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Monthly Archives: February 2016

February 2016 Executive Director’s Letter. Where In The World . . . and Why?

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Lockwood_KarenLast weekend I attended an address by the President of the World Bank Group, Dr. Jim Yong Kim, to my law school in Washington DC. Regarding NITA’s international work, I posed the following question to him:

  • NITA is a national organization that serves justice in adversarial systems by teaching advocacy skills.
  • We have a small but impactful global involvement, limited by funding, where we teach advocacy skills to those who invite us in areas of the world where the justice system is in transformation. We choose by these criteria, believing that our work will count.
  • Unlike the distribution of malaria drugs that were proven effective in a poverty-stricken society in Haiti, we are not “delivering” a “product” for consumption. Rather we can be said to be exporting a system – one that we believe in, but ours nevertheless.
  • How would folks at the World Bank, and Dr. Kim with his experience in Haiti alongside Dr. Paul Farmer, suggest we think about our role, our instruction, and our boldness in supporting adversarial systems applied to non-western cultures?

Dr. Kim’s answer is piercing in its acknowledgement of widely diverse cultures, and inspiring in its recognition of the importance of our work. His points included these:

  • Proving, as Dr. Farmer has, that something which “cannot be done” in fact can be done, is critical. (See Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy Kidder)
  • The question remaining at the end of the day is how to use systems and governance in order to sustain such developments within a culture or nation.
  • The governance is what must create and retain systems, intact.
  • A huge part of development is going to happen in the private sector. That investment will not take root without people, governments, and systems that can be trusted.
  • “So, I would say, thank you so much for doing that and thank you so much for going out and pursuing governance” systems that bring justice.
  • No matter where we are we’ll see poor people who have smart phones and know how others live.
  • This hot line of transparency, from people taking pictures and transparent communications, will force the governments toward increasing services for people, attending to human rights, and putting systems in place.
  • Everyone has good laws; it is about implementation, and that is up to the government, a system, and a just system that people will believe in.

And that is why NITA works hard to do international work that is mission-driven, that helps nations to sustain their own justice systems, and that believes in the trustworthiness of due process gained adversarial justice systems.

I write because it is worth the moment to say this. Where do we go in the World, and Why we are there? Both have been answered when NITA goes overseas.




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

NITA Movie Review: A True Original

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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey

The_Magnificent_Yankee_(1950_film)I was mulling over what movie to use for this month’s review when I heard the startling news about Justice Scalia’s death. Like him or loathe him, Justice Scalia was one of a kind. In addition to being a frequent topic in the blogosphere, he was also the subject of art: an opera (Scalia/Ginsburg) and a play (The Originalist). Those thoughts eventually brought me to the movie for this month’s review: The Magnificent Yankee (MGM, 1950), a sentimental biography of Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes and the only movie I can think of where a real-life justice of the Supreme Court is the subject.

The Magnificent Yankee stars Louis Calhern as Holmes. This movie was Calhern’s only top-billed starring role, although he was a terrific supporting character actor in some excellent films[1], perhaps most memorably as a crooked lawyer in one of the greatest of films noir, The Asphalt Jungle[2]. Calhern had played Holmes in the Broadway play of The Magnificent Yankee and rumor has it that MGM bought the property for Calhern to star in as a reward for his years as a stellar supporting actor. It was worth it: Calhern was nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Holmes. The movie also stars Ann Harding as Holmes’ wife Fanny, and Eduard Franz as Justice Louis Brandeis.

While the movie devotes some time to Holmes’ career on the Court, the cases he decided, his judicial philosophy, and especially his crusty persona, the sentimental subtext of the movie is about how Holmes related to and treated his law clerks. Holmes and his wife had no children, and the movie advances the thought that the law clerks filled that void. Indeed, when this movie was released in England, it was re-titled The Man with 100 Sons.

The real Justice Holmes was one of the towering figures in American Jurisprudence and in the history of the Supreme Court. He was the son of prominent Boston gentry, a graduate of Harvard, a thrice-wounded veteran if the Civil War[3], a former Chief Justice of the Massachusetts Supreme Court and one of the truly original thinkers and writers in American Constitutional Law. Holmes was the great proponent of the doctrine of Legal Realism, best expressed in his famous statement: “The life of the law has not been logic; it has been experience.” Holmes served on the Court for thirty years and retired at age 90, the oldest Justice ever to serve.

Any lawyer worth his or her license should understand Holes and recognize the part he plays in the history of the law in this country. And one can do much worse than to watch – and enjoy – The Magnificent Yankee when it shows up on TV, usually on Turner Classic Movies. Please find it and have fun watching it!


