“That’s why I didn’t become a trial lawyer”

Democratic front-runner (if it’s okay to call him that now) Barack Obama tells a Newton, Iowa audience about his early decisions to pursue civil rights, community organizing and public office rather than more lucrative legal specialties, and is blasted in parts of the lefty blogosphere for the implied dig at John Edwards. (Shailagh Murray, Washington Post “The Trail”, Dec. 30; Kos, TPM, Kia Franklin, etc.) Per the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza, “Obama is starting to use the term ‘trial lawyer’ more often on the stump to describe Edwards, perhaps hoping to capitalize on the negative associations many voters have with that particular profession.” (“The Trail”, Dec. 31).

P.S. Some highlights of our earlier Obama coverage: Aug. 5, 2004 (“Anyone who denies there’s a crisis with medical malpractice insurance is probably a trial lawyer”); Apr. 10, 2007 (making inroads nonetheless on Edwards’ trial-lawyer donor base; per Legal Times, “Despite Obama’s silence on the issues trial lawyers care about, those who support him say they are confident he will back trial lawyers when the time comes”); Jul. 31 and Aug. 5 (auditions at AAJ/ATLA convention). P.P.S. Plus Ted at Point of Law a year back (“far from convinced” that Obama will cross the trial bar, despite his vote for the Class Action Fairness Act).


  • You know, trial lawyer is a nasty phrase until you need one.

  • To Mississippi Mom:

    /?hæknid/ Pronunciation[hak-need]
    made commonplace or trite; stale; banal.

    At, for clarification, it remains a nasty phrase even when you need one.

  • When, pray tell, do you NEED a trial lawyer? What conceivable circumstance could make you NEED a trial lawyer? (WANT, yes, DESIRE, yes, if you are that kind of person, but NEED?)

  • Aren’t civil defense attorneys “Trial Lawyers” as well? Hating on all trial lawyers makes no sense. If you get sued by what you may believe is an overly-litigious trial attorney, believe me, you want a trial lawyer to defend you.

  • How about when you’re trying to recover actual damages from your insurance company/uninsured other person? How about when you have a contract dispute? How about when you’re the victim of fraud, theft, or trespass? How about when you’re wrongfully imprisoned?

    The definition of “trial lawyer” is any attorney who specializes in representing clients at trial. They don’t have to be contingency fee plaintiffs attorneys.