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ATLA's Ill-Conceived Name Change

So ATLA is now AAJ. The Association of Trial Lawyers of America wrapped up its annual meeting in Seattle yesterday with a 390-91 vote to change its name to the American Association for Justice. (Better hurry, AAJ, to scarf up that domain name.) I hope this post doesn't come across as sour grapes, given that they ignored my suggested name, Justice League of America. The truth is, I support ATLA, in spirit if not dollars. I believe its members, overall, truly do advocate for justice, protecting consumers from exploding automobiles and deadly drugs. But the name change, I believe, was unnecessary and ill-conceived. Here's why:

  • It accomplishes nothing. The reported impetus for the name change was to better communicate the organization's mission in the face of criticism by big business and Republicans. But as ATLA nemesis Victor Schwartz, president of the American Tort Reform Association, said of the change, "If a shark called itself a kitten fish I would still not put my daughter in to play with it." ATLA's opponents will remain its opponents. It is not a name change ATLA needs, but better PR and marketing to show the public that it is not a circling shark.
  • It describes nothing. Abstract names sometimes work in commerce, but not for an association. ATLA's former name was precise and descriptive. Its new name is vague and, as the Wall Street Journal notes, is glaring in its omission of the words "trial" or "lawyer," as if they were to be avoided like hot potatoes. When consumers first hear the name, "American Association for Justice," they will be more likely to conclude it is an extremist political group than a lawyers' organization.
  • It is divisive. In theory, anyway, aren't all lawyers engaged in the pursuit of justice? For ATLA to lay claim to the mission is to push away other lawyer groups that, while not precisely aligned with ATLA, may be its allies.
  • It is cumbersome. "ATLA" is a phonetically pleasing acronym that is easy to say and easy to remember. "AAJ" sounds like the beginning of a sneeze.

ATLA does good work, and its members often wear the white hats in the courtroom. It should take pride in its name and find better ways to spread the word of its good work.

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on July 20, 2006 at 12:49 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)


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