The Role of Our Non-Profit

by Jennifer L. Dailey

Whenever people ask what I do for a living, I generally tell them that I work for a non-profit.  “Oh?” they say with interest, “What non-profit?”

“A membership organization for attorneys,” I reply.  The inevitable pause is followed by the query as to why a group of attorneys needs its own non-profit organization.  Depending on my audience and my relative level of engagement in the conversation, I generally elaborate on any of a number of aspects of working at the Utah Association for Justice:  legal education, legislative advocacy, office management, marketing and public relations, etc.  As in any non-profit organization, we all wear many hats.  Some are fun all of the time, others are fun some of the time.  Others . . . , well, we all have to push a drink cart from time to time, I suppose.  Regardless of the task, though, the reason that I love my work at the UAJ requires a much longer conversation.

I have long desired a career in non-profits, and it is for that reason that I aggressively pursued employment with the UAJ in 2010 and also completed my MBA.  There is a wonderful formula, I think, in the combination of traditional business efficiency, non-profit motivation, and the legal community.  I believe that the UAJ works to accomplish very lofty, worthwhile tasks, and it is with pleasure and pride that I feel fortunate enough to be a part of it.  Membership benefits are generally viewed as access to the expertise of peers via the ListServ, but the overarching existence of the association encompasses so much more.  This lends to the fact that explaining my job to people is rather complicated.  “Where do I start?” I think to myself.  How do I explain it effectively and efficiently while still communicating the importance and scope of what we do?

We act as the gatekeepers to ensure that bad laws restricting people’s rights are challenged.  You labor intensively to insist that wrong doers are held accountable in a fair, equitable manner.  And UAJ attorneys insist daily that members of our community are not marginalized by a society that tends to favor those with power and money.

How’s that for concise?  While this explanation hits on some of the highlights, it by no means describes the whole picture.  Nor does it even begin to elaborate on how challenging these goals can be to achieve, or address the complexity of the barriers that exist in efforts to achieve justice and accountability.  Bridging the gap between talking points about the UAJ and an in-depth conversation about our mission generally requires discussion about the more sensitive topics that don’t generally come up in small talk; things like personal values, morals, and politics.  Regardless, I often feel compelled to take advantage of opportunities to push the boundaries of cocktail-party-conversation-propriety in the interest of offering an opinion and perspective that people aren’t generally exposed to.

Professionally, when I work with members of our community, UAJ goals are my goals, UAJ opinions are my opinions, and UAJ viewpoints are my viewpoints.  Luckily for me, the goals, opinions and viewpoints of the UAJ happen to fall closely in line with my own.  So when, as the Executive Director for the Utah Association for Justice, I speak passionately to people about patient rights, consumer protection, access to courts, and more, I can do so from the heart and with conviction.  As I begin my tenure in my new position as Executive Director, I would like to thank you for the opportunity to lead this complex and nuanced organization as we all work together to pursue justice and accountability in our community.  I will continue to work on explaining my job with clarity and with the conviction that I sincerely feel.

Maybe in my next life I will make things simpler and just become a lawyer.

Reprinted with permission from The Utah Trial Journal, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Summer, 2012)

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SB 150 “Negligent Credentialing”: Why We (Still) Care

It was with a sigh of relief for many of us that the 2011 Legislative Session came to an end just a few weeks ago. (Some battles –like a certain HB 477–  continued on longer, of course). Here at the Utah Association for Justice, we feel as though we had some victories but also encountered some surprisingly tough challenges, namely SB150 – Negligent Credentialing. Some of us may have assumed that every Utahn would want as much protection as possible against the chance of receiving medical care from a pedophile, sex offender or drug addict. We guess we were wrong…this disturbing notion doesn’t actually seem to bother the majority (that is, our many legislators who voted in favor of the bill). (For more information about SB 150, scroll below.)

The Utah Association for Justice is an organization with a double mission. While first and foremost we are a membership-based organization for plaintiffs’ attorneys, we also strive to protect Utah families from injustice. Our members may appear on billboards and TV ads, but they are also the people that fight tirelessly for the rights of “the little people” and hold the 7th Amendment (the right to trial by jury in civil cases) very close to their hearts, and not just for the sake of their wallets.

In the political sphere, it is easy for us to be labeled as self-serving, just as any interest group might be. But the fact needs to remain that our interests are both for our organization’s members AND for Utah’s citizens. We are not an anti-hospital organization; that would be ridiculous, as we all count on hospitals for our wellness a much as anyone. But we are pro-accountability. Hospitals, like all businesses, need to be accountable for their actions. The welfare of Utah families is not something we take lightly at the UAJ.

With this in mind, we were pleased this past Monday to find a well-rounded article in the Salt Lake Tribune on the topic of SB 150, a final plea for attention. If you haven’t already done so, check out the article here:  http://www.sltrib.com/sltrib/home/51510891-76/hospitals-utah-malpractice-bill.html.csp

This morning’s news reported that Governor Herbert signed SB 150, despite this last-minute attention to the issue. However, the bill is still worth mentioning here because these sorts of issues come up again and again, and while it may be “over” for now, the concerns of Utah’s citizens are never at rest. UAJ constantly has a watchful eye on our state’s legislative affairs, and will diligently continue to do so — for our 400 members, and for Utah.

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IMPORTANT: PLEASE NOTE…

Fine print:

This blog is just that, a blog. It is meant to be an editorial space for issues and news relevant to our organization. Views expressed here are NOT necessarily the views of all of our members or staff. This blog is a forum for thought and expression on topics related to justice and accountability. You do not have to agree with all that is said here. As trial attorneys know, healthy debate can be a fun and meaningful process. We welcome you to share your thoughts, too, in a polite and cooperative manner.

Thank you,

UAJ Bloggers

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Welcome to UAJ’s Little Corner of the Blogosphere!

Introducing the Utah Association for Justice blog! Welcome. Be sure to visit regularly to stay up to speed on current justice and legal news, UAJ happenings, and announcements.

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