On Thursday, October 3, 2019 at the annual Workers’ Compensation Law Institute, the Executive Committee of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the State Bar of Georgia presented H. Michael Bagley with the Workers’ Compensation Law Section Distinguished Service Award. The Distinguished Service Award is presented annually to members of the bench and bar in Georgia who have made outstanding contributions to the practice and development of workers’ compensation law. Prior recipients of the Award from the firm include John A. Ferguson (2016) and Charles L. Drew (2000, the inaugural award).
A 1980 graduate of UGA Law School, Mike has practiced law for 40 years (first working for the state court solicitor as a third year law student) and has been a contributing member to the Workers Compensation Section of the State Bar that entire time. In addition to chairing the Workers Compensation Section, Mike has served on the Legislative Committee of the Chairperson’s Advisory Committee for over 25 years. In that role, Mike has drafted or co-authored most workers compensation legislation from the major re-write of the statute in 1992 until the present. After the committee would debate the issues ad nauseam, Mike and a few others were given the task of actually drafting the legislation and preparing the Advisory Council’s final recommendations to the legislature. In that sometimes contentious melee of various factions, Mike always “worked across the aisle” with the competing and conflicting views to arrive at compromises which have made Georgia’s Workers Compensation Act one of the most efficient and best systems in the country.
Mike is a prolific speaker and author. He is the co-author of the Georgia Workers Compensation Association’s (GWCA) Workers’ Compensation Desk Manual spanning 10 editions for over 20 years. In addition, since 1989, Mike has co-authored 30 editions of the Annual Survey of Workers Compensation Law published by the Mercer Law Review. He has edited and published the Drew Eckl & Farnham Journal for thirty years, publishing more than 180 editions. He has been featured in the ABA publication “The Brief” and is a contributing author to numerous treatises including Georgia Jurisprudence and Insuring Real Property.
In 2015, Mike was awarded by Chairman Frank McKay the Dr. Tom Howell Award which is the top award given at the State Board’s Annual Seminar. The criteria for the Tom Howell Award are those characteristics that were evident in Dr. Tom S. Howell’s life: Integrity, commitment of excellence, setting high standards, especially for oneself, a selfless, caring heart and attitude and sacrificial service toward the betterment of the WC system in Georgia. This award is not limited to lawyers, but has included former Chairpersons of the Board, Employer Executives, Physicians and other stakeholders in our practice area.
In addition to Mike’s contributions to the WC Section of the State Bar, of which he is a past chair, Mike has served as chair of the State Bar of Georgia’s Formal Advisory Opinion Board for ten of the almost fifteen years he has served on that board. As chairman, he oversaw revision of every single Advisory Opinion to conform to the New Rules of Professional Conduct. Mike has chaired the State Bar Task Force on Lawyer Advertising, and was the original Chair of the State Board’s newly created Ethics Steering Committee in 2014. He has chaired numerous sections of the American Bar Association, is a Past Chair of the Ethics Committee of the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel, and is a Member of the State Bar’s Disciplinary Rules & Procedures Committee.
Mike has argued cases before the Supreme Court of Georgia, the Georgia Court of Appeals, and the Eleventh, Sixth and Fourth Circuit Courts of Appeals, and has more than 40 published decisions from appellate courts and federal courts, including several notable law-altering rulings. He has tried cases in virtually every county in Georgia, and he has tried—and won—numerous multiweek jury trials all over the Southeast, including jury trials in Georgia, Alabama, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi. Mike has defended class action lawsuits, has also represented claimants and plaintiffs, handles fee arbitrations for the State Bar of Georgia, and has done just about everything you can as a litigator.
The key word in the Distinguished Service Award is “Service.” Mike is now into his 40th year working to make the Workers Compensation Act and Rules a fair and equitable system to distribute medical and indemnity benefits to injured workers in a timely manner. His professionalism and integrity is beyond reproach. Mike serves without complaint for the good of the Workers Compensation Section, the good of the Bar, and the good of this profession. He is a workhorse, not a show horse, and has been long in the saddle. Although he is not one to seek the limelight, Mike richly deserves the recognition by the Workers Compensation Section of the State Bar for his hard work in making this practice area better for all parties involved.