Updates to our Terms of Use

We are updating our Terms of Use. Please carefully review the updated Terms before proceeding to our website.

Sunday, July 14, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Doing Snide Right

OK, I admit it. It's pretty easy to snicker at trial lawyers. At least when they're not looking.

But I have some professional pride. As someone who snickers for a living, I firmly believe that your punchlines have to make some sense. If you can say anything and be funny, why would we pay comedians?

And yet somehow, where lawyers are involved, some people think you can say anything and be considered witty.

It's an embarrassment to the snickering profession.

Case in point: recent snide reporting of a lawsuit by the American Association for Justice against The American Trial Lawyers Association.

In case you missed it, AAJ used to be called The Association of Trial Lawyers of America and it wants damages because a new group is calling itself The American Trial Lawyers Association. That name, of course, is similar to the one so valuable that the AAJ got rid of it because it was turning people off.

Rich material here, folks.

But what do we get? Here's a verbatim transcript of the end of a report on a popular public radio program:

"They're suing the new association for trademark infringement. They want whatever profits the new group makes. And damages, of course. What was it Shakespeare said about lawyers?"


Let's kill them all because they sued each other?

When you think about it, there's nothing even annoying about the litigation. It's lawyers suing other lawyers. Why would anyone else care? Non-lawyers should be happy about this. It's schadenfreude at its finest. No killing called for whatsoever. There should be dancing in the streets.

Oh well. Fortunately, I'm here to discuss the serious issues.

For example, just exactly how do you assess the value of a trademark when the plaintiff's own research showed it was harmful to the group's image?

"Your honor, my client may longer be known as Weaselface, but he has a right not to have others be known as Weaselface."

Is confusion a problem? Do you care about being confused with the group with repugnant name?

OK, you'd lose membership dues from lawyers who prefer being vilified and that could be substantial, but you didn't have to give up the name.

And then there's this American College of Trial Lawyers angle. It seems, at least from what I've read, that the College, 35 years ago, stopped the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (which is now the American Association of Justice) from calling itself the American Trial Lawyers Association.

So, yes, AAJ is now trying to stop TheATLA[1] from using a name that AAJ can't use itself.[2]

The best part of all this, though, comes when you look at the TheATLA's website. Is it just me or does this look like the kind of Internet venture some guy in underpants starts in his basement?[3]

Membership is by invitation only and limited to the top 100 lawyers in each state. How is this special group chosen?

Who knows?

But if you're one of the chosen few, you get a letter granting you the much-coveted opportunity to send TheATLA a check for $250.

Mmm-hmm. How many of you are going to fall for that one? Just how large is your ego?

And the AAJ thought this was worth suing over.

Schadenfreude. Dancing in the streets.

[1] Yes, TheATLA (sic) calls itself exactly that.

[2] Yes, the American College has sued TheATLA too. Why be left out?

[3] The Washington Post report noted that two college-aged sons of TheATLA's founder are listed as directors. I'm guessing the kids are busy rolling their eyes at Dad.

Categories / Uncategorized

Subscribe to Closing Arguments

Sign up for new weekly newsletter Closing Arguments to get the latest about ongoing trials, major litigation and hot cases and rulings in courthouses around the U.S. and the world.