A lawyer at a large firm in Chicago snapped his attention from drafting at his desk to a vague spot on the wall opposite. His mind raced around that same loop: his trial—the first one he would first chair—was only two months off. No, he had not neglected his trial prep. His team was ready with proposed trial exhibits, the graphics for the economic expert were in final design, the handful of dispositive motions to narrow the issues would be argued in a month. His team was poised to then submit written motions in limine. The office preparation matched the timeline.
He looked up because, for the third time, he could not control his respiration rate as he contemplated delivering the opening. He could not get a bead on the approach to cross for three witnesses. And he just knew he would lag in confidence as he stood in the well of the courtroom. He had little direct trial experience—his advocacy work had been in motion hearings, trial-type administrative hearings, and as second chair taking a trial witness or two as assigned. And he felt rusty. “Well,” he said, “there has to be a first time.”
NITA alums share the assurance that they already met their “first time.” They confronted and conquered these same fears earlier, along with other NITA learners, when a client’s matter was not at risk, and when plenty of seasoned trial faculty were attentive with critiques, coaching, and support focused on each person. Whatever the new trial challenges they will meet, they will never again suffer the lead-foot, memory-erasing loss of confidence about guiding the trial and performing their advocacy.
What Else Alums Share
NITA Alums share more, too. When they look across the courtroom, they recognize other lawyers to be advocates who also learned trial skills at NITA.
More than this, they share a fondness for the memory of that NITA week even ten years later. They know that a colleague who took the NITA trial program five years earlier feels the same way. After whatever program, whenever performed, the alum understands its transformative power. And the alum knows that the other NITA alum across the courtroom feel the same way.
Now to my “special” point. NITA alums want to tell about their experience. They want to pass the secret on and invite someone they think is special to do NITA.
And so I conclude with my news: NITA Program Directors in programs around the country gather annually to plan and share their insights. This year, they are reaching out within their regions, and asking you to reach out too, to lawyers who should attend NITA now.
Sure, the Program Director in your area is the person who led the entire program as “dean,” as top coach, as master demonstrator, as chief cheerleader—as organizing advocate for your learning. But your faculty feels as strongly. And your colleagues in the program do. More than that—you know others who have done NITA but you have never introduced the conversation. Ask them! Find them! And when you find people who have not had the NITA experience, tell them about yours and the difference it made.
NITA alum share something special. I am asking you to share it when you speak with others. Invite them in. The stronger they are, the more they gain from NITA. We welcome all—the most inclusive “tribe” in America.
Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President & Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy