ALAJ Salutes...

Emily Hawk Raley


GADSDEN –Emily Hawk-Raley decided to go to law school after receiving some sage advice from her mother, a high school teacher. “She told me that ‘if you really wanted to make change, then you must know the law’,” Raley said. “and she was right. I wanted to be an advocate for people, I wanted to be able to help change peoples lives for the better,” she added.
During her 10 years of practicing law, Raley has had ample opportunity to help people with her first jury trial at age 24. She actually goes to court most days. She handles personal injury cases, represents children in child support cases, seeks justice for teachers, handles domestic cases that do not involve custody disputes, and the list goes on and on. Raley has also been invited to speak at several national conferences regarding trucking accident litigation.
Emily’s daily efforts are not been limited to the practice of law, but encompass a commitment to her community. Emily said it was instilled in her at an early age that those to whom much has been given much is required.
Her civic involvement is also geared toward helping children. She has worked with Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Mental Health America, Rose Haven Center for Domestic Violence, the Etowah County Untied Way, and the State of Alabama Youth and Government Board. She is a member of the Etowah County Chamber of Commerce.
She is a former chairperson of the local YMCA, an organization that she has been involved in for most of her life and one that also led her to practice law. She originally became interested in law when she participated in the YMCA Youth and Government Program; she worked summers at the main YMCA in Montgomery, worked at Camp Chandler, coordinated the National YMCA leadership conference, and has been on the board in Etowah County for eight years.
One of her contributions to the YMCA that Emily is most proud of is co-founding the Alabama Collegiate Legislature program. The program allows college students the opportunity to draft, present and debate model legislation and also participate in workshops on leadership, lobbying, and ethics. This hands-on learning experience provides for college students a better understanding of the legislative process in Alabama, and the elements necessary for effecting positive change through legislative procedure. Today the program has over 200 participants.
 “I grew up in the Y and it is very important to me; I wanted to give something back,” she said.
Raley grew up in Gadsden; her father was a steel worker.   She is the youngest of four children. There was one lawyer in her extended family, her cousin Greg Cusimano, who would eventually lure Raley back to Gadsden to practice with him.   “I had not planned to return to Gadsden to practice,” she said, “but after my clerkship with the Honorable Sue Bell Cobb, Greg and Mike Roberts offered me the opportunity, and I felt that the experience would be extremely valuable.” The decision to partner with Cusimano and Roberts has proved to be very wise, and the firm has been extremely successful.
Raley was encouraged to become active in ALAJ and AAJ as an educational opportunity. (Cusimano is a former president of the Alabama Trial Lawyers Association and is very involved in the national association.) ALAJ also gave her an opportunity to network and work with other lawyers. She regularly attends conferences and donates her time and energy to work with legislators regarding civil justice issues during the legislative sessions. She currently is a member of AAJ’s New Lawyers National Board of Governors.
Raley, who graduated from the University of Alabama in 1999, said she does not think being a female has had any adverse impact on her career. “Growing up with three older brothers never really made gender an issue for me,” she said. However, she added being a petite, vivacious female who looks far younger than her 35 years has prompted some interesting comments. “I remember being in Court in Blount County and the other lawyer telling the judge that I looked all cute and sweet but when I opened my mouth, I was a little bulldog,” Raley said laughingly. It was that bulldog instinct that guided Raley through one of her favorite cases.
“I was representing a school teacher in a wreck caused by two other vehicles colliding,” she said. “My client’s father had recently passed away, so it was a difficult time for her. We agreed to settle for a certain sum so we could have her car repaired. The two insurance companies then refused to evenly divide the sum agreed upon, so the settlement did not go through. I was furious, so we went to court, we received a good verdict but what my client said to me after the trial is what really mattered most. After thanking me for fighting for her, she told me that I had given back her dignity.
These are just a few reasons Emily Hawk Raley is our Champion of Justice. Congratulations!
Raley is a partner in the law firm of Cusimano, Keener, Roberts, Knowles & Raley, LLC in Gadsden, Alabama. She is married to Jason Raley.
For all that she does to give dignity back to others, both inside and outside the courtroom, Raley is our Champion of Justice.