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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

From the Director’s Desk: January 2018

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Welcome to 2018. As the new Executive Director, I am excited to lead NITA, and look forward to all that we can accomplish in our work together.

In my twelve years with NITA I have found myself consistently inspired by our organization’s ability to transform the careers, and lives of those in the legal profession, and in particular, to so many in the noble pursuit of justice.

In the last few years we have enriched our programming by adding supplemental content through new delivery methods, expanded our public service efforts around the globe, and continued to grow the network and sphere of NITA’s influence. In addition, we have continued to hold the trust and confidence of our clients; the firms, government agencies, and many other partner organizations who believe in and fund our work. We should be proud of these collective accomplishments. We also have work ahead.

Many have asked about my vision for NITA and I know there are questions about my own educational background. I intend to create the foundation and roadmap for a NITA as relevant to the next forty years of the legal profession as it was to the past forty. NITA is now poised to enter an era of new opportunity and growth. We come from a strong and impressive history, adhering to a teaching method that we know works, teaching confidence to the next generation of lawyers, and developing voices speaking meaningfully about NITA’s impact on their career. Building on that framework is the perfect place to begin NITA’s future; innovatation while adhering to our core values, and expanding our impact on the legal world while being true to our mission. I bring my own experience to NITA in business leadership and organizational development to guide us through our next chapter.

To do this effectively, I believe we must boldly embrace our heritage while developing and growing the platform, programming, and people that will carry us forward. In short, my focus will include three key things:

  • Evolving our programming to meet the changing marketplace for legal education;
  • Attracting and retaining talent and successfully managing transition planning;
  • Ensuring the heritage of the organization is sustained with the vision set for the future.

To begin the year and my tenure I am embarking on a multi-city Listening Tour.
I look forward to garnering important feedback on what the organization is doing well, what we can improve, and how we remain an invaluable resource to the profession. In April, the Board of Directors will convene to review the results of that tour and incorporate the learnings into our strategic planning.

I look forward to getting to know more of you in the weeks and months ahead and thank you, as always, for your ongoing support of NITA’s mission and work.

Wendy's Signature

 

 

 

Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

From the Director’s Desk: December 2017

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It’s no secret that our biggest news is around the leadership transition here at NITA. We honor Karen’s passion for advocacy and her “all for one, one for all,” team-player orientation as we welcomed in our new normal. The transition is now official, and I am so thrilled to wrap up this year and focus on 2018 and beyond. We spent much of the last six months making plans, training, and implementing for a number of position changes that you may not even realize happened. Jenn Schneider is now the Associate Executive Director, Operations and Eric Sorensen has stepped into NITA’s Director of Publications. In addition, Tom Hintz is now leading our Client Relations team. The outcome is that NITA’s staff and leadership is stronger than ever.

The end of the year is such a great time for reflection, but the truth is we reflect all year long. We continually evaluate and track how we measure up to the goals we set at the beginning of year. It’s been a busy year all around and while we accomplished a lot, I only have space for a few key highlights.

Programs: The heart and soul of NITA is our learning-by-doing programs. We held 218 training programs around the world and trained over 4,000 attorneys. We couldn’t have done that without our volunteer faculty, who donated over 22,000 hours. In fact, 15 faculty members each volunteered over 100 hours. Thank you for your contributions to NITA! See who they are here.

Foundation: We celebrate the core of who we are, which is promoting advocacy to all lawyers, far and wide, big firm or solo, public service or white collar. NITA designated over $300,000 to support public service training through awarding 117 scholarships to public programs and supporting 38 public service training programs for lawyers who otherwise couldn’t afford to attend a NITA program. For a taste of our activities, read about some of our programs here. And if that isn’t enough, we had an amazing response to the Vanderlaan Scholarship fundraising effort and raised nearly $100,000. The year isn’t up and every dollar counts. Donate here.

