The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: February 2017

Video Series Refines Your Edge in the Courtroom

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You know Brian Johnson and Marsha Hunter from their role as faculty in NITA programs and as authors of their popular series of “articulate” books on legal communication skills, The Articulate Advocate, The Articulate Attorney, and The Articulate Witness. Now there’s another way to gain the wisdom of their experience: through their video series Courtroom Communication Skills That Give You the Edge.

This series will teach you the winning technique the art of advocacy requires. Other programs teach you what to say in court; this series teaches you how you say it persuasively. Learn to speak persuasively as you think on your feet. Channel that adrenaline rush into compelling delivery. Find that zone of concentration where you reliably remember what to say next. Based on cutting-edge discoveries in brain research, gesture studies, linguistics, and sports psychology, Johnson and Hunter apply the 21st-century science of human factors to courtroom advocacy.

The six-part series, nearly 2½ hours in duration, features the following lessons:

• Finding Your Style: A Lesson in Persuasion
• Channeling Adrenaline for a Greater Presence in the Courtroom
• What Should You Do with Your Hands? The Definitive Answer
• Mastering the Art of Thinking, Structuring, and Remembering
• More Tools for Courtroom Persuasion
• Win Your Case: How to Practice

To purchase the video series, click here.

Coming Home: Philadelphia Man Claims Innocence and Released after 40 Years in Prison

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According to an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer Daily News written on September 2nd, Tyrone Jones is released after spending 40 years in prison. he maintains his innocence in a crime he was arrested for at the age of 16. According to staff writer Samantha Melamed, Jones is the first Philadelphian released under a 2012 Supreme Court ruling against mandatory life sentences for juveniles.

NITA faculty member and attorney Hayes Hunt, is Jones’ attorney and expressed in the article that Jones maintained his innocence through the parole process and said many policymakers believed it was an impossible hurdle that they would never overcome. Hunt, who is an attorney at the law firm Cozen O’Connor which, with the Pennsylvania Innocence Project, provided Jones with pro bono representation since 2009.

NITA would like to extend a congratulations to Hunt on this outstanding accomplishment as Jones is now able to reunite with his family after 40 years. To read the rest of Melamed’s article, please click here.

Book Review: Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada

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The Verdict, the quarterly magazine of the Trial Lawyers Association of British Columbia, reviews NITA books from time to time. Today, we are delighted to share Michael Sporer’s review of Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada, by NITA authors Steven Lubet, Cynthia Tape, and Lisa Talbot, reprinted below with permission and in its entirety. Our thanks to the Trial Lawyers Association for their interest and support of NITA publications.

Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada (Third Edition)
Steven Lubet, Cynthia Tape, Lisa Talbot
NITA, 2010, 481 pages

Reviewed by Mike Sporer, Sporer Mah and Company

Older lawyers who are also hockey fans will remember the Wild West days in Queen’s Park Arena when Ernie “Punch” McLean coached the New Westminster Bruins. But it wasn’t all madness and mayhem. McLean’s teams earned four straight Memorial Cup appearances from 1975‒1978, winning the Cup twice.

The Bruins took the trophy in 1977, but the 1977‒1978 team had fallen short on talent. Barry Beck, Brad Maxwell, and other stars, had graduated. No one expected the hard-working team of grinders, led by Stan Smyl, to go deep in the 1978 playoffs. But the Bruins, after a mediocre regular season, won four straight playoff series, again earning the right to represent the Western Hockey League at the Memorial Cup, held in Ontario, at Sudbury and Sault Ste. Marie.

The underdog Bruins arrived in Sudbury and were promptly crushed 7‒2 by the Ontario champion Peterborough Petes. The mighty Petes, coached by Gary Green, with strategic input from former Petes head coach (and later NHL legend) Roger Nielsen, used an effective centre ice press to bottle up their opponents. The Bruins lost once more to the Petes at the tournament, but, due to the round robin format, were able to survive the two losses, beat the Quebec champs Trois-Rivières, and earn a right to play the Petes one more time in the final game.

The final was to be played in Sudbury. Punch McLean took the Bruins out to Sault Ste. Marie, where no one could see what they were working on. There, in a locked down arena, he unveiled a completely different break-out plan, that would have a Bruins defenceman come up the centre of the ice to break the Peterborough press. For over two hours, Punch drilled the new break-out plan into the team.

When the final game started, this time it was different. The underdog Bruins took an early lead, and before the confused Petes could adjust to their opponent’s pre-game plan, they were behind the eight ball. The Bruins never looked back, went on to win 7‒3, and claimed their second consecutive Memorial Cup.

Pre-trial planning is like pre-game planning—a must. It can make all the difference. And pre-trial planning is where Professor Steven Lubet, Williams Memorial Professor of Law at Northwestern University, begins his outstanding treatise, Modern Trial Advocacy. The book, written for American trial lawyers, has a Third Canadian Edition titled Modern Trial Advocacy: Canada, with modifications provided by two Canadian trial lawyers from Ontario, Cynthia Tape and Lisa Talbot. But any recent edition—Canadian or American—will do. It covers all the basic aspects of trial—from pre-trial planning to closing argument—and is the single best introduction to trial advocacy available.

Lubet explains the pre-trial steps that he considers a must. He shows the importance of developing a trial theme—the “moral force” behind the case—and explains how to prepare a persuasive trial story.

He covers the essentials of case theory planning and development, highlighting the fundamentals of a good case theory: it must be simple, logical, and easy to believe. If there is room to criticize Professor Lubet—and there is very little—he might, in places, have simplified his discussion of case theories to articulate more clearly the important distinction between factual and legal theories of a case. But in any event, his discussion of the subject is still very good, and the lessons he offers are of great value.

Lubet’s most important single piece of advice relates to pre-trial planning: start by preparing final argument. “Good trial preparation begins at the end,” says Lubet. “It makes great sense to plan your final argument first.”

This bit of basic advice remains a cornerstone of any pre-trial preparation, yet it remains overlooked by many. As another great advocate once said, a trial is no place to be writing a closing argument. Tinker with it at trial? Certainly. How the evidence unfolds will require that. But it should be no more than tinkering, and Lubet’s book, in its discussion of pre-trial planning, puts first things first.

Lubet takes the reader from pre-trial planning through all the phases of trial, with excellent discussions of direct examination, cross examination, impeachment, expert evidence, foundations and exhibits, opening, and final argument. As he always does, Professor Lubet dedicates a considerable amount of space to important issues of legal ethics, including a very good discussion of the ethics of persuasive storytelling.

There are books that cover particular aspects of case planning and trial work more thoroughly—but none covers it all so effectively. This is a treatise. Lawyers called for less than five years should not be without Modern Trial Advocacy. Experienced trial lawyers would be unwise not to keep a copy on their shelves.

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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