U.S. trial bar still searching for its next leader

Chris Rizo Dec. 14, 2009, 6:00am

WASHINGTON (Legal Newsline)-The nation's trial lawyer group is still looking for a new leader, or so an Internet posting by a leading executive recruitment firm indicates.

Last week, the executive recruitment firm Korn/Ferry International reposted an ad seeking applicants to serve as the American Association for Justice's next chief executive officer. An ad first appeared this fall.

Formerly known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, AAJ vehemently opposes legal reforms as well as efforts to streamline state laws, particularly as they relate to personal injury and consumer protection.

This year, AAJ has largely concentrated its Capitol Hill efforts on keeping tort reforms out of the national health care overhaul being worked out in Congress.

In its ad, the group says it wants its next leader to provide an "inspirational representation of the AAJ before all key constituents, government bodies, the media, and the public."

The posting notes that the AAJ's chief executive is responsible for the management and development of approximately 90 employees and a budget of $25 million.

"The CEO will develop and update the strategic plan through environmental surveillance and market research; and recommend new initiatives, programs, products, and services for members," the Korn/Ferry posting said.

And, then there are the group's mounting financial woes that the group's next CEO surely will have to confront.

The trade group for plaintiffs' attorneys had more than $6.2 million deficit in its operating budget for the fiscal year ending July 31, 2008. The group saw its income from membership dues drop from $28.6 million in 2005 to $19.2 million in 2008, according to a report filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

In April, Jon Haber stepped down as the Washington-based organization's chief executive after four years at the AAJ helm.

In a statement at the time, he said he was leaving AAJ in a "strong position" to continue its efforts on behalf of trial lawyers, noting that the Democratic-led Congress and President Barack Obama are on their side.

"Because we are in such a strong position, I have decided this is the best time for me to step down to take on new challenges," he said. "The new pro-civil justice environment has put the organization in the strongest position it has been in a generation."

In the wake of Haber's departure, AAJ former long-time CEO Tom Henderson returned to the group as its interim chief.

Compensation for the CEO job was not disclosed in the Korn/Ferry posting.

From Legal Newsline: Reach staff reporter Chris Rizo at chrisrizo@legalnewsline.com.

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