The time was September 1, 1954. The place was the Statler Hotel in Boston. The occasion was the annual convention of NACCA, the National Association of Claimants Compensation Attorneys. The void to be filled by the International Academy of Trial Lawyers was the need for an exclusive society to honor the exceptional best of the leaders of the trial bar, regardless of the member's favorite side of the civil or criminal case trial table.

The originator of the idea, in the sense of being the first man to put his thoughts into words, was Albert Averbach. He broached the subject to Perry Nichols at a luncheon break and received instant approval. Averbach, a notable lecturer and author, was more the quiet scholor as between those two men. Nichols was far more political, a potent mover and shaker. At once he sought out his friend, Gerald Finley, who had a talent for organizing.

This nucleus of three spent the afternoon making up a list of NACCA luminaries who were congenial, who could give prestige to the new society, and who were present in the hotel for the convention. This select group was invited to attend a meeting that same evening to discuss and expand the Academy idea. They all accepted.


Those men, the founding fathers, deserve special recognition in the recorded history of the Academy.  They are here listed, in alphabetical order:

George Allen, Sr. of Virginia
Albert Averbach of upstate New York
Melvin Belli of California
H. Alva Brumfield of Louisiana
W. Arthur Combs of Texas
William DeParcq of Minnesota
James Dooley of Illinois
Gerald Finley of New York
Raymond Finley of Ohio
Harry Gair of New York
Jo Gardner of Missouri
Harry Lipsig of New York
James Mozingo, III of South Carolina
Perry Nichols of Florida
Walter Oros of Idaho
Nels Peterson of Oregon
Payne Ratner, Sr. of Kansas
Orville Richardson of Missouri
David Sindell of Ohio
Lloyd Paul Stryker of New York
J. Peter Tonkoff of Washington
Virgil Wedge of Nevada

Lawyers being what they are, the discussions that evening went on for hours, with a diversity of opinions firmly expressed and vigorously debated. Unanimity was reached on the critical points that the time was right for an honorary fellowship open to membership drawn from all areas of the trial and appellate bar; to be named the International Academy of Trial Lawyers; to meet annually for the free interchange of new ideas and innovative approaches in the science and art of jurisprudence; and with a membership to be forever tightly limited in number. Admission standards were to be strictly maintained to assure that all the Fellows invited to join would possess the highest levels of integrity, honor, and professional courtesy, in addition to truly exceptional trial ability.

Nichols was the chief proponent of annual round table forums. All the men present were devoting substantial time and effort to teaching young lawyers. Nichols wanted to set aside a few days each year so the best of the teachers could learn from each other and stay ahead of the field. That is still a good idea. Averback was the chief proponent of the "International" concept. He wanted to travel the world, to learn from the leading advocates in other cultures and legal systems what strategy and tactics might be effective in our American common law trial system. That idea was overly broad, then and now. There is nothing to be learned, except love for our own freedom, from those countries where the compelling argument is the fire power of a tank battalion and the rebuttal to great advocacy is the execution of the advocate. The Academy does visit, and draw membership from, many free nations which possess substantial democratic institutions and recognize individual rights. We still dream of a planet where the words of our Charter may come true: "The territory in which its operations are to be conducted include all the countries in the world."


The Founders' Meeting ended with a learned law society new-born, and with much work to be done to make it legal. Gerald Finley volunteered to draft and to file in New York the Charter incorporating the Academy as a nonprofit corporation. All of the 22 men present agreed to serve as interim directors until the first annual meeting. They are so named in the original Charter, with one exception. They also agreed to meet again soon to construct the formal By-Laws and the Admission procedures, to elect initial officers, and to begin the cautious expansion of membership. They chose the Castle Harbour Hotel in Bermuda, and Friday and Saturday of the coming Thanksgiving week, for the first international meeting place and time.

There was one other brief get-together in Boston. Averbach thought, a day or two later, that a commemorative photograph should be taken of the founding group. He arranged for the photographer and meeting room, and distributed notices of the event. The photograph taken that day was much later published in the 25th Anniversary edition of the IATL Bulletin, August, 1979, with the caption: "The Founding Fathers - Charter Meeting - September 1, 1954." Unfortunately, not all of the Fathers got their messages in time to pose for the picture.

Without repeating, from the above list of founders, the names of all the men who really attended the Charter meeting, the Founding Fathers whose smiling young faces do not appear in that historic photograph are George Allen, Bill DeParcq, Harry Gair, Jo Gardner, "Spot" Mozingo, Nels Peterson, Lloyd Paul Stryker and Virgil Wedge.

Historical accuracy requires one other correction to the photograph and the list of founders. Orville Richardson attended the first meeting and intended to be one of the initial directors. He changed his mind and withdrew before Gerry Finley drafted the Charter documents. Some of his friends, who had not been chosen for membership, persuaded him that this new venture would produce a divisive super-NACCA designed to attract an excessive share of referral cases from the regular NACCA membership. Time would prove those fears to be groundless. NACCA flourished, and its leaders, who were also Academy Fellows, worked as hard as ever on the traveling seminar circuits. Be it here recorded that years later Orville reevaluated the Academy appreciated its demonstrated worth, became a candidate for membership: and was accepted as a new Fellow.

Next - Incorporation


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