The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: March 2014

NITA Remembers One Of Its Greats — Professor Eddie Ohlbaum

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photoOn the afternoon of Thursday, March 13, 2014, after a relatively short battle with cancer, NITA faculty member Edward “Eddie” Ohlbaum passed away. We are so very sad.

A devoted teacher of trial advocacy, Eddie’s untimely death creates a deep response within the NITA community. He was a leading NITA Faculty Member, and professor of trial advocacy at Temple University (view their tribute here), and so much more – an advocate for trial advocacy itself, plus a model of teaching that is superbly effective, of inventiveness that is collegial, and of advocacy that entertains.

“He was wicked smart, very funny, with a great heart and a gift for teaching,” said NITA Board Member Michael Kelly. “Simply a wonderful human being. The world will miss him.”

In 1984, Eddie was the first Team Leader at NITA’s brand new Gulf Coast Trial Skills Program. He continued to teach in many NITA programs throughout the 80’s and 90’s. His lecture demonstrations were legendary, especially those on closing arguments presented right here in Boulder, CO during our annual National Session.

“I certainly will miss the Ohlbaum wit and smile,” remembers Dominic Gianna, who is program director of the New Orleans Building Trial Skills program. “No doubt he is hard at work coaching heaven’s trial team as we speak and is chuckling at all of this. Objection overruled!! He was the best.”

Bob Stein, long-time NITA faculty member and former Program Director of the Boston trial program, chimes in: “Simply put, Eddie was an inspiration on so many levels, a gifted teacher, and a classy guy. In the dining category, he knew all the great restaurants (and dives) even before they were invented.” NITA faculty member Charlie Rose said, “He was a wonderful guy, full of piss and vinegar, and with a heart as large as the world in which we live. We will miss him each and every day.”

NITA Program Director Judge Mark Drummond recalls Eddie’s playfulness, the kind that creates collegial learning. “Eddie went with a group of us whitewater rafting and he tried to save me from falling out of the boat. Given my size versus his size, it did not work — but he tried. We gave him a little trophy with a little oar on it — the ‘Keep Your Oar in the Water Award’ for his display of heroism.”

NITA Executive Director Karen Lockwood notes what most singles out Eddie’s work. Eddie was marked by his devotion to his two crafts. First, teaching. Second, advocacy. Their marriage is what makes a NITA faculty member, and Eddie helped to develop and cement that admixture. He inspired everyone who taught with him – indeed he expanded the craft for all of those who teach trial advocacy.

Susan Steingass, NITA Board Member and former Board Chair, portrays the whole Eddie well: “Eddie was not only the best and the brightest but the funniest and the most compassionate. I will always see him at work and at play because they were the same Eddie. His loss leaves a hole that cannot be filled.”

Gifts in memory of Eddie may be made to the NITA Foundation under the Tribute Gift designation, or a desired fund (be sure to name Eddie Oldbaum). Donate here.

Please post a comment below to continue our sharing of thoughts and stories as we, together, remember NITA faculty member Professor Eddie Ohlbaum.

March 2014 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA’s First Quarter 2014: Forward, Grow!

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Lockwood_KarenIn my monthly letters this year, I have reflected on substantive topics of interest. In February:  what does it feel like to be a NITA alum, not thinking only of the courtroom, but rather thinking of your image — in your city or region or practice, among your peers or role models, to your junior admirers?  In January:  what does “experiential learning” mean, and does it best fit after actual practice experience?  And in December, I posed these and other topics that provide the essential inspirations of NITA. 

Today, I report rather than reflect. Springing from my December points of inspiration, here are a few of our accomplishments during the first quarter of 2014.

  • Our founders. At our 2014 Annual Program Directors’ meeting in January, each PD was asked to narrate the first time they had a conversation about NITA. Their individual answers wove a web of dedication and community. Each had been personally recognized and handed on to NITA by a faculty member or founder, from which they grew into the NITA community. As more stories were added, the reverence in the room grew like a vision. The accomplishment? — A consolidated push to engage our entire network in searching for and handing forward the talent and potential talent that lives around us in all of our states. We need your to help find these lawyers who need to know NITA. Call your program director with your referrals. Call NITA too. They deserve to have you hand them the vision and benefit of NITA. We have energized the network: you are a vital part of it.
  • Our faculty. As new program directors gradually succeed to those who are ready to pass that torch, we welcome their dedication, talent, and new ideas. The NITA way of grooming the best trial skills faculty in the nation is to take what we have – the best – and keep it tip-top through both mutual efforts to improve individual teaching “in the moment,” and targeted efforts to add a few new faculty members each year. Emerging from this rigor of maintaining excellent teaching, sharing lecture and leadership roles, and coaching each other, future program directors emerge and will eventually lead the program with continuity and excellence. The accomplishment? — A concrete focus on recognizing that NITA in its next 40 years must and will continue to provide the best faculty in the field, faculty that are sharp, experienced, up-to-date, and innovative. NITA – bigger than each of us, made up of all of us.
  • Public service: As I mentioned in December, times change, and we change with it. Times in the economy have generated troubled times in serving justice where there are few means. Our founders’ vision of improving justice through the art of advocacy means that all of the advocates need to be brought to the table – those who represent paying clients and also those who represent clients without means or access to justice. Those who prosecute and those who defend. Everyone who stands up to oppose the other in our advocacy system of justice. The accomplishment? – We are growing The NITA Foundation by increasing its capacity to fund not only scholarships but also public service programs aimed at the lawyers who represent the underserved. We want to – we need to — find more ways to extend our work to these underserved lawyers. In 2014 you will see us test your capacity to help us reach donors:
    • Focusing on specific programs like the Child Advocacy program at Hofstra in late spring as moments when we must fund from our public service program funds and replenish those funds.
    • Welcoming gifts to the Annual Fund, which allow us flexibility to target an additional scholarship or additional support needed to run a public service program.
    • Special events! We are working on an exciting new type of event in a major city in October, an event that is both entertaining and essential to serving justice the NITA way. Watch for news of this; join our supporters of justice when we reach out to you.

