History and Goals of the American Society of Trial Consultants
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 Hirsh, 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 preparation, informed jury selection, as well as successful business skills and marketing.
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:
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:
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:
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.
An elected Board of Directors governs ASTC, with an executive committee consisting of President, President-Elect, 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 ten ASTC standing committees and periodic task forces.
Our legal system is based on the principle that each party putting forward the best case – making the most of facts, law and presentational 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.