Getting to Know Craig Alexander
Getting to Know Craig Alexander
Craig Alexander represents clients in a variety of cases, principally in the areas of commercial litigation, employment law, and product liability. A partner in the Birmingham office, Craig talks about how he looks at his legal practice and discusses some cases that he found especially fulfilling.
Craig, can you tell us about the things you enjoy most in your practice?
I enjoy the variety of the cases that I handle for my clients. In particular, I like the challenge of working on a case that involves an unfamiliar area of the law. It’s good that I enjoy this kind of challenge, because over the years I’ve been called upon to work on a lot of different kinds of cases and legal problems. Over just the last couple of years, I’ve worked on commercial disputes, product liability cases, construction defect cases, lawyer’s professional responsibility problems, workers’ compensation and employment discrimination cases, and even a probate matter or two. I like to help people, and I find it rewarding to dive into a new area of the law and get a claim against my client resolved with a favorable result or a good settlement.
Also, I’ve taken pleasure when I’ve done a good job with all of the facets of representing a client in a particular case. There are so many different ways in which an attorney needs to be adept in handling a lawsuit. Learning the facts of the case and developing a strategy at the earliest possible time, being diligent in communicating with clients, dealing with opposing counsel in a zealous but professional way, and staying organized and efficient throughout are the ones that come most to my mind. An attorney can be exceptionally good at 90% of what he does for a client, but he will still have serious problems if he does the remaining 10% poorly.
Are there any particular cases throughout your career that stand out for you?
Three cases stand out the most for me. The first one involved the defense of a product liability claim for a manufacturer of woodworking equipment. The case went to trial and the jury returned a defense verdict, but plaintiff’s counsel appealed and argued that contributory negligence should be discarded and comparative negligence adopted as the law in Alabama. The Supreme Court of Alabama granted oral argument, and it scheduled a full day of argument for this case due to the many organizations that had filed amicus briefs. The court ultimately affirmed the judgment for my client and left contributory negligence intact. This was one case of mine that received a fair amount of coverage in the press, and I was happy that the news was good for my client.
The second case took about six years from beginning to end. I represented a gentleman with a claim under the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act, as extended by the Defense Base Act. That’s something I certainly had never done before, and probably will never do again. My client injured his back working for his employer on a remote island in the South Pacific. He didn’t have to undergo surgery, and he was assigned a small permanent disability by his doctor. The administrative law judge, however, made a generous award to my client. The employer appealed, and the case went up and down the administrative and federal court system for almost five years. The award was affirmed the second time it came before a U.S. District Court, and then employer took an appeal to the Eleventh Circuit. Finally a good settlement was negotiated through appellate mediation. This was one of the longest-running cases I’ve ever handled, but my client was a great guy, and he was steadfast in his loyalty, which meant a great deal to me.
The third case is still ongoing. A lawyer I’ve known for a long time called me and told me that he had just been disbarred by order of the bar’s disciplinary board, and he asked if I could help him. We had only 14 days to file a post-trial motion or an appeal, so I had to figure out quickly what arguments were available and the best way to present them. When the disbarment order came before the Supreme Court of Alabama, the court reversed the disbarment and remanded the case back to the disciplinary board with instructions to enter a new order. The disciplinary board again ordered the lawyer’s disbarment, and a second appeal was taken with the same result: reversed and remanded. Right now, the court is looking at the board’s third order, to see if it satisfies procedural requirements. I’d never before represented a lawyer in a disciplinary proceeding, and so winning two consecutive appeals to the Supreme Court of Alabama in the case has been professionally satisfying, although there is still work to be done.
You’ve recently starting teaching a class in law. How is that going?
Well, I can’t say I’ve found a part-time job that’s lucrative, but it has been going well. I teach Alabama Civil Practice and Procedure at the University of Alabama School of Law. I’ve learned some aspects of civil procedure that I knew only a little bit about, and I’ve learned new things about some other aspects that I thought I already knew pretty well. I’ve also been learning how to “bring to life” a subject that at first blush can seem pretty tedious. I take as many opportunities as I can to talk about cases I’ve handled that involved an important civil procedure problem or issue, and my students enjoy hearing war stories that illustrate some practical aspect of dealing with the rules of civil procedure.
I’ve taught the class twice now, and my evaluations have been positive. The enrollment for my second class also was a good bit larger than the first class. Folks who are in the know tell me that the best sign that an adjunct professor is doing a good job is growth in the enrollment for his class, and I’ve decided not to question that advice.
What kind of things do you enjoy outside of work?
I’m a pretty task-oriented guy, and so I don’t do much of what could be called just goofing off. In the last couple of years, I’ve gotten the urge to try some do-it-yourself projects at home. I’ve remodeled most of my basement, creating an exercise room, a laundry room, a half-bath, and a tool room, which is now my favorite room. Then I turned my attention outdoors, which always seemed way beyond my possible skill set. I’ve extended a deck, built a box to hold firewood, made walkways with pavers, and planted shrubs and flowers here and there, among other landscape things. Now I’m in the habit of going outside every morning I can, and with my dog keeping me company, I get something useful done in 30 or 45 minutes before I take a shower and head to my regular job. I look forward to this early morning work and my dog’s companionship.
You’ve been active in your community, what has that taught you?
I’ve learned that a positive mindset, dedication, and a calm and deliberate approach are the three biggest elements of accomplishing something both inside and outside the law. For example, about six years ago, when my son was getting ready to start high school, he looked to be a promising basketball player. So, one day I was invited to a meeting of four to five other dads to start the process of forming a basketball booster club. For no particular reason, I was designated to be the chairman of the sponsorship committee, which meant I had to come up with ways to raise funds. I’d never done anything like being a salesman before, and so I was starting from scratch in every respect. It was interesting to devise different kinds of sponsorship opportunities for local businesses, and then figuring out how to sell those opportunities.
By the time my son graduated, our club was providing catered meals during home games to the club’s members, the players and the coaches. We operated a website and published a 90-page basketball program, we were funding the broadcast of the games of both the boys’ and girl’s teams on the local cable channel, and we had a new scoreboard and scorer’s table, all of which were sponsorship-driven. We actually managed to raise almost $100,000 a year all four years, which supported the club’s activities, and more importantly, provided valuable funding for the school’s basketball teams.
To me, it is important to keep growing as a person, otherwise you’ll start shrinking. Taking on new kinds of legal cases keeps work interesting. Doing new things outside the office, whether in a classroom, in the community, or at home, keeps life interesting. It has been gratifying for me to discover that I can do a competent job, and achieve positive results, in a lot of different endeavors.