The Single Worst Journalistic Cliche

By November 30, 2007Briefly Legal, Media Relations

Hackneyed, lazy, overused…

An early Christmas present…” As in, “X got an early Christmas present Tuesday when Y did Z.”

And they start so early. Here’s The Boston Herald on October 30th: “The developer of a new Hub tower complex yesterday gave beleaguered Downtown Crossing an early Christmas present, saying he will delay demolition of part of the landmark Filene’s retail complex until after the holiday shopping season.”

Still, hackneys aside, what a wonderful early Christmas present for satirists and Schadenfreude-ists is today’s story in The Washington Post. The American Association for Justice, formerly the Association of Trial Laywers of America, is suing a new group, The American Trial Lawyers Association, or TheATLA.

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.

AAJ disagrees. Two weeks ago, it filed suit in federal court in Minneapolis to force TheATLA to drop the name, contending it was confusing AAJ members and infringing a trademark AAJ has held since 1976 on the acronym ATLA. In typical trial lawyer fashion, the suit also demands that AAJ get any profits that TheATLA collects, as well as damages, “trebled where permissible,” and attorneys’ fees.

A separate organization, the Irvine, Calif.-based American College of Trial Lawyers, also went to federal court this month in Montgomery, Ala., to prevent the Givens group from calling itself the American Trial Lawyers Association, a name, it says, is too close to its own.

Actually, we tend to side with those who claim the new group is infringing on their trademark, established after years of hard work and spending millions of dollars of other people’s money.

Except…doggone it, ATLA really wanted to shed its “trial lawyer” title because the term carries a bad connotation. If you want to be an American Association for Justice, why, by God, then go be the American Association for Justice.

In any case, ho, ho, ho.

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