The Legal Advocate

A blog brought to you by the national institute for trial advocacy

Monthly Archives: May 2012

21st Century DVD Snippets: Embrace Bad Facts

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John Baker teaches how to embrace bad facts.

The Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation Donates to The NITA Foundation

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The NITA Foundation is fortunate to have generous support from donors such as The Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation. Through their gift of $1,700, one named scholarship will be awarded through the NITA Foundation to offer financial assistance to a need-based public service lawyer working for legal aid offices and/or other non-profit organizations, ideally from the Rocky Mountain region, to attend the NITA program “Deposition Skills – Rocky Mountain” scheduled for December 2012 in Boulder, Colorado.

Based in Denver, Colorado, The Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation was created by J. Kyle Bachus and Darin L. Schanker in January of 2009 to support the partners’ beliefs in giving back to their community. As a personal injury firm that has seen the devastation that an injury or illness can inflict upon an individual or family, the foundation is committed to providing not only monetary donations, but also the contribution of their personal time and the time of their staff to participate in events throughout the year.

The Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation has contributed over $100,000 to more than 20 organizations in community such as MADD, Dolls for Daughters, Habitat for Humanity, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and the NITA Foundation. The Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation is committed to supporting the community and those affected by life-changing tragedies. The contribution to the NITA Foundation will help to provide public service lawyers with the information and training they need to assist the community that the Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation supports.

The Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation is always looking for opportunities to level the playing fields for individuals through their work in the courtroom, as well as through its legislative involvement on the local and national level. The Foundation and firm value public service attorneys and hope to equip them to better serve their clientele. The civil justice system is central to this firm’s practice and its core legal values. Public service attorneys advance the cause of the most vulnerable members of our community and are often their voice when they otherwise may not have one.

Bachus and Schanker Cares Foundation strives to lead its legal peers by example. The foundation’s work in the community has positively impacted its own attorneys and staff, as they see the positive effect of their involvement. During this difficult time of economic recovery, the need for assistance has grown and those affected by life-changing events need the foundation’s support more than ever. Both the Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation and its partners remain committed to giving back. If your organization would like to apply to receive assistance from the Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation, the application process is simple. Fill out an application from the law firm’s website, . Return the application with any additional documents to Dawn Line-Rozecki. Applications are reviewed on a monthly basis. For more information about the Bachus & Schanker Cares Foundation please visit

Florida Legal Services Attorneys Attend Teacher Training Program

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Florida Legal Services Attorneys Attend Teacher Training Program
Now Equipped to Provide Training to Others

Tampa, FL: On April 16-17 the National Institute for Trial Advocacy conducted a Public Service Teacher Training program for Florida legal services attorneys.  The intensive, workshop-based program, funded by a donation by the American College of Trial Lawyers Foundation, uses NITA’s learning-by-doing method to equip legal services lawyers with the tools to turn around and teach trial skills to the attorneys in their offices.  Twenty public service attorneys went through the program and many are already seeing the benefits of the training.  “Since the event I’ve heard positive reports from participants and from several project directors who sent staff to the training,” said Kathy Grunewald, Statewide Training Director for Florida Legal Services, Inc.

A major issue facing public interest lawyers is high caliber training.  Despite the fact that these lawyers appear in court on a regular basis, finding the time and money for this type of training is very difficult.  “The skills taught in this type of teacher training are generic,” explained Michael Dale, Professor of Law at the Shepard Board Law Center-Nova Southeastern and frequent NITA faculty member.  “That, along with having local instructors, allows participants to apply these skills to trying cases in landlord-tenant matters, domestic relations, consumer law, abuse and neglect matters, just to name a few.”

The goal of the program was to provide experienced lawyers in the Florida legal services community with the knowledge and skills necessary to be effective teachers of advocacy skills.  These experienced attorneys are now equipped to further develop the trial skills of Florida’s public service attorneys and can do so by conducting their own “NITA style” training sessions and mentoring the less experienced attorneys in their offices.

NITA is the world’s leader in advocacy skills training and publications.  A 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado, NITA’s mission is to train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in the pursuit of justice.

