The Legal Advocate

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

Monthly Archives: May 2017

Hughes Hubbard, NITA Collaborate on Federal Trial Practice Guide

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Hughes Hubbard & Reed LLP and the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) are pleased to announce the release of a new guide for federal court trial lawyers.

Entitled “Playing To Win: Appellate Preservation for Trial Lawyers in Federal Court,” the guide is co-authored by Hughes Hubbard lawyers Robb Patryk, Ross Lipman, and Jonathan Misk and addresses appellate preservation rules, techniques, and case law applicable to every stage of trial.

“Hughes Hubbard presented NITA with an informative and engaging discussion on federal trial practice, and we are excited to make this guide, the product of their hard work, available to those in our NITA family who practice in federal courts,” said Jennifer Schneider, Director of Publishing and Digital Content at NITA.

The guide is free of charge as a courtesy to trial lawyers on Hughes Hubbard’s and NITA’s websites and their respective social media platforms. Click here to download.

About Hughes Hubbard & Reed
Hughes Hubbard is a New York City-based international law firm that offers clients results-focused legal services and a collaborative approach across a broad range of practices. Hughes Hubbard was founded in 1888 by the distinguished jurist and statesman Charles Evans Hughes and is renowned for its trial and appellate practice in complex cases, including litigation involving issues related to product liability and toxic torts, antitrust and competition, corporate reorganization, international arbitration, and patent and intellectual property. For more information, visit

Help Me Help You

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written by NITA guest blogger, the Honorable Nancy Vaidik. Judge Vadik is the co-author, alongside communications expert Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla, of NITA’s newest publication Point Well Made.

I prepare extensively for hearings. The clients of the attorneys who appear before me deserve it. Every time I hear an oral argument, I hold my breath to see if the lawyers are also prepared. Often times, they are not.

After years of practice and years on the bench, I know the hardest preparation involves drilling down to the essence of an argument. This drilling down is called theme creation. Themes are memorable, focused, and connect the argument to the judge. Good themes take work to develop. For example, when arguing that the plaintiff lacks standing, Bob Dylan’s quote, “If you ain’t got nothing, you got nothing to lose,” tells me what we are here to discuss and why you should win.

If there is a secret message to those who dare speak in a motion hearing or any other oral argument, it is “better bring a theme with you.”

Here are some simple steps to developing a theme:
1. Distill the argument into a one-line summary;
2. Find a creative way to word it;
3. Practice synonymous ways to repeat it so it doesn’t become stale.

Delivering a well-crafted theme forces the judge to remember. Delivering a well-crafted theme forces the judge to focus. Delivering a well-crafted theme instantly connects the judge to the argument. If you’re reading this and you want to start creating themes, welcome to the world of winning.

Do You Know How to Handle a Media Crisis Related to Your Case?

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Last month, NITA hosted communications specialist Richard S. Levick for “How Lawyers Handle Media in a Time of Crisis, a free, one-hour webcast.

In the Internet age, courtroom victories are Pyrrhic if the client’s reputation and bottom line are savaged by day’s end. The “media” is no longer just beat reporters from the local newspaper; the “media” is now anyone who owns a mobile phone. The lawyer’s job now is more challenging than ever, managing these massive audiences with one eye on the jury pool and the other on consumers and shareholders. This program provides trial lawyers with guidance on effectively doing just that and effectively anticipating what’s next.

Mr. Levick is an experienced public relations professional and spokesperson. He and his colleagues at Levick, Inc. regularly write substantive articles about media management for the firm’s blog, which you can check out here.

Intrigued? It’s never too late to catch this webcast. Register now and watch at your leisure.

Eating Humble Pie

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written by NITA guest blogger and Communication Expert Rebecca Diaz-Bonilla. Mrs. Diaz-Bonilla is the co-author, alongside the Honorable Nancy Vaidik, of NITA’s newest publication Point Well Made.

My clients know that eating humble pie before a motion generally prevents having to devour a hefty slice during the motion.  I recently watched one of my clients deliver a motion so conversationally and confidently, I was dazzled.  The Federal Court judge apparently agreed with me because he issued an enormous “I’m with you!” order that shot down the hopes of opposing counsel.  It was a major victory.

The effortlessness was not effortless.  This advocate spent hours with me practicing, developing his lead, thinking through creative phrasing, mapping out intricate argument trees, and rehearsing a battery of possible questions over and over and over again.

Sure, he started with huge mental horsepower (God-given) and natural advocacy talent (God-given), but he was not afraid to put himself out there and give his all.  Most impressively, he asked for feedback.  He hungered for constructive criticism, trusted my recommendations, and repaired the deficiencies.

It’s true that a less gifted lawyer would need to double the prep time to achieve the same result, but my client knew his strengths and knew specifically what he needed to practice to knock it out of the park.  All advocates need to figure out their personal recipe for winning:

  1. Assess your talents (everyone has different strengths)
  2. Practice the right things (directed practice makes perfect), and
  3. Be humble enough to get feedback (check your ego at the door for optimum results).

This combination: talent, practice, and humility will produce the right result.  I see it every day when I coach talented lawyers who realize that practice and feedback is not for the remedial, it’s for the successful.

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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