Pubs: Our publications catalog is robust and full of new titles. We finished updating the jurisdictional rules books, as well as new editions of Federal Rules of Evidence and Federal Rules of Evidence with Objections. We produced a new legal interviewing book and three new case files. Check out LexisNexis to purchase all our publications. We also welcomed Christine Vincent, the newest Legal Editor to join the NITA family. Christine brings years of experience in the legal publishing sphere gained at LexisNexis/Matthew Bender and Aspen Publishing, as well as running her own legal writing and editing business.

Our January 2018 letter will focus on initiatives we have planned and how, around the world, we want to be better engaged and have a larger reach in furthering NITA’s mission. But for now, we’re going to relish in our accomplishments this year. I hope you do the same.

Wendy's Signature

 

 

 

Wendy McCormack
Executive Director
National Institute For Trial Advocacy

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

August 2017 Executive Director’s Letter: Speaking of Women . . .

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Lockwood_KarenThis is a letter of fact, history, and call-to-action.

We have spoken of women before . . .

In 2005-06, I served as President of the Women’s Bar Association of DC, the oldest continuous women’s bar in the US. We courageously led an “Initiative” on women in the law. The title was carefully chosen to achieve our goal, and it connotes volumes:

  • Men are a critical part of the will to act to advance women in the law.
  • Talk alone is not productive, but discourse is a precondition to the will to act.
  • The Profession must commit to take the initiative if we are to change.
  • Competition to achieve agreed goals keeps men and women lawyers alike focused on the task.
  • Good will between advocates and doubters is essential to the discourse required to attack the factors at play – social “norms,” bias that ignores and sustains “norms,” stereotypes that disclose biases, blindness to factors at play, lazy thinking, unexamined business practices, and – ultimately — business systems and structures that perpetuate all of this in the profession.

The entire DC legal community stepped up to the Initiative – 220 men and women – from all sectors of practice. We got them to exchange problems and diagnose causes over 16 hours of structured dialogue. We took it in stages — reducing ignorance, talking frankly, examining current measures to advance women, and admitting that those measures are not enough. Inclusive community discussions would be of even greater value today than in 2005.

Then we wrote up a host of measures to improve the advancement and retention of women in the law. What we wrote was what the DC legal community discerned, deplored, and developed in those 16 hours. You should read it. WBA-DC Initiative Report 2006. (See also WBA-DC reports 2007-10.) What was left is the doing.

I then placed with the New York Times – with great luck and the wonderful journalist Tim O’Brien – the framework for what became the Times’ extensive Sunday Lead Feature article on this subject – page one, above the centerfold. Up The Down Staircase (NYT Mar 19, 2006). I referred him to key leaders to interview, he found more, and the Times sent photographers around to shoot us on location. It was a big thing. It was important. And Tim O’Brien got it right.

Tim asked me this important question during the series of calls we had (to paraphrase): “So the profession of law, charged with doing justice and upholding the laws against discrimination, is discriminating? ” My answer: “No. Law firms are way beyond discrimination — this is about advancement and retention. Problems with advancement and retention are grounded in biases, not discrimination.” This is bigger, squishier, and harder to attack. This is about changing how the profession grows and matures its future leaders – how it gains the will to keep the 50% of law grads who are women, a population bleeding out the talent base when they quit. And of course the obstacles are compounded for women of color and others who don’t seem to look like the classic male U.S. lawyer of the past.

I set my alarm for 5 am that Sunday to hit the drug store for my copy of the Sunday Times. We had set a path forward for open dialogue and productive change – and the nation knew now.

We are repeating ourselves still . . .

Eleven years later, are we still arguing about this?

NITA takes action through even-handed coaching of every lawyer who wishes to improve trial skills. We routinely have many women along with men in our trial advocacy sessions. We see no distinction between the genders in the trial skills they bring with them, or the great gains they make with us. They exhibit ambitious, use drive, and blossom under the individual attention and coaching at NITA.

