American College of Trial Lawyers

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The American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL) is a professional association of trial lawyers from the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. Founded in 1950, the College is dedicated to maintaining and improving the standards of trial practice, the administration of justice and the ethics of the profession. Through its Board of Regents, its general committees and its state and province committees, the College engages in a wide variety of activities to further those purposes. The College also awards the Medal for Excellence in Advocacy on a yearly basis, as well as other awards presented at various events or competitions judged by members of the College.


Fellowship is extended only by invitation, after careful investigation, to those experienced trial lawyers who have mastered the art of advocacy and whose professional careers have been marked by the highest standards of ethical conduct, professionalism, civility and congeniality. Although there are currently more than 5,700 Fellows across the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico, membership can never be more than one percent of the total lawyer population of a state or province. Qualified lawyers are called to Fellowship in the College from all branches of trial practice. They are selected from among advocates who represent plaintiffs or defendants in civil proceedings of all types, as well as prosecutors and criminal defense lawyers. The College is thus able to speak with a balanced voice on important issues affecting the administration of justice.


The College mission, according to its guidelines states: “The American College of Trial Lawyers was created to recognize excellence in trial lawyers. We are looking for trial lawyers who are outstanding in experience, skill and ability, lawyers who are considered by other lawyers and judges to be the best in your State or Province. The lawyer who is merely above average or just a ‘good lawyer’ is not what we are looking for. The candidate’s ethical and moral standards must be impeccable, conduct that violates the canons or skates too close to the line should disqualify a candidate. We are looking for excellence in character. Finally, we require that intangible quality that we label collegiality.”


The Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL Foundation), established in 1965, and the Canadian Foundation of the American College of Trial Lawyers, established in 2010, are non-profit organizations founded to advance the initiatives and objectives of the College. The Foundation strives to improve the standards of trial and appellate advocacy, ethics of the profession and the administration of justice. With an awareness of their fiduciary duty, the Trustees of the ACTL Foundation and the Directors of the Canadian Foundation carefully scrutinize grant applications for projects that are consistent with the College’s objectives. Both Foundations execute their missions their multiple awards and grants.

  • The ACTL Foundation funds the Emil Gumpert Award, an annual $100,000 grant to recognize programs, whether public or private, who principal purpose is to maintain and improve the administration of justice.[1]
  • The Samuel F. Gates Litigation Award is presented to a lawyer or judge who has made a significant, exceptional and lasting contribution to the improvement of the litigation process.[2]
  • The Fulton Haight Fund provides an annual award to the law school of the winning team of the National Moot Court Competition.[3]

The ACTL Foundation has supported the National College of District Attorneys and the National Criminal Defense College with grants matched by the College. The funds have provided scholarships for trial practice training courses that young lawyers would otherwise be unable to attend.

The Canadian Foundation has contributed funding to allow students at Osgoode Hall Law School to attend the Commonwealth Law Moot in Cape Town, South Africa. Many states and provinces produce training videos with the assistance of funding from the Foundation. The videos are then shared with other jurisdictions on a reciprocal basis. The Foundations are poised to provide funds for legal services during times of natural disasters, such as tornadoes, floods, earthquakes and other short notice emergencies.


The College publishes the Codes of Conduct, papers, reports and other items that contribute to the administration of justice and the profession. Report may range from brief analyses of proposed amendments to the federal rules to a book-length manual on complex tort litigation.

In partnership with the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System and the American College of Trial Lawyers Task Force, the organizations released 24 revised principles for achieving fundamental improvement of the legal system to help ensure no one is shut out due to lengthy and expensive process. The recommendations are defined in the new publication Reforming our Civil Justice System: A Report on Progress and Promise, and includes calls for a sharp realignment of the discovery process and greater court resources to manage cases.

The College publishes a series of lectures from distinguished speakers who presented at previous meetings of the College in honor of Lewis F. Powell, Jr., the twentieth President of the College and the ninety-ninth Justice to sit on the Supreme Court of the United States.

Current Staff[edit]

The National Office of the American College of Trial Lawyers is located in Irvine, California. Currently, eight staff members are employed with the College.

Staff Position
Dennis J. Maggi, CAE Executive Director
Suzanne Alsnauer Meetings and Conference Manager
Cheryl E. Castillo Office Administrator
Geri Frankenstein Membership Manager
Eliza B. Gano Communications Manager
Amy Mrugalski Executive Assistant
Katrina Savercool Meetings and Conference Assistant
Mary Y. Whitney Controller

External links[edit]