MTLA Awards Criteria
MTLA Trial Lawyer of the Year. The trial lawyer who, in the preceding year (June 1 through May 31), has exemplified and put into practice the philosophy of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association through his or her representation of victims and consumers in a judicial or administrative forum. Nominees will be judged according to:
1. Results achieved given the nature and circumstances of the cases tried. Results may include jury verdicts and bench trial decisions in the civil justice system. The best advocacy skills may be shown by a large verdict, a relatively modest verdict in a difficult case or one with minor injuries, or a decision with significant systemic impact or vindicating an important right. Indeed, even a loss in an extremely novel or difficult case may be considered when excellent advocacy for the victim was displayed. Good results are, however, generally considered an indication of good work.
2. The number of cases a nominee has tried during the course of the preceding year in relation to the results. Sheer number of trials alone does not qualify one to win. However, a person who has been in the courtroom or administrative forum practicing our trade with some frequency should be given more consideration than someone who has not. The length and complexity of the cases tried should also be kept in mind when judging this criteria.
3. When no one nominee stands out in a given year, the past performance of all nominees may be considered. The award honors a trial lawyer of the year; however, in cases where the selection committee believes that two or more nominees are equally qualified for the award, then past performance in meeting criteria may be considered.
MTLA Appellate Advocacy Award. This award goes to the trial lawyer who, in the preceding year (June 1 through May 31), has exemplified and put into practice the philosophy of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association through outstanding appellate advocacy that advances and protects the rights of Montanans in the civil justice system.
MTLA Al Smith Public Service Award. This award goes to the person or organization that has, in the preceding year, distinguished him/her/itself in providing service to the people of Montana in the arena of consumer and victim rights without regard for compensation. The criteria for this award is necessarily broad. The selection committee may consider a wide range of public service, e.g., volunteer work, pro bono representation, legislative efforts, and service in the public sector. While it is not necessary for the recipient to perform the service without pay, those who give of their time for little or no compensation deserve special consideration. This award should go to the person or group whose efforts have best promoted the philosophy of the Montana Trial Lawyers Association in ways other than those relevant to other MTLA awards.
MTLA Career Achievement Award. This award honors Montana trial lawyers who, no matter how active their current practice, have made enduring contributions to the citizens of Montana and the practice of law. Criteria for this award are similar to those for the Trial Lawyer of the Year, but recipients have demonstrated those superior and consistent advocacy skills throughout a long career.
MTLA Citizens Award. This award honors the victims and consumers whom Montana trial lawyers represent. Recipients have demonstrated selflessness, integrity, bravery, or remarkable character in vindicating the rights of all Montanans to protection from wrongful injury, compensation according to fault, honesty and accountability in government.
MTLA Outstanding New Lawyer Award. Each year at its annual convention, the MTLA may recognize a member or members with the MTLA Outstanding New Lawyer Award. To be eligible, the recipient(s) must be an MTLA member who has practiced law for less than seven years. The recipient(s) shall be selected by a majority vote of the MTLA's Board of Directors. Nominations for this award shall be accepted from MTLA members. The MTLA Board will select the award recipient(s) based on the following criteria:
1. Professional excellence in trial practice;
2. Service to MTLA;
3. Service to the community;
4. Authorship of law-related articles or MTLA CLE presentations; and/or
5. The advancement of legal ethics and professionalism.
While all criteria shall be considered, an outstanding performance in or contribution to one of the above criteria is sufficient to bestow the award. The award recipient(s) shall also be invited to become an ex officio member(s) of MTLA's Board of Directors for one year.