By Caroline C. Lewis
On April 29, 2011, Brad Hendricks was honored with the Arkansas Trial Lawyers Association’s Henry Woods Lifetime Achievement Award, which was presented to Mr. Hendricks during a ceremony at the association’s annual convention.
Named for the Honorable Henry Woods (March 17, 1918 – March 14, 2002), who served as a United States District Court Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas from 1980 until his death in 2002, and who remains a symbol of exemplary trial advocacy, the award is given to the member who has dedicated his or her professional career to upholding the ideals of ATLA through helping injured victims, consumers, and those who otherwise lack the ability to protect their own rights. Additionally, recipients must have made significant contributions to the advancement of the legal profession and the improvement of Arkansas through teaching, public service, charitable giving, or other service.
Brad Hendricks was selected as this year’s recipient of the Henry Woods Lifetime Achievement Award for his extensive service to ATLA and dedication in his career to the ideals of ATLA, as well as for his support and guidance with respect to ATLA’s legislative efforts and what outgoing ATLA President Tré Kitchens referred to as a “lifetime of commitment to the pursuit of justice for average citizens against some of the richest and most powerful corporations in the world.”
The foundation for Mr. Hendricks’ success within the legal community was attributed, in part, to the positive influence of his father, the late-Judge Lowber Hendricks, who was also highly regarded and respected throughout the State of Arkansas. After graduating cum laude from Arizona State University, Mr. Hendricks obtained his law degree from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Law. After graduation, Mr. Hendricks went to work for the Arkansas Department of Correction as the compliance attorney charged with bringing the Arkansas penal system into compliance with federal constitutional standards that had been identified by the United States Supreme Court.
Assuming a position created specifically for this purpose through the Governor’s Emergency Fund, Mr. Hendricks worked tirelessly to reform a system that was singled out from other prison systems across the country for its failures to protect even the most essential rights of its inmates. Addressing issues such as brutality, racism, discipline, security, staffing, medical treatment and many others, his efforts were successful when Arkansas’ prison system was the first in the country to be released from supervision by the federal judiciary. As a result, Mr. Hendricks was named the 1982 Arkansas Department of Correction “Employee of the Year.” This path, President Kitchens noted, was not the typical path taken by most young attorneys; however, it serves as an example of the less travelled path Mr. Hendricks chose as he rose in prominence in the legal community. Mr. Hendricks also served as the assistant warden of the prison at Wrightsville, Arkansas.
“Heeding the call” of the legal profession, President Kitchens continued, Mr. Hendricks was recruited out of corrections work and joined The Haskins Firm, a multi-state law firm with offices in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Little Rock and St. Louis. At one point, Mr. Hendricks moved to Dallas, while simultaneously maintaining an office in Little Rock, and was assigned primary responsibility for most of the firm’s cases in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area and other cases across the states of Texas and Arkansas.
Throughout his tenure with The Haskins Firm, Mr. Hendricks was highly successful as a trial lawyer, particularly in the area of birth injury law, where he represented children (and their families) who were harmed by obstetric, neonatal, or pediatric malpractice. In addition to verdicts obtained by Mr. Hendricks at trial, many of the cases he settled were reported in various legal publications across the country. One verdict that was reported, in fact, remains today as the only jury verdict in the history of the state of Texas which held a hospital liable for the negligent credentialing of a physician. According to President Kitchens, among the many accomplishments of Brad Hendricks, he considered Mr. Hendricks to be “one of the best trial lawyers in the nation.”
After achieving success as a trial lawyer in Texas and Arkansas, Mr. Hendricks turned his attention in 1994 to the business of law by forming his own law firm. When The Brad Hendricks Law Firm was formed, the Arkansas Times published an article about the creation of the firm, suggesting that Mr. Hendricks’ firm would be one to watch for the future. A mere six years later, The Brad Hendricks Law Firm was recognized by Arkansas Business Week in 2000 as one of the 25 largest law firms in Arkansas, and the largest plaintiffs’ law firm in the state. Since forming The Brad Hendricks Law Firm, Mr. Hendricks has been recognized by his peers in multiple polls published by The Arkansas Times as one of the top medical malpractice and personal injury lawyers in Arkansas. He has also been voted “Best Lawyer” in Arkansas by the readers of The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Arkansas’ only statewide newspaper, on two occasions. Among his successes is his work as one of the pioneers of the fen phen litigation, in which every case among the 122 lawsuits filed by the firm was successfully resolved in favor of the client.
