The Legal Advocate

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Monthly Archives: October 2017

The University of New Mexico School of Law Distinguished Achievement Award

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On Friday October 20th, NITA Board of Trustee Barbara Bergman was honored at The University of New Mexico School of Law’s Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner. NITA’s Associate Executive Director, Wendy McCormack, who attended the event stated, “It was such a privilege to be in a room of 400 people honoring Barbara for her law career and extraordinary teaching impact in New Mexico and beyond. Her reach and influence at the UNM Law School and in the NM legal community is a tremendous accomplishment. To share the night amongst her closest friends and colleagues was quite a celebration of her talents. NITA is lucky to have her as a committed faculty member and Board Trustee.”

Proceeds from the Distinguished Achievement Awards Dinner help fund the Law Alumni Association’s programming and full-tuition merit scholarships at the Law School.

Congratulations once again to Barbara on this amazing achievement!

October 2017 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA Executive Director Transition

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Lockwood_KarenThe Essence of Continuity and Innovation. . .

Here comes December 1! Upon my retirement on that day, Wendy McCormack steps up to become the Executive Director.

I am so proud of her. I am so proud of NITA’s Board. And I am thrilled to know that NITA grows forward when we have taken succession planning seriously.

Why “Succession Planning” when we are a non-profit of dedicated volunteers?

NITA is our nation-wide network of trial lawyers, judges, and professors, joined at the heart by our passion for excellent trial advocacy. We constantly seek to widen our network. The program faculties volunteer their days to teach bespoke learn-by-doing programs. So what’s with succession?

The answer lies in the anchors under NITA’s success. These five things drive our work at Boulder’s headquarters.

  • Our understanding of what our mission is. Articulating that.
  • Our engagement of more trial lawyers and law students across the nation. Building the avenues to reach them.
  • Our insights into what lawyers want. Naming tomorrow’s needs in light of changes in how trials happen and how lawyers work.
  • Our service to all sectors of practice. Reaching the mid-size practice, engaging the small/solo, including the government practices, activating our dedication to public service, advancing with the largest practices.
  • Our faculty training. We steadily welcome superb junior faculty into our teaching tribe, and constantly seek the most recognized trial advocates to teach with us too. In every region, we do this.
  • Our innovating, planning, and administering all of NITA’s operations plus the NITA Foundation. We run a lean process that brings in NITA’s many programs and up-to-date publication collection, on-time, under budget, and national in reach. This is excruciatingly detailed work, and it is well-designed to be efficient and goal-oriented. The smart ED needs to understand the process.

These things must be curated, grown, and managed year-in and year-out.

Welcoming our next Executive Director

So, too, the staff’s work must be coupled with the hearts and hands of the volunteer-based faculty. The Executive Director oversees all of this, creating strategies and policies that assure both our lofty goals, our comradery, and our operational efficiency. The job is both heady and concrete.

Because I and the staff have practiced succession planning as a regular part of our work, Wendy’s leadership over the coming years promises sharp focus on continued strategies toward growth and innovation. She has been at the table as we have evolved strategies. She possesses both the leadership qualities and the depth of knowledge on how NITA gets the work done every day. This linkage is a powerful force!

Wendy’s talents and training in design, engagement, imagination, leadership, and friendships are some of the things she brings as ED. I am excited to see what strides NITA will make in the coming years. Volunteering and responding to the call is our responsibility as members of “the tribe.” We are one. I know that each of us will give her our best support – and answer her call to action when we know that she counts on great NITA volunteers. I will.

Please join me in congratulating Wendy, as she builds a great 2018 and plans for NITA’s continued success and growth. And thank you for all of your support during this transition.
I will save my personal “thank you’s” for last ED Letter in November.




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

NITA/CLINIC Public Service Programs, 2017

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Written by NITA Program Director, Mark Caldwell, who served as program director of both the July and September public service programs with CLINIC.

 The third of NITA’s collaborative immigration programs with Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc. (CLINIC) was held September 26, 27 and 28 in the Chicago offices of Baker McKenzie. Attending the program were forty-seven (47) participants drawn from legal service organizations from throughout the United States. Eight of these advocates were men and the rest women. Four were fully accredited reps and the rest attorneys. The advocates represented 16 states. Between the first NITA/CLINIC program held in July in Boulder and Chicago, participants came from twenty-five states. Each represents people fleeing to the United States seeking asylum or protection from oppressive regimes or gang violence.

