The Legal Advocate

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

All posts by Wendy McCormack

About Wendy McCormack

Wendy joined NITA in 2006, serving as Director of Programs through 2010, then led Operations, where she provided leadership oversight and mentorship the NITA leadership team in Marketing & Sales, Program Operations, Publications, and Information Technology. Wendy has directed all aspects of core business and operational development function for 300 continuing education programs across the United States and internationally. As Executive Director, she works collaboratively with professional staff, the Board of Trustees, and the organization as a whole in developing and implementing strategy, modeling and setting the company’s culture and values, and optimizing financial performance. Wendy received her master’s degree in education, with an emphasis on organizational development and human resources, from Colorado State University (CSU). In 2016, she completed the intensive Organizational Leadership Program at the Employers Council’s Nonprofit Leadership Institute in Denver.

From the Director’s Desk: July 2018

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We are a multi-generational workplace organization. There are five generations in the workplace today and NITA encompasses all of them. From our Board, faculty, staff, and customers, our ability to interact, value, and respect each other is imperative to accomplishing our mission. For a refresher, here is the breakdown:

  • Traditionalists—born before 1946
  • Baby Boomers—born between 1946 and 1964
  • Generation X—born between 1965 and 1979
  • Generation Y or Millennials—born between 1980 and 1999
  • Generation Z—born after 2000

The beauty of NITA is that we are better with all these voices at the table. We are better able to connect when we see someone like us who has achieved what we seek. We are better able to see things from another perspective when we are at the same table. We are better able to come up with creative ideas by joining together our brainpower. Even when we are challenged by closed-mindedness, fear, stubbornness, or the like, we are made better by working through the difficulties together, even if it causes frustration, anger, or annoyance. This is a great form of growth.

This summer, I’ve been reading through four decades’ worth of NITA history. (Some documents even date back to 1971.) A rich history, full of inspiring thought leaders, aimed at working together to find a way to make better trial attorneys. And what has struck me time and time again as I’ve been leafing through these files is that NITA’s mission, our purpose and vision for doing what we do (and have done for forty-seven years), is the same and it’s only the caretakers of that vision―in the form of our leadership, our staff and Board members, our Program Directors, faculty, and authors―that have changed throughout the decades of NITA’s existence.

It really touched me to see so much evidence of those who’ve played their part in transmitting the essence of what NITA is all about and transferring their actual, hands-on knowledge of how to function and thrive as an organization. (Talk about “learning by doing”!) In this context, I find myself humbled to be a part of that history, entrusted―just as every single one of us is―in carrying on with the work of our founders. So, no matter whether you’re a Baby Boomer or a Millennial, a Traditionalist or a Gen X-er or Z-er, I’m grateful we’re together as we each play our own part in NITA’s history.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk – June 2018

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Inspiration comes in many forms. Maybe it’s watching the sunrise from the top of a mountain that you just climbed, maybe it’s learning something new from someone you admire, or maybe it’s watching an incredible lawyer cross-examine an expert witness.

Last week I was inspired when I read an interview with Jim Sandman, Executive Director for the Legal Services Corporation and one of our Keynotes at our upcoming conference, NITAVision 2018: Inspiring Justice Together. He talked about his life in big law and his transition to public service; really about being your authentic self.

Jim shared a story about attending an annual pro bono breakfast of the Washington Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights and Urban Affairs. The speaker was Michelle Rhee, who had recently become chancellor of the District of Columbia Public Schools. She talked about her need for corporate counsel. Jim had a great observation about this: “I also knew what she meant when she said she was surrounded by lawyers who only know how to say no—the kind of lawyer who spots problems but doesn’t do anything to solve them. What she was saying was, ‘I need a thought partner who can help me get where I’m trying to go.’”

Isn’t that exactly what we’ve been building here at NITA? Thought partners? Yes it is. We want you to be our thought partners to discuss issues, solve problems, learn, grow, and adapt as a legal profession and as legal professionals.

Jim goes on to talk about the challenge to find the right combination of mission and job. “You can go to work for an organization that’s got a great mission, but in a job that doesn’t do anything for you, and you won’t be happy. You have to like what you’re doing day to day. It can be really hard to find that combination.”

People who experience NITA—whether teaching, participating in a course, donating to our foundation or writing a book—are changed; they are inspired. We are inspired every day at what our mighty non-profit accomplishes.

I hope you are as inspired by Jim’s interview as I am. I’m also excited at what we’ve put together at our upcoming summit. Come be inspired with us! NITAVision 2018: Inspiring Justice Together, September 16–18, 2018 in downtown Denver.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk: May 2018

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I have an obsession with time. It is a fascinating thing―it breeds acknowledgement of things past, gives focus to things present, and instills a vision of things future. Time is a continuum. It can create a sense of accomplishment, or of laziness. It allows us to reflect on the impact of our activities as well as the people in our lives. So in that stream of thought, I’ve gone back in time a bit to review some important NITA history.