While building The Brad Hendricks Law Firm into one of the most recognized law firms in the State of Arkansas, Mr. Hendricks continued his service to the legal profession at a dedicated level that has not gone unrecognized at the national level, as reflected by his appointment in 2004 as a trustee of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (now the American Association for Justice). Mr. Hendricks served for many years as an elected member of the House of Delegates, the governing body of the Arkansas Bar Association, where he often forcefully advocated for those in our society who are least able to advocate for themselves. He remains a tenured delegate, which permits him to speak on any issue which comes before the House of Delegates.
In 1996, Mr. Hendricks was elected to serve on ATLA’s Board of Governors, where he served until his election to ATLA’s Executive Committee in 2002. He was elected and served as ATLA’s President from 2004-2005, a time during which the organization experienced radical change and transformation. Since his tenure as President ended, he has been appointed to serve on the Executive Committee by every President of ATLA and continues serving in that capacity today.
Mr. Hendricks remains deeply committed to the interests and efforts of IMPACT, the political arm of ATLA that serves to direct the flow of campaign contributions to various political candidates, irrespective of partisan affiliation, based on each candidate’s understanding and support for the integrity of the judicial system and the right of Americans to a trial by jury. He also serves on the Legislation Committee and the Committee to Protect the Constitution.
In addition to the Henry Woods Lifetime Achievement Award bestowed upon Mr. Hendricks by ATLA, Mr. Hendricks has been honored by his receipt of the 2005 Roxanne Wilson Advocacy Award, an award given “in grateful recognition of exemplary dedication and service to the legal profession and the association, and dedication to the preservation of the civil justice system and the right to trial by jury.” Since 2009, he has served as the Chairman of the Arkansas Bar Association’s Professional Ethics Committee. In recognition for his outstanding service as the Chairman, Mr. Hendricks was awarded the 2010 Arkansas Bar Association Golden Gavel Award. Presenting the award, Arkansas Bar Association President Donna Pettus stated that Mr. Hendricks had “breathed new life” into the work of the committee. Mr. Hendricks has also served as Chairman of the Arkansas Bar Association’s Tort Law Section and as Chairman of the Committee on the Unauthorized Practice of Law.
Throughout his career, Mr. Hendricks has been a frequent speaker in continuing legal education seminars for attorneys in Little Rock, Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Hot Springs, and Tunica, Mississippi. Mr. Hendricks has provided instruction and practice tips on various topics, including ethics in personal injury cases, ethics in advertising, management techniques in medical negligence cases, the handling of personal injury and medical negligence cases, the handling of birth injury cases, new and developing ethics rules, and how to ethically buy or sell a law firm. Mr. Hendricks is routinely asked to repeat his presentations to groups of attorneys in different geographical locations around the state and elsewhere. He also accepted an invitation to address the Arkansas Judicial Council, an organization of Arkansas judges which deals with matters of interest to the judiciary.
While Mr. Hendricks does not publicly discuss his charitable works and contributions, his support for organizations such as United Cerebral Palsy, the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation, the American Cancer Society, and various scholarship programs is common knowledge, as is his service on the Board of the Dave Elswick Foundation, which provides support to families in need across the State of Arkansas.
Despite his service to ATLA, IMPACT, and his other interests, Mr. Hendricks has remained always focused on the law firm he formed in 1994. The Brad Hendricks Law Firm has expanded again in recent years. In 2008, a bankruptcy division was created to protect consumers of Arkansas during what has proven to be one of the worst economic crises in the nation’s history. In 2010, further growth occurred with the addition of a commercial law and business litigation division, while further strengthening the firm’s resources in the medical negligence, personal injury, and social security departments. The firm also now accepts family law cases and other general practice matters pursuant to Mr. Hendricks’ efforts to shape the firm to conform with the needs of the public.
President Kitchens, when presenting the Henry Woods Lifetime Achievement Award to Mr. Hendricks, expressed his own pride at having the honor to present the Award to Brad Hendricks, concluding that he could think of no one who could be more deserving of the award. When notified that the award would be presented to him by President Kitchens at the 2011 ATLA Convention, Mr. Hendricks responded, “I’m humbled in the extreme, but no one should get the wrong idea about a lifetime achievement award. I’m just now getting started.”