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Monday, December 17, 2007

What's in a name? A lot if it's 'Lawyer of the Year'

Poor Alberto Gonzales. First he resigns from his post as U.S. Attorney General under what can only very charitably be referred to as "a cloud." Then, just as things are starting to look up for him and he is selected as the "Lawyer of the Year" by the ABA Journal, he is almost immediately afterward stripped of the title. Oh indignity of indignities!

We blogged about it when the ABA Journal bestowed the title on Gonzales -- speculating at the time that perhaps the editors there had broken into the holiday cheer a little early. The dubious "distinction" came complete with a bizarre list of runners up, which included Stuart "Scooter" Libby and a fictional movie character.

No doubt they knew at the ABA Journal that the selection of Gonzales would inspire controversy. But they also knew a lot of ink would be spilled talking about their choice, and there's no such thing as bad publicity, right? Wrong.

A torrent of nonstop criticism fell on the magazine and the ABA as whole, creating a public relations disaster of seismic proportions. It was soon announced that the "Lawyer of the Year" designation had been changed to "Newsmaker of the Year" to clarify that the title was not intended as an honor. (Hmmm. I don't mean to quibble, but shouldn't that be Legal Newsmaker of the Year?)

So in the end, the ABA Journal got the national exposure it wanted -- it just wasn't all it was cracked up to be. It puts me in mind of one of my favorite Oscar Wilde quotes: "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants; the other is getting it."

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