The NITA Foundation provided tuition funding for this program. The law firm of Baker McKenzie allowed the use of their beautiful Chicago conference facilities and provided breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. NITA’s partner, Catholic Legal Immigration Network, Inc., recruited and supported the costs of half of the teaching team.

The collaboration of NITA, CLINIC, and Baker McKenzie made the program truly special. The melding of NITA and CLINIC instructors assured a strong learning experience for participants – who called upon the expertise on trial skills and substantive immigration laws and procedures. The exceptional staff at Baker McKenzie assured a smoothly run program in beautiful surroundings.

The Teaching team was comprised of great NITA instructors Jeanne Jordan, Suzanne Katchmar, Jaclyn Pampel, Thomas Swett, and Whitney Untiedt. The CLINIC team included Bradley Jenkins, Eliza Klein, Michelle Mendez, Rebecca Schultz, and Claudia Valenzuela.

The attendees had amazing things to say about the NITA faculty for this program. One attendee stated, “The content was extremely on point, and every single member of the faculty was extremely knowledgeable, talented, and collegial… I hope this training will be offered again, and I will very strongly recommend it to anyone who anticipates litigating an immigration case.”

Similarly, another attendee stated, “This is definitely a learning experience for a lifetime and I look forward to the opportunity to be a part of something that I know and experience, that is good and wonderful… I have been recommending NITA to attorneys I know.”

Michelle Mendez was the principle author of a new NITA case file focusing on immigration issues. It presented a realistic set of facts, drawn from issues currently confronting immigration advocates.

The program presented a timely focus on a subject that is at the forefront of political and legal issues. Those who attended left the program with enhanced skills they could immediately put to use in the difficult world of immigration advocacy.


NITA Trustee Barbara Bergman to Receive Distinguished Achievement Award from UNM School of Law

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Our congratulations to go NITA Trustee Barbara Bergman for being one of four recipients of the 2017 Distinguished Achievement Award, in recognition of her years of teaching service at the University of New Mexico (UNM) School of Law. She will receive the honor at the law school’s annual dinner this Friday, October 20, at the UNM Student Union Building ballroom in Albuquerque.

“I am deeply honored to be receiving this award from UNM,” Barbara told The Legal Advocate. “I spent twenty-eight years teaching at the UNM School of Law, and I treasure the time I spent helping educate the wonderful students at that law school.” Barbara became a NITA Trustee in 2006, after several years of service as a program director and faculty member at NITA’s Southwest Deposition Skills, the Southwest Trial Skills, and the Connecticut Child Protection Trial Skills programs, among others.

Established in 1993, the Distinguished Achievement Award honors people who have served the legal community in a significant way, celebrates notable accomplishments and dedicated service by lawyers and others in the legal community to the UNM School of Law, the New Mexico legal community, and the greater community inside and outside of New Mexico.

The dinner, attended by approximately 450 guests or more each year, helps fund the Law Alumni/ae Association’s three full-tuition merit scholarships at the Law School through its proceeds. The dinner has raised over $500,000 benefitting the law school and law students.

For more information, click here to view the UNM press release.

Basic Trial Technology Skills

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October “Trial Technology Series” written by NITA guest blogger, Shannon Bales

Trial technology is an umbrella term used for the ability to display exhibits in court electronically. When done right trial technology creates amazing efficiency and clarity of argument in the courtroom. Efficiency and clarity are obtained by the use of a shared set of monitors or projectors in the courtroom with exhibits available at a few keystrokes. Using technology allows lawyers to save time by quickly displaying exhibits in a shared viewing environment rather than passing around an exhibit that must be retrieved from a box and then a folder. Clarity comes from navigating an exhibit and showing the relevant sections clearly (via a large call out or projection of the selected text) contained on a computer.

There are four basic skills related to trial technology. These skills relate to the ability to perform the basic presentation of a handful of exhibits. Larger and more complex cases require advanced technical skills (see #4 below), and directing staff members or new associates into technical service is likely a bad idea.

  1. Electronic exhibit creation: The ability to create exhibits into a PDF or other image format for exchange and presentation.
  2. Basic Hardware competence: To connect a laptop to a projector or display.
  3. Software competence: To use a program to display exhibits in the courtroom whether a specialized trial presentation program or PowerPoint or Adobe Acrobat.
  4. Experience recognition: The ability to recognize when you are in over your head technologically and either invest in training/equipment and or a trial presentation vendor.

