The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Public Service Slots for Public Programs

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Your Donation Will Help Raise the Final $46,200!

Thanks to donor support, the new Public Service Slots for NITA Public Programs has raised $25,500 in donations but our 2012 goal is $71,700! The scholarship requests are still flooding in!

The new 2012 pilot, Public Service Slots for NITA Public Programs, fully funds program attendance (minus a $200 registration fee). The scholarships are only awarded to public service attorneys in the same region as the public program, and provides four public service slots per trial program and two public service slots per deposition program.

In January, NITA hosted its annual Program Directors meeting and discussed the need for public service attorney slots in NITA public programs. With donor help, NITA is now offering up to four “public service/government” attorney spaces in our public basic trial programs, which will allow these public services lawyers representing the impoverished to train alongside attorneys from private law firms. Since NITA runs almost 15 regional trial programs and 30 deposition programs in geographically diverse cities all over the United States, these spaces will be in high demand and offered to local public service attorneys to attend NITA programs without the need to incur substantial travel costs.

The NEW Public Service Attorney Slots for Public Programs:
* FULLY funds program attendance (minus a $200 registration fee)
* ONLY awarded to attorneys in the same region as the public program
* PROVIDES four designated public service spaces per trial program and two public service spaces per deposition program

These scholarships are distinct from the NITA Foundation’s standard General Scholarship Fund which awards both partial and full scholarships for attending NITA sponsored or co-sponsored public service programs OR public programs; requires applicants to be 100% need-based; and is globally awarded (not limited to a specific region).

In 2011, NITA absorbed the cost of these public service slots accounting for $60,640 of discounts and sponsored 31 attendees. Moving forward, we desperately need funding for these slots to cover the incremental cost of each attendee — $600 for a NITA Trial program or $350 for a NITA Deposition program. The total needed for all the 2012 Public Service Slots is $71,700. Individuals or firms can fund just one public service attorney slot or make a regional gift for multiple attorneys by calling the NITA Foundation at (303) 953-6845.

NITA Attends ACLEA, Picks Up Award

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Recently a group of NITA staff including Wendy Velez (Associate Executive Director: Operations), Darla Upchurch (Publisher), and Michelle Windsor (Project Editor) attended the ACLEA Annual Conference held in Denver.  Throughout the three days of sessions and networking, it was clear one of the major takeaways from the event was the concept of ‘Learning Objectives.’  Read below for their take on the subject.

Conferences are great places to network and be reassured that you’re on the right track with your business efforts or reminded that you’re falling behind. We always want to take away some important piece of information and either re-institute it in our organization or implement it.

At this year’s conference, learning objectives were a hot topic in multiple sessions. We need to be constantly sharing our learning objectives with our learners (in our case, our program participants and readers). A learning objective is a statement of what a learner is expected to know, understand, or be able to do as a result of a learning process.

Why are learning objectives necessary? They are help faculty, students, and course designers experience better and more focused instruction by allowing everyone to be on the same page. Learning objectives put the focus on the learner and allow for the learner to self-assess their progress.

Designing learning objectives is relatively easy. Follow these easy steps:

  1. Write a goal statement.
  2. Consider the scope of your program. Specify the major topics.
  3. Identify specifics – what specific, detailed knowledge, information, or skills do you expect your learners to learn?
  4. Think about how learners can demonstrate their learning.


Each learning objective should be written in clear language, so they identify important learning requirements that are assessable.

Here is a link to list of words to help you write effective learning objectives,

Credit goes to Frank Harris, Alan Treleaven, and Carole Wagan for their course materials at the ACLEA 2012 Denver meeting.

Also at ACLEA, Wendy Velez picked up the ACLEA’s Best Award for Programming.  NITA is honored to have won this award for its Online Deposition Skills program which was piloted and implemented with great success in 2011.  To read more about the online deposition programs and other innovative products from NITA visit

John Baker

August 2012 Executive Director’s Letter: National Session

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John BakerNITA program director Ben Rubinowitz, along with a star-studded faculty, presented a successful 41st NITA National Session at the Boulder facility in late July and early August. Fifty participants were treated to both a traditional “National Session” and innovative programming over the course of nine days. The first five days involved traditional learning by doing skills performances of witness examination, opening statements, expert witnesses, and courtroom exhibits, using technology. The first half ended with bench trials. As is the National tradition the participants had their videos reviewed by communication consultants.

As to innovation during this first half, each participant rotated through a “drill room” to warm up their skills. Following the warm-up each participant then returned to their performance rooms for performance, critiques and video review. The participants rotated through the drill room several times during the program.

