The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Baylor Law School Wins Tournament of Champions

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For the first time in the school’s history, Baylor Law School has won the National Institute for Trial Advocacy’s Tournament of Champions. Hosted by IIT Chicago-Kent School of Law (by virtue of their winning the competition in 2010) sixteen law school mock trial teams were invited to this year’s competition.  This year Baylor came away with a near clean sweep.

In addition to winning the James Seckinger Trophy, given to the overall champion, Baylor’s team also won the Professionalism Award and Stephen Netherton picked up the award for Best Advocate in the Final Rounds. Joining Netherton on the team were Leah Maxwell, David Shaw, and Blayne Thompson.  Coaching the Bears was Robert R. Little who is a Baylor grad and attorney at Naman, Howell, Smith & Lee, PLLC.

The team from the University of Maryland School of Law was this year’s runner up.  Teams from St. John’s University School of Law and UC-Berkeley School of Law were also semi-finalists.  Cory Ricci of Samford University’s Cumberland School of Law took home the Best Advocate Award for the preliminary rounds.

Baylor Law School will now be host to the 2014 TOC competition.  Next year’s TOC will be held at Samford University Cumberland School of Law. Congratulations to the competitors and coaches from Baylor Law School and all those who took part in this year’s Tournament of Champions.  NITA is honored to play a role in such a prestigious event.

To see a complete list of participating teams and results from past competitions click here.

NITA’s Halloween Party

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Last Wednesday NITA celebrated Halloween in style. Jen (from Programs) and Darla (from Publications) worked together to create a fabulous event, complete with a truly disgusting menu. We dined on witch’s fingers and goblin’s eyeballs, and sipped on ‘pond scum’ and vampire blood.

In addition to the creepy cuisine, the hosts put on a photo station and costume contest. With prizes going to the ‘Scariest’, ‘Funniest’, and ‘Overall Best’ costumes, everyone made sure to dress up. However, there could only be three winners. Carrie from Finance took the prize for ‘Scariest’ in her Spider Lady costume, Daniel from Marketing won ‘Funniest’ with his Jimmy Buffet Fan attire, and Megan from Programs stole the show, and the ‘Best Overall’ prize, with her sock monkey costume.

Then and Now: Dixon v. Providential Life Insurance Co.

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Dixon v. Providential Life Insurance Co. is one of NITA’s oldest case files. The original publication was written by James H. Seckinger and published in 1977,  and was included in a compilation book titled Cases in Trial Advocacy 1977-1978. The case examined the death of Judge John Dixon, whose wife found him with a gunshot wound to the head. She sued Providential Life Insurance Co. for failure to pay on his life insurance policy. Providential claimed that the death was not proven to be accidental, and instead claimed that Judge Dixon’s death was a suicide.


Today, Dixon v. Providential Life Insurance Co. looks just a little bit different than it did 35 years ago. Last updated in 2000, the case file has been adapted by NITA authors Edward R. Stein and Frank D. Rothschild, but has retained Seckinger’s original case summary. Dixon v. Providential Life Insurance Co. is now sold as its own case file, and as a Technology Case File includes an interactive DVD. It is one of NITA’s best-selling case files and is used in classrooms, programs, and trainings worldwide.


Books and case files must constantly be updated to retain relevancy and accuracy, and that is evident in this case file. While the summary has remained the same, facts and figures must be adjusted over time. For example, the original life insurance policy was for $50,000–in the 2000 edition, the claim is over a policy worth $250,000.

Learn more and purchase the newest edition here!

King or Conscience

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Photo Courtesy of IMDB

Blog post written by guest blogger Judge Bob McGahey

Sir Thomas More was Chancellor of England under Henry VIII.  He was a leading intellectual of his day, writing a book called Utopia; the word we use today is derived from that title. More was revered by his contemporaries as a brilliant, kind, understanding man and the best lawyer of his time.  He was also executed as a traitor. Why?

The answer is found in the wonderful 1966 film, A Man for All Seasons.  The movie won the Best Picture Oscar and Paul Schofield, who played More, won the Oscar for Best Actor. The movie shows how More’s conscience – adherence to his faith – took precedence over his loyalty to the King and ultimately led to More’s beheading. The movie has lessons for lawyers about a number of things close to our hearts.

The film is based on a play by Robert Bolt; Schofield starred in the original London production.  The film shows, in dramatic fashion, the conflict between More’s loyalty to the King and his loyalty to his faith; More’s last words are an explicit statement of that conflict.  It also demonstrates More’s skill as a lawyer and advocate for himself.  It features wonderful dialogue about the value of the law for the protection of individual conscience and individual rights, especially early in the film, in his argument with his eventual son-in-law about whether the devil should have the benefit of law. But it also shows how the law can be manipulated and overridden by powerful government forces who want to accomplish a specific goal.

To me, one of the most powerful lessons of this movie is how lucky we are, as Americans, to have a constitutionally independent judiciary. In the absolute monarchy that was Henry’s England, More was a real danger. His reputation for integrity was so great that his opposition to Henry’s quest to marry multiple times became an embarrassment and a stumbling block for Henry’s ambitions. The system was rigged against More; he is convicted at trial by the perjured testimony of someone he tried to mentor.

But oh, that trial!  More’s ability as an advocate shines though, as he defends himself, citing law, legal maxims, principles of evidence, displaying his skills as England’s greatest lawyer.  The movie is also excellent in showing how More hews exactly to the letter of the law to protect himself, so much so that I’ve wondered if non-lawyers understand just how skillfully he walks that tightrope.

The film is a showcase of first-class writing, brilliant acting (it’s hard to resist Robert Shaw’s King Henry or to not despise a young John Hurt’s Richard Rich), as well terrific direction and camera work (Note the subtle change of seasons and weather throughout, reflecting not only the title but the mood of the moment.).

Thomas More was canonized as a saint in 1935 and is the patron saint of lawyers.  You don’t have to be a person of faith, or even have any interest in religion, to find something wonderful in A Man For All Seasons.

You just need to have a conscience.

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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