[1] Including Ambassador Trentino in one of my all-time favorites, Duck Soup, starring the Marx Brothers.

[2] A movie also memorable for an early performance by Marilyn Monroe as the mistress of Calhern’s character

[3] That Civil War service was so significant to Justice Holmes that he listed it above all other accomplishments on his tombstone in Arlington National Cemetery. The actual tombstone appears in the movie, when Justice Holmes visits his wife’s grave.

Power Trial Method

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PowerTrialMethodThe latest edition of Power Trial Method, written by trail lawyers David J.F. Gross and Charles F. Webber is an easy-to-read trial skills primer which begs the question, who has the power in the courtroom to decide if you win or lose your case? By emphasizing key methods of persuasion and presentation, Gross and Webber introduce new litigators to the trial process and reduce initial anxieties. With chapters such as “Mastering Trial Preparation and Set Up” and “The Best Demonstrative Exhibits”, readers can expect to gain new insights and skills as they prepare for their next trial.

Retail Price: $75

Order now in: epub (ipad, Kobo, Nook, Sony) Mobi (Kindle) or Print

Strike a Pose

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Written By NITA Author Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla

In her 2012 speech, Dr. Amy Cuddy dazzled her audience with her research on power poses and their powerful effect on the measurable confidence of a speaker.  Amy Cuddy theorizes that certain wide and open physical stances help increase adrenaline and produce a more confident speaker.  Her original Ted Talk now ranks as one of the most watched in Ted Talk history, and her fans are still buzzing.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out.  In her recent CBS interview, she defends the utility of power poses against her critics.

How can power poses be used in the courtroom for litigators?  Just like any best practice in oral communication, an attorney should first master the rule and then know how and when to break the rule.  Power posing is no different.

  1. Practice in your everyday environment. I rarely coach a chameleon attorney – one who appears powerless in meetings and wishy-washy on the phone, but shows up in court with a John Wayne swagger.  Physical confidence needs to be practiced until the habit is formed.  If you want to know how to appear commanding on cue in the courtroom, practice confident power posing every day.  If power poses don’t work, find another method.
  2. Find home base. In my coaching, I refer to the still position taken between gestures as “home base.”  A power pose is not home base.  Power poses should be done in the bathroom with the stall door shut.  Home base positions are for public consumption.  Everyone should find three standing and seated home base positions.  Actor’s neutral (hands resting straight down on either side) and a torso hold (hands connecting at a height between belly button and belt) are staples.  The magic third depends on your personality and body shape.  A tall imposing man may want to try a one hand in pocket home base during direct examination to make the witness feel more comfortable.  A smaller framed woman needs an elbow-wide, shoulders back podium hold to look commanding in a federal courtroom.
  3. Being confident is important, but reading the audience and adjusting accordingly is the mark of a skilled advocate.  I encourage clients to strike a balance of confidence and likability.  Go ahead and pump up with power poses before your next court appearance, but be willing and able to hide the peacock, if needed.  For example, it serves the advocate well to appear more humble when the judge is clearly on his side during an argument. Read the non-verbal cues of the audience and change your home base accordingly.
  4. The external power-pose technique helps an advocate appear more confident, but he should not neglect the interior. Some advocates are better inspired by starting inside, and letting the right emotion guide his outward appearance.  If you try power posing and it doesn’t work, do not despair.  Half of my clients need internal motivation to change outward appearances of confidence.  Remembering a huge success, thinking of a motivational speech, or anything that makes you think and feel confident can make the body react accordingly.

There are many paths to developing a confident appearance…power posing is one you should try.


Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla has also presented in NITA’s studio71 webcasts: Rise above the rest: Mastering the Top 10 Communication Skills for Lawyers Part One and Part Two as well as Authored the book: Foolproof: An Attorney’s Guide to Communication

NITA Announces Awards

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NITA Announces NITA Award Winners

Karen M. Lockwood, Executive Director, announces the National Institute for Trial Advocacy Award winners.

The National Institute for Trial Advocacy annually recognizes outstanding contributions to NITA by making three acclaimed awards.  Honoring members of NITA’s faculty, author and staff communities, the awards highlight exceptional teaching, innovation in teaching, and service to NITA through contributions other than teaching.

Members of NITA’s faculty, authors and staff, including trained NITA teachers and their appointed Program Directors, and Team Leaders, are eligible for nomination by their NITA colleagues. These creative and dedicated lawyers, many serving as volunteers, provide the rigor and originality in advocacy for which NITA is known. They fan across NITA’s public programs, custom programs, and public service programs. Their case files and books are used by practitioners and law students alike across the nation.

