For twenty years, Dale Wallace’s practice included all aspects of civil litigation with primary emphasis in the areas of insurance, corporate defense, and construction litigation. Over the past several years, Dale’s practice has concentrated in the areas of alternate dispute resolution, mergers and acquisitions, and complex negotiations.
A native of Birmingham, Alabama, Dale was born in 1954. He attended the University of Alabama and graduated in 1976 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He then attended the University of Alabama School of Law and received his J.D. in 1979.
Following graduation, Dale was employed as an associate with the Birmingham law firm of Denaburg, Schoel, Meyerson & Ogle for three years. In 1981, Dale established an individual practice, and in 1983, he became a partner in the firm of Seier, Johnston & Wallace. In 1987, Dale formed a new firm that is now known as Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff & Brandt.
During 1993 and 1994, Dale served as the Rotary International District Governor for the northern part of Alabama. Dale has also served as a lead instructor for Community Bible Studies, and he currently teaches a leadership course as an adjunct professor at the University of Alabama.
Dale and his wife Ginger are the proud parents of five children. He enjoys spending time with them, doing yard work, teaching Bible studies and leadership courses, and performing other volunteer work with his church and community.
2:59– A little bit of my background
8:52– Staying involved in the University of Alabama and some of the challenges I’ve seen
11:22– How do you see God allowing you to influence this next generation through your faith?
15:44– A word of encouragement
19:32–Greatest moment of discouragement or failure that faith has pulled you through
23:06– The 4:23 Question
Ray: Well, hello, everyone. This is Ray Hilbert. I am your host here at Bottom Line Faith. We’d like to welcome you to today’s program, and if you’re a new listener here at Bottom Line Faith, welcome. We hope and pray that you’re going to be encouraged as you learn from some of America’s top Christian business and marketplace leaders, how they live out their faith every day in the marketplace. If you’re a long-time listener, you know that we have been blessed to travel the country and visit with some of the most amazing CEOs and marketplace leaders and attorneys and accountants and entrepreneurs across the country and celebrities of all sorts who are intentionally living out their faith every day in the marketplace. And the analogy that we like to use here at the Bottom Line Faith is that we like to say we’re going to lift the hood and we’re going to tinker around like a mechanic would in the engine of Christian leadership. What makes these godly leaders tick? How do they succeed? How do they fail? How do they live out their faith on a daily basis? So check out all the other interviews at bottomlinefaith.org. You can become a subscriber at the iTunes store, at Google Play, at Stitcher, and most of the platforms on social media. You can subscribe there as a listener to Bottom Line Faith. If you are a Christ-follower and you are a business owner, president, CEO, and you want to know what it means and what it looks like to live out your faith in and through the leadership of your company, check out truthatwork.org and learn about our roundtables. Truth At Work is the sponsoring ministry of the Bottom Line Faith program.
So, folks, we are in Birmingham, Alabama. This is becoming, It feels like a home away from home. I’ve had several trips down here over the last few years. We have a great Truth At Work chapter down here and a great leader, James Justice, and as I like to say, we are not only in the Bible Belt, we are in the buckle, the polished, brass, shining buckle in the Bible Belt. And God has placed some amazing leaders in the marketplace here. And today, our guest is absolutely one of the most influential Christ-followers in the marketplace. Folks. We are speaking with Dale Wallace. He is the founding partner at Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff, & Brandt, a firm, a legal counsel firm here. We’re going to talk about that in Birmingham. Dale, welcome to Bottom Line Faith.
Dale: It’s great to be here.
Ray: Well, you you’re a native of Birmingham, but you had a little stint where you didn’t live here. But why don’t you just give us a little bit of your background, a little bit of your journey? And what, tell us about your firm.
Dale: Glad to do so. I grew up in Birmingham, lived here until I was 18 years old, finished high school, and I began my undergraduate work at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, which for the audience that’s not familiar with the state of Alabama was only about 50 miles from here. I did four years there. And the Lord really blessed my time there and allowed me to do some things I really hadn’t expected to do. I served as student government president; I worked for a guy that’s fairly well known, at least in this state, by the name of Paul Brian. I was assistant dorm director in Brian Hall, so I was around the athletic program a good bit and got to watch some really amazing things take place. I began my studies at the university in 1972; that was one year after the integration of the football team. It was only nine years after a guy with my same last name, but no relation, George Wallace stood in the door and said you couldn’t come in because the color of your skin is not appropriate to this university.