The skills and abilities go hand in hand with the selection of hardware that meets the minimal standards of the software intended for use at trial. In other words, you need the right equipment and software to do the job. For smaller cases specialized trial software is likely not necessary. You could simply open a PDF, spreadsheet, PowerPoint or Word document and display it onscreen. As your evidence presentation needs grow or become more complex, you will need progressively higher level technical skills and a dedicated in-house resource or a vendor.

The cost barrier to quality equipment and software has been greatly reduced. For example, a good trial laptop can be found for under $1000; there are many presentation software options (like PowerPoint and Prezi); training on specialized legal presentation applications like TrialDirector is plentiful and can be found at public university, trial software vendors and private programs; and there are many trial presentation vendors that can assist legal teams with their presentation needs.

Basic trial presentation (where only a handful of exhibits are displayed) is analogous to electronic court filing (ECF) using PDF files. The basic skills required for ECF are nearly the same as for trial presentation. One must be able to turn on their computer, generate the output of a PDF by converting a word processing, spreadsheet, presentation or other file type, and connect it to an external monitor or projector. Basic trial presentation really is no different; exhibits can be created and presented in PDF or their native application – no special software necessary. It is typically connecting to an external monitor or projector that gives teams the most issues and an area where lawyers should focus their technical skillset.

With cost and training barriers falling rapidly we continue to hear horror stories about computer failures in the courtroom. When done incorrectly the use of trial technology is excruciatingly painful to watch and all efficiencies are lost while lawyers troubleshoot their computers while judge and jury wait and watch. Even amongst big firms with large complex matters (i.e. – $$$) there can be a great deal of variation between the technical skills of the plaintiffs and defense ability to present at trial.

The inept use of technology in the courtroom provides the impression that the presenting attorney simply does not care about the judge and jury’s time. On the other hand, not using technology (especially if it is present in the courtroom or only one party is using it) is potentially frustrating to judge and jury because it produces a negative belief that the attorney lacks technical competence or similarly does not care about their time.  It’s worth noting that so called “David and Goliath” arguments are quickly becoming invalidated due to juries expecting legal teams be able to present technically to keep things interesting and moving along.

The horror stories about technical meltdowns are often true and defeat the efficiency goal of using trial technology because of the significant delay and frustration which are counter to their use. Technical issues are one of the main barriers to widespread technology implementation in the courtroom as judges use their worst courtroom experiences in deciding whether to allow subsequent use of technology in their courtrooms. A few examples:

  • An attorney asked to shut down their equipment after many errors and to use opposing professional trial tech.
  • Equipment failures and crashes that cause delays rather than efficiencies.
  • Presentations going “haywire” in the courtroom causing frustration and more technological delay.
  • Blaming technical issues on the courtroom IT staff or equipment.
  • Destroying or misusing courtroom equipment and furniture such as by disconnecting equipment and cables or using packing tape (rather than nondestructive gaffing tape) on furniture and flooring.

The horror stories for the most part are not tales of something gone unexpectedly wrong but are often due to poor preparation. A small error or two is OK but bumbling and stumbling throughout multiple delays and issues crosses a line. To be sure, technology issues will happen and computers will crash so you should have a backup plan for when technical issues occur.  For example, you may want several copies of your presentation or exhibits printed for distribution to the judge, witness and opposing counsel. You may want a backup computer ready to go with the presentation on it or to have a copy on a thumb drive.

In closing, the technological barriers for the use of technology in courtroom are quickly falling. The hardware and software have become cheaper to buy and easier to use while performance has drastically increased. It is easier than ever to find training through vendors and university programs – and many basic skills can be learned by performing a search on and watching a video for free. With advance testing of equipment in the courtroom and practice on their equipment and software of choice, basic trial presentation skills are within reach for most attorneys and legal teams. Last, legal teams should be aware when they are in over their head with complex matters that may require a trial technology specialist when working with large volumes of data or require more complex technical skills like video editing so they can concentrate on their legal arguments rather than technical issues.

The views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily the views of FTI Consulting, Inc., its management, its subsidiaries, its affiliates, or its other professionals.

FTI Consulting, Inc., including its subsidiaries and affiliates, is a consulting firm and is not a certified public accounting firm or a law firm.

This article was written by:
Shannon Lex Bales
Managing Director, Trial Technology Consulting FTI
UCLA Paralegal Trial Technology Program Instructor
Trial Technology Author
UN War Crimes Tribunal Legal Technology Advisor
Legaltech Award: Most Innovative Use of Technology During a Trial 2009
Email Shannon at:

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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