The “I” Word

At the last few legal conferences I attended, I heard the “I” word uttered by defense attorneys, plaintiff attorneys, and current and former judges. I cringed every time I heard it. The lawyers sitting next to me did too. 

“Inventory.” “Inventory.” “Inventory.” “Inventory.” “Inventory.”

The “I” word has become commonplace in our business. All players in complex litigation, particularly pharmaceutical, medical device, or toxic exposure-related cases, refer to the clients and/or cases as INVENTORY at all stages of the litigation process. 

Inventory is defined by Merriam-Webster as “the quantity of goods or material on hand: stock.” 

Human beings harmed by the conduct of others are NOT goods, materials, or widgets. Each is a person with a situation that matters and deserves to be treated as such. Each is a person experiencing painful suffering. Legal professionals using the “I” word do not mean any harm and use the term because it is now part of the legal vernacular describing a group of individuals. Regardless of intent, using a term that evokes thoughts of categorizing injured people as goods, files, or data points in the database should not be the conventional language used in complex litigation.  

I challenge all to begin using words that are more accurate in describing the injured. Words that recognize their human experiences. Words that honor the justice each of them deserves. 

Choose words like this for harmed individuals whose cases have not been filed in court:  

“Clients” or “Clientele”

Choose words like this for the harmed individuals whose cases are filed in court:

“Docket,” “Cases,” or “Claims”