June 27, 2016

Alabama State Bar Installs J. Cole Portis as President

The Alabama State Bar recently installed Montgomery attorney J. Cole Portis (’90) as its 141st president.

“I am blessed to have the opportunity to lead our state bar, which has been entrusted with the obligation to serve our profession, seek improvements in our judicial system and serve the public,” said Portis of the Beasley Allen Law Firm in Montgomery. “We are committed to a new era of engagement with lawyers to ensure that they have resources available to help them in their practice.”

Portis has served on multiple committees and task forces within the Alabama State Bar, including the Finance and Audit Committee, Client Security Fund Committee and various others. He has also served on the Alabama State Bar Board of Bar Commissioners for the 15th judicial circuit since 2007.

Portis joined the Beasley Allen Law Firm in 1991, where he is now a principal. He represents people and families who are injured or killed by defective products. In addition to handling litigation matters at Beasley Allen, he manages the firm’s product liability/personal injury section.

For more, read “Cole Portis Installed as 141st President of Alabama State Bar.”

June 24, 2016

Professor Hill Weighs in on Marijuana Businessman Who Was Denied Life Insurance

Professor Julie A. Hill is quoted in U.S. News & World Report about a marijuana businessman who was denied life insurance.

“These and other laws make it very risky to accept any money that you know comes from a marijuana business, regardless of whether you are a bank,” she says. Among the prohibitions are “knowingly engag[ing] in a monetary transaction in criminally derived property of value greater than $10,000.”

For more, read “Marijuana Businessman Denied Life Insurance.”

June 23, 2016

Professor Hamill Comments on Whether Donald Trump Has the Qualities Voters Seek in a President

Professor Susan Pace Hamill is quoted in Vanity Fair about whether Donald Trump has the qualities voters seek in a president. 

“The president has a duty of loyalty and care to the United States,” said Susan Pace Hamill, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law and Honors College and an expert in tax avoidance for small businesses. “He or she is a fiduciary to the public. Donald Trump is a deal-maker for himself. There is not a fiduciary bone in his body. This is generally acceptable in the rough-and-tumble world of business but is not remotely in the universe of what you want out of a public official.”

For more, read “The Great Trump Tax Mysteries: Is He Hiding Loopholes, Errors, or Something More Serious?”

June 23, 2016

Professor Vars Writes Poem to Explain Why There Is No Tort Recovery for Injuries

Professor Fredrick Vars offers this poem as a novel explanation for why there is no tort recovery for very unlikely injuries.

Fredrick E. Vars†
Tort law asks juries to ignore what they know
And give plaintiffs relief only if they show
That the defendant should have foreseen the harm
As likely enough to raise an alarm.1
At that we do poorly,2 especially so
When the chance of the harm is markedly low.
For here people err in a damaging way:
“Those small odds are bigger,” they typically say.3
These defects in reason, if left unchecked,
Could mean an award for every sore neck.
But tort law gives judges an unnoticed4 trump
To counter the bias as would a good ump.
No recovery lies for events too rare.5
It’s as if the injury just isn’t there.
With caution this doctrine should judges apply,
Though after this rhyme at least they’ll know why.6

Vars, Fredrick E., Ode to Adams v. Bullock: Cardozo Was a Behavioral Economist (2016). 19 Green Bag 2d 331 (2016); U of Alabama Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2796604. Available at SSRN:

June 22, 2016

Professor Rushin Weighs in on Collaborative Reform

Professor Stephen Rushin is quoted in The Philadelphia Inquirer about collaborative police reform. 

“Collaborative reform suggests at minimum that you have buy-in from the top executives within a department,” said Rushin, an assistant professor of law at the University of Alabama who has studied Justice Department investigations. “To change a big organization, you have to have buy-in … so they are already part of the way toward success.”

For more, read “U.S. Officials Hear from Chester Residents about Police.”

June 21, 2016

UA Law Student, Veteran Receives Tillman Scholarship

Dan Walters, a graduate student pursuing JD/MBA degrees at The University of Alabama, is one of 60 students nationwide selected as a 2016 Tillman Scholar.

Dan Walters_Tillman Scholar2Walters (’18) joined the U.S. Army when he was 18. While serving on active duty, his assignments included serving as an infantry platoon leader and a company commander to a unit of more than 200 soldiers. He also advised local Afghanistan figures of justice. Walters plans to stay in his hometown of Greensboro and use his degrees to practice law, advise new business owners and, perhaps, start his own business.

“I am honored to have been selected for such a prestigious scholarship,” Walters said. “It means a great deal to me to represent the legacy of Pat Tillman, a great American and a soldier who gave the ultimate sacrifice. And as always, I am proud to represent the University in my endeavors.”

The class of 2016 scholars will receive more than $1.8 million in academic scholarships.

