From The President

Douglas R. Young's Outlook For The Year, 2019-2020

Founded in 1950, the American College of Trial Lawyers will soon celebrate its seventieth birthday.  The College recognizes and honors the best of the trial bars of the United States and Canada, and includes among its Fellows trial lawyers representing every aspect of the trial bar:  plaintiff and defense lawyers from virtually every substantive area of civil practice, public interest lawyers, prosecutors, and criminal defense attorneys. 

Membership in the College is by invitation only, and is extended exclusively to persons who have distinguished themselves in trial practice for at least fifteen years, who are recognized as leaders in their local communities, and who are considered by their peers and judges to be the best in their states or provinces.  High ethical and moral standards, and the intangible quality of collegiality, are also key characteristics of those who are successfully considered.

Past College President and former Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell described the College as follows:  “Unique among the many organizations of the legal profession, the College is prestigious because of its smallness and selectivity based on merit.  In a country that recognizes in no official way the historical English distinction between barristers and solicitors, there was a public need for an organization that stimulated and recognized high competency in courtroom advocacy.…  The filling of this need has been the goal, and indeed the achievement of the College.”  Since the College was founded, its primary missions have focused on maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice  (including principles of judicial independence), and the ethics of the profession.

College Fellows, including its attorney Fellows and its judicial Fellows (jurists who were selected while they were practicing lawyers), work daily in courtrooms across North America in pursuit of justice.  The cases they try or preside over range from small to large, often involve issues of public importance, and in many instances reflect the Fellows’ significant contributions to access to justice, civil rights, and pro bono litigation.  The College is the only organization in which every Supreme Court Justice of the United States and Canada has accepted Honorary Fellowship and addressed the College at one or more of its national meetings.  Honorary Fellows have also included many distinguished barristers and jurists from outside North America. 

Because College Fellows represent all areas of the trial bar, the College can speak with particular authority on issues involving the administration of justice.  The College serves its missions through approximately 30 general committees and approximately 60 state and province committees across the United States and Canada.  The College has published white papers on many important subjects including (by way of example only) the attorney-client privilege, judicial independence, processes for resolving allegations of campus sexual assault, and proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, and the Federal Rules of Evidence.  Where appropriate, the College also may speak publicly on important issues broadly involving preservation of the rule of law.  For many years, the College has published and circulated Codes of Pretrial and Trial Conduct for both Canada and the United States.  Introductions to these publications, which are available on this website, were written by the Chief Justices of each country.  College committees regularly develop materials and teach in CLE courses designed to help lawyers learn how to be effective trial advocates and jurists; and the College has prepared video vignettes and a teaching syllabus for use in teaching advocacy in law schools, Inns of Court, and local bar associations.  In 2019-2020, the College will be active in many areas, which will include:

  • Preserving the independence of the judiciary.The College has a newly formed substantive committee devoted to this issue.
  • Recognizing the increasing diversity of outstanding members of the trial bar, and seeking at every level to promote their successes and opportunities.
  • Promoting and maintaining the jury trial as a fundamental part of our democratic system of government.
  • Supporting access to justice through the College’s newly formed Access to Justice Distinguished Pro Bono Fellows program, and its commitment to assisting public interest lawyers who wish to develop their trial skills.The College’s recently created Beverley McLachlin Access to Justice Award, named in honor of the retired Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, is now presented when appropriate to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to access to Justice in the United States or Canada.
  • Teaching trial advocacy to all interested members of our profession, through the College’s always‑well‑received Trial Boot Camps, through its newly created Diversity in the Courtroom Trial Advocacy Program (designed to develop the next generation of diverse and inclusive trial advocates), and through its also newly created In-House Corporate Litigation Attorney Program (designed to equip and assist in‑house lawyers in tasks essential to the performance of their jobs). The College’s Task Force on Mentoring has also been developing best practices for sponsoring younger lawyers and promoting their active participation in courtroom advocacy.
  • Funding and otherwise supporting national trial and moot court competitions in the United States and Canada.
  • Through the Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers, funding and presenting the annual Emil Gumpert Award, which includes a $100,000 prize to a unique or emerging program devoted to improving the administration of justice.The Canadian Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers anticipates making similar grants to worthwhile Canadian projects.
  • Encouraging regional and local programs that are both educational and social and which promote collegiality among the Fellows.

The list above is not exhaustive, and the College will be active in a broad range of additional areas on the coming year.  Much more about the College can be found on this website, which offers opportunities for the College and its Fellows to communicate, as do the eBulletin and the Journal.  I hope these platforms are useful to each of you, and that you will contribute to the work of the College by attending national and local meetings whenever possible and by participating actively on a committee that covers an area of interest to you.  And, recognizing that each of us had a mentor or mentors who supported our careers and furthered our successes, I hope you will “pay it forward” by identifying lawyers in your communities who may qualify for Fellowship and bring those persons to the attention of your state or province committee for evaluation.

Terry and I have been blessed by the many friendships the College has made possible for us, both in the United States and in Canada – friendships that do not recognize geographic borders or political differences. The Peace Arch Border Crossing that connects Blaine, Washington and Surrey, British Columbia commemorates the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in 1814.  On the U.S. side it reads “Children of a Common Mother,” on the Canadian side it reads “Brethren Dwelling Together in Unity” and within the eastern side of the arch it reads “May These Gates Never Be Closed.” These sentiments are a source of inspiration as I undertake the honor of leadership in the coming months.  During our travels, we look forward to personally meeting as many of you as we can as the College continues to fulfill its missions in our two outstanding countries.