Since 1999, volunteer NITA faculty members have shared the “learning by doing” method of teaching advocacy skills with Solicitor Advocates from Northern Ireland. Seven American “Tutors” joined local, NITA-Trained Irish faculty to run the 13th Annual Law Society of Northern Ireland Advanced Advocacy Course for five days in Belfast September 3-7, 2012. As with all thirteen of the earlier NITA courses this program was sponsored, organized, and staged in conjunction with the Law Society of Northern Ireland.
The program was virtually identical to any of NITA’s Basic Trial programs in the United States. Since the legal system in Northern Ireland has some subtle procedural differences with the American system, NITA trained Irish tutors assist teaching in the performance rooms and in video review. The 49 Irish participants teamed up to represent their respective clients in an “Irishized” NITA criminal case file, reflecting terminology and procedural differences. High Court judges heard the cases without jurors in final trials. Completion of the program helps the Solicitor Advocates complete a comprehensive course of advocacy training.
The American tutors for this year included Jim Brosnahan, Doris Cheng, Angela Vigil, Bill Hunt, Peter Hoffman, John Baker, and Communication faculty member, Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla. This year’s trip was special for Jim Brosnahan as he was one of the NITA family, who was instrumental in organizing the original program in 1999.
The legal profession in Northern Ireland helped the country through the civil strife of the “troubles” as one of the constants for the Irish society. As Course Director Fiona Donnelly reminds us, “This advanced course is likely to be an integral part of the process for the solicitor advocates to achieve Higher Rights to practice in all courts in Northern Ireland.” The NITA community should be proud to play a role in supporting that legal profession going forward.
John T. Baker