Our History and Our Mission

History and Goals of the American Society of Trial Consultants, Inc.

Early Years

A founders meeting of twenty-four practicing trial consultants met in Phoenix, Arizona on October 9, 1982 to create what has now become the American Society of Trial Consultants. That meeting included many now-familiar names - Dick Crawford, Stuart Kenter, Lin Lilley, Ron Matlon, Melissa McMath Hafield, Scott Nobles, Jack Parker, Mo Rouse, Joyce Tsongas, Vivian Dicks, Robert Hirsch, Elizabeth Loftus, Diana Prentice, Lucy Keele and others.

The Society was originally known as the Association of Trial Behavior Consultants. The interests of that founding group, evidenced in their first conference held one year later, were not much different than the interests that motivate current members. Even as they understood that they were competitors, they wanted to share their growing wisdom on a number of topics: practical small group research, effective witness protection, informed jury selection, as well as successful business skills and marketing.

ASTC Objectives

In 1985 the name was changed to the American Society of Trial Consultants. Also established were the primary purposes and objectives of ASTC which continue to this time:
  • Provide an opportunity for networking and dialogue among individuals who share professional interests in trial consulting, trial-related research and teaching.
  • Encourage and assist in the professional growth and training of Society members.
  • Provide a forum for the exchange of ideas, opinions, techniques, experiences and research results in the area of trial consulting.
  • Encourage the development and refinement of appropriate methods for the application of research techniques to trial practice.
  • Promote the effective and ethical use of trial consulting techniques by attorneys.
  • Encourage awareness of and provide accurate information about trial consulting.

The ASTC Mission

"Our legal system is based on the principle that each party putting forward the best case - making the most of facts, law and presentation skill - allows the truth to win out far more often than not. In that kind of a system, the goals of the ASTC lie at the very heart of the law's ability to deliver justice. We help litigators become better at persuading jurors and other fact-finders, and that makes the system work in a way that is more meaningful, more reliable, and ultimately more fair."

Developing a Profession, as well as an Organization

As the ASTC grew over the years, it has addressed a number of issues crucial to all professions, while continually improving the skills, visibility, and standing of the profession of litigation consulting. To pick just a few examples, the ASTC has:
  • Developed a professional code.
  • Crafted professional standards and practice guidelines in five practice areas (venue surveys, witness preparation, jury selection, small group research, and post-trial juror interviews).
  • Brought together an extensive depository of reference materials for members.
  • Created a grievance procedure.
  • Held over thirty national conferences providing training, continuing education, business development and networking opportunities for ASTC members and attorneys. Programs at the annual conference have been granted CLE status for attending lawyers.
  • Expanded membership to explicitly include trial consultants as well as students, attorneys, and academics.
  • Produced Court Call, a publication for members only that provided up-to-date information on the organization, members, developments in the field and research for trial consultants. Each issue was provided at no charge to members. Since 2011, this publication's features have been transferred to various parts of the ASTC's members-only website.
  • Published The Jury Expert, a widely-read magazine that covers topics of interest to our members, lawyers, judges and the general public on various aspects of litigation advocacy.

Internal and External Publications

The ASTC has recognized that both the members and the broader academic and legal community had a strong interest in what trial consultants know, the research we rely on, and the experience we have gathered from study, research, and experience. The ASTC has brought its publications to the membership and to an ever-widening audience. These communication outlets include:
  • ASTC Web - our general public and members-only website found at www.astcweb.org.
  • ASTC Listserv - an outlet for communication between members. In addition, ASTCNet provides regular links to relevant research studies, notable trials and legal decisions. Access is free to all members.
  • ASTC Blog - a venue for the ASTC to promote a trial consultant's perspective on pressing legal issues and current events. It has been an American Bar Association "Top 10" blog and cited as an excellent source for legal information. Deliberations averages almost 8000 hits per month.
  • The Jury Expert - a quarterly trade skills magazine featuring social science research applied to the legal field. It is written primarily for attorneys and others in the litigation community. ASTC members and guest authors translate relevant research into practical information and techniques for litigators. TJE had been published by ASTC since 2005. It appears in an online format at http://www.thejuryexpert.com.
  • The Red Well Blog - a resource to promote the visibility of the ASTC and the litigation consulting profession. It provides a one-stop opportunity to browse opinion and analysis on the subjects of litigation communication, persuasion, advocacy, and psychology relating to trial and pre-trial settings. The goal of this aggregator is to become the "start here" site for litigators, and to build a larger audience for ASTC bloggers by including a diverse selection of high quality content created by active litigation consultants and other members of the American Society of Trial Consultants. With the objective of creating a dynamic and diverse marketplace of ideas, The Red Well welcomes all content from ASTC bloggers that is targeted to litigators and offers substantive comments based on research and/or experience.

Membership and Services

ASTC has a membership from across the country (currently 45 states). Membership has grown from 19 in 1983 to a diverse group today that is nearly 500 strong. Members bring the skills forged in a number of academic disciplines (including psychology, communication, theatre, sociology, law, and many others) to the same basic tasks that have not changed since the Society's founding in 1982.

Member consultants provide some of all of the following services: case theory and presentation, change of venue studies, community attitude surveys, continuing legal education seminars, deposition preparation, expert testimony, focus groups, graphics and demonstrative evidence, jury selection, language and the law, media relations, mediation and arbitration (ADR), mock jury trials, negotiations, opening statement and closing argument preparation and evaluation, post-trial juror interviews, presentation strategy, pro bono services, trial simulations, trial technology, voir dire strategy and witness preparation.

Governance

An elected Board of Directors governs ASTC, with an executive committee consisting of President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer and Executive Director. Board members serve four-year terms, while the position of President is a one-year commitment. Elections are held annually. There are nine ASTC standing committees and periodic task forces.

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