The Legal Advocate

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

Monthly Archives: October 2012

NITA E-books can be accessed on a variety of devices

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Several of NITA’s publications are now available as e-books through Amazon’s Kindle Store; however, you don’t need a Kindle to purchase and read them.

Amazon offers many free Kindle apps for different devices, which allows you to have access to your NITA e-book collection no matter where you are. All of your e-books will sync across all of your devices. For example, you can download Modern Trial Advocacy onto your iPad through Kindle for iPad and also view it on your PC with Kindle for PC. The Kindle Cloud Reader also allows you to access your collection through any Internet browser.

Kindle apps are available for:

  • iPhone
  • iPod Touch
  • Android Phone
  • Windows Phone 7
  • Black Berry
  • iPad
  • Android Tablet
  • Windows 8
  • PC
  • Mac

This post was written by Michelle Windsor, NITA editor.

I’m More Afraid of Public Speaking than Dying!

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Written by guest blogger: Mark S. Caldwell

According to most studies, people’s number one fear is public speaking. Number two is death. Death is number two. Does that seem right? That means to the average person, if you have to go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.

– Jerry Seinfeld, 1993

From this simple joke started the urban legend about death and public speaking. The genesis of this, according to a discussion on, comes from the 1977 “Book of Lists” citing results from a team of researchers from the polling firm Bruskin-Goldring, asking 3000 U.S. residents about their fears. That unscientific study found that forty-one percent of the respondents cited speaking in public as a major fear. As Chad Shultz indicated in this post, “People simply were asked for some fears off the top of their head, and more of them happened to mention public speaking than death.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, as quoted by Statistic Brain,  the number of people with a diagnosed phobia is 6.3 million and seventy-four percent of the US Population has a fear of public speaking, or Glossophobia. Joshua W. Davies, a communications consultant at the LAM Institute, uses even different figures, saying an estimated 5.2 million Americans (aged 18 to 54) have a diagnosed form of social phobia that would might emerge when public speaking (see: Is there any real evidence that people are more afraid of public speaking than dying?). In other words, the connection between public speaking and death is just an urban legend.

Yet, for many of us, speaking at trial or performing at a NITA program produces great levels of anxiety. As humans we have that built-in mechanism of fear that makes us want to fight or run away. When we are asked to speak either at trial or at a NITA program, we can neither fight nor flee. We must stand there and speak. More importantly, our client cannot speak – we are there to speak on the client’s behalf. If you are part of that group who actually has glossophobia, or if you are simply nervous about doing your best for your client, what can you do?

Dr. June Johnson, President of Voice Power and a speech and communication coach, suggests, “Fear can make you nervous but nerves need not make you fearful. While fear is difficult to channel, nerves, when channeled into energy, can be a positive force bringing vitality and enthusiasm into your speech. All performers rely on nervous energy to enhance their performance. Control your fear rather than allowing it to control you.”

NITA has a cadre of extraordinary communications specialists who teach at our programs. They offer solid tips on things you can do to help reduce your anxiety. Some of those tips include:

1. Breathe. Making sure your brain has sufficient oxygen helps to reduce the stress response. When anxious or stressed the amygdala, a part of our mid-brain, releases large amounts of the stress hormone cortisol, as well as adrenaline. According to Nick Ortner, this sudden flood of hormones causes a series of physiological responses, including shutting down the creative center of the brain and increasing heart rate. Increasing the amount of oxygen helps to calm this release and helps you master the anxiety. (See, Public Speaking .) Before beginning, inhale deeply several times, using your full lung capacity instead of breathing high in your chest. In their book The Articulate Advocate (ISBN-13: 978-0-9796895-0-5), Brian Johnson and Marsha Hunter give great advice on using the “time warp” created by a faster heart rate to your advantage.

2. Exercise before you start. Similar to breathing, exercise helps clear your blood stream of the stress hormones and helps clears you head. There are countless tales of lawyers running up the stairs or doing push-ups in the restroom. According to Mary Ryan of the Porsche Group, exercise may help you channel your fear so it enhances your performance.

3. Talk to your audience – not at them. This includes making eye contact and using conversational language. As Tina Habas of Keating Wagner Polidori Free, P.C. in Denver suggests, “Simplify your language – don’t dumbify it.” You do not have to talk down to those in your audience. You do have to help them understand. Trials are not lectures, but a communication of your client’s story and the wrong done to them.

4. Do not worry about making mistakes. People appreciate your situation and will forgive you if you admit making an error. Ours is a nation of forgiveness. Celebrities and professional athletes sometimes do terrible things. Then they announce they are sorry, go into rehabilitation clinics, and return to the spotlight and a new contract. We still admire them. If you are honest enough to admit making a mistake or asking a bad question you will be given the benefit of the doubt.