So I was there as we began to overcome those difficult circumstances and wrong-minded leadership in the state of Alabama. And I got to watch some very incredible men and women bring about social change that was very important. So that was all ongoing. I had a chance to, the president of the university, David Matthews, had been asked by Gerald Ford to go to Washington as Secretary of HEW, which was in the largest cabinet position in the United States. I think there are only two or three countries that have a larger budget than HEW did at that point. But Dr. Matthews asked me to come up and spend some time with him in between undergraduate school and law school. So I did that; had that government experience. I got to do some neat things, got to go the White House with him a few times and visit with the president and had breakfast with the president and things. So university was very rich even before I went to law school. And then law school was more a little more traditional. I continued to work for the president’s office while I was in law school, but for the most part was a student and that was a little different than undergraduate school. So buckled down and tried to be a good student, had pretty good luck with law school, and then came back to Birmingham to practice law.
Ray: So let’s, let’s go back a little bit. And I’ll come back and talk about the firm and areas of specialty in a moment. But I’m fascinated that experience that you had in school when there was this incredible amount of change going on; culture was probably in a clash, so to speak, here in Alabama, particularly those of us old enough to know about these things. Understand that. How did that shape your faith? How did that influence your walk with Christ living in that season, and being engaged at the level that you were?
Dale: I’d been a Christian since I was nine years old. I feel like you know, God held me tightly in his hand. I was serious about my faith; didn’t mean I didn’t have struggles. I certainly had struggles, but I was very serious about my faith. But being immersed in a culture of very positive change, I would say very biblical change, was a great thing. You know, too often, you know, we think about the Gospel in a very narrow sense. But, you know, you read what Jesus had to say, you read the Old Testament prophets, justice, righteousness, social justice, overcoming oppression, overcoming poverty, those are important, you know, and sometimes the churches were either-or: were either heavily evangelical and overlook the social justice side, or we become social justice oriented and we forget about the evangelistic side. And I had come up in a very traditional Christian home, lived in a community that was predominantly Christian, lot of people serious about their faith, young and old, so I was pretty steeped in the evangelism side of things. Understood that well.
We weren’t a wealthy community, but we were a middle-class community. So we hadn’t been exposed to a lot of poverty or those kind of issues, so it broadened me; It gave me a chance to really see what scriptures about more holistically and particularly in regard to race relations. And so I got to see that both in the student government arena in the athletic arena. And I’m here to report that it went really well. And it’s really because of the leadership of David Matthews and Coach Bryant who were absolutely committed to seeing, in fact, Dr. Matthews, who’s still president of an institute in Dayton, Ohio, I see him a couple times a year. Dr. Matthews used to tell us; we’re so glad to be past desegregation; now we can get on the real work, which is integration, and he meant that in the truest sense so that all people would be integrated into a culture that sought to advance equally.
Ray: In addition to your practice at your firm, you’re still engaged in teaching at the University of Alabama, why don’t you tell us a little bit about this and leadership and social justice? Let’s converse about that a little bit.
Dale: I started the first year just teaching one course: public leadership. But the following year, they asked me if I would teach a course that I’m still teaching, I still teach both those courses. But the second course was leadership and social justice, where the principles of leadership are very similar, but what I call movement leadership is much more of a flattened, values-driven, collaborative effort than you would in more traditional public leadership.
Ray: Why don’t you share with us a little bit about some of the challenges that you have in that experience, maybe even some of the shifts that you’ve seen in our culture? Talk to us about some of those shifts and changes and challenges that you face as a Christ-follower in that environment?
Dale: When I first started teaching, I was very candid to say that the principles I teach are biblically based. I had taught in a secular context often and understood that, you know, the importance of following rules, guidelines, walls, in this case, in a public institution like the University of Alabama where we don’t proselytize. I was not uncomfortable with that, but I needed the people who were hiring me and supervising me to understand these were biblical principles. What do we value? You know, what is, what does it take to be a great leader? I think it starts with servanthood; the research proves that Christ was absolutely correct in every respect in the way he taught us to lead. So that part was settled, I just needed to make it clear that’s what I would do and the way I would approach it. It’s not the skills of the professor; it’s the building of community and how essential and important that is for all of our lives.
Ray: Yeah, that’s right.
