From The President

Message from President Michael L. O'Donnell 2021-2022

As I write this message, we look forward to our hybrid in-person/virtual Annual Meeting in Chicago, the first opportunity for many of us to share our fellowship in person since the Spring meeting in Tucson in March of 2020. Since that meeting Presidents Doug Young and Rodney Acker have skillfully led us through turbulent times, including a pandemic and political, social and racial strife. Throughout, the American College of Trial Lawyers has never wavered in our support of the Rule of Law, an independent judiciary, and the right of all Americans and Canadians to access to justice. Thank you to Presidents Young and Acker along with their wives, Terry and Judy, and Executive Director Dennis Maggi and our staff, for their good judgment and guidance of the College during these challenging times.

Since 1950, the College has been guided by our Mission Statement: “To maintain and improve the standards of trial practice, ethics and the administration of justice through education and public statements on important legal issues relating to its mission. The College strongly supports the independence of the judiciary, trial by jury, respect for the rule of law, access to justice and fair and just representation of all parties to legal proceedings.”

The American College of Trial Lawyers will soon celebrate our seventy-second anniversary. The College invites the best trial lawyers of the United States and Canada to become Fellows, including plaintiff and defense civil lawyers, prosecutors and defense criminal lawyers, and public interest lawyers. The College is the only organization in which every Supreme Court Justice of the United States and Canada has accepted Honorary Fellowship. These Justices regularly attend and participate in our Annual and Spring meetings.

The College functions through our approximately 30 general committees and 62 state and province committees in the United States and Canada. The general committees have published many white papers on various subjects including judicial independence, attorney-client privilege, 21st Century Task Force, legal processes for resolving allegations of campus sexual assaults, and books such as “The Anatomy of a Patent Trial.” The general committees regularly propose changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the Federal Rules of Evidence. The College also publishes Codes of Pretrial Conduct for both the United States and Canada. Various general committees also regularly develop materials and teach CLE courses to improve trial advocacy.

In 2021-2022, some of the areas in which the College will be active include:

  • Promoting and maintaining the jury trial as a fundamental part of our judicial system

  • Preserving the independence of the judiciary

  • Supporting access to justice through the Access to Justice Pro Bono Fellows Program

  • Recognizing and supporting the increasing diversity of outstanding members of the trial bar

  • Just the Beginning Internship initiative to support underprivileged law students

  • Advocacy in the 21st century initiative to provide guidance to reflect best practices for remote legal proceedings and technological and case management changes in our courts

  • Trial boot camps teaching trial advocacy and In House Corporate Litigation Attorney Program

  • Developing best practices for supporting new lawyers through the Mentoring Committee

  • Funding and supporting national trial and moot court competitions in the United States and Canada

  • Funding and supporting worthy causes through the annual Emil Gumpert Award and other grants made through the Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers and the Canadian Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers

  • Communication to Fellows through our eBulletin and the Journal

Much more information about the College can be found on the College website. You can find more details about the College’s general and state committee work and identify ways in which you can meaningfully participate in the improvement of our judicial system and profession.

Brett and I treasure the many friendships the College has made possible for us over the past 20 plus years. We look forward to spending time with old and new friends at upcoming state, regional, and national meetings.