ABOTA was founded more than 50 years ago, as an organization of trial lawyers dedicated to the preservation of the 7th Amendment right to a civil trial by jury, the promotion of civility and professionalism among members of the bar, and the protection of an independent judiciary. Nationwide, we have more than 6,700 members.
Membership is by invitation only. To be considered for membership, an applicant must have tried at least 10 civil cases to jury verdict (or the equivalent) and practice to the highest degree of ethical conduct. By charter, we are comprised equally of lawyers who primarily represent plaintiffs and those who usually represent defendants. We are dedicated not to aiding one side or the other, but to promoting a fair, efficient and just legal system for everyone.
ABOTA is in the forefront of promoting the legal profession and independence of the judicial branch. We run a host of programs designed to fill the ever growing gap in education and understanding about our third branch and to remind us all why a strong and independent third branch, anchored by a jury of citizens, is essential to maintaining liberty and democracy.
For middle school pupils, we developed a program called “Justice by the People,” an interactive computer software program that we distribute, free of charge, through Scholastic, for any teacher who wants to use it. It allows students to explore topics such as the structure of the Constitution and the meaning of the Bill of Rights and the Amendment process, and includes an interactive game called “Make your Case'” that puts the students in the role of a trial lawyer. It has been enormously popular with more than 30
million downloads nationwide thus far.
For high school students, in Massachusetts we created the James Otis Lecture Series, in which we invite leading scholars, law professors, judges and historians to give a program to high school students on issues relating to the Constitution, the rule of law, and the impact great lawyers have had on our development as a free society. The program is held annually on Constitution Day September 17), and is designed in part to help schools comply with the federal mandate that they teach at least one class about the Constitution on that day. The Otis Lecture has now spread nationwide, and is offered free of charge to participating students and schools.
For educators, ABOTA developed a Teachers’ Law School, in which select high school teachers spend a weekend in a comprehensive program taught by leading judges, professors and lawyers so that they will be able to better teach their own students about the law in the classroom. We also co-sponsor a Journalists’ Law School at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. The concept is to give journalists, who report on court proceedings and legal developments, a better understanding of fundamental concepts of the law and our legal system, and how it developed, to make it easier for the reporters to understand and report accurately on the issues they are covering.
ABOTA also runs a number of programs for professional development. Every year, the ABOTA Foundation runs a series of mock trials, called “Masters-in-Trial” demonstrations, in which ABOTA members from across the country put on a one-day mock trial before a live jury to demonstrate courtroom techniques for aspiring trial lawyers or those who wish to hone their trial skills. The faculty members are unpaid and are not even compensated for travel costs. We also have a “Trial College” for young lawyers, a week-long boot camp conducted by some of the best trial lawyers in America, that this year will be held at Harvard University in July.
These are just some of the many things that ABOTA does to help foster understanding of our profession, which seems to be constantly under attack by those who find political expedience more important that a sound understanding of the rule of law and the role lawyers and judges play in maintaining a free, just and stable society. For a more complete understanding of what ABOTA does, visit our national website at www.abota.org.