Dale: And so it doesn’t require a lot of work; it just takes a commitment. That’s what we’re going to do. And people start telling their stories, and they start trusting one another, and they have confidence in one another, and doing things outside of class together, and 10 or 12 years later, they’re still in touch with each other, because I don’t know why. But the rest of the academy hasn’t really figured out how important that is. But you can’t read scripture and understand anything but the importance of us connecting with each other.
Ray: And how have, how do you see God allowing you and your faith to shape or perhaps if not shape, influence this generation that’s coming up with a very, very different worldview. In fact, I was reading recently some Barna research, and their indications were that in this generation of 30 years old and younger, less than 4% profess to have a biblical worldview. How is God allowing you to help influence that generation?
Dale: What you’ll learn, when you have students for 15 weeks, is if they’ll engage in that struggle, what they’ll often as I pretty much care about same things, no matter what their orientation is on social issues, they realize that they care about each other, and, and most will even emerge with a concept that that God is very, whatever their understanding of God is, and it may be very different than, than yours and mine, but that whatever their concept of God is, that God is involved in that idea of loving and caring, even if he’s not the preeminent person for that, that you and I would say that he is. So that part’s really not difficult. You just start this process of really trying to struggle to understand our values. And once we do that’s when we start with questions like do you know anything for which you would die? Anything else and anything or anyone outside your own family?
We get them struggling with issues like that. And most of them come to the same conclusion. But then what that does is it opens up the dialogue for kids that come from a biblical perspective, whether they’re true Christ-followers or just walking in the traditions of, you know, biblical tolerance, biblical faith, to begin to express their faith. And they, I think, they begin to understand how deeply rooted they are in biblical principles. And you even have some people who are self-described as atheists and agnostics. I don’t have a lot, but in most classes, you’ll have one or two that describe themselves as an atheist or an agnostic, and they will even begin to embrace some of those principles. And I recently had a student who described herself as an agnostic that said, if all Christians acted like Jesus, she would be a Christian.
Ray: Would you say that again? That’s pretty good.
Dale: If all Christians acted like Jesus, she would be a Christian. It’s kind of like Gandhi said that, you know, and that may be where she got it. But I think she was very genuine about that. In other words, what she was saying is based on what I know about Jesus, he was someone who loved; he was someone who fought social injustice; he was someone who lifted up the oppressed; he was someone who didn’t seek, I mean, she would say this, these would be her words, seek white privilege or he wasn’t white. But you know, even if he was in our culture, and he was white, he wouldn’t be seeking white privilege and all these things that you know, so many of the concepts that she and so many others embrace and spend most of their time articulating, come straight from Jesus’ walk on the earth. They’re not inconsistent. So it’s amazing to watch the students help each other with that. And it’s not like I sit silent, but I don’t have to lead the conversation. I don’t have to maneuver it; it’s just a free-flowing discussion about what it is we value, what it takes to create a great leader in a culture, what it takes to bring about social transformation, particularly in that social justice class.
Ray: You know, as I’m listening to this, I’m just encouraged, you know, because sometimes I have to admit my faith wanes in that God, have you abandoned this culture? God, are you just like, have you turned your back on us? And then I’m listening to this story, and I said, no, he is strategically continuing to place men and women such as yourself in some of these places where I, you know, you forget that God’s still got those places on his radar map, right> And so what I’d like to ask you, then, Dale is one of the things we love to do here at Bottom Line Faith, we want to encourage other Christ-followers who find themselves in business in the marketplace. You’re definitely in the marketplace in that, in that place in the university, and of course, in your law firm, but what encouragement could you have or would you have for someone who’s listening and they’re discouraged? They’re feeling like they’re not making a difference; they’re feeling like, maybe, okay, I’m just going to give up because am I really making any difference here? They’re not seeing the fruits of that labor, how would you encourage them?
Dale: We’ve all been there, in fact, truth be known, we’re there probably weekly, if not daily.
Ray: That’s true.
Dale: And I think the things that bolster me or lift me is creating connection with other people. You know, I think one of the great problems of the church now is even the best, most evangelical, you know, traditionally, biblical churches, we fill our heads with more and more and more information about scripture. And that’s not a bad, that’s a wonderful thing; it’s absolutely needed. But if it’s not in balance, it begins to lack a certain element of integrity. The balance is that we need to take what we learn and actually go and put it into practice. Well, it’s not exclusive, but it’s close to exclusive that we do that by connecting with other people. Connect to God; connect to other people. And so if we’re feeling discouraged, we probably just need to start serving more.