But courtrooms remain skewed. In the August 8 New York Times Op-Ed piece, Females Can Talk, Too, recently retired Judge Shira K. Scheindlin (SDNY) related a courtroom scene, still so common, of a lead trial lawyer (most often male) turning to his co-counsel (a woman lawyer) to learn how to answer the judge’s question. She knows the case and its nuances. The Judge’s judicial group recently tallied how many New York courtroom appearances in a 4-month period featured women as the primary speaker in open court. In the 2800 court appearances noted, only 20% of those for cases between private parties featured women lawyers. Among all the cases (thus including public sector and public interest practices), only 25% were led by women. See also this Law360 follow-up article.

The readers’ comments to Judge Scheindlin’s piece included many reflecting a rush to judgment – even intemperate — with facile “values”-based assertions. Among others, those that attack the talent and capabilities of women as a gender to practice trial law are wrong, as I have said above. Those that ponder the societal pressures on family raise a real issue that our DC Initiative pondered too; and yet the balance between satisfaction at one’s career weighed against the satisfaction at having singular childcare responsibilities is often unfairly skewed because of negative stereotypes and forestalled opportunities at work. See The Difference Difference Makes (Deborah L. Rhode for the ABA 2003). There is no reason why females as opposed to males should be predominantly downsizing their career ambition – including women trial lawyers.

The call to action . . .

Let’s stop doubting . We have lot of work already written on diversity in the law and women’s advancement. I have cited just some of the older articles in this post in order to make that point – this is not new knowledge.

Let’s stop attacking the messengers. Learn, share, integrate it into your reality, pass it on, and continuously pursue new better ways.

In offices and bar groups around the country, take up the problem of how the profession represses our promise, capacity, reach and influence by losing diverse talent.

Recognize that this will take time and real work. Our efforts must not cease if numbers don’t seem to change in a New York minute (or to modernize it, in an Online essay). Rather, we must work together to discern the implicit bias, resist its influence, and uproot its patterns, firm-by-firm.

Everyone likes a list; here is my start —

  • Stereotypes are relatively easy to list out. Make lists with your practice colleagues.
  • Implicit biases underlie those stereotypes. Fereet them out through discussion with your practice colleagues; list them.
  • Jealously attack the business systems and accidental processes in your law office – all of them. They threaten to rob you of your best intentions.
  • Talk about this individually to every one of the lawyers you work with. Talk objectively and listen sharply, regardless of your secret impression of them.
  • Decide what initiative to take this year.
  • Measure and report – to all of the lawyers in your office.
  • Decide what initiative to take next year.
  • Ditto.
  • Keep it up. (Embedding change to conquer bias takes time.)
  • Get your corporate client’s help. Ask for it.

If you have trouble imagining initiatives, let me know. For example, put women in court no matter how much you yearn to stand up yourself. Be there with her – so she too has someone to consult during her argument and to pull her documents. So she can emerge proud that she did well AND that you saw her do so!

While you are taking that course of action —

  • Google past articles and sources on implicit bias, women in the law, and racial and ethnic diversity in the law. Look in journals like Harvard Business Review, and bar association reports. Buy the numerous superb concise books written by the women lawyers who consult in this field. Our armed services are quite good at this, and they share through the internet. Seek out the theory and the research; go deeper than the popular literature.
  • Read it all.
  • Demand open and critical thinking of yourself.
  • Discuss, opening dialogue in your office, your city, and beyond.

Your implicit biases are your own personal set, and you won’t ever be rid of them. But you can learn to recognize the “bias moments” that seem to cue a harmful bias in you. If you can see that, you can refuse to be sullied by it. I know; I work every day to find and counteract mine.

Tell me what you are doing. This is core to NITA’s mission to extend justice to all populations, through training of a profession across all sectors. By teaching the art of advocacy to every type of advocate.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

Karen M. Lockwood, Esq.
President and 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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