The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: March 2015

March 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA Is Unique, Once Again

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Lockwood_KarenLet’s talk about webinars.

You and I see many invitations to commercial webinars in our inbox.  Some introduce a topic you know little about.  Some give you an introduction to a person or company.  Many are fairly elementary, such as “how to use twitter as a marketing tool.” Others are orientations – like our lawyers’ old friend,  AmJur, purposed to enumerate a large number of topics within a broad field.  An example would be “educating participants about the various types and stages of whistle-blower claims” (in 90 minutes).  In general most webinars that pop into your inbox are tangentially related to something in your zone of interests.  What do you do?  Save them for after-hours to delete or sample.

They are ubiquitous.

Ours are different. Here at NITA our method is to help lawyers in direct and immediate ways, giving you a menu of choices. So too for our NITA webcasts.

  • We run live webcasts. Monthly.
  • They are audio-visual.  You watch the speaker deliver, or be interviewed – on camera in real time.
  • You also watch our speaker’s slides at the same time as you see her gesturing, smiling, exclaiming, or showing you the point.
  • Our topics are small slices of trial advocacy. They sit alongside – but are different from – the advocacy skills you practice in our in-person programs.
  • Our speakers are masters of their topic.  You will see some NITA faculty plus guest speakers who know well the thin-slice of the advocacy topic at hand.
  • And you can ask the speaker questions in real time.

If you miss a live webcast, you will find it recorded (free these days) and ready for you to view online, on demand, just as it was broadcast live. (Sorry you can’t ask the speaker questions unless you go live.)

These are not elementary or orienting types of teaching. Like all NITA offerings, we create them as another way to learn.  Some examples? You can focus for the hour on a detailed lecture and practitioner’s advice about Rule 30(b)(6) depositions, presented by the authors of our NITA’s master book on the subject – The Effective Deposition.  You can engage in a field of expertise through our studio interview of one of the nation’s foremost forensic psychiatrists, thinking through your work with such experts in consulting and trial settings.

Whatever topic you choose from our menu of prior NITA webcasts, you will engage specifically, deeply, and clearly.

Oh yes, we do end each NITA webcast with a reminder of how our live programs help you.  In our live programs, YOU are doing the speaking, gesturing, smiling, and showing as if to the judge or jury.  Guided, critiqued, taught, reinforced. You grow.

Don’t let this knowledge escape your attention.

  • Live NITA webcasts? Watch your email or check the upcoming schedule online.
  • Miss a NITA webcasts that you would like?  View it on demand, recorded live, audio-visual, slides, and all.

Visit NITA’s studio71 library now.




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

NITA Movie Review: Husband and Wife,  D.A. and Defense Lawyer, Feminism and “The Unwritten Law”

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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey

adamsRibDoris Attinger follows her husband Warren and catches him with another woman. She pulls a gun out of her purse and—with her eyes closed—blazes away.  Warren is hit in the shoulder, and Doris eventually is charged with attempted murder. Adam Bonner, an assistant D.A., is assigned to prosecute the case, and Adam’s wife Amanda decides to defend Doris.[1] That’s the basic outline of the 1949 MGM comedy, Adam’s Rib, a film that in several ways was way ahead of its time.

Spencer Tracy stars as Adam and Katherine Hepburn stars as Amanda, with the great Judy Holliday as Doris. George Cukor directed, and Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin wrote the Oscar-nominated script. It’s regarded by many (including me) as the best of the six films Hepburn and Tracy made together.

One of the underlying issues in the case is the so-called “unwritten law” that supposedly allowed men who caught their wives with another man to use deadly force without any legal consequence.[2] Early on in the movie, Amanda and Adam have a spirited discussion about this “law,” with Amanda arguing forcefully that it should apply to women just the same as it would to men. Adam doesn’t seem concerned about this; after all, Doris confessed! And when the case comes to trial, Adam chooses to treat the case as one that is essentially an open and shut case of attempted murder. Not so Amanda. Early on, in voir dire, she makes it clear to the jury that her defense of Doris will center around equality for women when placed in the same situations as men. And Amanda proceeds to try the case on exactly that point. (While I know this may sound a bit preachy and even dull, believe me, it isn’t at all. Just wait for the lady weightlifter.)

As the case progresses and Adam and Amanda begin to really spar in court, their marriage starts to suffer. As Adam packs to move out of their apartment, he gives an impassioned speech on how he thinks Amanda is disrespecting the law and what the law means and should mean.[3] (Mark Caldwell and I have used this scene as the final clip in some of our ethics presentations.) After that, Amanda and Adam’s slimy neighbor (David Wayne) makes a play for Amanda and Adam catches him at it. He pulls out a gun and points it at the couple, causing Amanda to burst out that “no one has a right to do that.” Watch what happens next. And if you’re at all worried about the outcome, don’t be. This is Hollywood, it’s 1949, and love and marriage triumph over all.

Amanda Bonner was something new to movies: an effective, skillful woman trial lawyer.  While women lawyers are hardly an oddity today, they certainly were in 1949. While we live in a world where more than half of all entering law students are women, that was not the world of Amanda and Adam Bonner. Amanda is a prototypical feminist and one we can all admire, both as a person and as a lawyer. Bergman and Asimov said it best in their book, Reel Justice: “. . . Amanda Bonner remains the most positive female lawyer role model of all time.”

Of course, there’s one more interesting subtext here. As you may know, Tracy and Hepburn were real-life lovers for nearly thirty years, but kept their relationship a secret. Even though Tracy was estranged from his wife as far back as the ’30s, he wouldn’t divorce her because they were both Roman Catholics. Tracy and Hepburn were as devoted to each other as a couple could be—but they tried to keep their love private, so private that Hepburn didn’t even go to Tracy’s funeral. But as you watch them on screen, you’ll easily see that in their scenes as a couple in love, they weren’t acting.

I hope you’ll search out Adam’s Rib and watch it. Some of it will seem dated, but some of it is as on point as anything released this year. And you have Tracy and Hepburn, which is pretty much all you need for a really great movie!


[1] Yes, it’s a conflict of interest. But it’s a movie!

[2] While this idea may seem quaint, or even ludicrous, to modern sensibilities, it was actually codified by statue in Texas, New Mexico, and Utah in times past.

[3] Remember that Tracy makes an impassioned speech on what the law means at the climax of Judgment at Nuremberg.

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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