As a zero-based budget organization, we cannot live beyond our means.  Our public service budget for 2014 is 17% higher than the donations received in 2013 – already a challenge. More to the point, we must set our 2015 budget another 50% higher than that.  We will do so if you show us now that we can budget for that higher capacity next year.  Our public service depends on it, in this economy.

In short, we have a strong performance in the first quarter. We have a bigger-than-ever financial need for public service work. And we have built and are already walking concrete paths to expand our enrollments through your networking, continue grooming the best trial advocacy faculties in the nation, and support justice broadly by reaching all lawyers.

I hope you will write to me, and comment on our blog where my ED letters are posted.



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

Congratulations to NITA Faculty Member Tom Geraghty

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Geraghty_ThomasWe would like to congratulate NITA faculty member Thomas F. Geraghty, who received the 2013 Illinois Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer (IACDL) Lifetime Achievement Award for his professional accomplishments and dedication to justice. The IACDL honored Geraghty at the association’s annual dinner on November 15. Geraghty is the associate dean for clinical education and director of the Bluhm Legal Clinic and has been a member of the Northwestern Law community for more than forty years. He maintains teaching, fundraising, and administrative responsibilities at the law school and has an active caseload at the Bluhm Legal Clinic, concentrating primarily in criminal and juvenile defense, death penalty appeals, child-centered projects dealing with the representation of children, and juvenile court reform.

Learn more about the Award and Tom Geraghty.

In Memory of MJ Tocci

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Tocci_MJNITA would like to take a moment to honor the memory of a very talented and special member of the legal community, MJ Tocci. MJ died at age 60 on Saturday, February 15, at Canterbury Place in Lawrenceville, Pennsylvania, after an extended illness.

MJ was a talented member of the NITA faculty, teaching many programs well into 2005. A former trial lawyer turned legal consultant, she made it her life’s mission to work with women who were working to achieve success. She went to law school at the University of San Francisco and into a job as a prosecutor for the Alameda County district attorney in Oakland, Calif. There, MJ discovered her skill for recognizing the cases that needed to be dropped and her talent for going after truly bad guys. Over the next fifteen years, she did just that, prosecuting many cases, starting with smaller scale crimes and ultimately heading the major fraud unit. She was named “one of California’s most effective prosecutors” by California Lawyer magazine.

She moved to Pittsburgh in 1996, where she became a consultant, founding Fulcrum Advisors, which taught women lawyers how to try cases, and worked with law firms and corporations to recruit, retrain, and promote talented women. Her focus on women also lead her to team up with Linda Babcock, a Carnegie-Mellon economist, to start and direct the Heinz Negotiation Academy for Women, a five-month program for executive women. It was a professional accomplishment of which MJ was incredibly proud. In 2011, she was given the Athena Award by the Greater Pittsburgh Chamber of Commerce. An engaging, focused and inspiring woman, MJ Tocci will be missed.

A memorial service in MJ’s honor will be held on April 5.

You can read more about MJ’s work here.

Pamela A. Bresnahan Elected to ABA Board of Governors

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Press release reposted with permission from Vorys

Bresnahan_Pamela APamela A. Bresnahan, a partner in Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease LLP Washington, D.C. office, was recently elected to the American Bar Association (ABA) Board of Governors. At the ABA mid-year meeting in Chicago last month, Ms. Bresnahan was elected to serve as an At Large Member for a three-year term beginning in August 2014.

The Board of Governors is the body that decides ABA policy and governs when the House of Delegates is not in session.  Ms. Bresnahan has served in the ABA House of Delegates since 1987 and currently serves as the Chair of its Drafting Policy and Procedures Committee.

Ms. Bresnahan has also served on the ABA Section of Litigation’s Council and chaired the ABA Standing Committee on Lawyers’ Professional Liability.  She has also served on the ABA Standing Committee on Federal Judiciary and on the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession.  Ms. Bresnahan presently serves on the Board of Trustees of the National Institute of Trial Advocacy.  In addition, she is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and serves on its Commercial Litigation Committee.

Ms. Bresnahan’s practice focuses on representing lawyers, law firms, insurers, financial institutions, financial professionals, and officers and directors.  She is admitted to practice in the District of Columbia, Maryland, New York, California, and Illinois.  She is the head of  the Vorys D.C. office litigation practice group.

About Vorys: Vorys was established in 1909 and has grown to be one of the largest Ohio-based law firms, with nearly 375 attorneys in seven offices in Columbus, Cincinnati, Cleveland, and Akron, Ohio; Washington, D.C.; Houston, Texas; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Vorys currently ranks as one of the 200 largest law firms in the United States according to American Lawyer magazine. Learn more at

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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