In “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder introduces us to the aspiring new doctor who grew up in a family that lives in a bus and on a ramshackle boat. The family could afford that residential style, and played and worked with a somewhat bizarre optimism. They firmly believed the reality that their lives were meaningful and normal enough. Paul Farmer goes on to use his instinct to excel by pointing it toward Haiti. The story is now paused at the election of Aristide following the fall of Papa and Baby Doc, Farmer, a PhD anthropologist and top MD grad of Harvard, has already built a center of medical help and community in the heights of Haiti’s central plateau. He and two others had founded Partners in Health to raise private funds for this effort.
I clipped this line to share with you. They talked late into the nights.
Some things were plenty black and white, they told each other — “areas of moral clarity,” which they called AMC’s. These were situations, rare in the world, where what ought to be done seemed perfectly clear. But the doing was always complicated, always difficult. They often talked about those difficulties. How Paul and Jim should balance work for PIH with going to school and getting their degrees.
I feel their pain, NITA has great AMC’s to combine. Doing them at once seems complicated. Choices must be made. Resources must be increased. Yet our purpose must always remain clear.
It is perfectly clear to us that every client in civil and criminal arenas alike needs and deserves highly skilled advocates; the company faced by unfair competition needs a lawyer always ready to go to court; the accused need excellent defenders and fair accomplished prosecutors, the individual and family know skilled advocacy when they see it. It is obvious that an economy of skewed incentives and uneven access to capital makes a more polarized continuum between those who have and those who need help to find a civil lawyer. It is a truism that justice if enabled stabilizes new governments and nations under stress. Law students and professors need us as much as ever, in the most relevant ways. Corporate law departments have a huge voice in demanding and partnering to create better advocates.
NITA, founded on the vision of advancing excellent advocacy throughout the nation’s courts and hearing rooms, has the responsibility to flex and grow to aim clearly for our purpose. We watch carefully the systemic changes in legal education, private practice, constitutional and statutory assurances of fairness in the criminal law realm, and global political conflict and violence.
Everywhere, lawyers remain assets for the voiceless. Courage feeding fair and balanced governments. Talent for holding steady the prism of fairness through which conflict resolution systems must be seen. (Call me if examples of this truth do not immediately come to mind — Egypt, Selma, Kosovo, Ferguson, Death Row ….)
As we seek to bring NITA learning to the best productive mix of these lawyer sectors in the US and outside its borders, we constantly balance. We measure who we reach. We know all lawyers trained in our public and custom programs must will bring their best trial skills to serve their clients. They will advance their skills for a lifetime with NITA-confidence. They will have wide influence throughout their careers, and will move among practice sectors. We know those who are in public service need training now. We understand the imperative of training for criminal advocates on both sides. We seek relationships with organizations having nuanced understanding of nations engaged in reforms, because they can help NITA target, aim, and provide intensely relevant advocacy training in key global regions.
Our purpose is clear. Our choices are many. We need you, all of you and your friends. Know that our work is motivated by this clarity of purpose, focused yet broad in potential.
Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and Executive Director
National Institute for Trial Advocacy