Nominations from the NITA community speak to the nominee’s work in one of three areas, each award year honoring the prior year of service.  Each is named after one of NITA’s pioneers who exemplified the teaching, innovation, and service that the awards honor.

The awards for 2014 work are:

Robert Keeton Award for Outstanding Service as a NITA Faculty Member (recognizing exceptional work as a NITA faculty member),

Christina M. Habas, Shareholder, Keating Wagner Polidori Free (Denver).
Honoring Judge Habas’ years of service and outstanding performance, her nominators give broad acclaim to her consistent excellence.  Tina is recognized as a gifted teacher, possessing an uncanny ability to connect with students, contagious energy and enthusiasm in her program work, and consistently high ratings from program participants. In her teaching, she emphasizes civility among attorneys and toward jurors, and strives to make lawyers more efficient and effective. In her own performances of NITA demonstrations, she personally exhibits good tone, demeanor, precision and brevity. “What really sets her apart,” it is said, is how much she cares about our profession. “She understands that being a lawyer is a privilege, and that we have a responsibility to give back.” Tina exemplifies what drives our NITA faculty everywhere — the gift of substantial talents and fire to improve the profession.

 Robert Oliphant Award for Outstanding Service to NITA (recognizing service to NITA in ways other than teaching, such as program administration, authorship, business support, and volunteer service, each of which enhances NITA’s Mission),

Dominic Gianna, Shareholder, Aaron & Gianna (New Orleans)
Donald H. Green (posthumously), Partner, Pepper Hamilton & Sheetz (DC)

Dom Gianna is praised for the energy he has sustained in his NITA teaching and program leadership for over thirty years. He brings spirit and enthusiasm both to program participants, and urges other lawyers to enroll in NITA programs. Describing him as a “devoted ambassador” for NITA, the nominations tell of his sustained enthusiasm from his earliest days of NITA teaching.  Actively fundraising, and conscious also of the needs of law graduates, he expands the universe of NITA’s impact. Detailed preparation for his programs are said to reflect this enthusiasm.  For example, he has delved deeply into the neuroscience lessons on learning, attitudes, and the belief-decision link.  He has brought this perspective to his NITA programs and shared it in appearances on NITA’s studio71. This award honors Dom’s outreach, insight into learning, enthusiasm in program, contributions to Program Director strategies, and constant reference to NITA wherever he goes,

Don Green, whom we recognize posthumously, has always been adored by his NITA faculty, for his quality, his firm yet smiling challenge to do better, and his results.. One of the original promoters and directors of NITA programs in Washington, DC over 30 years ago, Don inaugurated the DC Deposition program and led it with co-director Dick Leighton through 2014. Don was a giant of commitment and determination. He was kind and witty, strong and clear-headed. He practiced the art of NITA critiques with discipline, insight, creativity and brevity.  He quickly recognized opportunities to coach the group — participants or faculty alike — using his direct conciseness and quick intellect. Even after retiring from the active practice of law, Don continued his NITA leadership, humbly and proudly, energetically and brilliantly. Many of the 130+ NITA faculty members in the DC programs credit Don Green with their NITA teaching skill, enthusiasm, and dedication. He embodied The NITA Ethic, and is honored for his tremendous impact on an entire and very large regional legal community.

Prentice Marshall Faculty Award for the Development of Innovative Teaching Methods with NITA (recognizing creativity in program development or teaching methodology).

Matthew W. Williams, Judge, King County District Court (Seattle)
A part of Judge Williams’ NITA attention always aims toward new questions:  how better to approach the subject, the student, and the skill in each year’s program. In January 2015, Matt shared with NITA program directors the means to teach “distance deposition” skills as a part of the Deposition Skills Program. He had placed program participants before a computer screen and having them depose a co-participant “witness” live, via video link, with critiques unique to questioning a witness in a remote deposition.  In other ways too, Matt exemplifies NITA’s focus on not only planning programs early and carefully, but also starting from the impulse to ask “what next; what else.”  He can recall other tweaks large and small, but usually creative and new. This award honoring his 2014 work distinguishes the ability to create solutions that expand more realistic, more on-time, more effective classroom experiences. But even more than solutions, the award praises the urge of great NITA instructors to restlessly ask “what more can I offer.”

The NITA family is filled with exceptional people who regularly do exceptional things. We recognize these four special people for all they have done for NITA through the years.  We know they will continue to contribute, always in energetic and imaginative ways.         

Please join us in thanking them, and extend your congratulations.   

 Contact:  Karen M. Lockwood, Executive Director,, 303-953-6801             


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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