The Legal Advocate

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Category Archives: Executive Director Letters

August 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Women Trial Lawyers – Brilliance Is Shining

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Lockwood_Karen

Because we are NITA, and because we enroll nearly comparable numbers of men and women across our live programs for trial skills and depositions, we know several things:

  • Lawyers who learn, practice, and perform at trial excel in advocacy without distinction among gender.
  • Lawyers care about using the best advocates, paying attention to the diversity of the advocates who appear at trial. And women are ready. They bring their commitment, a competitive spirit, and the drive to master their courtroom impact into our programs.
  • Women in First Chair at trial are vastly underrepresented. This need not be.

Marshalling the strength of this half of trial bar remains an unfulfilled imperative. Brilliance shines. But competition for first chair favors the incumbents. Bringing the balance, variety, talent, and credibility of a woman trial lawyer to the jury and judge requires that each of us stop. We read and learn where the career obstacles are. We coach the woman and champion for her, to overcome the obstacles. For the women you know, right there in your practice, do it personally. Whatever your gender.

1974. The vice-president for sales of a very large public company learns I am embarking on law school. “A woman! What do you want to do,” he says at the picnic. “Be a litigator? That is nearly impossible for a woman – grinding, long hours, tough world.” I believe him to be urging me by misdirection to follow that plan. If not, it doesn’t matter: I take the red alert to heart. (And from it, am indeed spurred on.)

1982. The three women partners at our DC firm of 90 lawyers gather the 15 women associates (we are a progressive firm) in the building lobby for lunch out. The elevators bring cab after cab of partners down, elbowing their way through our small throng. Glancing up to wonder about this crowd, this expression crosses their lips – or their faces. “Oh! Ooooohhh.” (Point made.)

1994. We six women partners in a prominent boutique firm of 90 lawyers gather our 25 women associates for a chat in the gorgeous windowed conference room: 250⁰ river views, and beers in a bucket. “Let’s think about how we can get together regularly, support each other and champion each other.” There is little interest. Why? They do not see a reason. Rather, the risk of labelling themselves as unique amid their male associates warns them off. (“Oh. Oooooohhh.” Our turn, different angle.)

2005. Across the country, the broad culture around women in law remains silent, symptomatic of the 1995 days. The playful urges, the purposeful championing of women – it has gone away, perhaps thought unnecessary, likely unpopular. And, thus, certainly risky.

So, in 2006, we at the WBA in DC convened 220 lawyers to talk engage in finding solutions. For 16 hours over 4 monthly sessions, managing partners and bar leaders eagerly exchanged the frustrations and the ideas around elevating the talent and success of women lawyers. The WBA’s published report covered Women in Law Firms (Creating Pathways to Success, May 2006). Silence ended. Continuing reports covered Women of Color (Creating Pathways to Success for All Women, May 2008), and Women Corporate Counsel (Navigating the Corporate Matrix, May 2010)

Focusing on women trial lawyers, is it better now? An important new research report was just released by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession. First Chairs at Trial – More Women Need Seats at the Table (ABA Commission on Women, June 2015).

This report, an empirical study of cases filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, displays the substantial disparity of women as lead counsel as against women in the profession. It depicts types of cases in which women are more present, and less. Best practices are laid out for law firms, clients, judges, law schools, and women lawyers themselves.

In 2005, DRI also convened a task force to address women at trial. [A Career in the Courtroom: A Different Model of Success of Women Who Try Cases (DRI Women’s Committee, trial lawyer study (Defense Research Institute Task Force on Women Who Try Cases, 2005)]

These reports – and others like them from the Utah Women’s Bar and elsewhere, integrate the puzzles of the practice environment, the pressures that women face, the systems and structures of the practice, and the importance of fixing the imbalance of women in trials. Those are the starting points for understanding the factors at play, rather than relying on personal opinion. I commend them for reading.

And I advocate that we all pursue excellent trials by opening the access to first chair for the best trial lawyers – without leaving behind the women, lawyers of color, and lawyers in other groups that deal with culturally maintained stereotypes. Indeed, bringing forward that talent requires positive action.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

July 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA’s Annual Report, A Happy Glance Back, New Things Ahead

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Lockwood_Karen

We look back every year to count our programs, the people we reach, the faculty we thank, the public service program impact, and the liveliness of our famous publications both bound and digital. I am proud to say, “we are so proud!”

Please, now, click here to enjoy our visual, colorful 2014 Annual Report. I explain how we carry this forward in 2015.

