When the American Society of Trial Consultants was formed, over 30 years ago, the Pro Bono Committee was one of the first standing committees to be established. Initially the committee encouraged the members to offer Pro Bono services to their clients. Over the course of years we have reached out beyond our own circle of clients to the pro bono community. We thought this might be a good time to remind you of this program since we anticipate there may be new kinds of what we used to call civil rights cases that will arise in the coming years.

ASTC Pro Bono Initiative offers pro bono services to people through organizations that serve those with limited means and to organizations that protect the civil or public rights of low income or marginalized citizens, individuals who would otherwise be unable to avail themselves of the services of a consultant.

Some cases need a little help, some require a lot more. We have been able to help on many matters with just a few phone conferences or a few visits. In one particular case, a firm put in over 1,000 hours.

Recent ASTC Pro Bono Program cases have involved civil rights, immigration, disability rights, parental rights, patent and trademark, and death penalty defense. Services provided in those cases included theme and story development, community surveys, focus groups, jury selection, witness training, graphics design and development, and focus groups.

The ASTC Pro Bono Initiative has local groups in some areas, but is not limited geographically. Members from across the country work together whenever possible for the common good and towards a common goal, to support the legal community in seeing that equal justice is afforded each person, no matter what they can afford.

Here are just a few examples of ASTC in pro bono service to the community.

“Maria” was a minister in Angola, and after being raped and beaten in her local police station, she escaped to the United States. After her temporary visa ran out she remained. Facing deportation, she sought help from the Human Rights Initiative. Seeing the great difficulty Maria had in presenting her story, the HRI contacted the ASTC Pro Bono. Recognizing the differences in cultural norms, and reaching back to Maria’s experience in helping other women in her church, the responding ASTC consultant helped Maria find her voice. Maria was able to present her story to the immigration court. Bill Holston of the Human Rights Initiative has thanked the ASTC Pro Bono Consultants for “literally helping us to save lives”.

The Community Legal Aid program found itself with many young, inexperienced but eager attorneys looking for an opportunity to help. When any of the cases they handled required court appearance, there were not enough volunteers with courtroom experience. Consultants from the ASTC partnered with them to present a CLE on witness training and preparation. Tom Stutz, Director of Legal Aid of North West Texas said, “This program will really help raise the quality of the representation we can provide”.

An ASTC Consultant in San Francisco was providing pro bono assistance for a capital murder trial to be held in a small town in Louisiana. The exigencies of scheduling and distance started throwing up roadblocks. Contacting the Pro Bono Committee she was able to find someone in the trial venue who could help with the mini-mock trial. As things developed, she was asked to help with the trial. Coordinated through a consultant in Dallas, TX—AV equipment was provided by a member in Delaware and a local Louisiana trial technologist assisted. Consultants in Louisiana provided last minute analysis of the juror questionnaires. More than a dozen consultants and vendors from three coasts joined forces to bring this trial to a successful conclusion. The San Francisco consultant who initially brought the case to the attention of the Pro Bono Program commented, “This is exactly why ASTC rocks! I cannot say enough about how much of a difference the Pro Bono assistance of ASTC members made on this case.

The Legal Assistance Foundation of Chicago has worked with ASTC members in several cases, their comments describe the importance of the help those consultants provided.

“Thank you for your help on framing and voir dire. It was invaluable. I even said “follow the paper trail” during closing! Others would probably tell you I shouted it. We also picked a really interestingly diverse jury and your advice and voir dire questions helped me feel more comfortable with the process (though I still hate it!). I am so grateful that you were willing to provide this pro bono assistance; LAF could never afford this kind of service for our clients otherwise.”

In another case, “[Our attorneys] had a few phone conversations with two of your consultants in the Carson case. We ended up settling that matter, but their questions and comments were probing and insightful and helped us frame some issues, and also realize we probably needed to settle!!”

In 2013, after the County Constable resigned the Williamson County, Texas Commissioners posted for applicants to fill the remaining year of the post. Robert Lloyd, who lived in the county and had 23 years of law enforcement experience, applied for the position. He felt he had a good chance as he was among the most qualified of the five applicants. While not a requirement for the position, the commissioners felt re-electability was an important consideration and Mr. Lloyd did not get the position. He wondered if the questions the Commissioners asked him about his religion and his views on gay rights and abortion had influenced the decision.

Pro Bono Counsel contacted the ASTC for help in developing a theme for what promised to be a contentious federal trial. Mimi Marziani, director of the Texas Civil Rights Project, expressing her appreciation to the ASTC said, “Your consultant was a pleasure to work with, and provided our team some great advice for our trial preparations. Not only did he take the time to understand the complex nature of our case to develop overall themes, but he also worked with our attorneys to refine the details of our Plaintiff’s testimony and our cross examinations. Best of all, he seemed to truly enjoy all of it!”

These are just a few of the examples from the ASTC Pro Bono Program’s files. For more information about American Society of Trial Consultants Pro Bono Program and contact information, visit our web page.

Ric started providing services to the legal community in 1978. Working intimately with trial teams he was involved with the strategy – and the art – of preparing cases for jury and bench trials and hearings. For the last 18 years he has been the senior trial consultant to an Am Law 100 firm in Dallas, Texas and is currently an independent litigation consultant in Dallas. He is honored to serve as the 2017-2018 president of the American Society of Trial Consultants.