Before the American Association for Justice and its predecessor, the Association of Trial Lawyers of America, there was the National Association of Claimants’ Compensation Attorneys NACCA) which was formed in 1946. In 1960 the NACCA changed its name to the National Association of Claimants’ Counsel of America, and four years later, to the American Trial Lawyers Association. In the tradition of progress, Stanley Preiser conceived the idea, which met with Mel Belli’s approval, that within ATLA there should be a group of lawyers who had distinguished themselves as trial lawyers and who were dedicated to the principles of education on an international basis.
Lawyers would join by invitation only and approval of the Board. The initial Board was comprised of Mel Belli, Stanley Preiser, Richard Gerry and other well known trial lawyers of the time. Only those lawyers who met the criteria established by the Board would be invited to join. The organization was to be named after America’s most famous trial lawyer – The Melvin M. Belli Society. Its stated purpose would be to promote the international exchange of ideas among lawyers through meetings and education. It was created in 1981 and had rosettes made in France for the members.
Stanley Preiser tells that he was honored to have been Mel’s friend for many years, from 1955 through the Belli Seminars and writing in his books and his own representation of Mel against West Publishing Company and the California Bar. Mr. Preiser was the first and second president of the Society. On the 17th day of July, 1983, in Washington D.C. at the annual meeting of the Society, Mel personally presented him with a plaque signed by Mel as Provost, thanking him for starting the Society and helping to accomplish its goals.
The Society has taken trips to Germany, Cuba, the United Kingdom and other countries. They published the International Law Journal which contained many articles from the members.
Mel would be very proud of what the Melvin M. Belli Society has become. He agreed that at every Seminar Mr. Preiser begin his talk with the statement that every trial lawyer in America owes Mel a part of the fee, for his training and education of us all.