WASHINGTON, DC (July 12, 2004) – When Venable LLP litigation partner Bruce Parker became director of the 2004 Trial Academy organized by the International Association of Defense Counsel (IADC), he knew he would be running one of the legal profession’s most prestigious litigation laboratories, an annual event for legal associates that has become known as “boot camp for trial lawyers.”
What the Washington attorney didn’t know is that he would get to play casting director to fill up to 80 slots for jurors and expert witnesses for the Academy’s various courtroom simulations.
“We want to make these sessions as realistic as possible,” he said, noting that this year’s exercises include case scenarios involving toxic chemical exposure, wrongful termination and vehicular injury. “I interviewed toxicologists, economists, neurologists, and engineers to serve as expert witnesses. But I also had to oversee the casting of homemakers, retirees and schoolteachers to serve as jurors and fact witnesses. Our goal is to give associate attorneys a true sense of trial experience, which means having a good supporting cast of characters that can enhance courtroom drama.”
One of the oldest and largest programs of its kind, the IADC Trial Academy is making a major switch for its 32nd annual meeting. Following a long run at the University of Colorado in Boulder, this year’s course moves to Stanford University Law School, from July 31st to August 6. Given that the 2004 Academy will focus on trial technology, Stanford, with its substantial resources and law school facilities, becomes an ideal site.
“After 31 seasons in Boulder, we felt it was time for a new environment and couldn’t have found a more ideal location than Stanford,” said Mr. Parker, who is also a member of the IADC executive committee. “The law school is a tremendous teaching facility. We think the lawyers and teachers both will benefit from moving the Academy to one of the finest law schools in the country.”
Mr. Parker said that 105 associates from more than 30 states are expected to participate this year; faculty includes 15 top-flight trial attorneys from law firms around the country. The associates – typically between fourth and seventh year attorneys – are put through the paces in an intensive eight-day program that combines classroom instruction with mock trial demonstration. Each student makes opening statements, conducts direct and cross-examination of lay and expert witnesses, and finishes with closing statements. Student work is well critiqued by Mr. Parker and the rest of the IADC faculty. Evaluations are even sent back to associates’ law firms.
For Mr. Parker, the Academy fills a major void in today’s legal education system. “Trying cases is a vanishing art,” he says, noting the high number of pre-trial settlements that never reach the courtroom. “It’s becoming almost non-existent on the civil side. Even in the criminal area, not nearly as many cases are being tried as most people imagine. This is the only program that enhances advocacy skills for young lawyers under realistic heat-of-battle circumstances.”
Mr. Parker’s relationship with the Trial Academy goes back to 1995, when he had a faculty appointment. He was named Director-Elect in 2003.
“Bruce’s work on behalf of the Trial Academy shows his deep commitment to educating a new generation of trial lawyers,” says G. Stewart Webb Jr., head of Venable’s Litigation Division. “This is professional development in the purest sense of the term. Bruce is making a major contribution to keeping the trial flame burning – as these associate litigators advance in their careers, we hope they’ll hold a soft spot for our partner if he ever shows up as opposing counsel.”
Mr. Parker’s own practice is focused on product liability and toxic tort litigation, especially in the pharmaceutical and health care industries, including defense of medical device liability claims.
Mr. Parker has been a member of the national trial teams in both the breast implant and latex glove litigations, and he has tried significant cases in both litigations. In the 1990s, he was a member of the national trial team in both litigations and tried numerous cases to verdict in courts around the country. He currently serves as national counsel in litigation involving diesel exhaust claims.
He writes and lectures frequently on scientific evidence and defense strategies for IADC and the Defense Research Institute. Mr. Parker's most recent article "Mold Litigation: Avoidable or Inevitable?" was published by Real Estate Review.
Mr. Parker graduated first in his class from the Catholic University of America's Columbus School of Law in 1978 and received his B.A., with honors, from Johns Hopkins University in 1975. He is a member of the Maryland and District of Columbia bars.
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