  1. For publicly enrolled programs, in 2014, 924 NITA faculty trained 1863 attendees at 65 publicly enrolled programs, plus 37 who took on-line programs. Lawyers from all 50 states attended, plus 5 continents. We continue to train and deepen our faculty bench. Send us referrals to the best trial lawyers in your region!
  2. For custom programs, including those exclusively for public service attorneys, in 2014 NITA trained 3241 attorneys, 19% of whom are in public service practices. We continually expand our custom offerings based on the client’s objectives, and invest in continuing our public service work.
  3. For video content, studio71 is exploding. In 2014, on-line integrated learning tools were selected by 8235 lawyers, from 384 presentations available, amounting to 4376 hours viewed. Our video library is strong and growing. Our signature new trial and deposition lectures and demonstration are coming online. These streaming tools mirror the high quality and intensity of NITA’s programs, and are elected for certain programs as bonus tools.
  4. For publications, our famed and unique case file collection grows and updates, targeting new types of disputes, factual scenarios that mirror our online culture, and more. In 2014, we report 144 active case files. We have many more case files than you would have heard of – you should use more of the gems in the collection. Pick them to make your class or program new and unique. Email Jennifer Schneider.
  5. You can’t say “publications” without saying “eBooks too” for our NITA treatises, guides, and more. In 2014, 70 of our non-case file titles were available in eBook format. These collections expand annually. Check back twice a year with the semi-annual catalogue, or online any time. NITA pubs: unique, practical, organized for quick reference, the best balance in a case file.
  6. The NITA Foundation gave 107 scholarships in 2014 – making a big difference to that many lawyers. But 201 applicants left an almost 50% shortfall in the scholarship funds available. We aim to increase our donations from $144,935 in 2014 to over $200,000. Please help here. Our Giving Voice online newsletter will inspire and explain.

I would love to hear from you. Email me, call my office. There is nothing more important to NITA than you, our faculty, attendees, admirers, supporters and friends. Spread the word in your regions, to your friends!

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

May 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Trustees Spring Meeting

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Lockwood_KarenLast Thursday, NITA’s Board of Trustees gathered for its Spring Meeting. Did you know that our twenty-one active Trustees draw from across the country, and work in many of the judicial circuits? They include non-lawyers and lawyers, you may know some of them yourself.

Over the next few months, the Trustees will be developing our next strategic areas of focus. I can promise you that the result will be strategic priorities that leverage our strengths, that increase the magnetic force of NITA’s core and its field of influence, and that draw learners and teachers alike toward our center: NITA’s essential learn-by-doing programs are where advocates master advocacy.

In this past weekend’s meeting, the Board participated in a thrilling review of NITA’s energized and growing operations. They are as excited as we are –and as you are — by our constantly innovating. Thanks to your participation, we also see ever-expanding communications within our network of NITA learners and faculty through NITA’s blog, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. Keep it up!

What is most important of all? Word-of-mouth. More, actually. Hand grasping hand. Taking another lawyer by the hand is the sine qua non of coaching: the coach must lead other lawyers to enter their NITA program experience, as their champion. Our Trustees work hard to bring NITA’s unique learning-by-doing method to an ever broader audience.

I hope you too will find five people this month to lead to NITA. Tell each that this is their time to dive into their big NITA course.

In fact, tell them that NITA is hot. That NITA is the place where they claim and come to “own” their particular advocacy talents. With the most focused and influential coaches they will ever have.

Our Board comprises strong leaders in their respective fields – judicial, law practice, law school, and experts in related fields. Active in national legal organizations, they are leaders who challenge each other, who have fun together, and who are passionate about NITA. Through great meetings, this talent coalesces, giving NITA their broad perspective, high energy, and insight.

Write below your appreciation for the insight of our Trustees. Whether or not you know them, tell them how grateful you are for their hard work and enthusiasm.

And stay close to us!

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

April 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: Clarity of Purpose

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Lockwood_KarenIn “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” Tracy Kidder introduces us to the aspiring new doctor who grew up in a family that lives in a bus and on a ramshackle boat. The family could afford that residential style, and played and worked with a somewhat bizarre optimism. They firmly believed the reality that their lives were meaningful and normal enough. Paul Farmer goes on to use his instinct to excel by pointing it toward Haiti. The story is now paused at the election of Aristide following the fall of Papa and Baby Doc, Farmer, a PhD anthropologist and top MD grad of Harvard, has already built a center of medical help and community in the heights of Haiti’s central plateau. He and two others had founded Partners in Health to raise private funds for this effort.

I clipped this line to share with you. They talked late into the nights.

Some things were plenty black and white, they told each other — “areas of moral clarity,” which they called AMC’s. These were situations, rare in the world, where what ought to be done seemed perfectly clear. But the doing was always complicated, always difficult. They often talked about those difficulties. How Paul and Jim should balance work for PIH with going to school and getting their degrees.

