Who Gave Trial Lawyers A Bad Name?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by nycflasher, Jul 19, 2004.

  1. nycflasher
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    nycflasher Active Member

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    Article written by a woman I work for and published yesterday in my local paper...

    Who Gave Trial Lawyers A Bad Name?

    Hartford Courant
    July 18, 2004
    Leslie C. Levin

    We will hear the term "trial lawyer" often between now and Nov. 2 because of the Democratic vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, who was a trial lawyer.

    Those who oppose the Democratic ticket use the term as an epithet, much as they have made the word "liberal" a pejorative. They expect "trial lawyer" to conjure images of unscrupulous lawyers who sign up clients at accident scenes, bring frivolous lawsuits and thereby increase the cost of malpractice insurance and medical care.

    The image is wrong, and the truth is more complex than that.

    The genesis of the image dates to the 1920s, when the elite of the organized bar, who were largely white Protestant males, became concerned with the influx of Jewish and Catholic immigrants into the bar. These newcomers represented individual clients, including those in injury cases, because they could not get into the elite firms that represented corporations. Concerned about what it saw as the lower classes entering the bar, the American Bar Association and others adopted rules against personal solicitation of clients and vowed to investigate ambulance-chasing lawyers. Not surprisingly, the bar created few rules that impinged on the business-getting efforts of its members.

    With the formation in the 1940s of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, the term "trial lawyer" was born. Its members represented people who had been injured by products or medical malpractice. Part of ATLA's mission was to "promote the public good through concerted efforts to secure safe products, a safe workplace, a clean environment and quality health care."

    "Trial lawyer" became a dirty word in the1950s, when insurance companies became concerned about their attempts to change the laws that protected corporations against the claims of injured people. There is evidence of concerted efforts by the automobile insurance industry to place anti-trial-lawyer messages in the press during that time.

    Since then, trial lawyers have been locked in battle with the insurance industry and large corporations. The intensity of the rhetorical battle was shown earlier this year when Maurice Greenberg, the chairman of AIG, the world's largest insurer, referred to trial lawyers as "terrorists." The intensity of the political battle is evident in reports that the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which represents business interests, will - for the first time ever - actively work against the Democratic presidential ticket because of John Edwards.

    Of course, the trial lawyers are not without resources. ATLA has 60,000 members and is a significant lobbying force. Trial lawyer associations contribute millions of dollars each election cycle to candidates for statewide offices.

    So who are trial lawyers really? They are lawyers whose cases range from small auto accidents to sophisticated product liability suits. Some of them barely eke out a living, and others, like Edwards, do well. They typically work hard and take few vacations because they do not have the support staff to do otherwise. They often litigate against well-funded, well-staffed law firms representing corporate clients.

    Although trial lawyers are often accused of pursuing frivolous lawsuits, the empirical research does not support this claim. A study of Texas personal-injury lawyers revealed that they mostly take their cases on a contingent-fee basis - in part because their clients could not afford representation otherwise. But they often turn away even meritorious suits that would be hard to prove. They simply cannot afford to take them.

    And they are not, for the most part, ambulance-chasers. I studied New York trial lawyers and found that they hate ambulance-chasers, who steal their business and hurt their image. Yet they are afraid to go after ambulance-chasers because of concerns that a "well-publicized battle would make tort reform seem all the more appealing," according to one lawyer.

    Today, most of the dollars that go to purchasing legal services pay for representing corporations, not individuals. And although trial lawyers are not without their blemishes, those who use the term as a dirty word should understand that its use harks back to ethnic biases and well-orchestrated public relations campaigns.

    Beware these stereotypes of trial lawyers. Someday you may need one.

    Leslie C. Levin is a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Law.
     
  2. ScreamingEagle
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    ScreamingEagle Gold Member

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    Ever read John Grisham's "The King of Torts"?
     
  3. William Joyce
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    William Joyce Chemotherapy for PC

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    So! Oppose trial lawyers, and you're an anti-Semite. So says "Leslie Levin." Catch me while I faint dead away.

    OK, I've awakened again.

    The truth is that "trial lawyers" are indeed a filthy lot, many of whom (though not all) are Jewish. The overwhelming majority of their cases are "personal injury" cases, meaning that someone is claiming --- claiming being a key word --- injury due to an accident. Often, it's something nebulous like "bulging discs" that could have developed long before the car accident in question. And there's rarely an instance of unpaid medical bills. Either you have insurance, or Medicaid picks it up. So what's the need for the lawsuits? The money you get for so-called "pain and suffering." And it can reach the millions. That's right. You get into a fender bender, your back treatment is paid for, but you can still file a multi-million-dollar lawsuit for "pain and suffering." And the lawyer takes a third. And he loses nothing. And he's almost guaranteed a win. Meanwhile, the cost to taxpayers, insurance payers and consumers reaches the em-effing trillions. It's all a drain on the system. It doesn't make us any richer, happier or better. It's just a naked shift of resources from one who has power (the lawyer who is allowed to file lawsuits without supervision, limit or any other check whatsoever) to those who do not (that's you, sucker).

    How do I know?

    I litigate against these guys every day.
     
  4. nycflasher
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    nycflasher Active Member

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    I sure have. Pretty good read, eh?

    Am I mixing this up with another Grisham book or is that the book that begins with a former law student getting himself on the jury in a Big Tobacco case so that he can control the outcome of the trial?
     
  5. freeandfun1
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    freeandfun1 VIP Member

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    as a business law professor pointed out in college......

    trial lawyers take on hundreds (thousands) of cases a year. For them if they lose 9 out of 10, big deal cuz the one they win will likely make them millions.

    It is like a lottery, just with much better odds.
     
  6. nycflasher
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    nycflasher Active Member

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    So true. But how come everytime I go to the gas station for a juice or smokes or something do I get STUCK behind someone spending half their week's salary on lotto and scratch tickets!?!?!?
     
  7. freeandfun1
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    freeandfun1 VIP Member

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    cuz they haven't met a trial lawyer to help them set up a scam.

    it is like a lottery for the lawyers. no for those involved. like I said, out of those 10, only one gets anything and by the time the attorneys and the IRS are done, he ain't getting much of anything in comparison to what was awarded.
     
  8. nycflasher
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    nycflasher Active Member

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    Some of those big class-action suits seem like such a joke. By the time all is said and done, like you said, the individual gets maybe a matter of thousands while the lawyer gets multi-millions for his part.

    Don't know a whole lot about tort reform, but I undrstand it is a big issue these days. Any good links?
     
  9. freeandfun1
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    freeandfun1 VIP Member

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    The Effects of Tort Reform: Evidence from the States

    THE TAXPAYER NEEDS TORT REFORM NOW

    Personal Injury Lawyer-Financed Group Tops Spending In California Primary

    Improving the American Legal System: The Economic Benefits of Tort Reform

    American Tort Reform Association

    The Democrats say they support Tort Reform and one of the links is to a government document created during the Clinton administration. However, now that they have a Trial Lawyer on the ticket, suddenly Trial Lawyers are not that bad and are actually good guys.

    Hell, forget John Kerry flip-flopping, it is the entire Democratic Party when it comes to this subject.
     
  10. DKSuddeth
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    DKSuddeth Senior Member

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    help me out here, how does the 'naked shift of resources' start with the lawyer, yet its the defendant that ends up paying out?
     

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