The Legal Advocate

A blog brought to you by the national institute for trial advocacy

Monthly Archives: March 2017

Give to the NITA Foundation this Quarter

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When you give to the NITA Foundation, 100 percent of every dollar you donate is spent on the mission work that fulfills our goal of including public service lawyers in those who benefit from NITA’s training. As this quarter comes to a close today, we’d love to count on your support of the NITA Foundation and its important work of awarding scholarship assistance and creating programs for applicants working in careers that meet our public service attorney training objectives. This work is impossible without help from loyal donors like you.

Since 2003, the NITA Foundation has disbursed over $3.3 million in support of our programs and scholarships. There are so many ways to give—cash donations, memorial or honorary gifts, stock donations, planned giving, and even donations of your NITA teaching proceeds or NITA book royalties—and each way helps us award program scholarships to public services lawyers, provide NITA training programs in the public sector, defray travel expenses for program participants, and ensure the rule of law and access to justice in emerging democracies through our international programs. Visit www.nita.org/donate to make a secure online gift and learn more about how you can help.

studio71 Webcasts Break Viewing Records in 2017

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In 2017, we’ve experienced record-breaking views in studio71, NITA’s online venue for free video content. Twice this year, we’ve hit 700+ registrants for a webcast, with nearly 50 percent tuning into the live broadcast.

It started in January, when current NextGen faculty Moe Spencer shared how to present a killer opening statement. Faculty (and tax whiz) Karen Hester followed in February, with a webcast on barriers and bias in the workplace. And last week, Judge Chris Whitten and Erin Nelson brought the house down with their discussion of views on expert witnesses from the bench and the stand.

If you missed these informative hour-long talks when they aired, don’t fret. They live on in perpetuity on our website, and are available for your viewing whenever you have the time. They’re not just free and available 24/7, but they also impart tips and tricks that you can take away and apply to your practice immediately, which makes them time well spent.

Click the links above to tune in—and while you’re at it, why not register for April’s free webcast? Communications expert Richard Levick will be talking about how to handle media during a crisis.

Asked and Answered—Mike Dale

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It seems funny now to think of him this way, but once upon a time, Mike Dale was a NITA attendee. “My first encounter with NITA took place at Hofstra Law School, when, as a trial lawyer practicing in Phoenix, I traveled east and took NITA’s trial skills program on Long Island,” he says. “After becoming a law school professor and teaching trial advocacy, I took the NITA teacher training program.” The rest, as they say, is history—a history with NITA that includes directing the Florida Deposition program for over twenty-five years, helping develop the new NITA Experiential Skill-Based Course on interviewing and fact investigation techniques now being offered to law schools, filming a lecture series and a webcast on child advocacy, co-authoring a case file on juvenile delinquency, and contributing articles to this very blog. Small wonder, then, that he received the Robert Oliphant Service to NITA Award in 2009. “Mike is a true NITA ambassador,” says Wendy McCormack, AED of Operations. And to think, it all started because Mike enrolled in a trial skills program. Catch him this summer teaching at NITA family law programs at Hofstra and in Boulder.

Mike Dale at Charles University in Prague, with a Czech law student and his grandfather, both of whom attended Mike’s speech on the Hague Convention on Child Abduction.

What made you want to become a lawyer?
Before going to law school, I passed the tests and was accepted into the Foreign Service. President Nixon froze the waiting list. So I went to law school hoping I would eventually be able to work as a lawyer in the State Department.

When you set out as a young lawyer, did you envision yourself one day as a law professor? How did it happen?
It never occurred to me during law school or for fifteen years thereafter that I would ever teach law. However, while practicing in Phoenix, I taught trial advocacy as an adjunct at Arizona State University. That experience caused me to think about teaching law.

What is the most exciting or interesting thing happening at law schools in 2017?
Watching and reading about the Ninth Circuit oral argument on the Trump executive order case on immigration. When the attorney representing the government hesitated and, in answer to a question from the panel, said there was no review of the order, the significance of Marbury v. Madison, which is taught in every constitutional law class, came back into vivid focus

You’ve mentored a number of your students in writing substantive articles that have appeared here on our blog over the last few years. How did they come into this opportunity? How do you decide the topic for each post?
My research assistants and I have written ten substantive blog articles for the NITA Legal Advocate, and three more are in the pipeline. The topics come from experiences I have had during NITA training programs when litigation-related questions pop up and it is clear that the answer the question is unclear. I have taken these questions back to the law school and have assigned my research assistant to write approximately five-page articles answering these very pragmatic litigation- and trial-related questions.

