ALAJ Salutes...

Wesley Laird

 OPP ---Wesley Laird knew why he chose to be a lawyer on Christmas Day when he received a text message from a 26-year-old woman who was born deaf and recently paralyzed in a construction accident.

"It really just moved me that she would send me a text message wishing me a Merry Christmas," Laird said. "It is by far the most rewarding case that I am working on now.  It makes me proud to be a lawyer."

Laird's passion is helping people, whether it is a deaf woman who can no longer walk or a local businessman who could not get a loan to build a motel in southeast Alabama.

He has an eclectic background and professional career, and, by most standards could easily be dubbed a renaissance man. When he was growing up in Florala, a small town in rural Covington County, he chose to play the piano, rather than play football. He is the first person in has family to graduate from college, and the only lawyer. He is a partner in a music production company that has been successful in Europe and in the states. When he saw businesses leaving Covington County, he was instrumental in starting a local bank. Currently, he is spearheading several economic development projects in the Wiregrass.

Laird's musical talent was inherited from his mother, Anelia Laird's side of the family. She played the piano and his great grandfather taught sacred harp singing. Surprisingly, Laird said his classmates did not make fun of him for playing the piano.

"A lot of them thought they could sing and they wanted me to play, so I became back up for them," Laird said.

He later started playing the guitar, writing songs and invested in an independent record label. Laird's partner in the record company is none other than Lamar Morris, who led Hank Williams Jr.'s band for two decades.

Laird got his undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Alabama, and then spent a year working in former Lt. Gov. George McMillian's unsuccessful gubernatorial campaign.

"I had hoped to come to Montgomery to work but my backup was always to come back home and practice law," Laird said.

He hung out his shingle in Opp and during the first few years he did a lot of criminal defense work, domestic and bankruptcy work and had a very general practice because "when you are just starting out you have to make a living."

After about five years he began taking some civil cases and added partners to cover the bulk of the criminal and general work. His current firm, Laird, Baker and Blackstock, is one the largest and most respected in Covington County.

Laird briefly tried his own hand at politics, making two unsuccessful runs for the state Senate but now takes a more behind-the-scenes role, but is the go-to man in Covington County when the Alabama Association for Justice needs help.

The 45-year-old's desire to help people led him to one of the most "stressful times" in his professional life.

Laird said businesses were either leaving the area, closing, or failing to come to Covington County because existing banks would not loan them money. He and three other men talked about it and decided to just open a new bank. Thus was born the Southern Independent Bank.

"We were seeing a lot of county businesses drying up," he said. "Because of all of the consolidations we had a lot of big banks that a lot of our local money was being deposited in but it was being loaned out in other places.

"There was just an unwillingness to invest back in the county," he said. "One example is someone wanted to open a motel and the banks were not interested.

"It had nothing to do with the credit of the people who wanted to build the motel, it was just unwillingness to loan money for a motel in our community," he said.

After joining with 11 other local businessmen, it took about 18 months to get the bank charter, Laird said. Part of the organizational plan included a provision requiring the bank to prioritize loans for people and businesses in Covington County and the surrounding counties, making it what Laird describes as a "true community bank."

Laird, whose undergraduate degree is in economics, currently is working to bring more and better jobs to the area.

He serves on the South Alabama Regional Airport Board of Directors and has traveled to Korea twice to recruit industry, he has worked with a firm that is building a biofuel refinery in the county, helped recruit a company that builds housing for GE Wind generators, and was part of the team that brought the famed Rattlesnake Rodeo back to Opp.

 

According to Laird, there's not a lot of difference between small business people and Plaintiff lawyers.  "We are fighting the big corporations.  They are fighting the Wal-Marts of the world.  We're all fighting the big insurance companies.  It's important for our members to be involved in their communities so people realize that."

When he is not practicing law, serving on the board of the bank and the airport, recruiting industry, and making records, Laird enjoys songwriting and playing the guitar, spending time with his wife, Deidra, and two daughters Laken and Leah, assisting ALAJ financially and politically, and supporting the University of Alabama. His personal email address is bamalaw1@yahoo.com, if that tells you anything.

Because he has devoted his life to helping people in a myriad of ways, Wesley Laird is our "Champion of Justice."