You Don’t Know Alexander Shunnarah

By Al Blanton

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Admit it.

You’ve seen the interstate billboards, dashed in black and red, and the ACCIDENT & INJURY LAW staring at you like gator eyes.

They’re everywhere. They’re above mama’s meat-and-three in lone-billboard towns and craning in skies above metropolises.

What do you think when you see the name ALEXANDER SHUNNARAH? What thoughts conjure up?

Man of the people… or ambulance chaser?
Garish spendthrift… or marketing genius?

HOW MUCH DOES HE SPEND ON ADVERTISING??

Admit it. You’ve thought it.

One sure thing: Alexander Shunnarah has gotten us to look. Others have gone so far as to actually call. Others have recovered settlements. Still others have received checks to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Alexander Shunnarah is like a kaleidoscope, depending on how you look at him. From across the courtroom, he could be the Devil himself. From a client’s perspective, he could be Robin Hood. From the inside of his house, he is father and husband, held in high renown. From his fellow church members’ perspective, he is a sinner, saved by grace. From the attorneys who work for him, he is a man of conviction and personal integrity.

No matter your perspective, Alexander Shunnarah forces us to think. Some have perhaps unfairly prejudged the man based on the avatar built by aggressive advertising. Can we say we have adjudicated Alexander Shunnarah as much as his firm has adjudicated cases?

But there is a man behind the stretched-out signs and the catchy ads (“Call ME Alabama!”).

The first striking thing about Alexander Shunnarah is his outspoken faith. He leads a Tuesday night bible study in his office every week. He knows the Bible, and isn’t afraid to share his faith (and an applicable verse) when the situation is appropriate. The genesis of that faith occurred as a child, growing up in Birmingham and being exposed to the church.

Shunnarah was born in 1966 as the first child of Farid (Fred) and Siham Shunnarah. The family lived on 10th Avenue South downtown where clusters of families gathered near Gables Square. He grew up happily, amid other high-pep neighborhood boys.

“We played football, basketball, and baseball, played in the creek, rode bikes, and had BB gun fights,” remembers Alexander.

He lived in a modest home (“my dad paid $10,000 for it”) and was introduced to the Southern Baptist faith by Bro. Jack LaGrande. Young Alexander attended a nearby parochial school, Glen Iris Baptist, but attended Catholic services on the weekend.

“Glen Iris introduced me to Christ,” says Alexander. “I was saved at thirteen. I remember the exact day. It was June 9, 1979.”

Alexander attended John Carroll Catholic, where he made fast friends with the melting pot of students, anchored 2nd base, and was an A-B student in high school. As second baseman, he always dreamed of playing for the New York Yankees (he watched Mr. October slap three over the fence in the ’77 Series), but later developed a fascination for Ted Turner’s Atlanta crew by sitting cross-legged, head upturned toward a TV screen broadcasting WTBS in the summers.

“I love baseball,” Alexander admits. “I’m a die-hard Braves fan.” (Sports have always been a present theme in his life. Nightly, he watches ESPN, and weekly, he plays in a pick-up basketball game at Lifetime Fitness.)

Alexander attended Samford University, where he roomed with current Ole Miss Head Basketball Coach Andy Kennedy. He also knew the Bulldog quarterback well. Now that quarterback is a head football coach by the name of Jimbo Fisher.

After graduation, Alexander ran a number of family businesses: a package store, a delicatessen, a car stereo shop, a newsstand. Nights, he attended Birmingham School of Law, back when the school was located at the Jefferson County Courthouse (students sat in pews), finishing classes just in time to lock the businesses up for the night. At 37, he sold out and focused solely on the practice of law.

His first job was at Cory Watson, where he sponged up the plaintiff’s business from ace attorney Ernie Cory. Soon Shunnarah hung a shingle and started his own law venture with “eight little cases.”

“It is virtually impossible to build a law business overnight,” says Alexander. “There were many lean years.”

So how did he do it? How did he take a one-person practice and turn it into the most recognizable law firm in a four-state area?

“Surround yourself with good attorneys, and service the clients. And you’ve got to have income coming in,” Shunnarah laughs.

Shunnarah’s voice is a mixture of native Palestinian and Southern, and as he speaks, one might think that he would do well as a preacher if this law thing doesn’t work out. He twirls an iPhone at the beginning of the meeting, but puts it away when things get serious, out of respect. He wears an Under Armor knit shirt, jeans, zip boots, and a thick black rubber bracelet that is circumnavigated with his 800 number.

When he says things like: “We want to build relationships. We genuinely want to take care of our clients” he speaks with conviction.

Alexander describes himself as a “man with no hobbies,” as family, faith, and work wager for his time. He has a wife Lorena and three daughters—Alexandra (9), Natalia (8), and Olivia (6)—who tug him in different directions.

“There’s always something to attend,” says Alexander, with a grin. “Lacrosse, tennis, dance, gymnastics, cheer, piano, birthdays.”

He’s a 10 to 10 guy, meaning that his working hours are in that twelve-hour stretch. “I’ve never been a morning person,” says Alexander. “I love running a business. I have a passion for what I do.”

Alexander sincerely believes in the David vs. Goliath juxtaposition (his clients are the slingshot-wielding shepherd boys). He believes that the “Shunnarah Effect” on the Birmingham legal scene has been relatively positive, as he has educated the public to seek legal advice and that the doors of attorneys are open.

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In the olden days, advertising was frowned upon for many attorneys. While others have shied away from marketing, Shunnarah has used it to spearhead his practice.

“Every year that passes by, it becomes more and more acceptable,” he says.

Then Shunnarah whips out his phone and reads “The Freedom Prayer” that beckons the Holy Spirit to excise every sin under the sun. Peering over his glasses, he recites the following:

Heavenly Father, I bow in worship and praise before you. I surrender myself completely and unreservedly in every area of my life to you. I take a stand against all the workings of Satan in my life. LORD, I resist all the endeavors of Satan and his wicked spirits to rob me of the will of God. Spirits of…Bitterness, Unforgiveness, Resentment, Hate, Malice, Envy, Jealousy,
Insecurity….

“Jesus is my God,” proclaims Alexander. “I have everything I have because of Jesus.”

So it seems that when Alexander Shunnarah has a problem that requires an advocate, he knows whom to call. 78

Photo by Beau Gustafson

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