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On Saturday, Arkansas attorney and InjuryBoard Blogger, Frank Bailey was named the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association Outstanding Trial Lawyer of the Year.

This is the most prestigious award given by the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association.

Many trial lawyers covet this distinction, and work their whole lives for it, but few attain the honor. Frank Bailey embodies all that we as trial lawyers should strive to be; he is compassionate, generous, hard-working, and skilled.

Speaking personally, Frank Bailey has been a mentor and a friend to me. If our greatest calling is to teach others, Frank has paid his debt in full. In a time when lawyers who fight for those who can’t fight for themselves are being villainized, Frank Bailey is a shining example of what a trial lawyer really is… a voice for those who can’t speak for themselves.

Janelle House of the Baxter Bulletin captured the essence of Frank’s story. I share excerpts of this story below (with her permission) in the hopes that his story will inspire you as much as his example inspires me.

Janelle House, Baxter Bulletin Managing Editor

Since opening a tiny law office on the Mountain Home square more than 30 years ago, until he built his current office, Bailey has been advocating for those who have suffered serious — often fatal — injuries through others’ wrongdoing.

"Mr. Bailey is a shining example for our colleagues," said ATLA president Paul Byrd.

Bailey says working on the farm in his youth taught him a lot about farm life and country life. And attending band camp at Fayetteville sold him on attending University of Arkansas.

Once at U of A, he roomed with law students and was determined to follow them into law school. But those studies were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army and eventually shipped to Vietnam in 1970. Ultimately assigned to the 101st Airborne Division, he landed at Camp Eagle — where he could see North Vietnam from his post.

Surviving the war, he returned home, finished law school, and backpacked around Europe before opening his law office in Mountain Home in 1974.

From a tiny office inside a space that Nature’s Way health food store now occupies, he opened his practice.

He recalls those days when his secretary used an electric typewriter and carbon paper to draft pleadings. If multiple copies were required, they used the copy machine at a nearby real estate office.

When he was able to earn $5,000 in settlement money for his clients in his first medical malpractice case, he found his calling. Since then, Bailey has gone after defendants as large as Ford Motor Company to keep the rights of those who have been hurt intact.

In that case, he represented a little girl who became a paraplegic after the car in which she was riding crashed head-on into another car. He discovered the thin metal strip that keeps the trunk contents from slamming into passengers in front-end crashes — which he described as flimsy as a shower rod — failed.

Ford paid substantial damages in the case.

But Bailey isn’t completely satisfied with the results. He says recent tort reform in the state has changed joint and several liability, which means Ford was let off the hook from paying the entire tab. Instead, the other driver was found to be primarily at fault, but his paltry insurance coverage couldn’t begin to pay the damage it was assessed.

For Sach Oliver, who joined Bailey & Oliver Law Firm two years ago, Bailey is a mentor and a friend.

"More than a law partner — he’s my mentor," Oliver said. "He’s taught me everything that I know.

"Frank is constantly learning," Oliver said. "(He) goes to his clients’ homes to get to know their families. He tries to place himself in their shoes to learn what they’re going through. That motivates him to do the best job he possibly can for them in their time of need.

"The whole premise behind what he does is upholding the constitution to insure injured people receive due process and proper compensation," Oliver said. "He’s dedicated his life to this cause."

Indeed, Bailey says his most rewarding case was getting compensation awarded to a 4-year-old boy from Little Rock whose mother took him to their doctor four times complaining of a high fever. With little treatment other than mild antibiotics and reassurance that he would be fine, the boy’s bacterial meningitis went untreated and he suffered severe brain damage.

"The next day he went into convulsions," Bailey said. "When he got to the hospital, you could see from the CTs of his brain that a quarter of it was gone.

"He was a beautiful child."

Bailey’s hard work paid off for that family.

"We were able to get a substantial settlement," Bailey said. "Now his parents are able to do things like buy a new house: not a fancy house, but one that’s all on one level. He couldn’t climb the 15 steps to the front door.

"The sad thing is, he had so much potential," Bailey said, visibly moved by the memory. "He’s a super kid."

"What people don’t realize about him," said Barney Larry, who has known Bailey for more than 30 years, "he’s a very tough lawyer in the courtroom, but he has a very soft heart. And, he really cares about doing the right thing."

Oliver says that’s what makes Bailey a superb advocate for his clients.

"His main talent is to be humble and confident in the same stroke," Oliver said.

Bailey also has a passion for community service. He has served as president of Mountain Home Rotary and currently serves as president of Mountain Home Area Chamber of Commerce. He’s also a member of Baxter Regional Hospital Foundation Advisory Board.

Gov. Mike Huckabee named him to serve as a special associate justice to the Arkansas Supreme Court three times. He is board-certified as a civil trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy and is a diplomate of the National College of Advocacy. The MidSouth edition of Super Lawyers listed Bailey in the field of personal injury. Martindale-Hubbell, widely considered the most authoritative resource on the legal profession for more than 100 years, rates Bailey "AV," its highest rating. He’s also been selected to be included in the 2008 and 2009 editions of Best Lawyers.

Bailey is married to Pat Bailey, vice chancellor at Arkansas State University Mountain Home, and son Frank is studying at Fayetteville to be a baker.

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