The Legal Advocate

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All posts by Kathy Behler

November 2017 Executive Director’s Letter: The Soul of NITA

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Lockwood_KarenSoul? “The” soul?

How does a network of 900 trial law faculty and authors, 35 staff and 23 Trustees have a Soul? NITA remains agnostic of faith as well as party and practice type. And to think of that argumentative trial law crowd – no multi-party advocacy could settle the essence of “a single soul.”

But you feel it, right? Lacking words, I named it “NITA-Love” when I interviewed with the Board five years ago. Everyone in the room got it. And no one needed to define it. And since, I have heard and read the phrase “NITA-Love.”

But you know what? The truth is this: NITA does have a soul. Every person with NITA has the same soul. It is this:

Giving.

It is all giving. Of talent, imagination, time, funds, and . . . well, of loyalty and friendship. My proof point (the “QED”) is at the end – please read this straight through.

Faculty. They give because it thrills them to create transformative moments, every moment they can. They give from their deepest intuition, their highest level of experience. When they nail a perfect diagnosis of not only what but why to teach a particular person in a particular way on a particular skill, they swell with joy to see the result. We teach because we are hooked on the reality of making an immediate and permanent difference. Individually for each lawyer

Authors and Studio71 guests. They give original topics and comprehensive knowledge, NITA-like fresh ideas, imaginative case files. They know NITA owns, keeps, and cares for these works including how and when to go forward with updates, and will groom, trim, and tailor the collection for modern audiences and changed courtroom skills.  They are proud to join the continuum of talent behind the publications NITA uses to teach in and outside a classroom.

Staff members. I am proud of them and asked for their examples! Yes, they share the soul of NITA with faculty, authors, law firms, law schools, visible leaders and hidden gems around the country. But in their private lives, they are givers too. Just some of their Time, Talent and Tribute gifts are . . .
. . . Donating to organizations like Southern Poverty Law Center, the Manatee Foundation (yes, for one particular Manatee over the years with a visit to that ‘family member’ during a college tour), supporting a start-up helping families after the loss of a child, Nature Conservancy, Public Radio and Television, Planned Parenthood, hurricane emergency funds for Florida, Texas, and Puerto Rico, The Humane Society of Boulder County, the Denver Rescue Mission, small non-profit projects like Suzie’s Senior Dogs, and artists who are doing creative works, especially filmmakers, musicians,
. . . Volunteering individually or as a staff in community service, such as farm work at Three Leaf Farm (which grows organic foods for local restaurants), stuffed backpacks for new students at Crayons to Calculators, coaching school athletes in Ultlmate Frisbee and baseball, leading hockey leagues for elementary age players, coaching mock trials for high school, law school, and bar association students, and presenting ethics lectures to judicial groups, assembling donated items into toiletry bags for those without homes.
. . . Leading or advising organizations such as the non-profit Growing Home, (focusing on the whole family through services for “Parents as Teachers” (a food bank, mentoring, emergency shelter, and gifts and gatherings such as Thanksgiving baskets), the Nanda Center for International Law, the Colorado State Board of Education, a small mountain town’s water board, and Penguicon (an annual convention that provides an eclectic mix of computer education, life skills, and geeky fun.
. . . Plus, as one staffer wrote, “I work at NITA so I get to feel like I am giving back every day – very cool!”

Trustees. They too give Time, Talent and Tribute. Of course. Plenty! But I have not shared before how extensively they give of their personal donations as well as their time and guidance. Our Soul is deeply shared across the Board, and we rejoice in their collegiality and the contributions.

Friends and Family. Every one of the groups above, and others who care for NITA, double-down through donations to NITA’s Foundation. Each and every one of you gives priceless value to us, and your gifts too sustain our Public Service Program and scholarships. Our public service lawyer program line-up grows every year, and now attracts requests from more and more groups than ever. The immigration advocacy training programs exemplify our great pride in expanding public service offerings to serve client groups in great need. Scholarships to public programs also always challenge us – there is a great need. Thank you for every gift, of every size.

Here’s the Soul Thing!