The Pat Tillman Foundation provides scholarships to service members, veterans and military spouses who, according to the foundation’s website, “show extraordinary academic and leadership potential, a true sense of vocation, and a deep commitment to create positive change through their work in the fields of medicine, law, business, education and the arts.”

More than 400 scholarships have been awarded since the Tillman Scholars Program was founded in 2008.

The Pat Tillman Foundation was established in 2004 after Tillman’s death while serving with the 75th Ranger Regiment in Afghanistan.

June 20, 2016

Law School Announces The Business of Being a Lawyer Program

The University of Alabama School of Law is pleased to announce the Business of Being a Lawyer program.

The online video series addresses four topics: (1) economic trends in the legal profession and steps to adapt to the changes, (2) personal financial planning issues relevant to the lives of lawyers, (3) the science of emotional intelligence including managing stress, maintaining balance and building resilience in the practice of law, and (4) how to be an effective “free agent” in the legal profession of the future in light of the fact that the average lawyer changes jobs seven times in a career.

“BBL helps today’s lawyer develop the skills they are not likely to be taught in law school or necessarily develop in practice,’’ said Professor Pamela Bucy Pierson, who developed the program during the past four years working with over 200 practicing attorneys and dozens of law students. “To enjoy the practice of law and succeed in an ever-changing industry, lawyers need these skills.”

Engaging and practical, this online video series provides 14 individual programs relevant to every attorney, law student or CLE provider. Visit for more information or to register.

June 13, 2016

Professor Vars: What Prince’s Death Teaches Us About Wills and Estates

When Prince died without a will, lawyers and laypeople were stunned, wrote Professor Fredrick Vars in an op-ed for

“Did Prince really have no will? We cannot be sure, but concealing the existence of a will in Minnesota is harder than in most other states. These other states allow “holographic” wills.  A holographic will is handwritten and, critically, need not be witnessed. Next-of-kin would generally have an easier time disposing of an inconvenient holographic will. There would be no witnesses to cry foul.”

For more, read “What Prince’s Death Can Teach us About Will and Estates.”

May 20, 2016

Law School Ranks 14th Among Law Schools for Sending 2015 Graduates into Federal Clerkships

The University of Alabama School of Law is ranked 14th in the nation for sending the highest percentage of 2015 graduates into federal clerkships, according to The National Law Journal.

“Judicial clerkships are among the most coveted law jobs for many good reasons. To name just one, they give clerks a unique opportunity to learn about the legal process from the inside,” said Professor Fred Vars, Chair of Faculty Committee on Clerkships. “At Alabama Law, we offer individualized counseling for every clerkship applicant and connect applicants to our ever-growing network of alumni who have clerked.”

Each year, the work of the Faculty Committee on Clerkships and the Career Services Office helps produce a consistently large percentage of Alabama Law graduates who begin their legal careers with one of these coveted positions.

Using American Bar Association employment data, the magazine listed the 50 law schools with the highest percentage of new graduates in law jobs, as well as the schools with the highest unemployment and underemployment rates. It also analyzed data provided by law schools to the ABA to determine the law schools that sent the most graduates into federal and state clerkships, large firms, government positions and public interest law jobs.

For more, read:  “Law Students Secure Federal, State Clerkships” and  “Law Grad Employment Rates Up, But Class Size Is Smaller.”

May 12, 2016

Law School and ABA Journal Announce Finalists for 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction

Allegiance_HiRes_RGB  Pleasantville  tom and lucky jacket

The University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal are pleased to announce the finalists for the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. The three books chosen to compete for the prize are: “Allegiance” by Kermit Roosevelt, “Pleasantville” by Attica Locke and “Tom & Lucky and George & Cokey Flo” by C. Joseph Greaves.

The prize, authorized by the late Ms. Lee, is given annually to a book-length work of fiction that best illuminates the role of lawyers in society and their power to effect change.

Six years ago, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, and to honor former Alabama law student and author Harper Lee, The University of Alabama School of Law and the ABA Journal partnered to create The Harper Lee P
rize for Legal Fiction.

There were 24 entries for the Prize, and a team of reviewers chose three books for the Selection Committee’s consideration. The public is invited to cast its votes on the ABA Journal website [www.] to help determine who the winning author will be.
The public will act as the sixth judge, contributing a vote equal in weight to the selection committee members. To vote, visit:

Voting is open until July 11.

The 2016 prize will be awarded in Washington, D.C. Sept. 22 at the Library of Congress, in conjunction with the National Book Festival. The winner will be announced prior to the ceremony and will receive a copy of  “To Kill a Mockingbird” signed by Harper Lee.

A distinguished panel of writers will select the 2016 Harper Lee Prize for Legal Fiction. They are: Philip Beidler, Author and Professor of English, University of Alabama; Helen Ellis, Author, American Housewife; Homer Hickam, Author, Rocket Boys; Rheta Grimsley Johnson, Author, Journalist and Syndicated Columnist; and Angela Johnson, Author, Wind Flyers and Heaven.