More innovative training came in the second half of the program. Two days were spent with participants viewing focus group video data on “high risk” jurors, followed by demonstrations of the process of voir dire to identify and de-select high risk jurors. Participants then conducted three voir dire workshop performances with courtroom critique and video review. Participants were encouraged to conduct voir dire on a variety of fact scenarios, including their own cases. The program ended with closing arguments and final jury trials.

Congratulations to Ben, to the outstanding faculty, and to Sarah Shepler, the NITA program coordinator, for a cutting-edge and successful National Session.




John Baker

HED-TIES Grants Expire, Allen Snyder Recaps

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Since 2001, the U.S. government, Mexican higher education institutions, and members of the private sector have worked together to create programs under the Training, Internships, Exchanges, and Scholarships (TIES) initiative.

The official goal of TIES: “To create a bilateral public–private alliance to promote economic growth and higher living standards in Mexico through university partnerships that advance Mexico’s competitiveness.”

NITA and many of its faculty have had the privilege over the last several years to be a part of some of these alliances. In fact, NITA was part of five alliances between US law schools and Mexico law schools.

Allen Snyder was responsible for organizing eight different oral advocacy skills trainings and three teacher trainings as the Principle Investigator (grant-speak for law school representative) for The University of San Diego School of Law, UABC and the University of San Diego’s Trans Border Institute, one of the five US law school and Mexico law school partnerships. He recently sat down with us to go over the layers of the trainings and the programs’ achievements.

A Change to Mexico’s Legal System

While the Higher Education for Development (HED) serves as the administrator of all TIES programs and USAID serves as the primary funder, some funding came from other areas. In this instance, the five programs NITA participated in were all part of the Merida Initiative, which is a partnership between the United States and Mexico to fight organized crime and associated violence while furthering respect for human rights and the rule of law.

With the dramatic change in the Mexican criminal and civil trial procedures, grants were issued to teach oral advocacy. Formerly in Mexico, evidence was gathered out of the judge’s view and transmitted as a large file of witness statements and documents. Now, after constitutional amendments, evidence needs to be elicited through live witnesses in open court and judges need to render decisions in a relatively speedy fashion.

Results of the NITA-Style Trainings

Allen said that while NITA was primarily a supporter of these programs (NITA provided case files and covered some airline costs), NITA’s role was critical.

“NITA indirectly was crucial to the success of the trainings because we all learned how to teach these skills through our association with NITA.”

Allen enlisted the help of NITA faculty Jim Gailey, Lynne Lasry, Doris Cheng, Chris Whitten, and Rachel Carey to assist as faculty in the programs. He recruited Mexican faculty as well.

“The biggest challenge was learning that I had to teach people to trust that I knew what I was doing,” he said. “It’s funny. After 20+ years of organizing skills training programs, I know what I need to do for a successful program, but I soon realized that our Mexican partners weren’t clear what I was asking for.”

As an example, Allen explained that it took some coaxing to get Mexican trial attorneys to teach the courses. The expectation was that law school professors, many of whom had never practiced in court, were the only ones who could teach at the programs.

The grants have expired, but Allen said he and the other faculty have high hopes that oral advocacy skills for Mexican attorneys will continue to improve. NITA-style trainings have a ripple effect and continued trainings are the key to continued success.

He also explained that nothing is certain, especially given Mexico’s recent elections. It’s possible that the Mexican advocacy system could change yet again.


Fish & Richardson Receives ABA Exceptional Service Award

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Michael Siem, John Mathias, Larry Kolodney

Michael Siem (left) and Larry Kolodney (right) accepting Fish & Richardson’s Exceptional Service Award, which was presented by John Mathias (center), Chair of the Death Penalty Representation Project Steering Committee and partner at Jenner & Block LLP

On August 3, The American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project honored the Boston-based firm of Fish & Richardson for their work in death penalty representation. Since 2008, Fish has represented a number of death row prisoners. The firm is currently handling five active cases involving 31 attorneys, 10 paralegals, and numerous support staff.

Lawrence Kolodney and Michael Siem accepted the award in Chicago at the ABA award function.

ABA Excellence Awards Keynote Speaker

Keynote speaker, Judge Rosemary Barkett of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit

Fish and NITA often work together to produce custom programming at the firm and several Fish attorneys have attended NITA public programs as both participants and faculty. Congratulations to the firm, the attorneys and the staff for receiving this great honor.

The American Bar Association’s Death Penalty Representation Project is a 25-year-old organization that provides resources for firms interested in doing pro bono work on behalf of death row inmates. Each year they recognize firms who have “gone above and beyond in their death penalty pro bono practice.”

In addition to Fish & Richardson, Bradley Arant Boult Cummings also received an Exceptional Service Award, and the 2012 John Paul Stevens Guiding Hand of Counsel Award was presented to George H. Kendall of Squire Sanders.

Click here to learn more about the Death Penalty Representation Project.

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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