In fact, let me restate that, no probably in it. When we’re most discouraged, if we will find ways to serve, then that’s, that’s the anecdote. You know, even, I do a lot of work with Christian organizations, churches, ministries. I was telling somebody not too long ago; they said what does that look like? I said well, the first thing you learn about pastors is every of them is depressed on Monday; they’ve had too tough a day on Sunday, some of them preach four or five times. A lot of times, that’s the day that all the problems get dumped on them by the laypeople, and I mean anybody would be discouraged and depressed. Well, the smart ones that are really smart and understand themselves, they take Monday off, and they maybe connect back with their wives and their kids. And, and that’s good. But what you’d say to even the pastor is, if you feel a little depressed, get out of the study from behind the desk, go down and do some work in the inner city, go down, and you know, and you know, go connect to, go eat lunch with, you know, people from your church, Go connect. If you like golf, go play golf. Just, you know, we need time to rest and reflect with, you know, that is particularly hard on pastors. Because I think most pastors need a Sabbath other than Sunday. Sunday is always going to be a work day. They need a rest, they need a rejuvenation, sometimes that means solitude. Ken Blanchard does some great work on solitude and the importance of that, but beyond solitude, we need to reconnect. And we sometimes we let the world define what our job is; we need to define what it is. And it needs to be in line with our purpose.
Ray: That is some of the best word of encouragement I’ve heard in a really long time, and I wrote it down here that if you’re feeling discouraged, the antidote of that is to go serve. And so thank you for that; I’m encouraged by that just listening to that, and I trust that you all are as well. So you’ve had this amazing, long, successful career. As you look back over the course of your career, what, what’s maybe the biggest failure you recall going through; the greatest moment of discouragement, whatever the case may be, and how did your faith pull you through that?
Dale: Another great question. It’s a hard question. As I look back over, I’ve been in practice 38 and a half years now. I would say the times of the greatest discouragement all came out of relationships. And probably the greatest of that would be some of the struggles my kids went through. Got five kids, three oldest boys that were fairly close together in age; they tended to be very competitive. And they walked off the path some, and lots of nights, that, you know, on your face, and sometimes as they were older, not even know where they were. But God brings great victory in that too. It’s not that we’re through with all the struggles. Probably gonna start again with grandchildren; got 11 grandchildren. So yeah, we’ll start there.
But what I would say is, I’ll point out my second son, John. John went through a really difficult time which involved serious drug addiction. John is now a drug rehab counselor, he came to Christ had to leave him in jail for a while now, and not something easy to do. It was a great struggle because we could have bonded him out at any time, but we just decided that we had to go through that process. And I couldn’t be more proud of him now. He recently won an award as servant leader, the go-to guy for a huge Christian ministry for men who are walking through addiction is what he does now professionally. So he’s been clean for about eight years now. He’s been a counselor for four or five. I remember he did a small group as probably the first small group he had, led seven men to the Lord, you know, in one semester, so couldn’t be prouder, but I mean, those were some dark moments too for him, for us, for all of us. And we all go through that. But you know, God’s redemptive God and he’ll, he’ll take the worst and turn it into the best.
Ray: Thank you so much for your transparency in that, you know. So often we’re afraid to share those journeys of brokenness. And yet that’s when God kind of does his best work, and he shows off, right, in those seasons of brokenness. And so thanks for that. And so that’s a word of encouragement I think for those of you who are listening is you may be going through that season, that tough thing, but as Dale is shared, God is going to pull you through; just got to be faithful and now listen to what’s happening with his son as he’s now broken that curse and helping other men and new generations break that curse as well. Well, Dale, for our long-time listeners that, believe it or not, we’re at the end of our programming. I don’t know about you, but this for me, this has gone fast. We got some great notes, and this has been a great time of learning. And thank you for your faithfulness and encouraging and impacting our culture to this day, both through the university but also through your law practice.
