One of the leading advocacy groups for plaintiff's lawyers in the United States is the American Association for Justice (AAJ). Founded in 1946, the AAJ has gone by a number of different names over the decades and was previously known as the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) from 1971 to 2006, at which point it became the AAJ. As one of the oldest and largest non-profit trial lawyers' advocacy groups in the country, the AAJ offers considerable membership benefits to personal injury lawyers, including continuing legal education, networking possibilities, and access to online databases, research tools, and discounts on courier services. However, membership in the AAJ may not be the right fit for all personal injury lawyers and those considering membership should look at both the benefits and drawbacks beforehand.
Advantages of AAJ membership
There are many benefits of joining the AAJ, particularly for trial lawyers and lawyers involved in large-scale litigation, such as class-action lawsuits. The AAJ offers considerable networking possibilities through its conventions, sections, litigation groups, committees, and advocacy groups. As a national organization, the AAJ allows members from all over the country who are working in similar practice areas to connect with one another, which may be particularly beneficial for lawyers working in a highly specific area.
The educational opportunities provided by the AAJ are also impressive. The continuing legal education courses offered by the group are both diverse and wide-ranging, and include seminars, webinars, and the opportunity to practice new litigation approaches at colleges and with focus groups. Furthermore, the AAJ gives members the advantage of being able to stay up-to-date on recent developments in verdicts, settlements, and other legal news.
Furthermore, the AAJ's Litigation Groups are of particular usefulness to trial lawyers who are up against corporations or large organizations that have considerable legal resources of their own, such as pharmaceutical companies, energy companies, and automobile manufacturers. The Litigation Groups allow lawyers working on large cases to network with lawyers who are on similar cases and to access documents that may be beneficial to their specific issue.
Drawbacks of AAJ membership
Because the AAJ focuses on litigation, it may be of limited benefit to lawyers who prefer to settle cases before they make it to trial. However, non-trial lawyers should not assume that AAJ membership is completely without benefit, as access to continuing education, special discounts, and databases can prove beneficial for most personal injury lawyers, regardless of whether a majority of their cases are litigated.
It is also important to understand that the AAJ is a lobbying organization with political connections. The AAJ does advocate for and against legislation and is generally against tort reform proposals. While the political aspect of the AAJ's work may not be a problem for some law firms, it could prove to be a sensitive issue for some lawyers or their clients.
Being engaged with the broader legal community is important for personal injury lawyers who are intent on seeing their practice expand and succeed. While the AAJ may not be the perfect fit for every personal injury lawyer, most trial lawyers will at least want to give careful consideration to both the benefits and drawbacks of AAJ membership.