In 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