In 2017, NITA-Love has taken a shape so distinctive that we can declare and trust the NITA Soul to be Giving. In a stunning call this summer, a group of veteran faculty quietly explained that together they had committed to a campaign to establish a memorial scholarship fund commemorating the life and talent of Bob Vanderlaan. The idea, the working plan, and the “go” button were all created outside staff’s usual work to shepherd gifts to our Foundation. It arose from NITA-Love. And it is about to achieve the ambitious campaign goal.

I am overjoyed. As a personal matter, I have to say that I tear-up writing this paragraph. Your bonds, your trust, your generosity and your commitment have strengthened NITA. It strikes my heart and I take in shorter breaths. Thank you.

As I step out of the Executive Director role and pass the beloved baton to Wendy, I know . . . I KNOW that NITA-Love is those things that we give. Of everything. And your spirit, loyalty, and pride are our most precious gifts. Please help us grow that Soul and trust it . . . I will be out there with you, doing the same as you do.

Thank you,

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

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_ShortSig

 

 

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

Monthly Theme: Law Schools Part One

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TEACHING TRIAL SKILLS AT LAW SCHOOLS: SOME OPENING THOUGHTS

written by NITA guest blogger Judge McGahey

I’ve been teaching trial advocacy classes at the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law since the early ‘80’s; I’ve been teaching for NITA about as long. I’ve seen ups and downs in how – and why – we teach trial skills. Since I know this month’s blog topic is about the conjunction of trial skills and law schools, I’d like to share some thoughts, in the hope that people wiser than I will weigh in.

First, let’s talk about the “why.” I think having – or at least understanding — trial skills are inherently valuable to every lawyer, even those who never plan to set foot in a courtroom. A transactional lawyer is likely at some point in his or her career to have a client who has to go to court on an important issue. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to understand the best way to present the client’s case, even if you aren’t going to do it yourself? And if you have to find a good trial lawyer for your client, wouldn’t it be a good idea to understand what makes that chosen lawyer the right person to present your client’s case to a judge or jury? I’ve had students over the years who took my advocacy classes for exactly these reasons. Interestingly, most were caught up in the process and demonstrated excellent advocacy skills.

Secondly, let’s consider the “how.” Most law schools offer some kind of advocacy training, whether it be classes, clinics, competitive trial teams, or some combination of all of these. Many schools offer their training in a highly organized, highly directed fashion, with each piece of the program tied to all of the others. But many do not. Even schools with active programs rarely have more than one or two full-time faculty teaching advocacy. Most schools have to depend on adjuncts (like me) as the backbone of their programs. This is a place where NITA-trained people can be particularly useful, as long as the law school is willing to use them. But the quality of the adjuncts can be outweighed by a lack of co-ordination at the academic level.

Next, let’s talk about “where.” By that, I mean where lawyers get their initial training in trial skills. One reason that law schools began focusing on “skills” courses as opposed to focusing only on “doctrinal” courses was the way the legal profession changed how lawyers were trained. For generations, graduates came out of law schools not knowing doodly-squat about how to actually practice law. Law firms assumed that new associates didn’t know anything and that the firm/organization/agency would have to train the newbies on how to do their job. But that’s an expensive proposition and more and more of that necessary training got pushed down to the law school level; notice the emphasis at many schools on producing “practice-ready” lawyers. As a consequence, “skills” courses and “experiential learning” became part of the core curriculum at many schools.

But I’ve recently been seeing some slippage of the perceived value of teaching advocacy skills at law schools. Classes don’t fill up automatically like they did in the past. This may be because schools are accepting fewer students, coupled with lower enrollments. But students seem to struggle with paying for classes that they don’t think will help them with bar passage. I suspect that this has something to do with the link between bar passage, getting a job and beginning to pay off the frequently crushing debt many students have at graduation. There is also the cost to schools of teaching advocacy; as noted many – if not most – advocacy programs rely on adjuncts rather than full-time faculty, to teach advocacy classes. Reduced enrollment equals reduced revenue which equals hard choices on where to spend those dollars.

What does this mean for law schools, law students and advocacy teachers? I’d suggest that those of us who see the value of advocacy teaching must renew our conviction on the value of these skills to the health of the legal system and the citizens of this country. No one thinks they need a lawyer until they need one. We must make sure that trial skills don’t fade away in the future and that the trial lawyers who come after us know what to do, how to do it – and why doing it is important.

Press Release: Wendy McCormack Named New Executive Director of NITA

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Contact: Daniel McHugh FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tel.: 303.953.6828
Email: dmchugh@nita.org
Date: 9/22/17

National Institute for Trial Advocacy Names New Executive Director—
Wendy McCormack Selected to Lead Boulder-Based Nonprofit Beginning December 1

BOULDER, Colo., September 19, 2017 —The Board of Trustees of the National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) today announced that Wendy McCormack will become NITA’s Executive Director on December 1, 2017, succeeding Karen M. Lockwood upon her retirement. McCormack is currently the Associate Executive Director of Operations (AED) at NITA, and has invested eleven years in multiple roles at NITA.

“This is a wonderful time for NITA and for Wendy,” Lockwood commented. “NITA has adopted many new initiatives to deepen our impact, strive for smart innovation, and strengthen our business strategies over the last several years. Wendy has made major contributions in each of these areas. NITA began forty-five years ago as the most unique and respected organization of lawyers teaching lawyers. It remains so, and with Wendy’s leadership, NITA is poised for even greater growth, deeper impact, and smarter innovation.”

Joe Loveland, Chair of NITA’s Board of Trustees, echoed Lockwood’s comments. “We are fortunate to have a person with Wendy’s talent, enthusiasm, and commitment to NITA to step into Karen’s shoes. Wendy’s experience with NITA as Associate Executive Director responsible for Operations, her vision in creating Studio71, and her keen knowledge of all aspects of NITA’s mission and programs combine to give us the ideal leader for NITA going forward. I and the other members of the board look forward to working closely with Wendy.”

“Daily, I am inspired by NITA’s mission, the critical work of our staff and faculty, and the great commitment of the people who entrust us with their training needs,” McCormack said. “Our work is vital as we amplify our collective voice, and project NITA’s vision of justice, ethics, and excellence in advocacy into our future and around the globe. It will be an honor to lead NITA and continue our work together. Karen has demonstrated over her lifetime a passion for trial advocacy and defending the rule of law. She brought that passion to NITA. And we’re going to carry it forward.”

McCormack joined NITA in 2006 and has served as Director of Programs from 2006 to 2010 and led Operations since 2010. As Associate Executive Director from 2013 to date, she provides leadership and oversight of NITA’s operations. She oversees and mentors the NITA leadership team in Marketing & Sales, Program Operations, Publications, and Information Technology. She works collaboratively with professional staff, the Board of Trustees, and the organization as a whole in building and maintaining relationships with the external NITA community. As Director of Programs, McCormack directed all aspects of core business and operational development function for 300 continuing education programs across the United States and internationally. She has been accountable for strategic planning, business development, enrollment policies and procedures, database administration, grant management, and administering departmental budgets.

McCormack received her master’s degree in education, with an emphasis on organizational development and human resources, from Colorado State University (CSU) in 2000, and her B.S. degree in Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management at Metropolitan State University of Denver in 1997. In 2016, she completed the intensive Organizational Leadership Program at the Employers Council’s Nonprofit Leadership Institute in Denver.

Jennifer Schneider, currently NITA’s Director of Publishing & Digital Content, will assume the role of Associate Executive Director of Operations during the leadership change on December 1. Schneider joined NITA in 2013, after a twelve-year career at Thomson Reuters in Eagan, Minnesota. She received both her J.D (2000) and her B.A. in journalism (1997) from Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa.

Upon retirement, Lockwood will reside near Boulder, Colorado, and Edinburg, Virginia. She has served NITA as Executive Director since December 1, 2012. She is excited to rejoin NITA’s national faculty and to combine her insights into NITA’s strong service with her other lifelong interests in improving the profession’s diversity and its focus on access to justice.

About the National Institute for Trial Advocacy

The National Institute for Trial Advocacy (NITA) is the world’s leader in advocacy skills training and publications. A §501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in Boulder, Colorado, NITA’s mission is to train and coach lawyers to be skilled and ethical advocates in the pursuit of justice. To learn more, visit nita.org, or call us at 303.953.6828.

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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