Why do you teach?
When one has done as many uncontested divorces, landlord-tenant trials, name changes, juvenile delinquency loitering cases, and fender-benders as I have, one develops some knowledge of the basics of the practice of law that one wants to pass on. The best way to do that is to teach both doctrinal and skills law courses from a very pragmatic vantage point. Seeing the light go on in the eyes of the student is what I describe as psychic income

What three things are vital to your day?
First, checking in with my wife and two daughters, both of whom, for reasons that continue to escape me, became lawyers. Second, teaching and meeting with students. Third, checking English soccer scores

In what ways are you the same as your childhood self?
I wear white shirts and ties to work, including at NITA programs just as I did when I went to Easter dinner at my relatives’ in Brooklyn.

If nothing were holding you back, what would you like to be doing in ten years?
Watching English Premier League soccer games in person in places like Southampton, Sunderland, and Swansea.

What song makes you nostalgic?
Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.”

What bores you?
Interrogatories, food programs on television, and faculty meetings.

What is your motto?
“Do what’s indicated”—my father’s way of saying do the right thing.

Coffee or tea?
Coffee early, tea late—but not chamomile.

Early bird or night owl?
Early bird.

Introvert or extrovert?
Extrovert.

City or country?
France.

Cats or dogs?
Neither.

Classic or modern?
Modern.

Popcorn or candy?
Candy: licorice.

Fiction or non-fiction?
Fiction—Colm Tóibín. Non-fiction—Robert Caro.

Enjoy this interview? Find more of our Asked and Answered interviews with NITA personalities here on The Legal Advocate.

March 2017 Executive Director’s Letter: Get To Know NITA’s Sales & Marketing Staff!

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Each month this winter, my column features our NITA Staff members, in person and in their own words. In January you met our Programs folks, and in February, Publications. Today, please say “hello” to the Sales and Marketing pro’s, who make it easy for our participant lawyers and custom clients to arrange their NITA experience. With their insight into where the lawyers are who need NITA, they help us to reach far. They meet you with their sense of service. And the wholeness of the NITA Mission. Read on . . .

Kathy Behler

Online Marketing Specialist
I am responsible for NITA’s Digital Marketing initiatives. I help spread the word about NITA’s unique training methods in today’s online world.

NITA has always stood out with its learning-by-doing approach to trial advocacy training. I don’t see that changing. However, with new technology and strategies constantly emerging in the courtroom, you can bet you will see them in a NITA classroom as well.

Tom Hintz

Director of Client Relations and Manager – East
My job is to continually reinforce that NITA is the preferred skills development training solution for law firms, government agencies and individual attorneys. With empathy, I know and stay current with the challenges our potential clients face, and focus on solving any obstacles to enable them to work with NITA for their immediate and long-term benefit. We constantly seek new relationships with firms and agencies to help their attorneys learn and own great advocacy skills. In addition, we are working hard to bring greater awareness of the quality and affordability of NITA’s various training tools to more mid-sized and small firms.

Growing relationships with new clients as well as always bringing fresh ideas to our treasured existing relationships is the cornerstone for accomplishing NITA’s non-profit mission. I deeply enjoy both the discipline and curiosity that I use in bringing NITA’s mission and excellence to new clients. It is the part of the job that generates both the most frustration and the greatest personal reward.

Alli Keefe

Sales & Marketing/Programs Associate
My role in the Sales & Marketing Department has greatly developed over the past year and a half that I’ve been at NITA. Three very important tasks I continue to work on with my team include: developing content for our social media sites to promote NITA, assisting the Sales Team in lead generation, and working closely on the Public Service Programs to reach out and work with various organizations in the public interest realm.

The work I do at NITA is important to me because I believe by getting our name out there, and by always reaching out to organizations who may not know us, I can help NITA continue to grow. In growing, we train as many attorneys as possible, especially those in public interest who may not be able to afford training but desperately need it. I feel humbled to bring such a great tool for success to these people. I feel that because our marketing efforts expand each month, we grow each month, showing we are succeeding in our outreach.

Daniel McHugh

Director of Sales & Marketing
The best part about my role in the Sales & Marketing department is that I get to watch an amazing group of people defy one of the age-old business clichés: Every time you DO something new, you DON’T DO (or do less of) something else.” I say not so fast my friend. We pride ourselves on trying something new while keeping other items running smooth. When the new things work, great, let’s do more of it. When they don’t work, great, let’s figure out why and try something else.

I see NITA continuing to be more and more focused on public service each year. We’ve done great public service work for many years but the momentum we have gained in the past 2-3 years is phenomenal and this year looks to be no exception. I see that continuing to grow and in an effort to help that growth, I am going to let you get to the rest of NITA Notes so we can go sell some more programs. Enjoy!

