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Lawyers who represent individuals are criticized no matter what!

September 11th was a beautiful day in New York. It was a day that created thousands of heroes. The rest of us wanted to help! Members of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA), now American Association for Justice (AAJ) were heartsick and moved to help. A committee was formed on 9/12 believing that our Justice system must respond. On the 13th of September the Trial Lawyers called for a moratorium on filing civil lawsuits for harm resulting from the attacks. They knew that this was an unusual and unique circumstance and the victims would need help immediately. How could the harmed be helped in an exceptional way for exceptional circumstances?

In a departure from long standing policy, the Trial Lawyers believed that government should be involved in meeting the needs of the injured and harmed. They drafted the concept of a bill and sent it to Congress. After debate the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund was passed on September 21, a mere 10 days after the tragedy. The Senate voted 96 to 1, and the House approved 356 to 54.

When passage of the bill was certain, members of the Association of Trial Lawyers of America (ATLA) pledged to represent every victim of 9/11 free of charge — at no cost and for no fee! Trial Lawyers Care (TLC) was formed as a conduit to organize the effort. Through donations of time and money, Trial Lawyers paid for all the administrative cost.

Over $200,000,000 worth of legal services for free!

Trial Lawyers Care (TLC) provided free legal services to every fund claimant who requested help. I was honored to be one of the 1,100 volunteer lawyers who represented over 1,700 families that ultimately donated over $200,000,000 worth of legal services for free! The largest pro bono effort in history!

In the face of this historic effort, an uninformed New York Times editorial writer discussing Mr. Kenneth R. Feinberg, (the same person who oversaw the 9/11 Fund and now oversees the Gulf Oil Fund) wrote in an August 29, 2010 editorial entitled, Mr. Feinberg and the Gulf Settlement:

“…. Mr. Feinberg’s plans for distributing BP’s money, announced last Monday, seem magnanimous and fair.”

“….That, of course, has not stopped the legal and political ambulance chasers from jumping on Mr. Feinberg, much as they did after 9/11. Lawyers complained that his approach would deprive victims of the settlements they could command in case-by-case litigation. Grandstanding politicians charged that Mr. Feinberg would go easy on the company because BP is paying his expenses and those of his army of adjusters in 35 Gulf Coast offices.”

“….After 9/11 Mr. Feinberg wrote checks totaling $7 billion to 5,300 families and injured individuals. Only 94 potential claimants went to court. Given his reputation, experience, and the amount of money on the table, it is clearly in the interests of every victim of this spill to give this program a careful, unemotional look. We probably cannot expect the lawyers to act responsibly. We do expect better of the politicians.”

Thanks to the New York Times for getting the facts right, huh?

Now what did Mr. Feinberg say about Trial Lawyers after administrating the 9/11 Fund?

“This program’s success is a tribute to you. Without the support of ATLA and Trial Lawyers Care, there never would have been a victim compensation fund. It would never have achieved [justice for] 97 percent [of everyone eligible for the fund]. It’s because of the lawyers in this country. I’ve never, ever been prouder of my profession than what ATLA and TLC did to make this program a success.

I am in your debt. The program never would have succeeded without you. I’ve conveyed that publicly, and I do it here again, publicly and privately. And I thank you.”

Facts seem to make no difference when it comes to bashing lawyers. The media, politicians, corporate America, and others who think they can raise themselves up and protect their gains by denigrating lawyers who represent harmed individuals will stop at nothing.


  1. Gravatar for Michael Phelan


    I too was a TLC volunteer and took several Pentagon cases to hearing. It was the most rewarding time of my professional career. Thank you for standing up for the integrity of that program. The troglodytes who bash lawyers for a living are never constrained by fact or reason. There was a time when a NYT editor would have checked the facts with Ken Feinberg's office before printing that article.

  2. Gravatar for Greg Cusimano

    Thanks Michael,

    You and most other lawyer volunteers gave in their time and money much more than I did. I was honored to contribute in any way that I could. I knew of the sacrifice of Leo Boyle and so many others and I just could not sit silently by when I read the NY Times Editorial.

    Best to you and yours!

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