It would be an understatement to say that law firm marketing has undergone a revolution over the past decade. In this day of nonstop ads shouting at consumers from television, billboards, and the internet, Huntsville’s Siniard Timberlake & League has always taken a different approach.
Founder and senior partner Tommy Siniard likes to differentiate his personal injury firm from the TV and billboard barkers. “What we really want to emphasize is our longevity, steadfastness and recognition for competency and ethics. We are proud of the longevity the three of us have. Michael Timberlake, Will League, and I have been together more than 20 years now.”
As the visionary, Siniard provides the guidance and direction to keep the firm on track and profitable.
The Firm Origins
Opening Siniard Law Firm in 1991, Siniard operated as a solo practitioner for more than a decade before attracting Michael Timberlake and Will League. The two younger partners were drawn to Siniard’s small but rapidly growing practice before they finished law school.
Leaning back in his chair, Siniard tells me about a call he got years ago from Kenan Timberlake, a longtime Huntsville attorney and Michael’s father. “Kenan called me up to tell me that Michael was graduating from law school and that he’s really smart. He said, ‘I’d like him to work with me, but I think he’d be better off working with you.’ Given Kenan Timberlake’s reputation, that was very complimentary.”
Timberlake joined the firm in 1996 after his graduation from Cumberland School of Law and a clerkship under Judge Bill Robertson of the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals. Today, he is the firm’s managing partner.
League attended Birmingham Southern College on a soccer scholarship, and like many young men, had dreams of playing professional ball. About the time he realized this was unlikely, his father was murdered by a treating physician in a Florida emergency room, drastically changing League’s life path and mission. He reached out to Siniard for legal help during this family crisis.
“The way he helped my family to maneuver through this devastating time gave me the desire to go to law school and stand up for the little man against powerful organizations,” League says.
While in law school, League clerked for Circuit Court Judge William Gordon and the District Attorney’s Office, amassing experience in the civil and criminal justice systems. Following law school, he teamed with Siniard and Timberlake, where he has won numerous jury trials over the years.
“After working as a personal injury attorney for more than two decades, I realized that my idealistic youthful notions were misaligned with the way big business and insurance companies really work,” League says. “Often the law favors the powerful, something I began to realize only after many years of experience. In our practice, we take on the powerful insurance companies, despite unfavorable laws that often work against our clients.”
The three worked together and grew the firm dramatically over the next 15 years. Expanding the number of attorneys has allowed for continued growth, but the partners are quick to recognize the outstanding work performed by their support staff, some of whom have been with the firm for more than a decade.
“They all work very hard to help us provide the best service that we can to our clients,” says Timberlake.
Willing to Go to Trial
Siniard Timberlake & League focuses on all types of personal injury litigation, and while the attorneys recognize that fair and reasonable settlements can sometimes be the right solution for a client, they do not hesitate to go to court – in fact, they relish it
Their willingness to go court has paid off for their clients. Siniard rattles off a string of wins that include a $9.7 million dialysis case, a $6.7 million medical malpractice case, a $4.5 million car accident case, a $6.35 million industrial accident case, and a $3.75 million medication error case. Over the years, the firm has won more than $150 million in client judgments and settlements.
The firm’s location in Huntsville, a leading technology center of the southeast, affects the character and composition of their client base, which can include scientists and engineers at NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center or high-ranking officials at the many federal agencies that call Redstone Arsenal home. Timberlake says the firm has learned to be sensitive to their special requirements.
“We live and practice in a very high-tech community. We must to be able to explain to clients of all backgrounds the rationale behind what we are doing. These are very highly educated people, and they want to know our strategy and our reasoning as we work through a case.”
An unusual – and high profile – case involved a well-known member of Wernher Von Braun’s rocket team, the legendary German scientist who led the U.S. space program in the 1960s and early ’70s. This man was undergoing dialysis when severe complications developed. He soon died, and his widow retained Siniard Timberlake & League to bring a suit against the dialysis clinic.
League handled the case and after numerous depositions in many parts of the country, he discovered that the dialysis unit used to cleanse the elderly scientist’s blood had been improperly cleaned. An acetic acid and hydrogen peroxide cleaning solution that remained in the machine had been inadvertently injected into his body.
“This injection resulted in hemolysis – the rupture of red blood cells – causing this gentleman’s death,” League says. “Once the defense realized this mistake could not be covered up, they resolved the case for his widow for an amount in excess of $1 million.”
