executive Committee, elected by the Board of Governors
  • Only candidate who is AV rated in Martindale-Hubbell.
  • Only candidate listed among “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend magazine.
  • Only candidate listed in Martindale’s Bar Register of Preeminent Lawyers.
  • Only candidate with specialty certification: Certified Civil Trial Advocate, National Board of Trial Advocacy.
  • Only candidate who is a Master of American Inns of Court(Lamar Inn, Emory Law School)
  • Only candidate on faculty of Emory Law School Trial Techniques Program.

And I admit that I sometimes enjoy the “chess game” of helping to run an organization larger than my law practice, enjoy having a place at the table when issues affecting our profession are decided, and to some extent may have this on my “bucket list.”

The Shigley Law Firm  represents plaintiffs in wrongful death and catastrophic injury cases statewide in Georgia, and in other states subject to the multijurisdictional practice and pro hac vice rules in each state. Ken Shigley was designated as a “SuperLawyer” in Atlanta Magazine and one of the “Legal Elite” in Georgia Trend Magazine. He is a Certified Civil Trial Advocate of the National Board of Trial Advocacy, former chair of the Southeastern Motor Carrier Liability Institute and Georgia Insurance Law Institute. He particularly focuses on cases arising from truck  and bus accidents.  His practice is based largely upon referrals from other attorneys.