The Legal Advocate

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December 2013 Executive Director’s Letter: Why Do We Do What We Do?

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Lockwood_KarenDo you save any quiet moments at year-end to contemplate?

  • What inspires you to do the things you do, all year?
  • Does it make a difference to do them in the way you do?
  • Can you find better ways to do them, more effectively?
  • What if . . . . ?

My topic does not address broad, cosmic, “what do I want to do with my life” questions. This is not about any law versus lifestyle debate. (Indeed, my years in practice woven with a complicated yet fulfilling lifestyle answer that easily: the law is a perfect complement, counterweight, challenge, and inspiration.)

Neither is my topic about a duty-bound “taking stock” or facile “resolutions.” Weighty guilt comes with a person’s determination to make resolutions based on past shortcomings. That is enough, all by itself, to ruin a New Year’s Eve.

I am talking about capturing inspiration at the turn of the year. As a respite, the “why” and the “wherefore” of our contributions can be remembered, observed, and stated.

Here are some of mine, just to get you started.

Inspiring me:

I love NITA; always have. I love what it stands for, the original vision of its founders, and that the vision’s staying power tracks to its elemental truths.

I love those elemental truths – that lawyers do “the law” for justice. That achieving justice amid conflict requires a special something. That mastering the art of advocacy IS that something.

And I rise every morning to figure out how to have every conflict lawyer master the art of advocacy.

Inspiring me:

Our faculty. Talk about vision and dedication.

Our faculty members show up all over the country, fully trained by us, to join the tribe of lawyers at the NITA program working together to double-down on how they advocate. They get the vision; they strive to originate another magical insight tailored to each individual performance.

They also love teaching with NITA friends made through the years. They love returning to the well every year to renew their bucket of creativity, discipline, and technique for eliciting truth out-loud in the courtroom.

Inspiring me:

These times. The changes in our legal business marketplace remind us that economic entities are like sentient beings. They are deflated by recession, motivated by economics, able to divorce and remarry, and evolutionary to fit economic opportunity. Nothing surprising or nefarious there.

What is different is the transparency brought by instant media transmission. Along with it comes the ability to act – compete, challenge, disagree, opine, walk – too quickly. Again, these are human traits with the boundary of time removed. Other than undue numbers of rankings, and the propensity to launch insults through the web when they would otherwise fly in the face, there is nothing originally nefarious there either.

Instead, we are looking at growing pains.

Inspiring me:

Every day I get up and ask how these marketplace growing pains impact the singular lawyer. How should the lawyer develop and use confidence, competence, presence, grit, and the power to be visible and thus engaged?

I have my answers. I never stop searching for more. Your answers have a deep impact on how we do things here at NITA; we are always listening.

I will be writing on these topics for the next few months. Please contribute. You may reach me through LinkedIn, Facebook at NITACentral, and Twitter @karenmlockwood, or by email at

I welcome your thoughts: How can we best help every lawyer master the art of advocacy, confidence, competence, presence, grit, and power to be fully engaged in a productive practice for justice?




Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President & Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy

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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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