College of Trial Lawyers was founded in 1950 as an organization to
recognize the very best of the courtroom bar. The College has
never limited the term “trial lawyers” -- as so many do --
to plaintiffs’ personal injury lawyers. Instead, our
membership is composed of civil lawyers, criminal lawyers,
plaintiffs’ lawyers, defendants’ lawyers, public interest
lawyers and state and federal prosecutors and public defenders.
The primary constant is that Fellows of the College must have proven
themselves in actual trial practice. There is an intensive vetting
process to assure this. Membership is by invitation only, to
persons who have distinguished themselves in trial practice for at least
15 years and who are recognized leaders in their local
communities. The College looks for lawyers who are considered by
other lawyers and judges to be the best in their states or provinces,
lawyers whose ethical and moral standards are the highest, and lawyers
who share the intangible quality of collegiality.
The College is the only organization in which all
Justices of the United States Supreme Court and all Justices of the
Supreme Court of Canada are honorary members. The College is
privileged to be able to make this statement because every Justice has
elected to accept Honorary Fellowship in the College and to address the
College at one of its national meetings. The Past Presidents of
the College include such outstanding lawyers as former Supreme Court
Justice Lewis Powell and former U.S. Attorney General Griffin Bell.
From its founding in 1950 through today, the
three-fold mission of the College has been to maintain and improve:
The standards of trial practice;
The administration of justice; and
The ethics of the profession.
As an example of this mission, only a few years after
the College was founded, its Code of Trial Conduct (which set
out aspirational standards of conduct) was first cited as authority in a
1954 court opinion. The current revised and expanded version of
the Code, the Code
of Pretrial and Trial Conduct, is available on this
website. The College has also prepared video vignettes and a
teaching syllabus to assist in teaching the Code to law schools, Inns of
Court, and local bar associations.
The College serves its mission every day through 35
standing committees and 61 state and province committees in the United
States and Canada. In 2012-13, the College will be active on many
Preserving the independence of the judiciary;
Maintaining the jury trial as a fundamental part of
our democratic system of government;
Encouraging young lawyers and law students to
pursue their work within a framework of high ethical standards;
Teaching trial skills to local public interest
Participating in the rule-making processes of the
federal courts through independent research, the production of written
comments and attendance at Advisory Committee meetings;
Funding and staffing national trial and moot court
Presenting each year two national programs of the
And there is much, much more.
It is my great privilege to be part of this
organization that accomplishes so much of value within a collegial
atmosphere. The year promises to be a busy one. We turn to
it with enthusiasm.