But for our long-time listeners, the last question we always ask here at Bottom Line Faith is based out of Proverbs 4:23, where Solomon writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for from it flows the wellspring of life.” And these are some of his last words that he penned. Among all of his great advice, he says, I want you to pay attention to this one. So Dale, let’s just set the stage and let’s pretend that you’re towards the tail end of your time this side of eternity, and you’re soon going to go home to glory. But you have a chance to gather your family, your friends, your loved ones, those who are most precious and important to you. What is that one piece of advice that you want to pass along as your legacy? Above all else…
Dale: Let me answer it in two pieces. And the first piece is easy because I’ve actually done that. Our firm does a lot of work with coaches, and the Bowden family has been one of our clients for a long time; we’ve done some work with them. Coach Bowden wrote a book after a tragedy in his own family, where he wrote a letter to all of his kids and grandkids about don’t miss heaven. And it really comes out of family tragedy, but also out of a tragedy where he lost an athlete, and called a bunch of athletes together in the middle of the night, and, and actually talked to them about not missing heaven, Mark Rick was in the room, and I think Mark has reported many, many times that that was when he began to make his inquiry and later went back to Coach Bowden’s office and lead him to Christ. So I had a chance to talk to Coach Bowden about that; we’ve traveled in Europe a couple times together on a television project. And I told him how impressed I was with that. And so I was convicted; I went home wrote that same letter to my kids. And, and don’t, don’t miss heaven. So that’s got to be the message. But the second part of that, I would say this to my kids, grandkids, every listener, to me, I could not begin to be grounded in my faith if I didn’t allot a time period at the beginning of every day to the Lord. And in undergraduate school, I began, I had a very hectic schedule, did three radio programs, short ones, but three programs a day, I had to record. And my day had to start by seven, I mean, my activities.
So I began getting up at 5:30 to have a quiet time. When I got to law school. It was a 6 o’clock start, so I began getting up at 4:30. And since then, you know, I’ve continued that. I don’t have to rush off quite as quickly now, but the best day is about a three-hour quiet time where I spend time praying, reading scripture, memorizing scripture. This morning, I started at 3:30, not because, I don’t set a clock anymore, but God will wake me up. And this week it’s kind of been more 3:30 than 4:30, but I don’t fight that. I get up and go spend time with the Lord, and it was probably four hours this morning. But that’s just the best time of the day for me, you know, wish it didn’t end most days, you know, and just so to me, I don’t know how you could tell someone else to be grounded unless they have some, you know, I’ve had people tell me that the end of the day is better. Not me. I mean, I think Scripture says first thing in the morning, you know, I will rise, and to me, that just makes more sense. But that’s where my grounding comes from, and I have no hesitation saying that.
Ray: Thank you. So in my notes, I found two, two nuggets there as far as your above all else advice is, don’t miss heaven, and start your day with the Lord at the core.
Ray: I just want to thank you so much, not only for your faithfulness, but in serving the Lord and, and in the marketplace. But thanks for your time today. This was very gracious of you. Any closing thoughts you’d like to pass along?
Dale: I’m just delighted to be here. And the only thing I would say is that I would encourage everyone to view themselves as a leader. And the problem I have always seen is that I’ll ask large groups of people, how many of you consider yourself to be a leader at the beginning of say, a seminar, there’s one common thread, almost everyone fails to raise their hand unless they’re in some elected or appointed position. They don’t see themselves as a leader. Well, the truth be known, how could you ever disciple someone without influencing them? So it comes down to the definition, and my working definition of leadership is leadership occurs any time we influence the behavior or attitude of another person. So if we embrace that, your grandmother may have been your greatest leadership model because she influenced you the most. So if we look at it that way, and we see ourselves as leaders, then we have a chance to pass on our values to another generation or another group of people. And that’s where it all begins, in my opinion.
Ray: I love it. Some of the best stuff for the end that you saved for us; that’s perfect. Folks, we have had a great conversation today with Dale Wallace. He’s the founding partner at Wallace, Jordan, Ratliff, & Brandt, and they are a law firm in the Birmingham, Alabama area. He has been talking with us about his influence in culture in at the University of Alabama, teaching a course in leadership and social justice as well as through his practice. If you want to learn more, check them out online. And let’s just close with this.
As a reminder here at Bottom Line Faith, we are so grateful for the opportunity to interview incredible leaders like Dale across the country. We hope that this program today has been an encouragement to you as a follower of Christ, what it means to live out your faith and to impact the culture in the marketplace, and certainly, Dale is a great model of that and is an encouragement to us. So check all of our interviews at bottomlinefaith.org. If you’re a Christ-follower, wanting to run your business on proven biblical principles and practice in the context of community, and Dale’s talked a lot about community in our interview today, check out our roundtable initiative at truthatwork.org. We have roundtables all across the country. Get in community with other Christ-followers leading companies and businesses. Well until next time, this is your host, Ray Hilbert, at Bottom Line Faith. Thanks for plugging in today. God bless, and we’ll see you next time.