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Monday, June 09, 2008

Pro Bono Trial Consulting: Who Knew?

I just returned from the annual meeting of the American Society of Trial Consultants (ASTC) in Chicago, (where tornadoes threatened to tear the roof off the hotel). While our organization has the sort of committees you might expect (professional visibility, membership, etc.) it also has a committee devoted to the provision of pro bono trial consulting services to indigent litigants.

While we have long kept track of those consultants willing to provide pro bono service, (so noted in members’ online profiles on the ASTC website), the committee has really started to cook over the past year. Since most attorneys don’t even know that there are trial consultants willing to work for free (or reduced rates), I thought it might be helpful to outline what this committee has been up to and what are its plans moving forward.

Largely through the efforts of Cynthia Cohen in Los Angeles and Alison Bennett in Dallas, two regional teams have been formed to assist attorneys working pro bono in those two metropolitan areas. These teams include jury consultants, litigation graphics specialists and focus group facility managers, so help is available for virtually any kind of case.

The two regional team leaders have been hard at work building connections between ASTC and the agencies that coordinate pro bono legal services in their areas. Cynthia and Alison have met with dozens of lawyers, legal aid coordinators, law professors and clinic directors over the past year. The response has been a resounding, “Wow!” as attorneys are surprised and delighted to learn that help can be available for their cases.

In the coming year, the ASTC Pro Bono Committee (of which I am now a member) will be looking to advance our visibility to the legal community. We want to make sure that those lawyers who need us know that we’re here. We plan to establish a clearinghouse for cases, located on the ASTC website, to match lawyers in need with consultants in a position to help.
Given the dramatic early success of the Dallas and Los Angeles teams, we also hope to establish pro bono teams in other regions of the country. We don’t have nearly the number of consultants in New England as they have in L.A. or Dallas, but I hope to get a Boston-based pro bono team up and running as soon as possible. Fortunately, much of a trial consultant’s work can be done at a distance, so it won’t be essential to have all team members nearby.

We also plan to assemble a comprehensive set of materials that our members can use to make presentations to lawyers groups about our pro bono initiative. So, if you think that your group would like to learn more about what trial consultants can do for you, please let us know.

This push in pro bono activity is a work in progress, but you don’t have to wait for us to get everything up and running to make use of our resources. Do you have a case that could really benefit from some trial consulting? Do you need advice about jury selection strategies? Are you struggling to put together materials to support your motions for a supplemental juror questionnaire or attorney conducted voir dire? Could you really use a professionally produced timeline to help you argue your case to the jury? Contact us now. We’ll help if we can.

You can reach the webpage of the Pro Bono Committee of the ASTC here. Or, feel free to contact me directly at .

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