Articles Posted in Personal Reflections

By Tommy Paulk

Proposals to increase the minimum wage have recently gained momentum, with some companies (and some states) taking it upon themselves to implement their own, internal minimum wage increases without waiting on the U.S. Congress to act.  Piecemeal increases on a statewide or company basis pose a unique danger to those companies and states who risk choosing to act unilaterally—a danger not posed by a federally mandated, nationwide increase:  that of a competitive disadvantage to those states and/or companies who act alone.

Before I retired in 2012, I was for some 18 years the CEO of a company with over 2000 employees.  Our company believed that our productivity was greatest when all of our employees had an opportunity to be financially secure to the degree that they could provide food, clothing, shelter and medical care for their families.   One look at a typical family budget showed then, and continues to show today, that basic needs for a family of four, with both parents working full time at minimum wage, could not be met, no matter how frugal their lifestyle.  The same is true for a single worker with no family.  It cannot be done.

So we set out to provide a company-wide minimum wage of $12.00 per hour, after a minimum tenure requirement had been met, for all employees.  We saw immediate gains in productivity and a steady increase in labor quality, as measured by absenteeism, tardiness, job-related injuries, etc.  Unfortunately, we quickly ran into a problem in one of our company divisions, a problem that rendered the wage increase impossible at that site.  The division was a food processing plant with some 200 mostly unskilled employees.  Because our competitors did not share our belief that wage increases would pay for themselves, they had no reason to follow our example, and we lacked the confidence to act alone and risk losing our market share.  So we exempted that division from our own wage policy, and it continues to be exempt today.   A federally-mandated wage increase offers the only hope those employees have for earning their way out of poverty while working full-time for that particular division of our company.

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You cannot drive down the interstate anymore without seeing a billboard for a lawyer’s office. Lawyer advertising is not new, but it has come a long way in recent years from just being on the back of the phone book.

There is an ongoing debate in the legal community about whether legal advertising is positive or negative for the profession. The one underlying question that rarely gets asked is: Why is there so much lawyer advertising? The obvious answer is simple enough: it works. The next question then has to be: Why does lawyer advertising work?

The answer to this question may surprise people. Many people simply do not know a lawyer. This can be easy to forget if you go to church with a lawyer or have a cousin who is a lawyer. Much of the population simply does not know a lawyer to call when they need one, and so they call the lawyers that advertise.

A view of the Alabama legal landscape can shed some light on this. There are roughly 17,000 Alabama licensed attorneys. This seems like a lot. However, there are only about 900 lawyer members of the Alabama Association for Justice, the interest group for lawyers representing injured people. With a population of over 4.8 million people, that’s under two trial lawyers per 10,000 people. Uneven distribution of lawyers throughout the state makes it even less likely that some people will know a trial lawyer. Simply put, there are large portions of the population that do not come into contact with lawyers on a regular basis, especially ones that represent people in personal injury and wrongful death cases. So, lawyers advertise for these cases, and people who do not know a lawyer call the lawyers who advertise.

Our firm’s approach to client engagement is different. Instead of billboard advertising, our firm focuses its energy on client satisfaction, community involvement and consumer education. We strive to provide exceptional service for our clients, and most of our new clients come as referrals from satisfied previous clients and from lawyers who know the work we do and refer clients to us. Continue reading

Labor Day weekend this year is full of promise in the South. It is the opening weekend of college football, and it is an extended holiday weekend to spend extra time with family and friends.

It is also a weekend to be mindful of personal safety. Labor Day weekend is unfortunately one of the deadliest weekends for travel. On average, 450 people will die in automobile accidents each Labor Day weekend. Roughly 34 million people will be on the road this Labor Day weekend. Given the mixture of holiday traffic, holiday partying, and opening weekend for football partying, it is helpful to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Be on alert for impaired or distracted drivers. Half of Labor Day weekend traffic deaths are alcohol related. If you must drive later in the day or evening, be on the lookout for drivers showing signs of impairment – swerving, failing to dim headlights, erratic behavior, and missing traffic control signals. With the increase in traffic, there are also more distracted drivers on the road and more cars for them to run into. Signs of distracted driving are similar to those of impaired driving.

He called the family together and I knew that something important was about to happen.  Mama, my two sisters and I sat quietly on the couch as he stood facing us.  Then, in a quiet voice, referring only occasionally to the notes he had scribbled on a tablet, he began rehearsing the opening statement that he was to give in court the next day.  I was six years old.  He was in his early 30s, a WW 2 veteran and just beginning his law practice.   It was a scene that would be repeated in our home many times over the next 50 years.

Daddy was not a big man in terms of physical stature. (His nickname was Peewee.)  But he had a big personality and his passion for excellence and his dedication to his clients shone through the opening statements that he practiced on us.  He was almost always at work by the time the rest of us got up in the morning and it was usually dark by the time he got home at night.  He worked every Saturday.

Daddy is retired now.  I myself have been practicing law for 39 years and in that time I have learned a lot.  But the most important things I have learned about practicing law I learned from Daddy.  Hard work.  Attention to detail.  Compassion for our clients.  How to be a good listener.  How to be prepared for whatever happens in the courtroom.  These and many other lessons he taught me.  Whatever success I have had, whatever accomplishments I have made, I owe in large part to him.

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