Founded in 2003, the NITA Foundation has awarded more than $2.4 million in funds for the NITA scholarship program and in support for public service programming. For more information please visit,

Daniel McHugh, Director of Marketing

Book Report: Reagan v. Jacobson

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This is part of a new Book Report series designed to introduce some of our favorite NITA publications. Some of the books we’ll write about are fresh off the press, while others are tried-and-true NITA favorites. For more book reports and information on our publications, check out our Publications page

Reagan v. Jacobson

Practicum Series Case File/Trial Exercise

By John Sonsteng, Linda Thorstad, and Jennifer Miller 

Late at night, on a dark, narrow street, two cars are involved in a collision, sending both drivers to the hospital. Taking into consideration the late hour, the narrow street, the wet pavement and the lack of parking space, the question becomes “who is at fault or what is to blame?”

On the night of the accident, Chris Reagan left work, crossed the street, opened the door to his car parked along the curb, and got in. When the interior lights failed to come on, Reagan opened the driver’s side door again to let in light. Then, as Reagan reached out to pull the car door shut, the door was struck by a southbound car driven by Jody Jacobson. The collision injured Reagan’s wrist and arm. On impact, Jacobson’s car spun to the right and struck a pole on the curb, resulting in injuries to the kneecap and ligaments in Jacobson’s left knee. Reagan is the plaintiff in this case, claiming Jacobson’s negligence caused the accident and therefore Reagan’s resulting injuries. Jacobson, the defendant, is claiming Reagan opened the car door before Jacobson could come to a stop.

Reagan v. Jacobson is the latest installment in author John Sonsteng’s Practicum Series Advocacy Exercises, a collection of case files based on the materials Sonsteng created for William Mitchell Legal Practicum courses. This case file is intended to develop the user’s advocacy skills, and can be used in arbitration, expert witness, trial, negotiation, mediation, and motions/oral argument advocacy training programs. The file includes expert medical testimonies for both the plaintiff and defendant, and comes with a CD containing the exhibits presented in the case.

ISBN: 978-1-60156-103-9 ∙ 112 pages ∙ Retail Price: $35.00

Order Now: at

Be sure to look for the rest of the Practicum Series case files online, or call us at 1-800-225-6482 for more information.

Q&A: If my witness on direct starts to talk too much I will…?

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If my witness on direct starts to talk too much I will…

a. Gently control the witness by bringing them back to my question.

b. Use more head notes to put a subject corral that limits what we are talking about.

c. Put up my hand – like a stop signal – to get the witness to shut up.

d. Object to the witness’ answer as not responsive

e. All of the above.


The answer is  e.) All of the above.

Witness control is sometimes thought to be something done only on cross-examination. Witnesses on direct who may be nervous, anxious, eager to help, biased, or just talkative also must be controlled. While the focus is on the witness, it is your examination and you must be in control. Just as in cross, witness control on direct is similar to escalation to thermonuclear war. You should start by accepting the blame for asking a bad question and reframe your question so it is clearly understandable. If that fails, allow the witness to finish his or her answer and clearly tell them they are not answering your question and tell them the subject matter you want them to address. This should be your clue that you must keep the witness in check by narrowing each area you wish to address. Do this through very narrow and specific head notes to topics, e.g. “I want us to focus on the time between when the crash occurred and when the police first arrived.” These head notes are foundational in nature and usually permitted under the rules of evidence. Witnesses who continue to speak beyond the specific answer are sometimes stopped by simply holding up your hand as a stop signal – it’s a universal sign to halt and most people will stop when they see this motion. If nothing else works, you are entitled to object to the witness’ answer as not being responsive to your question. This last technique is truly a last resort as it distances you from your own witness. Making such an objection will sometimes prompt the judge to then intervene and instruct the witness to answer your questions. In that way, it appears that you are not telling the judge you can’t control your witness by asking for the Court’s assistance. Instead, it suggests to the jury the judge is serving as referee.  Whichever techniques you choose to employ, the bottom line is that it is your job to control the witness.

NITA’s team of practicing lawyers, professors and judges from around the nation dedicates its efforts to the training and development of skilled and ethical legal advocates to improve the adversarial justice system.

NITA’s Goals are to:

  • Promote justice through effective and ethical advocacy.
  • Train and mentor lawyers to be competent and ethical advocates in pursuit of justice.
  • Develop and teach trial advocacy skills to support and promote the effective and fair administration of justice.
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