5. Use notes appropriately. Except for those gifted with photographic memories most people need notes to guide them through trial. This does not mean you should allow fear to lock you into reading straight from your notes. Notes should be memory triggers that refresh your recollection. You should memorize the beginning of your opening statement and closing argument where eye contact is essential.

6. Be prepared, and practice. Extemporaneous speaking does not suggest a lack of preparation. A thorough understanding of the facts and laws allows you to speak not from a script but from your heart. The better you know your subject the less stress you will have and the more likely is becomes that you will master your fear. David Mann, communications consultant and actor, recommends you practice your trial speeches by speaking “out loud.” Practice in circumstances similar to what you will experience at trial – if you stand, practice standing, and if forced to sit, practice seated.

7. Get yourself into the right frame of mind. Starting before you are actually ready to begin ensures you are not truly confident. Silence can be a powerful tool that also helps you think about what you will say next as the listener considers what you just said. Mark Oates of the Chicago office of Baker & McKenzie uses silence in a purposeful way to add drama to specific points and to demonstrate control in the courtroom. Before you begin, say silently to yourself, ‘I’m ready – let’s do this now.’

NITA Joins 1500+ lawyers in Monterey, CA

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The State Bar of California’s Annual Meeting remains one of the events NITA has a presence at each year.  Being involved at the meeting, this year as an exhibitor, last year exhibiting and conducting a focus group, provides an audience of 1500+ attorneys from up and down the Golden Coast.  Having 12 public programs in California each year gives the attorneys in attendance ample opportunity to learn about NITA at the conference, and then attend a program in the coming year.

This year marked the 85th anniversary of the event which again took place in Monterey.  Hosting the event every other year, Monterey has a tradition of attracting a higher volume of attendees than other venues.  Whether networking or CLE was a top priority, the event offered attendees (and vendors) plenty of both.  There were networking opportunities at every break and at seemingly every meal.  The opening night reception proved to be the busiest and best attended event of the weekend.

The four days of CLE programming were highlighted by big name speakers from within, and outside of, the legal field.  Jeffrey Toobin, CNN Senior Analyst and a best-selling author, started things off with an opening session looking at the influence of the Supreme Court and how the upcoming elections will impact the court.  Perhaps the best attended session was led by John W. Dean III, who was the White House counsel to President Nixon and a top lawyer during the Watergate scandal.

Plenty of CLE was available, and to combat all the sitting in sessions the conference offered a Fun Run/Walk and a number of Zumba classes.

Those who visited the NITA booth were excited to learn about the new e-book offerings, in addition to getting information on the 2013 programs in California.  Many stopped by after playing a few holes of Tiger Woods Golf on Xbox in a neighboring booth.  Special thanks go out to numerous program participants and NITA faculty members that stopped by.  It’s always great to hear from you and hopefully we’ll see you at next year’s event.

Modern Trial Advocacy: eBook

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NITA has been working tirelessly to build our library of eBooks  and we are pleased to announce that Modern Trial Advocacy is now available for download onto your Kindle. This NITA bestseller is a comprehensive trial advocacy guide, used by law schools throughout the country since it was first published in 1993. Modern Trial Advocacy covers the entire litigation process, with chapters on trial tools, direct examination, cross-examination, expert testimony, objections, opening and closing statements, and more. Law school students and legal professionals alike will benefit from the book’s theory-driven approach as well as the expanded discussions introduced in this fourth edition.

Author Steven Lubet has published more than fifteen books and hundreds of articles relating to trial advocacy and law, including topics such as litigation, legal history, international criminal law, dispute resolution and legal education. Lubet is the Edna B. and Ednyfed H. Williams Memorial Professor of Law at Northwestern University, where he directs the Bartlit Center on Trial Strategy.

To order Modern Trial Advocacy for Kindle,  click here. To view other NITA publications available in eBook format, click here.

How Your Donation Helps!

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Meet Brent Plater – 2012 Scholarship Recipient

Thanks to the generous support of our donors, the NITA Foundation is able to provide scholarships to NITA programs. Read below from Brent Plater on how this gift impacted him personally.

“Thank you so much NITA Foundation! I am honored and truly grateful for this award to attend the June 2012 Building Trial Skills NITA training. And I promise to put the training to use advocating for disadvantaged communities and the plants and animals that accompany us in Earth! Hopefully we’ll make you proud!”

– Brent Plater, Executive Director
Wild Equity Institute – San Francisco, CA

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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