The Legal Advocate

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

The Law Society of Northern Ireland – NITA Public Service Program

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Written by NITA Program Director Fiona Donnelly

NITA Faculty members (left to right) Carol Sowers, Angela Vigil, Fiona Donnelly, and Monique Carter, aka “The A-Team”

It is ironic that after a week of trying to decide whether a NITA defendant should end up behind bars it was the lawyers, the judges, and the doctors from the Law Society of Northern Ireland Advanced Advocacy course who ended up in Crumlin Road jail.  That was the venue for the celebration ceremony after a week with 30 lawyers challenging themselves, pushing at their own personal boundaries, opening themselves up to new ways of doing things, hungering for improvement and achieving huge success.

On day 1, they got the NITA guarantee that they would be better advocates and better lawyers – able to add true value for the benefit of clients , the courts and society and at the end of the week and they were!

This course is what it is because of our long involvement with  NITA – the National Institute for Trial Advocacy – a not for profit organization with the aim of improving advocacy skills and they have done this the  world over.  NITA has worked with the law society over the last 19 years like a loving grandparent and brings international recognition and benchmarking to this course, a course, which has been emulated in other jurisdictions.

We were privileged to have with us NITA faculty who have been with us all week – It is difficult to express the wealth of appreciation that we hold for you.  For all of you with all of your skills and experience to take the time to come and invest in our lives and our professional development is truly exceptional. You have inspired us this week and shared with us your energy and self-belief and incredible talent.

Monique Carter all the way from San Diego – the rapidly rising star of the Public Defender’s office, our leader and guide.

Big Bill Hunt all the way from Boston, a member of the NITA board and a legendary lawyer.

Angela Vigil another NITA board member a world class act.

Jim Gailey – the heat from Florida.

And Carol Sowers the former anchor woman with KHQA who has faced the camera, faced the music and shown us all how to do the same.

It was a wonderful week where alumni of the course (now in its 19th year) come back to act as witnesses and to celebrate at the final dinner.  Where top consultants from our hospitals come as expert witnesses.  Where our judiciary preside over our trials, where judiciary and experienced lawyers teach as expert faculty.

Of course there was significant team-building among the faculty with dinners in top class restaurants, an exquisite Chinese banquet, a night of music at the home of the McQuillans (Ciaran being one of our Advocacy Working Party members) a battle of the sexes at Belfast Cookery school and a gala dinner and presentation ceremony on the final night.


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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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