The Legal Advocate

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

Monthly Archives: February 2013

Homewood Suites by Hilton in Boulder Gives Back

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Homewood Suites by Hilton – Boulder, CO generously made an in-kind gift to the NITA Foundation. The hotel donated four rooms to need-based public service attorneys attending NITA’s Rocky Mountain Deposition Skills program December 6-8, 2012.

“We have thoroughly enjoyed our business relationship with NITA throughout 2011 and 2012 and want to show our support of the organization’s efforts to develop, coach, and educate lawyers across all spectrums of the law,” said Ms. Lee VanLith, Director of Sales, Homewood Suites by Hilton – Boulder, CO. “We are dedicated to providing clean, comfortable lodging with exceptional guest service to all NITA faculty members and course participants who stay with us for one of NITA’s many offerings.”

February 2013 Executive Director’s Letter: Where Do You Fit In at NITA?

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Karen M. Lockwood

Karen M. Lockwood

You are a lawyer with trial skills.  You want to join the NITA collaboration, so you want to know where to start.  Or you now teach on the NITA faculty and want to do more.  Matching your energy and ambition to NITA’s organization is not a mysterious process.  As Executive Director, I can suggest a few ways for you to join the fun and learn by “teaching-the-doing”–and in the process, catch the energy that comes from being on your feet among faculty and authors who admire talent and know how hard teaching-the-doing is!

There are many pathways to becoming a contributor at NITA.

Faculty at Public Programs: Find a public program regularly featured near you, and reach out to us or to its NITA Program Director, who is likely a lawyer in your community.  The specialized NITA method requires precise training,  and your training would continue in the first program. The Program Director may identify you as a future faculty member, and we will be happy to know of your expertise and interest!  Who are we looking for?  Some of this:  Suppose you know depositions backwards and forwards.  You know expert witness work.  You get to trial occasionally (these days), have had a large or complex trial, and take leading roles.  You love cross-examination; you make stars out of your own witnesses who tell the story on direct.  Your penchant for oral advocacy is your prize: you wax eloquent but pithy; you read Rudyard Kipling and Winston Churchill for their poetry; you watch 12 Angry Men or My Cousin Vinny for fun.  We are looking for you. Suppose you are on your way to being that person?  We want you in our Next Generation cadre.

Award Season:   Are you a NITA faculty member already? We need you to be a leader in bringing attention to a NITA colleague for outstanding service as faculty, for development of innovative teaching techniques, or for outstanding service to NITA in general.  Please nominate your candidates for one of the three NITA awards. Be quick!  The deadline is March 1, and if you see reminders in your inbox over the next 10 days, smile and send us a nomination!

NITA Publications:  Yes, NITA is also well-recognized for its high-quality publications specializing in the highest level of practice in trial and dispute resolution.  Whether you have an idea for a new case file that grows out of an interesting scenario snatched from the headlines (or your docket), for a short manual in a key area of advocacy skills, for a treatise on a specialized subject in the litigation or ADR practice areas, or for a fun handbook on the practice of law, let us know.  If you want to write it, let us know that too!  If you have already written something, submit it to our acquisitions group.  We are foresighted, innovative, and practical.  If you want to have fun providing essential advocacy skill knowledge, you will love being one of our authors.

Your Own Voice:  Suppose you have something really important to say about trial and ADR – the practice, the philosophy, the skills, the law school revolution debates, or the practice ethics and professionalism, to name a few ideas.  You don’t need to write an entire article or book.  We want you as a guest blogger.  As you increase the frequency of your guest blogs, you may even become a regular NITA blog contributor.  Contact our blogmaster Travis Caldwell to enter the NITA blogosphere, or just send him your proposed posting for review.

Your Viewpoint:  Don’t have time to write a blog post?  Comment on the blog topics we are already posting. Our topics range far beyond straight-up trial skills; they explore the life and experience of being a trial lawyer or ADR professional.  In February, for example, during Black History Month, we are running a series on race in the courtroom.  With three terrific posts up or soon to be posted, we will complete the series with an intense and inspirational video interview with Judge Harrell of the Colorado County Court.   In March we will address gender in the courtroom.  Join the conversation!  Or post your own tips on the LinkedIn Group page.

At NITA we are exciting, innovative, fresh, funny, collaborative, and serious about expanding trial skills across the country.  Watch NITA Notes online, and stay up-to-date with our blog, The Legal Advocate.

And write to me if you want to chat!






Karen M. Lockwood

Diversity in the Courtroom Part 2 – The Advocate’s Approach to Juror Biases

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feb_cover For Part Two of our series on Diversity in the Courtroom we aimed to address the question: As a trial lawyer, how do you approach the issue of potential juror biases – explicit and implicit – based on race, in situations that may arise in the courtroom? To accomplish this we reached out to Craig Thompson. Craig is a practicing trial lawyer at both the state and federal court levels and is a Partner at Venable LLP and has been a NITA faculty for NITA at the Building Trial Skills DC Program.

