“Trial Lawyers” – a misunderstood and misapplied title for lawyers who represent injury victims
In England (and other countries), lawyers come in two varieties: solicitors, who are known to advise and consult and do transactional work, documents, etc.; and barristers, who the solicitors hire to go into court to litigate a case for the client, when necessary.
In the United States, there is no such formal division, and many lawyers do both. Many lawyers never go in a courtroom and do 100% outside “transactional” work. Lawyers to actually go to court, either with or without a jury, may also do outside or transactional work.
The lawyers who actually go to court are sometimes called “trial lawyers.” The term because associated primarily with those lawyers who go to court on behalf of injury victims, to seek legal compensation for their losses, instead of representing those accused of causing the harm. The term, applied to plaintiff’s or injury victims’ lawyers, became common probably in the 1960’s and after. Many professional associations of lawyers doing that kind of work – also known as “personal injury lawyers” or “bodily injury lawyers” – took on that title, as with the American Trial Lawyers Academy (ATLA) or the State affiliated organizations, such as the Ohio Academy of Trial Lawyers (OATL) or the Kentucky Academy of Trial Attorneys (KATA). This is a misnomer, as those who primarily defend such cases had their own “trial lawyer” associations, generally calling themselves, “civil trial lawyers.” It is also a misnomer because those who defend persons accused of crimes, those who represent people sued (or suing) for other things in civil court, and those who represent parties in family court, also use the trial processes to seek justice for their clients.
Due to much rhetoric and propaganda, persons began to associate negative connotations to “trial lawyers,” conjuring up the most negative of stereotypes, but almost exclusively connecting those stereotypes to the lawyers who went to court for injury victims, to the exclusion of those other “trial lawyers” who did the same thing in different contexts.
This led to a movement in recent years for the professional organizations – many of them, but not all – who primarily represent injury victims to change their names. ATLA became the American Association for Justice. OATL became the Ohio Association for Justice. KATA became the Kentucky Justice Association. And many others across the county did the same thing. It was to avoid many of the negative stereotypes that became associated with the moniker of “trial lawyer” for those representing injury victims. But the work those of us do who represent injury victims is the same: using the judicial system and court process to hold those who injury others accountable, by seeking fair compensation to the victims of negligence, defective products, and dangerous activities and agents. That is, in the eyes of those doing this work, the purest “civil justice” that can be pursued for those whose lives are sometimes devastated through no fault of their own, but by those of careless individuals or companies.
When one finds themselves in that position – in the shoes of someone injured, or whose life is disrupted by someone else’s carelessness or fault – it will be those who seek “civil justice” to go to for help. Most of those people were used to be known as, and still are, “trial lawyers.”
More information can be obtained about civil justice advocates’ activities at:
https://www.oajustice.org – for the Ohio Association for Justice
https://www.kentuckyjusticeassociation.org – for the Kentucky Justice Association
http://www.justice.org – for the American Association for Justice.
This Blog is not intended to be legal advice on any matter, for any person, or for any particular case, and is my opinion on the subject matter under discussion and is based on my admission to practice in State and Federal courts in Ohio and Kentucky only. Many of the opinions expressed will have no application at all in any other jurisdiction other than the one discussed. Each person’s situation is different, and a personal consultation with a qualified attorney in the area of practice you are concerned about is necessary for a competent evaluation of your rights and obligations. Internet reading is never a substitute for an actual consultation with a competent lawyer. More information about my practice and background can be found at:
I hope readers find this information helpful and interesting.
Thomas G. Eagle, Attorney, licensed to practice in State and Federal courts in Ohio and Kentucky only.