Last month, the board of directors for the International Society of Barristers (ISOB) invited me to speak at its annual conference. The ISOB has been a longtime donor and supporter of NITA training, with a similar mission and overlap in great leadership. Upon researching our history and partnership with the ISOB, I reflected on time.

Digging into the history of NITA has brought me the opportunity to learn about the many influencers who have guided and impacted our incredible organization―the great trial organizations like ISOB, IATL, ABA, AAJ (formerly ATLA), ACTL, and ABOTA, all who helped shaped who NITA is today. I’m inspired to read their mission statements to see how we fit together then and now. Has time divided us? Are we united in our efforts like we were in the early ’70s . . . and if the answer is no, then why? Over time, we change and adapt―yes, that’s true, we change with the times to adapt to technology or implement new learning techniques―but fundamentally, we remain loyal to who we were in the 1970s. And we were created to endure around a shared belief.

One thing I know for certain is that history + partnerships are a rich combination. Partnerships allow us to build trust, such that where we have a gap, our partner may be able to fill it and vice versa, or that we can mutually benefit from aligning on initiatives that forward both missions and causes. And therein lay the beauty of time: developing important relationships that endure.

I hope to continue to grow our relationships in the months and years to come. Thank you to all our partners, big and small, who help us forward our mission.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk – April 2018

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The core values of an organization are the foundation on which we perform work and conduct ourselves. We have an entire universe of values, but some of them are so primary, so important to us, that throughout the changes in society, government, politics, and technology, they are still the core values we will abide by.

In an ever-changing world, core values are constant. Core values are not descriptions of the work we do or the strategies we employ to accomplish our mission. The values underlie our work, how we interact with each other, and which strategies we employ to fulfill our mission. The core values are the basic elements of how we go about our work. They are the practices we use (or should be using) every day in everything we do.

Like many great companies, such as Apple, Amazon, Disney, and Starbucks, NITA was built with a dream, at a kitchen table, with people. We’ve heard the saying “People are your most important asset!” Wrong! “The right people are your most important asset.” That is the magic of building and sustaining a great organization: the right people.

Over four decades, we’ve had the right people and the wrong people. Here is what the right people ―the type of people who excel here and the associated behaviors these people consistently possess―mean to us at NITA through exemplifying our five Core Values.

    • Respect: mindful manners, listens, open to ideas, willing to help, is responsible, accountable, authentic and honest
    • Integrity: takes ownership, committed to our mission, builds trust through follow through, true to your word
    • Flexibility: listen to feedback, overcomes new challenges on short notice, interested in finding a solution, not blaming, constant evaluation of processes, let go of ego or position for the greater good
    • Innovative: creative, challenges assumptions, encourage idea sharing, try new things, fail, try again, learn and grow from mistakes
    • Collaborate: solutions-oriented, a helpful resource, volunteers for projects

You have seen and will continue to see us incorporate the use of our five Core Values into daily interactions and decision making, as well as when we hire, promote, review, reward, and yes, even terminate.

These aren’t standards just for our staff. We hold all who work with NITA to these values. Let’s challenge ourselves and each other to exemplify our Core Values consistently, and to have them at the forefront of all our interactions, always.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk: March 2018

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I had a 100-day plan: a platform, a place to start before undertaking the role of NITA’s fearless leader, a way to measure my first 100 days on the job. Want to know what was on my 100-day plan?

  • Writing and coordinating press releases and announcements.
  • Training and developing a transition schedule.
  • Conducting a New Leaders Assessment (you’re thinking, what the heck is that? It’s related to a 360 evaluation but more strategic) by seeking feedback from our Board, Program Directors, and staff; analyzing that feedback; and reporting back to those constituents the takeaways.
  • Developing an ED-specific communication strategy: still a work in progress and I want to make sure we get it right, for you. It includes items you’ve already seen—Facebook posts, ED letters, welcoming program participants at NITA HQ—but there is more, so much more, that I can and will do in my role. Stay tuned.
  • Completing 10-city listening tour. I gave myself 90 days to complete a 10-city listening tour. Between January and February, I spent 10 days traveling to those 10 cities to engage with our community (a mix of faculty, alumni, professional development personnel, partners, law professors, board and advisory council members). Now the work to summarize and identify themes from all the information I learned from guided discussions and exercises begins—all to take us into the April Board retreat as we continue our strategic planning.

With just a few date changes, the 100-day plan worked! The massive undertaking of a 10-city listening tour, assessment feedback and reporting out, training and transition, communication strategy, plus regular NITA operations, all happened as planned. I’ve spent a lot of time on messaging for staff to increase engagement, create a culture aligned with our core values, and push us to results-oriented thinking.

Developing my own communication strategy is still a work in progress. I am still thinking how to best connect with each of you on a more consistent basis. My overall goal remains to engage, align, inspire, and move people to act. That includes each of you.

Thank you to everyone who participated in a round table (we still have two scheduled), responded to my New Leaders Assessment, and called or emailed to tell me why NITA is important to you and how you view NITA’s future. I look forward to hearing from more of you as we move forward together.

Wendy's Signature




Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

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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