Juror bias is real, and must be acknowledged in order to achieve the goal of winning your case. Jurors are human beings, and we each carry biases with us wherever we go.  In an age of technology-driven imagery and bullet point information gathering, it is even more likely that human biases will be nurtured, as many of us become less likely to take the time to study and appreciate what makes us different.  Recent reports have determined that the average American over the age of two spends more than thirty-four hours a week watching live television — plus another three to six hours watching taped programs.  Our thoughts about humankind – including ideas about race – are driven into our psyche in millions of bits per second that we may or may not seek to counter with additional facts.

As a trial lawyer, I approach the issue of potential juror bias in a pragmatic manner. Noted psychologist Julian Jaynes likened awareness to “asking a flashlight in a dark room to look around for something that does not have any light shining upon it.” As far as that flashlight is concerned, the room is completely bright. I approach potential juror bias in a similar manner, and make sure that I am consciously aware of the fact that each juror with whom I come into contact may hold some form of implicit or explicit racial bias.

I tried a case a few years ago in a southern jurisdiction, and felt unsure about how a jury from the south might view an African American defense attorney.  At one point, I even considered allowing my partner to handle a majority of the witnesses and engage in more juror face time. Eventually, I came to the conclusion that the best way to approach potential juror bias is to confront it directly. Facts are facts. The law is the law. Trial lawyers are, in essence, storytellers, and we have to develop the ability to tell our clients’ stories in a way that all can relate. I prepared for my trial like I had for the prior fifteen years, and told my client’s story. And won. Whether the jurors felt any bias for or against me did  not matter – I was able to focus on the facts and the law, and tell my client’s story.

Conscious of the “flashlight effect” described above, I worked extra hard (as I seek to do in every case) to dismiss any notions of intellectual inferiority or under-preparedness, assuming one or more jurors may have implicitly or explicitly held those beliefs. As the saying goes, hard work beats talent when talent does not work hard.  When provided with an opportunity to play against type, it is critical that attorneys of color step up and demonstrate mastery of the facts and law.

Assume bias exists. Acknowledge it, accept it and act on it.

To read more of the posts on the Diversity in the Courtroom series:

  • Part 1 – The Jury Pool Biases
  • Part 3 – Diversity in studio71: An Interview with Judge Alfred Harrell Part 1
  • Part 4 – Diversity in studio71: An Interview with Judge Alfred Harrell Part 2


We invite you to comment below with any thoughts or experiences you have regarding Diversity in the Courtroom.

John Baker

John Baker Named to Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program

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John Baker

John T. Baker

Former Executive Director of The National Institute for Trial Advocacy, John T. Baker, was recently appointed to be the Director of the Colorado Attorney Mentoring Program by the Colorado Supreme Court Advisory Committee.

This position is a progressive step forward for the Colorado legal community. Colorado will be modeling CAMP after the mentor programs in Illinois, Ohio, and Georgia. This position is reminiscent of the days when every attorney was matched with a mentor to learn the law from. It’s also very timely. With law school enrollment on the decline and firms not hiring at the rate they once were, or at a rate that can match the graduation pool, more and more young lawyers are setting out on their own. What this means is they are not getting the necessary training to be advocates, and in some cases are getting themselves into serious trouble and are running the risk of harming their clients.

In the press release by the Colorado Supreme Court announcing John’s appointment, John said, “I am very excited about pairing new lawyers with seasoned legal veterans to help better address the needs of Colorado’s legal community and the people it serves.” (read the press release here)

John graduated from the University of Denver Sturm College of Law in 1973.  He then taught as a clinical instructor at the College of Law for three years, directing a juvenile and criminal advocacy clinic. In 1975 John joined the plaintiff’s personal injury and civil trial practice law firm, Carrigan & Bragg, P.C., which eventually became Bragg & Baker, P.C. John spent the next twenty-six years concentrating his legal practice in products liability litigation, representing individuals who had been injured by defective pharmaceutical products and vehicles. John currently continues with his own firm concentrating on complex litigation and public interest law.  John has been listed as a Colorado Super Lawyer from 2007 to the present.

John was the Executive Director of NITA from 2010 to 2012. John served as NITA’s Public Programs Educations Director from 2007 to 2010. He has been a Program Director and Lead Faculty for the NITA Hanley Advanced Advocacy Program; Program Director or Faculty for NITA pro bono programs for the American Civil Liberties Union, the Legal Services Corporation, and the American Bar Association; and Faculty for joint NITA advocacy programs with the Law Society of Ireland and the Law Society of Scotland.

We would like to take this opportunity to wish John luck in his new role.  We cannot think of a better person to be responsible for mentoring Colorado’s young attorneys!

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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