All About the Show
The partners work hard to maintain their unique image and style in the growing Huntsville legal landscape. That includes television, but in a different way than used by other firms. Thousands of Tennessee Valley residents are familiar with the firm through their Sunday night, “Law Call” program on local ABC affiliate WAAY-TV. Now in its 22nd year, the laidback format features Siniard, Timberlake or League, often accompanied by guest attorneys from other areas of legal practice, answering call-in questions from viewers on many law topics.
Sharon Doviet, a practicing family law attorney and award-winning broadcaster, is the host of the public interest show.
“Our ‘Law Call’ program is the longest- running local program on Channel 31. It’s a free legal service to the community, and we have become well-known as a result,” says Siniard. “People will come up to me at service stations or other places and ask me something of a legal nature. You have to respond to them and be approachable.”
But the efforts do not stop there. The partners feel an obligation to serve Huntsville and the Tennessee Valley, and that drives them to focus on their clients’ needs in a way few other personal injury firms do.
“We will do the best thing for our clients, and unfortunately not all lawyers operate that way,” Timberlake says. “We have a singular mindset that focuses on client service. We make sure we spend the extra time to be sure we all do the right thing for our clients, and we treat all of our clients as we would want to be treated in a difficult time.”
Even the size of the firm helps leverage its ability to service their clients – large enough to handle any case that comes their way, but small enough to avoid being unwieldy.
“I know it’s a hackneyed phrase, but we all function like a family here,” says Timberlake. “Each of us knows how the others think and what type of approach they are likely to take to a case. It’s almost like we read each other’s minds. We work as a team. While we each have our own cases to work on, we collaborate closely on larger cases.”
Reputation. Service. Dedication. Qualities honed over more than two decades of practice have defined the firm and led to many awards. And while the firm is proud of its legal accolades, Siniard is perhaps proudest of being awarded the 2014 Pro Bono award by the Alabama State Bar Association and the Torch Award for Ethics by the Better Business Bureau of North Alabama in 2017 in the Small Business category.
“Given that many businesses from across the Tennessee Valley area were nominated, we were just floored to get this kind of recognition,” League says.
Siniard, son of a factory worker in Gadsden, Alabama, is proud that the firm has consistently continued to represent men and women who are hurt on the job. Although Alabama law does not provide for significant benefits for injured workers, Siniard still enjoys helping workers obtain the best resolution possible.
Julia Aquila joined the firm in October 2012, with her practice solely focused on workers’ compensation claims. A Huntsville native, Aquila earned her law degree from the University of Alabama School of Law where she was a member of the Alabama Law Review and the Order of the Coif. She has been practicing law for more than 20 years and currently serves as an officer of the workers’ compensation section of the Alabama State Bar Association.
“Her practice consists of helping injured workers that are in desperate need of legal help,” says League. “
Depth With the Next Generation
The firm has seen potential in its four younger partners and associates – Chris Wooten, Heath Brooks, Bart Siniard and William Messervy. “Chris and William were both former runners for us,” Siniard says. “We liked their personalities and saw potential in them, so we encouraged them to go to law school and they joined the firm after graduation.”
A Huntsville native, Chris Wooten earned his law degree from Cumberland School of Law in 2008, where he served as chief judge of the Cumberland Trial Advocacy Board. He has been admitted to The Order of Barristers for exhibiting excellence in the art of courtroom advocacy. Wooten is an active part of the firm’s trial and appellate practice.
Heath Brooks earned degrees in anthropology and archeology from the University of Georgia before he obtained his law degree from Cumberland School of Law in 2008. While there, he also earned a master’s degree in environmental science. While at Cumberland, Brooks served on Cumberland’s National Trial Team and was Student Materials Editor of the American Journal of Trial Advocacy.
“His broad educational background and inquisitive nature make him uniquely qualified,” says League.
William Messervy got his first taste of the legal field while working as a runner for the firm. Encouraged by the partners, he enrolled at the Alabama School of Law, graduating in 2011.
“I enjoyed the fast pace, that no two days were the same, the intellectual challenge, and advocating on behalf of people who often could not advocate for themselves,” Messervy says.
The youngest addition to the team, Bart Siniard has already proven himself as a solid, seasoned attorney.
“Bart is very wise for his years in practice,” Timberlake says. “He has a natural sense to know how to approach and resolve complex problems. In less than five years of practice, he has secured a favorable verdict in federal district court, multiple verdicts in Alabama state courts, and obtained a unanimous decision for his client by the Supreme Court of Alabama, in all of which he was acting as lead counsel.”
“We’ve always had a family feel. With Bart’s addition to the firm, we know that family tradition will continue,” League says.