From the NYT today, an editorial on the ATLA name change, quoted here in part, and you can go online or buy the paper version today to read the restL
IF a rose would smell as sweet by any other name, will trial lawyers smell better with a new one? That’s the question posed by the impending self-reinvention of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America. After Election Day, the 65,000-member outfit whose lawyers brought us multibillion dollar settlements in cigarette cases, millions of asbestos injury claims and lawsuits over McDonald’s coffee will change its name to the American Association for Justice.
The problem for the lawyers is that the genius of the tort system — its capacity to marshal the entrepreneurial energies of the bar — is also its greatest public relations liability. Indeed, whether trial lawyers are part of a distinctively American regulatory solution or part of a distinctively American problem, the new name seems unlikely to change the way Americans view them.
John Fabian Witt, a professor of law and history at Columbia, is the author of the forthcoming “Patriots and Cosmopolitans: Hidden Histories of American Law.”