The Legal Advocate

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

All posts by Claire Tompkins

Introducing NITA’s 2018 Next Generation Faculty Members

Posted On By

Congratulations to Annie Deets, Johanna Schonfield, and Nicholas Williams on their acceptance into NITA’s Next Generation Faculty Development Program.

About the Program

The Next Generation Faculty Development (NextGen) Program was established to help identify, recruit, and prepare attorneys to be the next generation of NITA faculty leaders and program directors. Each year we ask all NITA program directors to nominate individuals that they believe will help continue NITA’s legacy of passionate and talented faculty. In order to be nominated an attorney must be under the age of 45, have taught at one of our public programs, and/or have been identified in our teacher training programs as having the potential to be an outstanding faculty member.

Meet the NextGen Class of 2018

Annie Deets is a public defender in DeKalb County, Georgia, where she is part of a specialized Mental Health Division. Part of that role involves handling some of the most high-profile criminal cases in Atlanta. Annie greatly enjoys this position as it allows her to be an advocate for a vulnerable population.  She uses her work experience to teach at Emory University School of Law, where she teaches courses specific to mental health issues in the criminal justice system.

Annie loves being a NITA faculty member because it allows her to continue developing her own advocacy and teaching skills. She believes that teaching others is a great responsibility, but after teaching at a NITA program she is inspired to fight harder and more effectively for her clients.

Annie’s teaching abilities are applauded by faculty members that have worked with her in NITA’s public programs as well as in the teacher training program she attended. The combination of her leadership skills, trial experience, and natural teaching abilities make her a rising star among NITA faculty.


Johanna Schonfield is currently a prosecutor for the Santa Cruz District Attorney’s Office. She handles homicide and gang related cases – specifically those with complex litigation, cold cases, retrials, and multi-defendant cases.  She is the current supervisor in the gang unit office and co-supervises the law clerk program. Johanna has tried over 40 cases throughout her career and only received one acquittal in a misdemeanor case at the start of her career.

Johanna’s impressive trial experience gives her the ability to provide participants with concrete advice to help improve their advocacy skills. A participant that she taught last year said that Johanna’s feedback was easy to understand and then apply to future presentations. Since NITA implements a learning-by-doing teaching style, this is an important skill for our faculty members to possess. Although it is tricky for Johanna to find time to teach amidst her busy trial schedule, she loves being able to see the attendees improve over the course of the program as they absorb the feedback they’ve been given.

Johanna is humbled to be nominated and chosen to be in the NextGen Program. She has had a passion for trial advocacy education since her days in law school where she had excellent teachers, many of whom were past and present NITA faculty members.


Nicholas Williams is a principal litigation attorney for the firm KesslerWilliams located in St. Louis, Missouri. The practice includes both state and federal criminal law, including death penalty work. He also puts his trial advocacy teaching skills to use as an adjunct faculty member at Emory University School of Law.

Nick is described by a variety of program directors as being approachable and willing to share his trial advocacy knowledge without being boastful. He believes that his eight years of trial experience gives him the knowledge to be a good faculty member, while his young age helps him relate well to attendees who have limited trial experience and are still developing their career paths. One of the attendees he taught believes that Nick is “a great instructor, perhaps the future of NITA given his age.”

One of the contributors to Nick’s teaching abilities is his passion for teaching for NITA. He enjoys being able to meet interesting people from across the country and teaching side-by-side with the distinguished faculty. Working with the other NITA faculty members affords him the opportunity to learn from their experience, both in practicing and teaching the law.


With these bright young attorneys we are excited for the future of NITA. If you are a program director and would like to nominate an individual for the NextGen Class of 2019 please contact the Director of Programs, Michelle Rogness, 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.
Feature Products


Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: