As a first year law student, I started working in a trial lawyer's law office on May 14, 1976 - more than 25 years ago. The firm was small (one lawyer). That lawyer turned out to be Jack H. Olender, who was then a member of ATLA's Board of Governors.
Very early on, Jack made it clear that ATLA was an important educational resource for an aspiring trial lawyer. During my first years at the firm, I was a regular attendee at ATLA seminars, conventions and trial practice courses. One trial practice seminar held in the late 1970s at Georgetown University still reverberates B the lead speaker was Peter Perlman on Opening Statements. The last speaker was Bill Colson on Closing Arguments. Peter's carefully crafted art of Opening Statement is well known to us all. Bill Colson used a dignified eloquence and righteous advocacy to describe the plight of his client B a quadriplegic child B so vividly and so forcefully that many listeners were moved to tears. Their examples are still the benchmarks by which I measure my own, and other trial lawyers', opening statements and closing arguments.
Other ATLA stalwarts such as Ted Koskoff, Harry Philo, Leonard Ring and Gene Pavalon, have inspired us all. Their obvious passion for their profession has been passed down to the next generation of trial lawyers. The intensity of their commitment to provide the highest quality of representation to those in genuine need of advocacy was demonstrated time and again at ATLA-sponsored events.
I have a copy of the ATLA Annual Convention Program for 1975 (held in Toronto). Occasionally, I will leaf through it to remind myself just how far ATLA and trial lawyers have come. In 1975, the entire education program was set out in a few pages; there were twenty programs/meetings offered; there was no ATLA-PAC, ATLA's List, Minority Caucus or Women's Caucus in existence. In 1975, there was no ATLA Exchange, no ATLA Endowment, no Roscoe Pound Institute, no Civil Justice Foundation, and no Judicial Independence Committee. ATLA has come a long way in the last 25 years. The list of participants at the 1975 Toronto convention foreshadowed the greatness of ATLA's contribution to the preservation of the civil justice system. The skills of trial lawyers in attendance that year would be enhanced by the likes of J.D. Lee, Bob Cartwright, Judson Francis, Stanley Prieser, Abe Fuchsberg, Craig Spangenberg, Mel Belli and J. B. Spence. The future of ATLA would be led by, and our clients' rights protected by, other attendees such as Len Decof, Bill Wagner, Dave Shrager, Scott Baldwin and Sheldon Miller.
I am eternally grateful that the stars were aligned and I happened to walk into Jack Olender's law office 25 years ago. I am even more grateful to ATLA for protecting the rights of our clients in the legislative arena and for giving ATLA members the opportunity to learn from the most talented lawyers in the land.