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What's In A Name? For Trial Lawyers, A Lawsuit

When the Association of Trial Lawyers of America changed its name to the American Association for Justice, it purposefully wanted to remove "trial lawyers" from its name as part of an image makeover for itself. (I criticized the change when it happened and later reported on another's criticism.) But even though the AAJ does not want to call itself a trial lawyers association, it is unwilling to let others adopt that moniker. As The Washington Post reports today, the AAJ has brought in trial lawyers of its own to file suit against the start-up organization that calls itself The American Trial Lawyers Association, or TheATLA. The AAJ wants TheATLA to drop the name, arguing it is confusing and infringes the AAJ's trademark on the acronym ATLA. Predictably, TheATLA sees it differently:

TheATLA says it is not trying to rip off the name of the country's premier trial lawyer lobbying group or even to compete with AAJ. 'The name defines who we are and what we do,' said J. Keith Givens, TheATLA's main founder and a senior partner in the national law firm founded by the late Johnnie Cochran, of O.J. Simpson fame. Givens, a well-known Alabama plaintiff's lawyer, asserted that AAJ abandoned the name ATLA last year, freeing up its use. Besides, he said, his group is TheATLA, which is different.

Just to muddy the waters further, a second organization, the American College of Trial Lawyers, also sued TheATLA in federal court this month, this time in Montgomery, Ala., to prevent it from using the name American Trial Lawyers Association.

TheATLA describes itself as an organization composed of the top 100 trial lawyers from each state. Membership is obtained "through special invitation," the site says. The Post reports that thousands of those special invitations were sent out this fall to lawyers throughout the United States. Regardless of whether TheATLA gets to keep its name, founder Givens tells the Post, the group will continue to "exist, function and survive."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on November 30, 2007 at 01:07 PM | Permalink | Comments (1)

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