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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             


About Karen M. Lockwood

Karen is the Executive Director at the National Institute for Trial Advocacy. Karen brings the insights and creativity rooted in serving corporate and business clients, first-chairing numerous jury and bench trials, and arguing appeals. Her specialty areas have included construction litigation, large disaster cases, multi-party commercial disputes involving all types of contracts, antitrust, trademark and copyright, and ADR.

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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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