Pam Morton

Client Relationship Manager – West
I have the pleasure of reaching out to faculty and clients in the western region to talk about the value of NITA programs. My goal is to ensure that the maximum number of attorneys can benefit from NITA training, via either custom or public programs.

As a former ski instructor and reading teacher, I know that learning by doing is the only way to transform any skill set. NITA’s faculty and methodology are unparalleled, and will continue to be relevant as long as there are attorneys who want to better represent their clients!

Zane Strand

Client Relationship Manager – Central
As a member of NITA’s sales and marketing front line I act as a seek-and-collaborate missile. I identify groups of people from firms, companies, organizations, and associations who use or should use NITA’s expertise, and collaborate with their leadership and decision makers. This constant building of relationships and learning their needs has me contacting and visiting people daily so they are aware of all the great things NITA does and has to offer.

The future of NITA from my eyes is sustainable growth in servicing our mission while leading the industry with the highest quality legal skills education available. This future will be supported by mutually beneficial partnerships and a never-ending quest to improve overall legal advocacy across this country and abroad.

Please say “thanks” the next time you talk to these Sales & Marketing team members. I am proud of them.

And thank YOU.

Go, NITA!

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

NITA Movie Review: There Is Absolutely No Place In A Courtroom For Pride

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Written by guest blogger Judge McGahey

Having recently rotated out of a domestic relations division and back into a civil division, I thought that this month’s review ought to focus on a movie involving civil litigation – so naturally I picked A Civil Action (Buena Vista Pictures, 1998), another movie “based on a true story.” I’d forgotten some of what made the movie memorable, but after watching the whole film on YouTube, I remembered that the movie has much to recommend it, not the least how it shows the way that litigation can be stacked in favor of the party with the most resources – and how a lawyer’s “standing on principle” may not be the best resolution for the lawyer’s client.

Jon Travolta plays real-life lawyer, Jan Schlichtmann, who takes on a toxic tort case for clients living in Woburn, Massachusetts, a town with high rates of cancer, illness and even death that the clients – and eventually Schlichtmann – are caused by pollution of the town’s water supply by tanneries owned by corporate giants Beatrice Foods and W.R. Grace and Co. Schlichtmann, assisted by other lawyers, files a class action lawsuit, seeking a big dollar payout and an apology for his clients. But things go wrong, very wrong. The Defendants hire high-powered lawyers, especially Beatrice’s lawyer, Jerry Facher, played by Robert Duvall. It becomes obvious that Defendants’ lawyers have Schlichtmann and his cohorts seriously outgunned, both in their ability as lawyers and by the vastly superior monetary resources the Defendants can bring to bear. Schlichtmann and the other lawyers on the Plaintiffs’ side have to keep advancing costs to keep the case alive; the Plaintiffs’ lawyers mortgage their homes, cash out retirement accounts and borrow money, but it’s never enough. Schlichtmann and his clients get unfavorable rulings from the trial judge (John Lithgow) yet turn down a huge settlement offer. The Plaintiffs take the case to trial and the result isn’t what they either want or need. Schlichtmann ends up a broken man, in bankruptcy court.

A Civil Action is well-thought of. In the ABA’s 2008 list of Twenty Five Greatest Legal Movies, it’s ranked 22nd. In another ABA poll taken in 2015, it was voted one of the three best legal movies of the decade 1995 – 2004. Robert Duvall was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar; Marlon Brando turned down the part of Jerry Facher.

But the movie ultimately may make you uncomfortable. The justice is all on one side of the case; the financial muscle and resources are all on the other side. Schlichtmann goes into court and during the trial makes some fundamental errors in presentation and preparation. He wants to fight for principle and in doing so destroys himself and his fellow lawyers, while leaving his clients with little real relief. He focuses on a single, specific outcome and blindly pursues it without thinking through what will happen if that result is not achieved. In the end, he demonstrates the accuracy of something Facher says to a law school class, from which I took the title of this review: “Now the single greatest liability a lawyer can have is pride. Pride… Pride has lost more cases than lousy evidence, idiot witnesses and a hanging judge all put together. There is absolutely no place in a courtroom for pride.” I have told my students at DU Law School something similar for years.

Many of us have heard Mark Caldwell tell program participants that a lawyer must be the client’s voice. What goes on in a courtroom must always be about the litigants first and foremost. When lawyers – and judges – forget that and put their egos ahead of the just resolution of the case that needs deciding, the legal system fails us all.

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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