ALAJ Salutes...

Chuck James

"I didn't attend law school to be a lawyer, I wanted to go into politics or become a sports agent," Chuck James, April's ALAJ Champion of Justice, said.

Luckily for his many injured clients seeking justice, neither of those two career paths led anywhere.  After getting burnt out on politics, James found that being a sports agent didn't agree with his philosophy on life.

"That's a cutthroat business," James said.  "I'm an honest guy with down home values - it just didn't fit - plus, representing athletes is like having a 22 year-old, 280-pound infant because they expect you to take care of their every need."

Those values - "country boy values" as the Mobile-born James calls them, the kind where a handshake between two people is a bond - are what led him to begin practicing plaintiff's law.  Injured people need recourse for their injuries, James says, as the people that come into his office at Thomas, Means, Gillis and Seay hope to get, and his training and values help him help his clients in their quest.

"I'm not a minister, I can't offer people salvation; I'm not a doctor that can heal the sick and nurse them back to health," James said, "so I try to help individuals wronged by the negligence of others with my legal background."

But it wasn't just his beliefs that made James want to practice law; it was his Uncle Frank, whom James says was a man of great decorum and professionalism.  James' Uncle Frank served during Vietnam, where he fulfilled two tours of duty. After returning home, James' Uncle Frank went to law school, became an attorney and was the first African American to obtain a judicial clerkship with a federal judge in Alabama, working for Judge Virgil Pittman in the United States Southern District. Frank James is currently a partner at a large defense firm in Birmingham.

James says when he was young he wasn't sure what it was his uncle did but he admired him.  His demeanor and the way he carried himself made James want to emulate Uncle Frank.

"He made the idea of being an attorney tangible," James said.  "Otherwise, growing up in Mobile I didn't get to see many black professionals, much less attorneys.  Whether it was intentional or not, he served as a great role model and I owe him a lot."

James credits the lawyers at Moore & Wolfe in Mobile for guiding him towards a career as a plaintiff's attorney. 

"I clerked down there the summer of my second year in law school, and those guys took me under their wing and showed me the practical side of the legal profession," James said. "I remember being in awe of how well they were respected by the judges and defense bar.  In addition, I saw that they actually cared about their clients and were passionate in their work. That made quite an impression on me and I try to uphold those standards in my practice today."

James jovial nature shows itself in his good humor and constant smile.  He says he tries to keep things upbeat and shine a positive light on all situations.  His demeanor is surely appreciated by his clients as he seeks to help them get their lives as back to normal as possible.

"I tell them I can never erase any of their pain but I will help them have their day in court and hope to have a positive outcome for them," James said. 

In representing his clients in their cases, like so many other trial lawyers across the state, the many depositions and nights spent working late tend to wear on James from time to time.  When that happens, he looks to his wife, Lloria, who is also an attorney and the prosecutor for child abuse and sex crimes for the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, for guidance.

"Hearing what she has to deal with in her work at the end of day makes my ordeals dealing with uncooperative insurance adjusters and Birmingham defense lawyers seem trivial," James said.   "She keeps me grounded in my faith and helps me to be grateful for the little things that life gives you."

James' wife is not only a great source of strength for him, she is also the reason he moved to Montgomery.  Though the two met while James was attending the University of Alabama, it wasn't until a few years later, when the two happened to see each other again at the same church, that James asked Lloria out on a date.

"I took her out to dinner and the rest is history," James said.

Before they tied the knot, however, James said he had to ask his potential future in-laws for Lloria's hand in marriage because it was the right thing to do. 

"Asking her father was the most intimidating part; my mother in law she was a pretty easy sell," James said, smiling. 

In his spare time, James said he likes to deep sea fish.  He and Lloria attend church every Sunday and enjoy traveling to see family and friends around the state.  

In seeking justice for his clients' physical and mental injuries, James says he tries to take their burdens and make them his own.  After all his clients have been through, they appreciate him coming in and taking care of them, James says.

"After the case is successfully resolved and all of the smoke clears, I want to put that check in their hand and look in their eyes and say 'I know it won't make your life perfect again but hopefully this will help in some little way,'" James said. 

While he may not have gone to law school expressly to practice law, his clients are certainly glad he chose the career he did.  Success in work and living a good life reflects positively on someone's parents James says, which is what he set out to do long ago. 

"My parents, Charles and Bernadette James, have always been my biggest inspiration and I wanted to show them that their sacrifices were not in vain and that all their love and support was worth it. They always stressed the importance of hard work, education and discipline. After all they've done for us, the last thing my younger sister, Chardette, and I ever wanted to do in life was disappoint them," James said.

With a son who is an attorney and a daughter who is a junior cadet at the United States Military Academy at West Point, the life lessons taught by Mr. and Mrs. James seem to have made an indelible impression upon their two children.  

For all that he does in the fight for justice, clients' rights and that infectious smile, Chuck James is our Champion of Justice.