The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Verdict: A Great Film, “An Ethical Nightmare”

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Image courtesy of IMDb

Image courtesy of IMDb

Paul Newman was one of our greatest actors.  He was nominated for eight Best Actor Oscars,  winning in 1986 for The Color of Money. That was sort of a Lifetime Achievement Award—a number of his other portrayals were much better, including his role as Frank Galvin, a Boston lawyer, in 1982’s  courtroom drama, The Verdict. The film is well-acted, well-directed, dramatic, and, as the book Reel Justice notes, “[I]t’s … in the running for Most Lawyer Misconduct in a Single Film.” (Mark Caldwell and I have used at least four different scenes from The Verdict in our film clip ethics presentations over the years).

Galvin is a lush so down on his luck that we first meet him he is trying to hustle business at the funeral of a man he didn’t know.  He gets a medical malpractice case from a friend. The victim is a young woman in a persistent vegetative state, brought on by a mistaken dose of anesthetic during childbirth.  Galvin is opposed by Concannon, a ruthless defense lawyer, brilliantly played by James Mason (who was also nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar.) Galvin also has to take on the Catholic Diocese of Boston, who owned the hospital. This being a Hollywood movie, you probably have a pretty good idea on how this will end. But the twists and turns are mesmerizing and Newman makes Galvin’s road to redemption as a lawyer and a human being believable and moving.

However, it’s an easier movie to watch if somehow you can forget about all the egregious ethical violations: an ex parte meeting with the trial judge, bribing a witness to disappear, using burglary to obtain evidence, failing to communicate a settlement offer to a client, lawyers communicating with opponents who are represented by counsel, etc. If ethical violations were a drinking game, you’d be hammered before The Verdict was half over.

As a lawyer, you should care about all that, but you can love the movie anyway for its appeal to justice (even if that appeal isn’t based on any admissible evidence.) Whether you’re a lawyer or not, you can love The Verdict as a gripping drama, directed by a great director (Sidney Lumet, who also directed 12 Angry Men) and acted by real pros (Newman, Mason, Milo O’Shea, and Jack Warden, who played Juror Number 7 in 12 Angry Men). It’s those qualities that make The Verdict one of my favorite legal movies.  I bet it’ll be one of yours, too.


I have plenty of movies in mind I want to write about, but please let me know if there’s a movie you’d like to have me review. I’ll try to accommodate requests!

MLK Day Reflection

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The ultimate measure of a [lawyer] is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. – Martin Luther King Jr.

As the nation honors Dr. King on this national holiday, we know that his messages are ever more relevant. His teachings are before us in many forms: on Google for the finding, throughout social media every day, and inscribed for posterity on the monument stones of the Martin Luther King Memorial at our nation’s capital.

NITA salutes our nation’s courts, advocates, and legal scholars who follow in Dr. King’s path towards justice. He reminds us as lawyers that we stand for the righteous continuity of democracy, balance, reason, and courage needed to pursue justice and to become ever more effective in doing so.

January 2013 Executive Director’s Letter: Award Season

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Karen Lockwood

Karen M. Lockwood

Set 1:  As you stand in the well on cross-examination, do you play back particular words of a faculty critique that still help you, as you self-assess your courtroom performance in real time?

Set 2:  How many times have you thought, “I want to do an expert deposition as well as she did,” recalling a NITA faculty’s demonstration of the funnel technique on a particularly difficult expert subject?

Set 3:  Who did you find so innovative and effective in his NITA teaching method that you still find it remarkable?

You should nominate those impactful NITA teachers for one of the 2012 NITA Awards!  The Call For Nominations is on, and nominations close on March 1, 2013.

Whether you are a participant in a public, public service, or custom NITA client program; a NITA co-faculty member; or a NITA Team Leader or Program Director, you know that you learn from our collaborative faculty as soon as you step into the NITA learn-by-doing sessions.  We ask that you scan your memory of these experiences, and contribute nominations for our annual awards.

Three annual awards offer you several opportunities to make a nomination:

  • Robert Keeton Award:  Outstanding service as a faculty member
  • Hon. Prentice Marshall Award:  Development of innovative teaching techniques
  • Robert Oliphant Award:  Outstanding service to NITA


The Committee is eager to review many nominations of distinguished members of our community who excel in quality teaching, creativity in teaching and design, and service to the organization. We also provide with the Call For Nomination names of previous award recipients in each category. Please reflect upon your experiences with NITA throughout 2012 and before, and think of those not yet honored who richly embody the talents spoken to by these three awards.

The Nomination Form for the 2013 NITA Awards details the three awards. NITA will announce the Awards by May 1, 2013.

Many contribute their time, energy, and expertise to NITA.  These awards are an important acknowledgment of the critical and innovative work that has made NITA the leader in advocacy training, and the originator of the learn-by-doing legal teaching method.  The award winners represent many like them among our loyal faculty, authors, donors, supporters, and collaborators.

Join us, and thank you!





Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.

Executive Director

The Effective Deposition Enhanced Edition Merges Reading and Watching

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NITA is excited to announce the release of The Effective Deposition Enhanced Edition. This enhanced e-book incorporates two hours of video content throughout the text and includes demonstration vignettes and commentary from the authors, David Malone and Peter Hoffman.



The first of its kind, The Effective Deposition Enhanced Edition takes an innovative step towards the future of publications and education. The videos add valuable content to the already valuable text and the-read-then-watch method enriches the reader’s learning experience.

For example, read the section on Background Information and then watch the vignette.



Vignette topics include: Beginning the Deposition, Stipulations, Information Gathering, Obtaining Admissions, Rapport Building, Mechanics of the Deposition, Objections and Instructions Not to Answer, Attorney Client Privilege, Using the Deposition and much more.

IMG_0006 IMG_0007

This post was written by Michelle Windsor, NITA editor.

The Effective Deposition Enhanced Edition is available on iTunes.

2013 Monthly Themes

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On January 2nd, we launched a new feature for The Legal Advocate. We have initiated a monthly series of posts, with each month focusing on a single topic. The topics chosen will encourage readers to think critically about their practice and skill sets. Each series will feature three to four written posts on the topic, as well as a conclusion to the series. There will also be one interview for each topic, conducted in studio71 and hosted by Travis Caldwell. Each post is authored by NITA faculty and friends.


ADR Month Header

For the inaugural topic we chose Alternative Dispute Resolution, and while our scope was broad our focus was precise as we have been answering the question: Can ADR practitioners excel without honing their trial skills?


We are very excited to announce the next two months’ topics:

  • February – Diversity in the Courtroom, in Honor of Black History Month
  • March – Gender in the Courtroom, in Honor of Women’s History Month


As we look ahead to the rest of 2013 we are eager to explore a myriad of topics in an effort to continue our mission to provide the best legal advocacy training possible.

If you are interested in writing for any of the upcoming topics, or have an idea or suggestion for a month-long theme, please contact Travis Caldwell.

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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