The Legal Advocate

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

All posts by Alli Keefe

Monthly Theme: Depositions Part One

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“Once Upon a Time in Deposition: Taking Better Depositions to Tell Better Stories”

Written by NITA guest blogger, Chris Arledge, co-founder and managing partner of One LLP

Lawyers need to be storytellers.  We know that.  We hear it all the time.  But storytelling plays almost no role in our day-to-day activities.  Many of us first write our client’s story about a week before trial, and we often find that much of the story we’d like to write involves events, conversations, and sometimes even people that we never really thought much about until that time.  Our sparse record makes effective storytelling at trial difficult.

This is the subject of my recent webinar “Once Upon a Time in Deposition: Taking Better Depositions to Tell Better Stories.”  In that program, (premiering live at 10:00 am PDT and available on demand this evening) I teach how to take depositions with storytelling in mind.  Taking depositions with storytelling in mind requires us to gather the facts that we need to tell a complete and compelling story, with characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution.

The key to taking depositions for the purpose of storytelling is to use the good facts we have – the ones we uncovered in our documents, for example – and use the NITA funnel technique to leverage those facts to acquire additional, useful facts.  It is the accumulation of these facts that gives our story depth and makes our presentation persuasive.  This means that we need to stop chasing conclusions and characterizations in our depositions and, instead, focus on discrete, simple, facts.  My presentation explains how to do this.

Chris Arledge’s webcast, “Once Upon a Time in Deposition: Taking Better Depositions to Tell Better Stories, premieres live at 10:00 am PDT/ 1:00 pm EDT today, November 8th, and will be available to watch on demand this evening. Don’t forget to tune in!

Legal Services Corporation – NITA Public Service Program Part Two

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Back in August, NITA hosted our Legal Services Corporation (LSCO) program, inviting attorneys in the legal service field to attend at our headquarters in Boulder, CO. This year, we had the opportunity to host the program a second time on September 25 – 28 for 48 more attorneys. This program was led by Program Director Suparna Malempati, Associate Professor of Law at John Marshall Law School in Atlanta, GA.

Malempati began teaching with NITA in 2013 and this was the first program she served as program director for. “[This was] a truly rewarding experience to teach young lawyers dedicated to public service and eager to learn, made possible through NITA,” stated Malempati.

Furthermore, over the course of this four-day program, attendees had very positive things to say regarding the skills they acquired and the faculty. “This course was amazing! I learned so much. I have never been to trial yet, so this course was invaluable to me. The instructors were all amazing, and so informative. They created a safe place for us to try new things, maybe fail at times, but learn a new/correct way to do a skill. I really enjoyed sitting one-on-one with the instructors and reviewing the video footage. Getting personalized tips was so helpful. I also had a great time just getting to know other legal services attorneys from around the country. I have already been recommending NITA courses to my colleagues,” stated one attendee.

Another attendee stated, “It was exactly what I needed to set me on the right course as a trial attorney.”

NITA is grateful to run this legal services program year after year and for the opportunity to hold the program twice in 2018 as we continue to serve our mission.

Voting Is an Act of Faith

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Written by NITA Legal Editor Virginia Judd

Tomorrow, voters across the country are heading to the polls. Voting is an act of faith. It can seem pointless—you are one of millions and millions of people pulling a lever, or filling in an oval, or touching a screen. What does your one vote matter?

But what does one raindrop matter? It’s a tiny bit of water, and falling by itself it would evaporate and be forgotten in moments. Put millions of them together, though, and you can carve the Grand Canyon.

Some of our most critical elections were not decided by millions of votes, just thousands. A few thousand individuals who didn’t think they mattered. But they did.

Whatever your political beliefs, voting is an act of faith. When you take the time to go to the polls, you are putting faith in the belief that millions of other people like you are doing the same—and they are putting the same faith in you.

Keep that faith.

Image credit: By Dwight Burdette [CC BY 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons.

Mountain West Legal Services – NITA Public Service Program

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“Educational” “Wonderful” “Beneficial” – all words used by attendees to describe the NITA public service program which took place October 2 – 3 with Mountain West Legal Services here at NITA’s headquarters in Boulder, CO. NITA had to opportunity to train 44 attendees, led by Program Director Laurence Rose, along with six NITA faculty members.

Director of Advocacy at Mountain West Legal Services, Maureen “Reenie” Terjak, was instrumental in working with NITA to ensure the program schedule met the needs of the attendees. At the conclusion, Terjak stated, “It was a wonderful experience! The younger attorneys raved about the opportunity to learn from more experienced attorneys, sought out the chance to test their skills and personal style, and were enriched by meeting other legal aid attorneys from programs throughout the region. I can’t thank you enough for all the support we received from NITA; everyone from the program coordinator to the legal team was fantastic – positive, respectful, and patient.”

Likewise, after the two-day program, the attendees were excited at the opportunity to use the newly acquired skills in their practice. “NITA was very beneficial and educational. Accordingly, the training I received at NITA will be used in every case that I approach,” stated one attendee.

Similarly, another attendee stated, “…I appreciated the hands-on learning style with instructors that challenged me to try new tactics and step outside my comfort zone.”

Violence Free Colorado – NITA Public Service Program

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Violence Free Colorado is Colorado’s domestic violence coalition, working with hundreds of organizations and individuals in local communities across the state to prevent and end relationship violence and support those affected by relationship abuse. This year, NITA teamed up with Violence Free Colorado for a public service program centered around strengthening Expert Witness skills. The program was led by NITA Program Director Tina Habas, who has taught at over 100 NITA programs over the years, as well as NITA Faculty Siddhartha Rathod.

Over the course of two days, the seven attendees immersed themselves in the NITA method of learning-by-doing. One attendee stated, “The training was excellent and I am so appreciative that you guys keep giving us the opportunity to improve. I know without this training, I would be so ill-equipped to the nuances and strategies we need. Just our knowledge base doesn’t suffice! Thank you so much for continuing to follow through with this!”

Similarly, another attendee stated, “Thank you so much! This was an excellent workshop which allowed us the opportunity to practice being on the stand in a safe environment as well as glean from constructive criticism.”

NITA is thankful for the opportunity to help improve the advocacy skills of the Violence Free Colorado advocates on this public service program.

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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