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Linda Lipsen, 57, took the helm of the American Association for Justice after spending 17 years as the trial lawyers’ association’s lead lobbyist. In an interview with The National Law Journal, Lipsen talked about her priorities, the impact the civil justice system has had on your car, and how she’s been connecting with members since she was named chief executive officer of the association last month. The interview has been edited for length and clarity. Q: What are your priorities for the organization? A: It’s always a critical time. The forces that are trying to take away rights are so much larger and have so many more resources than those individuals that are representing those folks, so it’s always a critical time. And in terms of my goals for the organization, what I would want for the organization is to proudly tell the story about the justice system and how it not only encourages manufacturers or others to produce the safest products possible. But in the event that something happens where a car is defective or a coal mine blows up or an oil spill happens, that there are remedies available for people to start rebuilding their lives. That would be my goal. Our mission is always protecting defending and promoting the civil justice system. Q: Who will be running the day-to-day activities of the lobbying team? A: I’m an advocate. That’s my whole background. I am going to continue running the lobby shop as well as running the organization. As a working mom, we’re used to juggling a lot. Q: The former CEO of the association, Jon Haber, was hired at a time when the association was concerned about the image of trial lawyers. Is that still a priority? A: I’ve always been very actively interested in not just blandly representing the interests of lawyers on Capitol Hill but telling a bigger story in the media. That’s a very important part of the job and we’re just going to build on what Mr. Haber started. I see this as a continuation. For instance, what would your car look like without the justice system? You wouldn’t have safe power windows, you probably wouldn’t have seatbelts, you wouldn’t have airbags, your tires are safer now because of the civil justice system, you have electronic stability control because of the civil justice system. Your gas tanks do not explode. Your roof, it’s stabilized. It wouldn’t roll over. There’s a whole host of things the civil justice system does. What does the civil justice system do to protect you when you are taking a drug? What are the drugs that are off the market now because of the civil justice system? What does your kids’ toy chest look like because of the civil justice system? I view this all as one piece of fabric and I don’t think you can do one without the other. You have to have public support, which comes from media interest, and you have to be able to go to the Congress or to regulatory agencies with facts and not just anecdotes. That’s what we’re going to continue doing. Q: What is the greatest threat to the organization? A: The greatest threat is always the threat. It’s the threat that has informed our advocacy since I started working here 17 years ago. The threat is that corporate America, with all of their largesse, goes to Congress, and instead of putting their resources into fixing their products and preventing dangers from happening in the first place, they go to Congress and ask Congress to help them evade responsibility. That was the threat 17 years ago, and that’s the threat now. What is different now is that most every law firm, every lobbying shop, has a client that would like Congress to help them evade responsibility when their products cause injury or death, they provide shoddy services to the public. They’re potentially ripping the public off. Instead of trying to change their behavior, they go to Congress and ask Congress to protect them basically from themselves. They have the power, they have the power to change their behavior. Q: How have you been connecting with members? A: We’re using the same communication tools that other trade associations are using and I’m being encouraged to embrace the brave new world of Twitter and Facebook. For the past six or eight months we’ve been exploring all of those ways of communicating, and in addition, I’m going to a lot of states and talking to the memberships of various state organizations about what our goals are. And it’s been terrific. Q: Where have you been so far? What’s the schedule been like? A: I have been to Boston, I have been to Nevada. I’ve been to California. A lot of different places. The good thing is now you can be in another state and still use your Blackberry. It’s much easier now than it used to be. Q: What are you hearing from members on these trips? A: The members want to continue being able to represent their clients. And what we’re hearing from members is, how can we help? How can we make sure the justice system continues to protect individuals? How can we make sure juries are still able to hear the stories of our clients? Please continue doing what you’re doing to protect and promote the justice system.

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