I feel their pain, NITA has great AMC’s to combine.  Doing them at once seems complicated. Choices must be made. Resources must be increased. Yet our purpose must always remain clear.

It is perfectly clear to us that every client in civil and criminal arenas alike needs and deserves highly skilled advocates; the company faced by unfair competition needs a lawyer always ready to go to court; the accused need excellent defenders and fair accomplished prosecutors, the individual and family know skilled advocacy when they see it. It is obvious that an economy of skewed incentives and uneven access to capital makes a more polarized continuum between those who have and those who need help to find a civil lawyer. It is a truism that justice if enabled stabilizes new governments and nations under stress. Law students and professors need us as much as ever, in the most relevant ways. Corporate law departments have a huge voice in demanding and partnering to create better advocates.

NITA, founded on the vision of advancing excellent advocacy throughout the nation’s courts and hearing rooms, has the responsibility to flex and grow to aim clearly for our purpose. We watch carefully the systemic changes in legal education, private practice, constitutional and statutory assurances of fairness in the criminal law realm, and global political conflict and violence.

Everywhere, lawyers remain assets for the voiceless. Courage feeding fair and balanced governments. Talent for holding steady the prism of fairness through which conflict resolution systems must be seen. (Call me if examples of this truth do not immediately come to mind — Egypt, Selma, Kosovo, Ferguson, Death Row ….)

As we seek to bring NITA learning to the best productive mix of these lawyer sectors in the US and outside its borders, we constantly balance. We measure who we reach. We know all lawyers trained in our public and custom programs must will bring their best trial skills to serve their clients. They will advance their skills for a lifetime with NITA-confidence. They will have wide influence throughout their careers, and will move among practice sectors. We know those who are in public service need training now. We understand the imperative of training for criminal advocates on both sides. We seek relationships with organizations having nuanced understanding of nations engaged in reforms, because they can help NITA target, aim, and provide intensely relevant advocacy training in key global regions.

Our purpose is clear. Our choices are many. We need you, all of you and your friends. Know that our work is motivated by this clarity of purpose, focused yet broad in potential.

Karen_ShortSig

 

 

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

March 2015 Executive Director’s Letter: NITA Is Unique, Once Again

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Lockwood_KarenLet’s talk about webinars.

You and I see many invitations to commercial webinars in our inbox.  Some introduce a topic you know little about.  Some give you an introduction to a person or company.  Many are fairly elementary, such as “how to use twitter as a marketing tool.” Others are orientations – like our lawyers’ old friend,  AmJur, purposed to enumerate a large number of topics within a broad field.  An example would be “educating participants about the various types and stages of whistle-blower claims” (in 90 minutes).  In general most webinars that pop into your inbox are tangentially related to something in your zone of interests.  What do you do?  Save them for after-hours to delete or sample.

They are ubiquitous.

Ours are different. Here at NITA our method is to help lawyers in direct and immediate ways, giving you a menu of choices. So too for our NITA webcasts.

  • We run live webcasts. Monthly.
  • They are audio-visual.  You watch the speaker deliver, or be interviewed – on camera in real time.
  • You also watch our speaker’s slides at the same time as you see her gesturing, smiling, exclaiming, or showing you the point.
  • Our topics are small slices of trial advocacy. They sit alongside – but are different from – the advocacy skills you practice in our in-person programs.
  • Our speakers are masters of their topic.  You will see some NITA faculty plus guest speakers who know well the thin-slice of the advocacy topic at hand.
  • And you can ask the speaker questions in real time.

If you miss a live webcast, you will find it recorded (free these days) and ready for you to view online, on demand, just as it was broadcast live. (Sorry you can’t ask the speaker questions unless you go live.)

These are not elementary or orienting types of teaching. Like all NITA offerings, we create them as another way to learn.  Some examples? You can focus for the hour on a detailed lecture and practitioner’s advice about Rule 30(b)(6) depositions, presented by the authors of our NITA’s master book on the subject – The Effective Deposition.  You can engage in a field of expertise through our studio interview of one of the nation’s foremost forensic psychiatrists, thinking through your work with such experts in consulting and trial settings.

Whatever topic you choose from our menu of prior NITA webcasts, you will engage specifically, deeply, and clearly.

Oh yes, we do end each NITA webcast with a reminder of how our live programs help you.  In our live programs, YOU are doing the speaking, gesturing, smiling, and showing as if to the judge or jury.  Guided, critiqued, taught, reinforced. You grow.

Don’t let this knowledge escape your attention.

  • Live NITA webcasts? Watch your email or check the upcoming schedule online.
  • Miss a NITA webcasts that you would like?  View it on demand, recorded live, audio-visual, slides, and all.

Visit NITA’s studio71 library now.

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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