The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

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

From the Director’s Desk: February 2018

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I have a thirteen-year-old. Let me just repeat that for impact: I have a thirteen-year-old! Whether you have kids or not, we were all teenagers at some point. It’s an awkward time. Cole is a teenage boy in eighth grade and doesn’t know a life without a screen. Some call them iGen or Screenagers. I call him amazing. Yes, it’s true—he does most everything on his phone. Yet, he still has manners, he can talk to adults, and he does well in school.

I look at Cole and his classmates and think, “Someday, some of these kids will choose to be lawyers.” What does that world look like for them? What does law school look like in eight to ten years? What does continuing legal education look like post-law school in ten to fifteen years? How does NITA fit in?

First, as some of you have seen on social media (if you aren’t following NITA on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, you are missing out), I’ve engaged in a ten-city listening tour to kick off my tenure to ask our community some of these questions. How do we futureproof NITA? I’m sitting down with 100 people, and I know that’s not nearly enough. There are thousands of you across the globe who know NITA and who have incredible ideas about the future. I want to hear from you. Help us futureproof the best, most admired, 47-year-old, learning-by-doing advocacy training organization on the planet.

The second BIG thing, because our community is so amazing and we don’t have one place for us to congregate to network and learn, is we created one and it’s called NITAVision. We have incredibly talented faculty, alumni, future alumni, professional development specialists, partners, and public service attorneys all over the country and each and every one of you should be here. Add your voice; come see what the NITA buzz is all about. NITAVision 2018: Inspiring Justice Together September 16–18, 2018, downtown Denver. NITAVision combines thought leadership as we explore and discuss the future of legal education, learning-by-doing skills tasters, and the importance of volunteerism into an impactful two-day event that you won’t want to miss. Register today.

Connect with us. Communicate with us. Collaborate with us. Change with us.

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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